tv Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection CSPAN February 28, 2016 2:30pm-3:01pm EST
announcer: interested in american history? website, and wrote to the white house rewind, lectures of history and more at c-span.org/history. announcer: each week, american history tv visits museums and historic places. the vietnam veterans memorial collection includes thousands of items left at the memorial since built in 1982. they are stored in these boxes. select --ee a selection of items left at the wall. >> high. my name is janet donlon. i work specifically for the vietnam veterans memorial collection housed here in the museum resource center and landover, maryland. the building is a facility for the national capital region
parks. our collection specifically is housed entirely in this building. we are a collection of objects that are left at the memorial, the vietnam veterans memorial. people come by the memorial every day and leave objects at the memorial which our park rangers collect. every two weeks or so we do a pickup. we bring them out here to our resource center where he sort through them and catalog them and make them part of our collection. i have chosen some objects to show you from the collection. they cover the range of topics the collection interprets, including ptsd, mothers and fathers who have lost children. they will be going on display soon and i think they are really good examples of the type of things in the collection. this was left at the wall in the 1990's. this is part of a door that was
in this man's room when he was in maybe high school or so. the note is from his brother. it tells you the context of what you see here. he drew this on his door when he was still at home. it depicts a serviceman crouching over the body of maybe a dead soldier. after he drew it user his own name on the dogtags of the dead soldier. his mother was not ok with that. she did not think that was very cool. she made him erase it. then he went to vietnam and he was killed in action. his brother cut this out of the door and brought it to the wall after he wrote michael's name again on the dogtags. he left it at the wall for his
brother. i don't know if you can get a close-up of this letter, it tells the same story. in a much better way than i could ever -- "big brother, i brought a piece of home to you. here's a picture you drew on your bedroom door before he went to vietnam. i know mom made you erase it. now i know you are still young man. i remember the things we did together. the motorcycle rides in the handstands up the stairs. i like to thank you for watching out for me." these are some of the objects we have selected for potentially going on loan to the ronald reagan library. they are having an exhibit in november. we have done some initial collections for them and we are waiting for them to make final
approval. they showcase what is in this collection. what things the collection speaks about. this one specifically, i have a really good example of something left from a mother to a son. this was left on veterans day in 1983 by woman called eleanor wimbish. for william was that her son was killed in action in vietnam. this one specifically mentions -- it was from 1983 but it specifically mentions her diary she wrote the year previous in
1982, the day the wall was dedicated. she describes seeing his name on the wall for the first time. walking up to the wall, seeing his name and what she felt seeing his name but also looking around and seeing the other people around her who were also touching the names of their loved ones. it describes how overwhelming it was for her. she continued to leave letters like this wrapped in plastic on a poster board for at least 10 or 15 years for her son. she would do it on his birthday, on the day he died, mother's day, veterans day, christmas, easter, things like that for the holidays he missed. "the day was unseasonably warm and sunny we arrived in washington dc. we got out and started walking towards the memorial. i could feel the blackwell of yet, myblack wall, and feet did not want to move.
i was so scared. i was afraid i would find your name on the black wall and i was afraid a mistaken been made and your name and been left out. -- it's hard to explain such mixed emotions. we've been looking for about half an hour when your father quietly said honey, here he is. as i looked to where his hand was touching the black wall i saw your name. william r. stocks. my heart seemed to stop. i felt like i could not breathe. it was like a bad dream. my teeth chattered. i felt as though i was freezing. i looked around at all the people in that up-and-down the black wall. this memorial to all these people who lost their lives in vietnam. these thousands and thousands of names." the collection was started
unexpectedly in 1982 from the very beginning of the memorial. people started leaving things. right from the dedication. they were leaving things for their loved ones, missing loved ones, for those who came back and were wounded in action. it was an unexpected phenomenon that just kind of sprung up out of nowhere. for the first two years of park service was not sure what to do with the things being left of the wall. it was unprecedented. no one had ever done anything or no one had seen something like this happened before. for the first two years they just kept the objects isolated and out-of-the-way trying to figure out what to do. in 1984 our previous regional curator decided to make all the objects in official part of this park service collection. after 1984 it became an official
park service collection. we collected things regularly. we have been doing it ever since. the blue boxes are iconic -- what people see when they come here to the museum resource center to see the vietnam veterans memorial collection. they are made specifically for our collection. they are large and made out of plastic that will not decay or cause damage to the objects. they store all the objects from vietnam veterans memorial collection. this was a letter left for a man named gary. it was left august 5, 1989. the letter describes gary and his interaction in vietnam. they were comrades in arms. brent would ask gary for the time. he never knew what time it was even though he was a radio
operator and always asked for the time was. gary would always tell him. he also always uses "john wayne," which is what he called his can opener. he always said to use gary's can opener. gary was killed after an explosive detonated. the letter describes how he held him in his arms as he grew cold and he would not let him go. finally in 1989 he decided to leave the watch and can opener at the wall for gary. it was gary jinks, corporal gary jinks. he is on the wall. onthis flag was left veterans day 1992, the 10-year anniversary of the wall, and it was left by john sparks, a prisoner of war for five years
in vietnam. he coincidentally has done an oral history project for the library of congress which is very interesting if you want to go and hear their story. you can learn about his experience as a prisoner of war. this was presented to him upon his return to the united states after he was released. on it is a crucifix which he made out of a toothpaste tube. the tie is from his prison uniform. there is a pin pretty pow mia. prisoner of war missing in action. the note essentially says he is dedicating his flag to the men who were still missing in action or prisoners of war in vietnam. a lot of times veterans, if they want to come see the things they left, we are always willing to give the mature and show them around.
