The Tank Man

The Tank ManStanding in front of a column of tanks, no one around him, he was all alone with his shopping bags in his hands. He climbed on top of the tank, banged on the lid and said get out of my city, you're not wanted here. Tank Man, or the Unknown Rebel, is the nickname of an anonymous man who became internationally famous when he was videotaped and photographed during the Tienanmen Square protests on 5 June 1989.

Several photographs were taken of the man, who stood in front of a column of Chinese Type 59 tanks, preventing their advance. The most widely reproduced version of the photograph was taken by Jeff Widener (Associated Press), from the sixth floor of the Beijing Hotel, about half a mile (800 m) away, through a 400 mm lens. Another version was taken by photographer Stuart Franklin of Magnum Photos. His photograph has a wider field of view than Widener's picture, showing more tanks in front of the man.

Franklin subsequently won a World Press Award for the photograph. It was featured in LIFE magazine's "100 Photos that Changed the World" in 2003. Variations of the image were also recorded by CNN and BBC film crews, on videotape, and were transmitted across the world.

The still and motion photography of the man standing alone before a line of tanks reached international audiences practically overnight. It headlined hundreds of major newspapers and news magazines and was the lead story on countless news broadcasts around the world. In April 1998, the United States magazine TIME included the "Unknown Rebel" in its 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

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Ratings: 8.14/10 from 7 users.

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10 Comments / User Reviews

  1. abfallmensch

    i bow before this young man!

  2. Old Git Tom

    Magnificent story, Vlatko, & thank goodness, not yer usual cold war warmover. OGT

  3. Charles Batten

    I am fascinated by the fact that not one report has discussed the nature of the commander of the lead tank or who he was - he also acted with humanity! He spoke to the Tank man and whilst he was no doubt under orders; I have an impression that he didn't want to kill this young man.

  4. Old Git Tom

    Charles Batten,
    yes indeed, but we don't even know the name of the hero. It is a miracle we have that moving footage (thanks Vlatko).

    Red Army men/women were always drilled with the message of their identity & solidarity with the ordinary Chinese - from earliest days. The Tiananmen Square massacre was a last blunder for the old leadership. When the Red Army turned its guns on fellow Chinese, the 'communist' experiment died.

    All honor to all the unknown, brave young people who perished to bring change. That is an answer to the tired old defeatists who drone, "There's nothing you can do". OGT

  5. olo

    So much respect for this man who ever he is.

  6. tesg

    I wonder how things are in China now in 2011? Are the peasants still in the same situation or is it getting any better?

  7. ButteredBread

    The fact that he didn't know he was being filmed is the sign of a true hero! He did it for what he felt was true and right not for the glory.

  8. Jamie

    I'm a Chinese... I'm shocking and scared actually.Things like this are never heard in China. It's absolutely true. As a teenager I know I should try my best to know something about our country and our history. I may not save China, but I'll try to do something.

  9. Glen Hale

    Wonder where he is now and in which Jail or did they shoot him???
    A true leader. Not like the junk we get served each day by all leaders?

  10. Shug Mccormack

    Wang Welling was his name

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