With a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, more than 700 hours of video and audio interviews have been transcribed to aid researchers around the world.
Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Texas Tech University's Vietnam Center & Sam Johnson Vietnam Archive (VNCA) has now made more than 700 hours of its audio and video interviews more accessible for researchers around the world.
Over the last three years, the VNCA has transcribed 185 oral history interviews of veterans, military couples and a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, as well as civilians and veterans who protested the war at home. The transcription process makes the interviews word-searchable, which assists individuals looking for specific topics, while also improving access for patrons with hearing disabilities. All the interviews are now freely available in the Virtual Vietnam Archive.
These in-depth interviews cover the full life experiences of the interviewees, beginning with their early formative experiences; their time in the military, including training and their impressions of the war prior to deployment to Vietnam; and their in-country experiences for the duration of their tours of duty. These interviews also address post-war experiences, such as coming home and readjusting to life in the U.S., as well as their lives and careers after the war. Finally, interviewees offer their perspectives on the war, its effects on them, how Vietnam veterans have been perceived in the years since the war's end, and their views concerning the U.S. military and foreign policy in the years since the Vietnam War.
“These interviews truly reflect the great diversity of the Vietnam War experience and promote the goals of the Standing Together initiative of helping the public to understand armed conflict and the individual's role in it, as well as its enduring effects on those individuals and their families,” said Amy K. Mondt, associate director of the VNCA.
“The interviews contain recollections of heroism and tragedy, humor and loss, post-war career success and struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. They also offer a faithful representation of the memories and experiences of the individuals who served in the war, as well as the thoughts and feelings of the veterans' loved ones, experiences that simply are not represented in the military documentation of the war. Providing access to these interviews will help researchers understand the war and those who experienced it firsthand.”
All four major services are represented in this collection, including interviews with pilots and ground combat personnel; advisers to the South Vietnamese armed forces and scout dog handlers; medics, corpsmen and U.S. Army nurses; and South Vietnamese civilians, one of whom spent time in Vietnamese re-education camps as a political prisoner following the war. There are interviews with a diverse array of American civilians who volunteered to serve in numerous capacities, such as journalists, Red Cross Donut Dollies, USO and State Department workers, and the wife of a former prisoner of war.
Included among these 185 interviews are 52 video interviews with veterans of the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley and members of their families. As one of the most significant battles of the Vietnam War, the Battle of the Ia Drang was the first face-to-face combat between American and North Vietnamese forces and proved to be a watershed in the employment of helicopters on the battlefield, proving the validity of the airmobile concept. Included among these interviewees are the late General Hal Moore, the commanding officer of the American troops during the battle; the late Ed Freeman, a helicopter pilot who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle; and Barbara Geoghegan Johns, the widow of Lt. Jack Geoghegan, who was killed in the battle.
“Oral history interviews with veterans provide numerous benefits,” Mondt said. “Although official documentary evidence is vital to the study of the war, we know that these sources are limited in terms of the amount and kinds of information they offer. A well-conducted oral history interview not only supports the documentary evidence, it also provides additional information that the documentary record simply cannot. Oral history interviews can call into question the official record of events, encourage further investigation of specific events and common misconceptions and provide a personal perspective that further enriches the study of the war – a quality impersonal documents cannot.
“Oral history interviews also provide a link between generations. The stories and experiences shared in these interviews are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago when the events occurred, and they will resonate with researchers for generations to come. These interviews allow students of the war to listen to participants describe their experiences firsthand, providing them a rich narrative that illustrates that war is a deeply personal experience for those who were there, reinforcing the understanding that humanity is profoundly changed by conflict.”