it really helps us connect specific names and donors to what they left. for instance we have a barrels -- it was left in 2002. i am too young to know what it was but i have been told in vietnam they used it as a latrine. a very unfortunate soldier was giving the duty of burning it every now and then. that was probably the worst job you have. and they came in they gave us a little bit of context about what it was and when they left it and why. there are some donors who are active and want to see the things they left. this as you may or may not know is a roll of toilet paper. you might be wondering why we have it in our collection. toilet paper was gold in vietnam.
because if you were out in the field, and you did not have any toilet paper, you had to make do with something less desirable. and so, we get little rolls of toilet paper. in the rations, sometimes they were given a little thing of toilet paper. understand when they see toilet paper in this context, they know what it was left for, but this one was left with this little note. "the jungle, it will not wash off. the sounds, the smells. like the waves that come in the oceans of my mind, the memories remain." that was left in 1992. the two photographs were left on veterans day, 1993 which was the dedication of the women's memorial. it's dedicated to the woman who served and died in vietnam. you don't often talk about the women of the war.
they were eight names on the memorial. there were at least 60 women who died in vietnam. they did not get their names on the memorial because they were not enlisted in the military. these are two photographs of essentially red cross volunteers. were eitherho died volunteers or something of that sort. often, they were nurses in vietnam. they staffed the field hospitals, so these two are at camronto the boys army. it lists the ladies of the american red cross. they were there from november 1971 to january 1972. this object was left of the vietnam veterans memorial june 4, 1992.
it has a countdown of 365 numbers. 365 days as the standard tour that veterans served in vietnam. i am assuming -- we don't have any other information. no more information or note. i assume he printed this out and counted down the days he had to serve in vietnam. it is titled "the long road home." at the bottom it says "my vietnam holiday." this is interesting because as he was crossing off the days he would put a little more information about his best what is 280th day was. this one was christmas. he was at landing zone 2 when he was in the hump for these days.
is first anniversary. we don't know of what. he does not describe what the anniversary is. i'm assuming as he would experience a day he would cross it off. there were some other interesting days here. this was the fourth of july. his 62nd day. the day healy had 62 more days left. "man has landed on the moon." and in his last five days. he says "caution, vietnam may be hazardous to your health." this is what we see often. we get a lot of things for short timers. that were people who had 30 days or less in vietnam. we had a lot of short timers , those who had 30 days or less in vietnam, so they would
countdown the days, and we have a lot of calendars like this, where they were counting down the days to go home, and it is interesting to see, especially if they were carrying it in vietnam. there are some rules that we follow, the antiquities act, the organic act that kind of -- it is the basis for all museum collections in our nation, and specifically for us, our allection is guided by collection statement. a museum collection in the park service has a statement. that dictates will be key for the collection, what what our themes are. what we are interpreting for the collection. what falls within our parameters and shows you what does not fall within the parameters of the collection. we do what we call processing. that is sorting through them, putting things together that go together that were left by the same person or same group of people.
things we can't keep like organic things like flowers should not become part of the collection. food. we don't keep things that are hazardous to our health. that would include things like live ammunition. and we don't keep unaltered on personalized things. like flags, miniature flags they don't have anything on them. once we process it we put them into our standard containers, bags, folders, things like that. then he gets catalogued into our cataloging database. then we can use the object for interpretation, for exhibits, for loans and things like that. this is an example of a box that has been catalogued. everything in it is in our database. we can look up an object by its
catalog number, which we see right here. this is the number that tells us when we received it into the collection. that is important for us to know when we took property of it essentially. as you can see, they are nicely folded. they have tags that will associate them if we are to take them out. we tie up nicely american flags. we put archival objects like paper objects in these folders. it is all organized. if i need to pull something for a researcher or for the exhibit, i can look into our database and it will tell me where the object is.
and i go to that box, and it is fairly easy to find. in our folders. is all one session. it was all left around the same time. we organize everything by what was left at the wall. this box i think is from around the 10 year anniversary. maybe just after the 10 year anniversary, november 1982. -- 1992. ribbons,ee pieces of bows, things like this. >> the oldest box if you would be 1994? >> we have four boxes from the two-year period from 1982 to 1984 when they were initially collecting things.
