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Almost forty years later from the end of the Vietnam War, veterans are still struggling with the horrors they faced in battle. I have begun a new… Read More
Almost forty years later from the end of the Vietnam War, veterans are still struggling with the horrors they faced in battle. I have begun a new photography series documenting the items these veterans saved and brought back from the war, photographing Santa Clara county southern Vietnamese veterans that left their dominated communist country, and Vietnam veterans. Within my photographs I create a psychological, bewildering, and informative imagery to help the viewer have a better understanding of the Vietnam War. In 2010, I had a book photo documentary book published called THE LAST GOOD WAR: THE FACES AND VOICES OF WWII. I traveled around the country photographing WWII Veterans and recording their stories. What I learned is that every WWII veteran returned a hero because it was a war of evil verse good. One does not typically hear the words “hero” and “Vietnam veteran” in the same sentence. Part of my interest in the Vietnam veterans is the contrast with the WWII Veterans. It is important to have an awareness of our historical past for preservation, public consciousness, and to learn from our historical mistakes. -Thomas Sanders Read Less
American Vietnam Induction Letter
"I thought Vietnam was in Africa, I quickly learned where it was."
-American Vietnam Veteran Gary Higgins
A grenade made by the northern Vietnamese made of a milk can, bamboo, a wick, fish hooks and screws.
"My supervisor committed suicide in order not to be caught by VC. It is quite normal for a soldier to die in a battle or for a lay person to die in a war zone. Sometimes I thought that I could die in the battle-field. I was almost killed by a VC soldier, but fortunately, I was ignored. I was not wounded.
The Communist Government ruled the country strictly and imposed severity on people. It exercised a policy that suppressed Republic military officers and all Southern people who had any relation to the Republic government. Military officers like me were imprisoned in Concentration Camps, denaturalized, and tortured both mentally and physically. Many intellectual military officers felt at a stalemate; they did not see any light ahead for their future. More than three years later, I was released from the Camp, but still led a drifting life. Exercising discrimination, the communist government commanded military officers who finished “concentration camp education” to settle in remote rural areas, which were given a beautiful name “New Economic Zone”. The name sounded like a promise of a great development, but it was just a way to push people like me away from city life. I was sent in such a place, staying there to engage in manual tillage under government supervision for another few years before coming back home. Not until my New-Economic-Zone time ended was I allowed to come back home and re-naturalized. As a citizen, I should have been supported by the government to establish a stable life, but it was not true. My background of a former military officer was always scrutinized, and it blocked me from any opportunity. My college knowledge and skills were not used, and I could only find odd jobs to survive.  Fortunately, the U.S. government issued a policy to help former Republic military officers who was kept in the Communist Concentration Camp for 3 years or more. I was sponsored to immigrate to the U.S.
I felt happy and safe to be in the USA. If my parents had brought me to the United States when I was young, I would get a good education, and my life would be better in the USA. The trip from Vietnam to the US was good, and it helps me to improve my life. I have been treated kindly since I was here."
-Hanh, Southern Vietnamese Soldier, American Immigrant
"Every day, we were nervous listening out for the progress of the war. With updated information, we planned our trips accordingly to avoid where the VC occupied. My father also left his work place. In the time without high-tech communication plus the communication difficulty of the war time, it was hard for my family members to keep in touch. My eldest sister and Hanh were completely disconnected. She got pregnant and stayed alone in her place; her husband was on a business trip and could not come back with her because the VC occupied that province. My brother Hanh was in battle somewhere. We could keep in touch with only my father via telegraph, the only mean at that time. Fortunately, we and my father finally united on our evacuation way. Together, we found the way to Saigon.
On the way, I witnessed the consequence of the war. The rubber plantations along state highways swarmed with evacuating people. They sheltered themselves in fragile tents, not knowing what would be. Looking at them, we wondered if someday we would also fall into the same circumstance. We also saw dead people along the way. Every trip, we experienced fighting to get on board. People bargained, argued, and jostled with one another to get a spot. Sometimes, some Republic soldiers who deserted from the army used their guns to shoot to the air to frighten people. It was sad that nobody yielded to anybody else, but it was understandable: they were hysterical and just wanted to escape. My mother prepared individual emergency bags with names, identification, water, and a little dry provisions. Each of us kept his/her own bag with the hope that it would help us survive in case we scattered because of the war chaos. The fear of getting lost from my parents was horribly haunted me, a little girl."
