He’s known as the “Godfather of military visual information,” a distinguished title he earned by founding the Air Force Photojournalism Program in 1971.
A country boy from Lancaster, Pa., Ken Hackman wanted to see the world and thought the best way to do it was from behind a camera.
He was 17.
And see it he did — from exercises in Thailand and Bangkok to Montreal and Lillehammer for Olympic Games.
So, on Wednesday evening, Ken Hackman, chief photojournalist of the USAF (retired) will give a powerful and gorgeous presentation of “The USAF Combat Camera from Vietnam to Desert Storm 1969 — 1993.”
Initially, Ken did not think of his photography as documenting history.
“But by the time I was in Vietnam, at the age of 28, I felt I was recording history,” he told me in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
“And by the time my shot list included the atomic bomb testing, I knew I was recording history.”
The dynamic program is part of the Norton Air Force Museum’s series, “An Evening at the Museum,” set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Norton Air Force Base Museum Auditorium, 1601 E. Third St., San Bernardino.
“Ken was the keynote speaker for the dedication of the Combat Camera display at the museum,” said Bob Edwards, Norton AF Base Museum board president and 63rd/445th Norton Veterans Group president.
“Having the Combat Camera theme keeps in line the overall theme at Norton,” Bob added. “Combat Camera moved into an entire building here before Norton closed.”
Ken Hackman’s career spanned decades.
As a young USAF photographer covering Vietnam, he progressed to become an excellent and well-respected USAF civil servant photographer, taking all the official photographs of USAF aircraft from 1960 to 1995 — which included all official photographs of Air Force One from 1975 to 2000.
During this time, he literally covered the world, photographing for the Air Force and the Department of Defense.
He also distinguished himself by covering eight Olympic Games.
In 1976, he photographed the Montreal Olympics, heading to Lake Placid in 1980. In ‘84 he was in Los Angeles, ‘88 in Calgary for the Winter Games, then Seoul Korea for the Summer Games.
Ken shot the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, the ‘94 Winter Games in Lillehammer and the ‘96 Games in Atlanta.
The list goes on.
“But I can’t show all of those at the museum, there are too many, and people would walk out,” he said, laughing.
A special challenge was his assignment to provide photographic coverage of the last atmospheric atomic bomb testing in the Pacific in 1962.
“I got out of the Air Force in 1959, but in 1962 photographed the atomic detonation, then by 1966 I was photographing the Vietnam War. After that, I made pictures of what the Air Force was doing, going from base to base,” he said.
“The atomic stuff is sobering,” Ken said. “I learned about atomic weapons when I was 24 — and I don’t want to go there.”
He did a documentary of the Air Force Defense Command and went around the world.
Not bad for a kid who signed up for a four-year tour.
After retiring, Ken went to Los Angeles, where he continued his love of photography and was challenged (once more) to photograph the making of the IMAX film “Fighter Pilot” on the Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB in Nevada.
His outstanding distinguished lists of accomplishments are known throughout photojournalism.
Ken Hackman is yet another outstanding professional who was assigned to the Aerospace Audiovisual Service and Combat Camera at Norton AFB as a leader, mentor and true professional within the world of photojournalism.
The Norton AFB Museum Board of Directors is honored to be able to bring this interesting member of the greater Norton AFB family to the guests of Evening at the Museum.
“Since we started the Evening at the Museum series, we’ve had high-level presenters each time,” Bob Edwards said.
“The variety was so great,” Ken added. “I was just making nice pictures.”
IF YOU GO
• What: An Evening at the Museum, “The USAF Combat Camera from Vietnam to Desert Storm 1969-1993,” featuring The “Godfather,” Ken Hackman
• When: 7 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m., Wednesday
• Where: Norton Air Force Base Museum, at San Bernardino International Airport, 1601 E. Third St., (corner of Third and Del Rosa), San Bernardino. Enter and exit through the museum.
• Cost: There is a $5 donation per person; parking is free.
• Information: Call 909-382-7307; or go go email@example.com.
Michel Nolan appears in The Sun on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MichelNolan.