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tv   American Artifacts Vietnam Center and Archive  CSPAN  December 21, 2018 10:01pm-10:27pm EST

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new leaders. watch it live on c-span, starting january 3. we are visiting the vietnam center archive located in southwest special collections library on the campus of texas tech university. it got its start back in 1989, when a visiting professor decided to determine if he could teach classes on the vietnam war, he was a military history professor, he served two tours in the navy, in vietnam, and he wanted to try to educate the student body about what vietnam was about. he went to the library and they had almost no books on vietnam at that time, this is only 14 years after the end of the war, and he went to his department chair and asked if they had any financial support for those types of things and i think he
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said it was eligible for $300 a report from them. so he got together with a group of local veterans, and ask them, you know, if they would be willing to support the creation of some kind of a project, so that they could teach classes, mostly graduate- level but eventually undergraduate, and also collect and preserve materials and start this massive project to make sure that we are educating our students about the important part of american history. and from that humble beginning, we now have the largest archive of vietnam war materials, out of the u.s. national archives. but we do focus a lot on the veterans themselves, we also have a much wider range and kind of philosophy regarding this project, regarding the vietnam war, and to be invited to participate. so with a lot of military history projects, this one focuses on the serving with the navy, encouraged him to broaden that, very early on, so we started to invite vietnamese participants and then we started to receive materials from both vietnamese americans, living in the state of texas and around the country, and also, it broadens to include
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other participant participants, so we started to work with vietnam, laos, cambodia, china, russia, france, great britain, all the nations were somehow involved in the vietnam war, we started to reach out to them but also to collect materials that reflect their experiences, and not only do we have an incredible set of materials from american veterans, we have materials from all the different participants nations, all $.50 are involved, and i think it's about 12 countries. the staff was very effective, i think, in pulling together a wide range of materials that represents the different experiences of veterans, and in particular what we are looking at in this particular table, we are looking at materials from american veterans who served in vietnam. and typically we associate that service with what men experience, because of course men were doing the print dominant amount of fighting but
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there were many women who served as well. within that group of veterans, the female veterans of the war, again, a lot of people would typically associate those experiences with nurses but in fact, women were involved in 70 different aspects of the war, from administration and things of that nature, the donut dollies, and we have a uniform from one of the red cross dollies, right there. and engage in a wide range of other missions to help to support the 500,000 men and women who were serving throughout vietnam. now, in addition to that, we've got a lot of different types of equipment, that veterans were carrying, you know, the things they carried, if you will, so the first aid kit, rations, the radios. the helmet that veterans would wear, that soldiers would wear, the steel pots that would protect them from shrapnel. but also, we have, this is not
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an actual m-16 but this is a dummy m-16, and i wanted to highlight the specifics of this, this is the earliest version, so it has the muzzle that has the three prongs, the triangular prongs, and that was problematic for a lot of soldiers, who were fighting in vietnam because it would get caught on foliage and fines and things like that, so they had to modify the m-16 in the middle of the war to make it a more useful weapon and a more easier weapon to utilize in the environment, but all kinds of types of materials, the back tax, the jungle boots, the rooney calf that some veterans would wear, basically we have a wide range of material that represents the overall experience, and a poncho. underneath your. and when you think about the heat and humidity of vietnam and wrapping yourself in plastic, this would have been a really uncomfortable way of dealing with the rain in vietnam, because by the time
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you finish wearing a poncho, you are wet underneath it as you would have been if you have not even worn it, but anyways. just a great example of the materials of the veterans would carry with them every day. continuing with the veteran experience of the war, we also have a tremendous set of letters written home by veterans, and this particular set, this is a special collection for us because it is the first set of materials we received once he became the vietnam center and archive, donated by a navy corpsman who served during the vietnam war, and these are the letters that he wrote home to his mom, and dad, to. my predecessor was always very fond of saying how much we appreciated mothers, because they collected these materials and they kept them and cherish them. because they never knew if this was the last thing they would ever receive from their son or their husband or their father in vietnam. and one of the letters here, at
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the very top, you know, this was dated 23 may, 1967, and as i mentioned, this is a navy corpsman who served in caisson. and he was there through the major battles that took place in early 1968. and the letter starts off, dear mom and dad, well, here i am in vietnam. with 360 more days left to go. and i think that opening sentence really kind of puts this veterans experiences into perspective but the highlights so much of what america experiences are there and once they have arrived, there was a countdown, how much time do i have left in vietnam? and they would keep calendars and they were track it and take it off and basically, for them, it was a one year war, 365 days, and they get to go home, to the world. and so, even as early as five days in, he is chronicling that for his parents.
