Vietnam War/ American War Stories: A Symposium on Conflict and Civic Engagement

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    11_Outreach Through Partnerships and Teacher Education
    (2018-07-24) Wright, Callie
    When speaking with teachers the refrain is often the same. “We just don’t have enough time to talk about the Vietnam War”. As a former history teacher I have said and believed those very words. However, most educators actually spend a great deal of time teaching and talking about the Vietnam era. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, middle school and high school curriculum is rife with politics and discussion of the Civil Rights Movement and rightly so. Yet, Vietnam often becomes more of an afterthought, causing students to see the two times as different entities, rather than working together. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is committed to educating all generations about the impact of the Vietnam era and bridging that gap. This presentation will review the ways VVMF works to offer teachers and community members meaningful professional development through our discussion guides, Echoes From The Wall. Additionally, it will examine how the Vietnam era offers a multitude of opportunities to discuss the war, the politics, and the legacy of the heroes inscribed upon The Wall.
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    10_Telling War: An Exploration of Form
    (2018-07-24) Silvestri, Lisa
    With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Telling War, a veteran based initiative, explores manifestations of the veteran voice through a variety of story forms such as papermaking, six word war stories, podcasting, and documentary film. Telling War’s mission is to cultivate creative opportunities for veterans to tell their story. This presentation will review some of the project’s initial outcomes. For example, when participating veterans used the ancient art of papermaking to transform their uniforms into paper then bind into book form, they were able to access stories often untold in the public sphere. The books they created held personal imagery and artifacts from their time in the service. The papermaking process allowed them to metabolize and story their experiences. In other cases, veterans wrote six word war stories following in the legacy of Hemmingway’s famous six word short story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Although brief, these first-person memoirs captured aspects of deployment–from the everyday to the extreme–that shifted the communicative priority from eloquence to essence. By sharing these examples and others, this presentation argues that in order to enrich collective knowledge and memory of war, the stories told and heard about war must be expanded and diversified.
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    09_War and Memory: The Meaning of Winning and Losing in Narratives from the Other Side
    (2018-07-24) Berman, Larry
    I have been writing about Vietnam since 1982 and learned much about the war and peace from participants on both sides of the brutal conflict.  In my presentation, I want to share how participants in the war from the so-called “winning side” have helped me to better understand not just the war, but also the sense of loss that is often shared with those on the “losing side”. This despair for “what might have been” or “hope and vanquished reality” unites both sides.  I am especially interested in participants’ stories as told in memoirs, oral histories and personal interviews.  For this presentation, I will focus on those individuals with whom I have engaged in extensive and multiple interviews/discussions and who, with one exception, have also produced memoirs from their experiences in war.  The one exception is Pham Xuan An, whose memories and stories are recorded in my book  Perfect Spy.  Each of these participants helped me understand the war through the eyes of a Vietnamese and altered my own narrative for how I speak and write about the war.
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    08_Blood Sacrifice and Clashing American Narratives of the Vietnam War
    (2018-07-24) Linenthal, Ed
    The mass slaughter of 1864-1865 in the American Civil War eroded traditional belief in martial sacrifice as redemptive, blood shed for the new birth of the nation. Narratives in tension continued through both World Wars and the Korean War and gained intensity with the erosion of popular support for the war in Vietnam. The “dope and dementia,” “quagmire,” and “atrocity producing context” narrative templates clashed with traditional patriotic narratives of America at war.
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    07_Who Gets to Tell the Vietnam War Story
    (2018-07-24) Stur, Heather
    For as much as has been written and produced about the Vietnam War, the voices telling the story have remained much the same. Historians and journalists have privileged American male combat veterans of the war and high-ranking U.S. policymakers, while in Vietnam, the official state story is one of U.S. imperialists versus Vietnamese freedom fighters. Lost in these tellings of the story was South Vietnamese veterans and their families, anticommunist Vietnamese citizens, political activists of all stripes in South Vietnam, American women who served in the war, U.S. support or rear echelon troops, U.S. Embassy employees, and troops of the "free world" forces in Vietnam. These voices are crucial for understanding how the conflict developed and played out, what its consequences were, and what its legacies are.
