A Look Back

‘Remembering Vietnam’ explores many facets of the controversial war

The free exhibit is open through Jan. 6

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 2017) – The National Archives opened a new exhibition, “Remembering Vietnam: Twelve Critical Episodes in the Vietnam War” on Nov. 10, appropriately during Veteran’s Day weekend. The exhibit examines 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War to provide a framework for understanding the decisions that led to war, events and consequences of the war, and its legacy.
This 3,000-square-foot exhibit uses more than 80 original records from the National Archives – including newly declassified documents – to critically re-examine major events and turning points in the war and address three critical questions about the Vietnam War: Why did the United States get involved? Why did the war last so long? Why was it so controversial?

Photo provided

The “Remembering Vietnam” exhibit opened Nov. 10 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. It will run through Jan. 6.

“Remembering Vietnam” is free and open to the public and will be on display in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C., through Jan. 6, 2019.
The exhibit is presented in part by the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family, Pritzker Military Museum & Library, AARP, FedEx Corp., and the National Archives Foundation. Additional support was provided by the Maris S. Cuneo Foundation, The Eliasberg Family Foundation Inc., and HISTORY.
More than 50 years after the United States committed combat troops to the war in Vietnam, and more than 40 years since the war ended, the complexity of the conflict is still being unraveled. Historians continue to make discoveries in National Archives’ records that provide insight into this critical period.
“Remembering Vietnam” follows the trajectory of American involvement in Vietnam through six presidential administrations, and from its World War II origins to the fall of Saigon in 1975. This groundbreaking exhibit uses original National Archives documents, artifacts and film footage to explore the policies and decisions that initiated and then escalated American economic and military aid to South Vietnam. Interviews with veterans, journalists, members of the peace movement, Vietnamese civilians, and leading Vietnam War historians provide first-person testimony and analysis of the events. These interviews and historic film footage will be screened in three mini-theaters within the exhibition.

Creative experiential exhibit highlights include:

• A Visitor Input Station to share experiences, reactions, and memories of the war;
• An Oval Office Audio Experience: hear Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon discuss the war, with protesters in the background.
Visitors will be able to:
• Listen to the famous “Domino Theory” audio recording from President Eisenhower’s April 7, 1954, press conference;
• See an elephant tusk lamp – a gift to President Eisenhower from Ngo Dinh Diem;
• Hear audio of a meeting between President Kennedy and his National Security Council on the question of supporting a coup in South Vietnam;
• See the cable reporting the alleged second attack on the USS Maddox that led to the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which empowered the President to greatly escalate the war;
• View the CIA’s model of the Hanoi Hilton;
• Read transcripts of  radio intercepts of helicopter pilots during the Saigon airlifts;
• See a pair of original baby shoes from one of the Saigon airlifts;
• Examine young architect Maya Lin’s Vietnam memorial drawing submissions.
• For more information, visit: www.Archives.gov.
Visit “Remembering Vietnam” to discover answers to the following:
• What was the “Salted Peanuts” memo? The “Fork in the Road” memo?  The “X” envelope?
• Who advised the U.S. government to “bomb the bejeezus out of them (the North Vietnamese)”?
• What did President Kennedy doodle during a discussion of the conflict?
The National Archives Museum is located on the National Mall on Constitution Ave. at 9th Street, NW. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Related traveling exhibit: ‘Picturing Nam: U.S. Military Photography of the Vietnam War’

Photographs are a powerful part of our collective memory of the Vietnam War. Military photographers stationed in Vietnam took thousands of photographs that covered every aspect of the conflict – photographs that are now part of our National Archives. Their assignments sent them everywhere: the jungles and swamps, forward bases, hospital ships, rivers, and air bases. Unsanitized and uncensored, these indelible images give an intimate and ground up view of the war and those who fought it.

“Picturing Nam” is divided into three themes:

• Landscapes. Most Americans knew almost nothing about Vietnam before the war. Many soldiers, sailors, and airmen seeing Vietnam’s dense jungles, rugged mountains, murky swamps, endless rice paddies, and brown rivers for the first time must have felt very far from home.
• Objects. Wars are often summed up and remembered through artifacts. The Vietnam War created its own set of memorable objects, many of which appear in military photographs, including helicopters, M-16 rifles, graffiti-covered helmets, Phantom jets, peace symbol necklaces, and body bags.
• Faces. War puts individuals into extraordinary and dangerous situations. Such circumstances fostered determination, anxiety, exhaustion, boredom, compassion, exaltation, and dread–feelings that are seen in the faces of those who were there.
“Picturing Nam” is organized by the National Archives, and traveled by the National Archives Traveling Exhibits Service. It is presented in part by the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, AARP, and the National Archives Foundation.  
In addition, the presidential libraries that chronicle U.S. involvement in Vietnam will offer a series of forums to encourage historical inquiry and public conversations about the war and its aftermath featuring scholars, veterans, journalists and activists.

‘Picturing Nam’ traveling exhibit schedule:

• Sept. 2, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018: at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif.
• April 6 – May 25, 2018: at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Fla.
• June 16 – Oct. 20, 2018: at the Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC
• Nov. 10, 2018 – Jan. 7, 2019: at the West Baton Rouge Museum, Port Allen, La.

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