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we started working a lot with veterans and veterans associations, and going to reunions, and engaging veterans in our mission to collect and preserve this history, and as we started doing that, the association of themselves started to become very heavily invested and making sure we were working closely with them to preserve their legacies, and the services during the war and that includes groups at the vietnam helicopter pilot association, the american veterans association. a lot of different units that were involved in activities and another one of those was that stands for department of the army special photographic's office and that was a team of photographers and videographers who throughout the country and they basically were attached to the department of defense, they report to the pentagon and they had to go through the entire country of vietnam and take photographs and film anything and everything they could, so
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they had this incredible equipment that you see here, the film cameras, and their equipment that they used to chronicle the official history of the war from the department of defense side. and they donated all his equipment, they donated a lot of photographs and film, mostly 16mm film and some of that with soundtracks, so it is an incredible set of historical materials that, again, it is interesting from the standpoint of we have these guys who just would jump on helicopters and for now intake video footage. and there was very little restriction on what they could or could not shoot, so kind of an open book, if you will, of the film and photograph history of the war. from the pentagon side. everything they did went back to washington. and it was used in public affairs activities, to educate and notify the american public about things, it was shared with media outlets so that they had great photographs and film that they could use and
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production of news and things like that and then, one of the most awesome things about it is what was sent back to washington, so it's all part of the available history in the vehement vietnam war. we worked closely with them and i'm not aware of any kind of censorship that is of anything disappearing or the government did not want to become part of the public record or anything like that. my understanding is all in back to washington, it all became part of the national archives and all that is accessible. i think from the standpoint of contemporary american, especially younger americans today, i think this is some of the really rich materials that helped to put into perspective what it was like to be in war, to be a participant in this, but to try to chronicle what was going on on the ground, and again, we take for granted we have these nice little phones that, back in the 60s, when
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these guys were carrying these heavy, you know, steel cameras, you know, they were watching back in the united states, were watching star trek and the had these handheld communicators, you know, and that is where we are now. we are carrying the star trek handheld communicators that also take video and audio and while the southern incredible stuff, well back then it was only science-fiction. they had to carry all of this heavy equipment with them so they could take those pictures and those videos, and make sure that we could have these visual is representations of the war that we can still learn from. if the natural kind of proclivity for people to look at something through their own lens, through their own experience, and so much of what we've done in terms of studying the vietnam war, it really has been focused on how we experience it as a nation and as a people, as americans, and that is just such a small fraction of the experience, and to look at it from that one
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side, really doesn't provide an understanding of the complexities and challenges that we all face, not just the united states but our allies, and our enemies alike. so by preserving this material you're gaining insight into what were the vietnamese people thinking? what were their motivations, the things that were driving them to continue the struggle to, continue the struggle. and the allies who fought bravely and hard in trying to protect their country, as they perceived it, south vietnam, and also the north vietnamese and the communists in the south, the national liberation. this was a war that was hard- fought by different groups who were all fighting in some ways, some instances, very different reasons. on this table we are shifting and looking at the va minis died from the war.
