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The Vietnam War Veterans Oral History Collection holds more than a dozen interviews with veterans who give an account of their experiences during the Vietnam War. The interviewees are from all branches of the armed forces, serving in various years of the nearly ten-year-long conflict. These interviewees, representing different ranks, served in different fields of duty. Some of these service duties included reconnaissance operator; jet mechanic; patrol squadron mission commander; Cobra gunship chopper pilot; prisoner interrogator; female nurse; Army Ranger, Special Forces; artillerist; combat Marine turned anti-war activist; General William Westmoreland, who commanded military operations in war from 1964-1968; and a POW, who was incarcerated for 6.5 years.
Subjects discussed include differences in fighting tactics in Vietnam versus Korean and European theaters of war: Nobody fights in those conditions for motherhood and apple pie, and the flag--it’s for the person on your left and your right -- the importance of helicopters; the role of politics in military strategy; search and surveillance missions; impact of troop rotations every twelve months; and the impact of limited fighting on future wars. Other topics include to question or not to question American involvement, and, anger toward home front war protestors; feelings of being unappreciated; the question of war being pointless, and, comparing Vietnam to the war in Iraq; the issue of war protests being politically respectable, and the role of TV coverage. Interviewees discuss enemy buildup for siege around Khe Sanh; Tet Offensive and its impact on Washington; issue of whether or not the Vietnamese wanted American troops on their soil; views of General William Westmoreland and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara; politics putting restraints on military strategy; and, the impact of Lyndon Johnson’s decision (on soldiers in Vietnam) not to run for president again in 1968. One interviewee remarked: We lost [the war] because we can never win a war politically and it was fought politically.
Other issues include boredom and terror; being shot down, and, the POW experience; dehumanizing the enemy, and, the issue of alleged American arrogance; African American and Hispanic casualties; medical care and soldiers’drug addictions; the lack of psychological training, and, the will to survive combat; undergoing personality transformations in wartime, and, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD); Agent Orange; danger of fighting in rice paddies; and not being able to return enemy fire due to political reasons (as in Cambodia).
The 'Vietnam War Veterans Oral History Collection' is part of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program is an affiliated program of the University of Florida's Department of History. Its collections include approximately 4,000 interviews and more than 85,000 pages of transcribed material, making it the largest oral history archive in the South and one of the major collections in the country. The transcribed interviews are available for use by research scholars, students, journalists, genealogists, and other interested groups. Researchers have used our oral history material for theses, dissertations, articles, and books.
Digitization of the collection has been funded in part by the generous donation of Caleb and Michele Grimes.