this is one of them right here. and a lot of the same types of things and the other box. it's a lot of the same type of things that are being left today. we have a lot of patches and pins, badges of all kinds, religious items. we have a lot of newspaper clippings. what we call documentary artifacts. it is the largest category of objects left of the wall. paper objects essentially. letters, notes, poems, clippings, greeting cards, business cards, things like that. you get a lot of flags. a lot of plaques. this card was left in 2000. it was left by allen for barry
who was killed in vietnam. i will read it. it says "my dearest barry, it has been 31 years since you were taken away from me, but you remain in my heart. my truest love always. as i visit the memorial wall with you, i leave with you the ring from your 18th birthday the first summer we met. always know i love you still, although i am married and have three beautiful children. laura, named after your sister, blake and rayna. i will mourn the family we were never given a chance to have. when the lord takes me home, i know i will meet you again and share many memories. quote so this letter and the trophy were left on october 30, 1988 for joseph peters. i believe it was left by his son.
the trophy on the back says "with all my love, christmas 1969. dad." so i assume that maybe his dad gave it to the sun and came to the wall and left it. , "were you afraid? of course, you were. the trick is not to the always fearless but never to be hopeless. be brave again for those that have been brave for us and those who will get depends on us. it is a beautiful day. if we were playing golf, i would be beating you by two strokes. sucker." it is signed michael. we have to kind of infer the background information for this. play they would always golf together before he went to war. we don't really know. that is all we have. this harmonica and the note was
left on october 10, 1995. it was in an envelope addressed to gary thomas. he served as a radio telegraph operator for the third reconnaissance italian, third -- third reconnaissance, third marine division. it just says, "ever since you were killed i have been loving the blues. i leave my heart here the wall for you to listen heavenly blues for all those you left behind. i miss you daily. brother bob." [geese honking] this is an in country photograph left at the wall on august 9, 1989. it depicts first and second platoon, c company, first italian, fifth marines. they were honoring three dead. three rifles stuck in the ground with helmets on top of them.
on the back, he wrote what he knew of the men. one he named robert solia. another he called "the new guy." and another he called mr. point. i can look up the names. mr. solia was killed in december 1967. so by looking up the other people in the company who died on the same day, i've found that the other two men who died were probably william pearson, the new guy, and eddie lee jackson who was mr. point. the command chronology gave the reason for their deaths. company c was hit by a booby trap consisting of two or three artillery rounds. every it was searched on 16
december and bodies were found with negative results. the incident resulted in one killed in action and six wounded in action. two men later died. the new guy, mr. pearson, he had been in vietnam for just 24 days before he was killed. so these notes were left in august 1986. i assume they were from the same woman, although they touch on very different topics. in one, she was describing how she was a nurse in the annam, lieutenant deet baker, rn. the other is talking about her husband who died in vietnam. "i went to vietnam to heal and came home wounded. awaken from nightmares of those we could not save. i came home to grieve for those
we sent home blind, paralyzed, limbless, mindless. i went to the annam heal and discovered i am not god." tom,er about her husband 21y would have been married years. they got married when he was on leave in san diego. i'm assuming that both went back to the war he was killed. they were only married a short time. she left the letter and honor him 21 years later. we get a lot of very similar objects left at the wall. a lot of poems, cards, notes. this one was left just this past july. and it was pretty spectacular, i thought, and it does not look exactly like it did when it was left at the wall, but it was 13 letters.
they were written by this young man named jim, addressed to his girlfriend, potential girlfriend back home. they are letters from when he they are letters from when he was in basic training up to when he was first in vietnam, and so he was in listed -- i think he joined voluntarily, not drafted. jim went to vietnam in early 1966, and he learned quickly that he only had to serve five months rather than a regular year-long tour because of some previous experience or previous work he had done, so he was very excited to get home and maybe get to know patricia a little bit better, who he had met just met before he went to vietnam. his letters kind of show him trying to learn her personality.
they also showed the type of things he was experiencing in vietnam. the heat, the smells, all these men around him. no women anywhere, and he continued to send her letters in marchwas killed 1966. he was only there for two months of his five-month tour before he was killed. that letter to patricia is dated 24 march, 1966. he was killed on march 30. the last thing he ever wrote to her was "it won't be long now. jim." the collection, i feel like the
purpose of the collection is to help people. the purpose of the wall is to help people heal and get over the things that happened in the past and to remember. specifically the men who died in vietnam and the collection kind of lends a helping hand to that. people leave things that are folk art, the process of making the craft helps them heal. there are a lot of things in the collection having to do with ptsd. we have a lot of groups that do a therapy group. they make something and leave it at the wall. that helps their healing process. we have a lot of things that give more information about a specific person's life. when you go to the wall, you see all the names on the wall. the collection kind of gives a little background history to
those names. as long as somebody has left something for a specific person, we can tell just a little bit more about that person's life. that's really the purpose of the collection. announcer: next on american history tv, pulitzer prize winning author looks at the role of political pamphlets in helping to spark the american revolution, pamphlets were the primary medium for the debate at the time, and mr. wood examines about 40 of these works with topics ranging from taxation without representation to natural rights. the new york historical society hosted this hour-long event. >> well, thank you, dale, for this wonderful introduction. it is a great pleasure to be back here at the new york historical society which is the most vibrant and exciting historical society in the country, and wyo