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and that side is a very complex situation, of course, we have our allies, it is healthy minis, the vietnamese government, republic of vietnam, and we have the which is the congressional record of the federal register of the republic his vietnam and that was a document sense that they kept throughout their entire year, the entirety of their existence, that as long as the republic of vietnam existed we have a near complete set of those documents, and it is one of the, it's a rare sight and that it wasn't, it may newsprint. so when you look at it you can see the edges of the paper, yellowing and it is very brittle because it wasn't made necessarily to be kept for a long period of time. fortunately, there was a gentleman who was working in the vietnamese embassy in paris, in france, and he collected everything he could, and he kept it, and at the end
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of the war, 1975, when saigon fell, and they close down the vietnamese embassy, he took all of these documents and put them in a garage and kept them. and coordinating with one of our vietnamese american supporters, former self minis ambassador to the united states, gentle men named he met with this guy and said you should donate all of that stuff you have in the garage to the vietnam center and so we have one of the only sets of the federal register of the congressional record of the republic of vietnam in the world. it is a set we are very careful with because it is falling apart and will have to digitize that very soon, to make sure that it is preserved and accessible. we also have newspapers from south vietnam, saigon daily news, and a number of other publications and again, to chronicle the experiences of our south vietnamese allies. they lost so much as a result of that war. they lost their homes, their families, they lost their businesses, you know, when saigon fell in 1975, we have
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used that as a tragic loss, because we were fighting to try to preserve south vietnam, against communism, but the self- image people lost is just incredible by comparison, and so, again, it's very important to work with them as much as we can to preserve their history and their documents, and in addition to that we do have materials from the communist side of the war, north vietnamese and the national liberation front or vietcong, we have some of their equipment, kind of interesting, where you compare and contrast the different types of equipment that they use versus what we had, their helmet was wicker versus the steel of the american helmet, and lighter weight, great for camouflage but not going to protect very much. we also have the sandals, which of course anyone has heard of who study the vietnam war, made from tires, and very cheap and very effective, canteens and
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other equipment, but also some of the publications, as well, and one of the really interesting things about the vietcong publications is they had him and sometimes they had to do it out in the field, the production value is not very high but it is very effective, so they've got some really interesting artwork that we are presenting for the communist out of the war. and also, we have an incredible microphone set of captured enemy documents, and that includes 2.7 million pages of captured materials from the war that again, tied that we have digitized. we want to make sure that we are preserving and providing access to the va minis out of the war, both the allies and south vietnam, as well as our former enemies, north vietnam, and the south, the vietcong, national liberation coalition. and the addition to the archival materials, he also
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sometimes get donations of the reading materials that they had while they were fighting, and the stars and stripes was very important, and they also had these internally produced newspapers for some units, and one of the great things about these documents is they provide us with insight with news and information that most soldiers were getting during the war itself, and so, they didn't have access to the new york times, the washington post, the news media, general publications, time magazine, those things that circulate both in the united states it was also part of their war to these types of newspapers. in addition to that there was a course also in entertainment, publication, so comic books,
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which we typically, i don't think, associate necessarily with, you know, young adults today, they were still very popular, so lots of soldiers would carry around comic books, and other kind of comic books to help pass the time when they had downtime. in addition to the wartime, publications, we have a set of publications from veterans associations after the war. and as i think i mentioned before, so much of what we do is about preserving the history and the legacy of our veterans. and that includes, of course, and focuses a lot on what they experienced during the war itself, but as we have learned throughout our experiences, so much about the vietnam war is not just about the 365 days they spend there, but more perhaps importantly for some, the 50 years since then. that they have been processing that experience in dealing with
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and trying to overcome the different challenges and hardships that they've had as a result. and so we've got newsletters, and magazines from veterans associations, that talk about their different activities, whether they be just kind of generic or union activities, or philanthropic programs they start building schools and libraries and orphanages, and things like that, in vietnam to kind of help contribute to that country, where they fought so many years ago and give back something and hopefully have a catharsis as a result of that, and so, again a wide range of material that contact chronicles all of that to the present day. when we started to reach out to veterans and invite them to participate, quite a few of them were hesitant, and understandably so. here we are, and american university, and their experiences with american universities were, well, when i came home from vietnam, you