-Thuy, Southern Vietnamese Immigrant
American C-Ration Fruit Cake
Communist Canteen with American Military "Fuck You" Fork
"I found the Vietnamese people to be warm, friendly, shy and respectful.  I was very proud to be able to communicate with them in their language.  I felt sorry for the Vietnamese soldiers who had fought the war for so many years and had nothing to look forward to but more war.  I felt sorry for their families, who lived in hovels in muddy/dirty camps.
Several years later, while awaiting a change of airplanes in the Tokyo airport I found myself in the midst of a large group of Vietnamese refugees who were enroute from a Vietnamese relocation camp in the Philippines to cities in the United States where they would begin a new life.  I sat quietly for a while as the children played around me.  Eventually, I said something to one of the children in Vietnamese.  He ran off to his parents yelling.  Soon I was surrounded by Vietnamese adults.  They all had papers indicating the cities where they were being relocated.  They wanted to know about the cities – were they big or small, hot or cold, and on and on.  What a wonderful experience.
I departed Vietnam in late July 1969.  When I went out to our little landing strip near the province headquarters there were several of my fellow advisers there to send me off.  They popped the cork on a bottle of champagne, we toasted and I was off.  Later, when the plane that was to return me to the United States took off from the Saigon military airport I breathed a sigh of relief.  In some respects it had been a good year, I was going home in one piece, and I was very happy to be going home."
-Ron Lowe, Vietnam Veteran
American Vietnam War Grenade
Mortar shell turned into vase by southern Vietnamese
"Coming back to civilian life after 4 years in the Navy was almost like being invisible.  Much had changed.  Friends had completed college, started their careers, some had married and they had moved on with their lives.  I felt like I was 4 years behind everyone.  My few close friends welcomed me home, but other friends kept their distance from me.  Because society disliked the military, even putting the blame for the Viet Nam war on the backs of servicemen, I wanted to blend in as quickly as possible.  I grew my hair long and when I started college and work, didn’t tell people I was a veteran.  It wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I talked about and admitted I was a veteran and was again proud to wear a cap so proclaiming."
-Michale Slattengren, American Vietnam Veteran
American Vietnam  Machine Gun Magazine
"Stepping out of the final flight in Boise, Idaho, alone, as a proud decorated soldier in full uniform, no family were immediately present. Some passengers offered discreet smiles. Basically, the mood was polite silence; at least different from the common jeering and assaultive experience significant numbers of returning GIs had experienced from war protesters. Such an incomprehensible irony and reprehensible contradiction; self-styled viceroys for peace, using means of violence!! finally, my mother drove up, and I was welcomed back to the world of a civilian and student.
Viet Nam was only a few millimeters away..  A revelatory incident occurred days later driving down to Boise State to register for additional undergrad studies, as I realized I was in no clarified cognitive or emotional place to pursue graduate work. Descending the boulevard in my new economy Volkswagen by the park area with its abundant waterways, I noticed a duck on the side of the road, dragging a winged companion by the wing over the curb..  Suddenly, I went blind for several seconds, just holding on the steering wheel, as a tsunami of tears cascaded forth."
-Jim Barker, American Vietnam Veteran
"I was born in the Bronx on Valentine’s Day 1945 to a very Catholic and patriotic family with four older sisters. My Uncle “Bud”, my father’s brother was a Jesuit priest who was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned in the Santo Tomas prison camp in the Philippines for the entire WWII.  I only learned as an adult how greatly that affected my father who felt guilty as he was deferred with five children.
Because of heavy activity and the high turnover of Marine field officers I was quickly promoted from Platoon Commander to Company Commander to Battalion Operations Officer. Most of the staff officers were reserve that had been activated for the first time, had family and kids so a gung-ho young Lieutenant with some combat experience got all the authority he wanted and I must admit I liked the responsibility in combat and I got a buzz on day patrols but night patrols, especially during monsoon season, not so much.
It only took a couple of days in country to see my first dead Marine and my first dead “Charlie”. Lost most of my upper front teeth when my staff sergeant joined me in a fox hole, rifle butt first, during a rocket attack. One morning our Doc (medical officer) asked me to help him medevac one of last nights wounded, then he handed me a Marine’s leg, still in his boot and told me to bring it along. I remember looking at it on my lap, it was surreal."
-Thomas J Corbett, Anerican Vietnam Veteran
Turdsid: A device sensing the noise/vibrations in the jungle.
American C-Ration Grape Jam
Box made by southern Vietnamese prisoner while in prison.
Southern Vietnamese prison shirt.
Southern Vietnamese prison shirt.