Date of Defense

5-9-2012

Date of Graduation

4-28-2012

Department

History

First Advisor

Edwin Martini, History

Second Advisor

Scott Friesner, Lee Honors College

Third Advisor

Nicholas Andreadis, Lee Honors College

Abstract

This paper is based off of a collection of Vietnam War letters that I processed at the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections. They are all written to a local woman, Carol, by five soldiers, named Mitch, Dennis, Ron, Willis, and Kenneth. Carol’s responses are not included in the collection.

Carol, Mitch, and Willis all graduated in the same class from Vicksburg High School. From using databases and yearbooks, I learned that Carol knew each of the soldiers from organizations they both belonged in. Although I could not exactly determine how Carol knew Ron and Kenneth, it seems that they may have known each other from college. The paper discussed the individual experiences of the soldiers, such as where they were stationed and what their tasks were, and provided contextual information about their individual locations. Each of them were stationed in different places, which greatly affected their involvement in the war. For example, as an ADM Technician in Heilbronn, Germany, Willis had a much different experience than Ron, an ammo bearer south of Saigon. The paper examined the location of each soldier and how that environment impacted their time in Vietnam.

In addition, the paper drew themes from the letters and related them to the broader soldier experience in Vietnam by contextualizing them with other published letters and secondary sources. The paper discussed themes such as adjusting to a foreign environment, the hopelessness soldiers felt fighting the VC, the alienation soldiers felt from their country, and ways in which soldiers dealt with their inner turmoil through sex, drugs, and alcohol. They felt “so God-damned far away” geographically, culturally, politically, mentally, and physically. Through reading the letters written by these men, one can gain a perspective of the war from the bottom up.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Included in

History Commons

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