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guys didn't like us, didn't want us around, didn't welcome us home, and university campuses with a hotbeds of antiwar activity. and so, their immediate reaction was one of skepticism, and mistrust. because of their wartime experiences for college campuses. so once we were able to kind of bridge that gap, where we emphasize the fact that we had a lot of veterans, local veteran support for the project to get underway, founded by a vietnam veteran who served in country for tutorials, and a lot of us had a much more sympathetic approach to military history and perhaps they thought most academics would have, so some of us having military background, even though we were not vietnam veterans, was also very help also we start to break down barriers and the trust that they had from the wartime for universities, and we started to build on that, interviewing veterans, and doing so with
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respect and honor. so much is made of some of the more tragic events with the war, and so much tension is given to things like the massacre at me lie and so forth. we need to remember this, and focus a study on it, but at the same time, so many of the veterans are kind of plagued painted with that same brush and they like we focus only on the negatives and the positives and i think our project has been a much better balance of making sure that we are not just looking at those negative aspects of war, you can't get war without looking at the negative aspects but there's also some positive things, men and women who are serving their nation with respect and honor and dignity, doing the best thing, the best they can in the circumstances into which they are thrown, and i think most veterans who visit us, and get to know us, we really do approach their service in that way. it's a place of honor and respect and understanding that
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yes, that happened, but the people who are involved in large part from our experience, they were not doing that, they were doing what they thought was honorable and right. so as a result of all that we have established such an incredible set of materials, that it is time for us now not just to provide online access, but to build a building where people can come see the materials for themselves, so we have been housed in this building, the southwest collection library, for about 20 years, just over 20 years and we are now working with university leadership to also get a substantial grant from anonymous donor, and what we have done is we have developed an officer and raising monies we can develop a museum and archive for the vietnam war here at texas tech university and as you can see from the different types of materials we have, and this is just a very small sample, we have a museum just waiting to be filled with
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veteran collections and materials. and we are so excited to be working with university leadership, and hopefully our state and local governments and perhaps some federal support, as well, along the way, that we can build this world-class museum so veterans and the families have a place to, and learn about the war, remember about the war, contribute their history, and so we can continue to educate our country about this incredible part of american history. and our ultimate goal would to be pursued as a nation to the national exam of the vietnam war and again, we think, we have again, almost 30 years of a track record working with the nations veterans, and preserving their materials and providing this incredible forum where people come together and learn about this war, and to this, texas tech, the state of texas is the right place for it.
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still next saturday at 8 pm eastern, conversations with three retiring members of congress, democratic senator heidi high camp, and republican representative, dave bratt, who were both defeated in the midterms and darrell iser, who is retiring after serving 18 years in the house. >> i think we could have done a bipartisan tax bill passed, i think there was no interest in doing bipartisan tax bill. i think we could have done some reforms to the health care bill, no interest in doing reforms of healthcare, because it was all about winning politically. and not governing in a sustainable way. and those are regrets that i have. >> ideas matter to me and you try to get ideas up in the press and they don't care and it is worse than they don't care, they are against your ideas, and they put them down. and they cannot name a substitute that is better, they don't have an alternative hypothesis. and so, that is just, for me,
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and intellectual fraud and i think that is what the press is engaged in right now, unfortunately. >> most people think term limits celek a good idea. forcible leadership has no term limits. nancy pelosi would probably be over 100 by the time she finishes her last time as speaker, if nothing changes. i mean, the challenges that all of leadership has no term limits. well, chairman have term limits, and so, all the way back to newt gingrich, what happened is we took a strong chairman system, and we turned into a strong speaker and minority leader system. >> watch conversations with trying members of congress, saturday at 8 pm eastern on c- span, and and listen with the free radio apps. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television company. and today, we continue to


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