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    06_Recap and Website Walkthrough
    (2018-07-24) Osgood, Ron; Shih, Patrick
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    05_Rediscovering American War Experiences through Crowdsourcing and Computation
    (2018-07-23) Luther, Kurt
    Stories of war are complex, varied, powerful, and fundamentally human. Thus, crowdsourcing can be a natural fit for deepening our understanding of war, both by scaling up research efforts and by providing compelling learning experiences. Yet, few crowdsourced history projects help the public to do more than read, collect, or transcribe primary sources. In this talk, I present three examples of augmenting crowdsourcing efforts with computational techniques to enable deeper public engagement and more advanced historical analysis around stories of war. In “Mapping the Fourth of July in the Civil War Era,” funded by the NHPRC, we explore how crowdsourcing and natural language processing  (NLP) tools help participants learn historical thinking skills while connecting American Civil War-era documents to scholarly topics of interest. In “Civil War Photo Sleuth,” funded by the NSF, we combine crowdsourcing with face recognition technology to help participants rediscover the lost identities of photographs of American Civil War soldiers and sailors. And in “The American Soldier in World War II,” funded by the NEH, we bring together crowdsourcing, NLP, and visualization to help participants explore the attitudes of American GIs in their own words. Across all three projects, I discuss broader principles for designing tools, interfaces, and online communities to support more meaningful and valuable crowdsourced contributions to scholarship about war and conflict.
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    01_Welcome, Project Overview and Research Goals
    (2018-07-23) Osgood, Ron; Shih, Patrick
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    04_Remembering Vietnam: An Experiment in Civic Engagement
    (2018-07-23) Ferriero, David
    Ferriero will discuss the planning process for a major exhibit on the Vietnam War within the context of the mission of the National Archives. Particular focus will be on how the principles of Open Government—transparency, collaboration, and participation—impacted that process. Building on the success of the National Archives Citizen Archivist Project, Ferriero will share how the lessons learned have influenced his agency’s approach to exhibit and education planning, with an emphasis on the exhibit commemorating the Vietnam War. Remembering Vietnam is a media-rich exploration the Vietnam War, featuring interviews with Americans and Vietnamese veterans and civilians with firsthand experience of the war’s events as well as historic analysis. It is a fascinating collection of newly discovered and iconic original documents, images, film footage, and artifacts that illuminate 12 critical episodes in the war that divided the peoples of both the United States and Vietnam, covering the period 1946 to 1975. The exhibit encourages visitors to answer these questions: Why did the United States become involved in Vietnam? Why was the war so long? Why was it so controversial? The sacrifices made by veterans and their families, the magnitude of death and destruction, and the war’s lasting effects require no less. Remembering Vietnam is a resource for refreshing our collective memory. National Archives records trace the policies and decisions made by the architects of the conflict. Its collection of evidence provides an opportunity for new insight and greater understanding of one of the most consequential wars in American history.
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    03_Empowering Citizen Scholars: Lessons Learned from the History Harvest
    (2018-07-23) Wingo, Rebecca
    The History Harvest is a community-centered, student-driven archival project that empowers community voices through material-based oral histories. Over the course of a semester, History Harvest students partner with a community to run an event in which community members bring artifacts of significance. Students record community members as they tell stories about their objects and digitize the artifacts for a shared online archive. The community members then take their items back home; there is no acquisition. This one-day event is a bit like Antiques Roadshow, except everything is valuable. More than a singular event, however, the History Harvest can be a litmus test for the success of a community partnership. Wingo’s first History Harvest was with the Rondo community, a historically African American neighborhood in Saint Paul, MN, bisected by the construction of I-94 in the 1960s. The community has been fighting for recognition of what happened to them ever since. Wingo will discuss the multitude of public history projects that formed in the wake of the harvest, demonstrating the value of forming long-term partnerships, and including lessons learned about community engagement.
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    02_Soldiers Write the War: World War II, Vietnam and the War on Terror
    (2018-07-23) Bodnar, John
    This paper will explore the way American soldiers from three different wars wrote about their experiences. It will attempt to unravel the fragile relationship between patriotic accounts of war that tended to uphold noble ideals validating the nation's war effort and thepossibility that war could actually produce laudable traits andmore tragic stories that refused to efface the confusion and pain military conflict imposed upon individuals. As such, it will explore the problem of memory and trauma and the significant tension soldiers faced when they attempted to recreate their experience for a public audience that could not know what it had been like. The part of the paper devoted to World War II will focus on the fiction of Norman Maile and the autobiography of William Manchester--both combat vets. Mailer's renowned novel, The Naked and the Dead, recast the "Good War" in a highly critical light that exposed the deep strain of violence that he felt marked American society and explained why it spared no expense in bringing ruin to the Japanese. Manchester acknowledged the violence and carnage but sought to extract from it tales of heroic men and who cared deeply for each other. Such narratives contrast sharply with those coming from the experience of Vietnam. Vets like Ron Kovic, Tim O'Brien and others mounted withering attacks on any notion that patriotic service could result in anything positive or nurture admirable character traits. In some ways the World War II stories were actually more conflicted than those formed in Southeast Asia in the 1960s. The final part of this brief paper will explore the outpouring of literature produced by men who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Again, significant differences are evident among the fighters themselves. A greater effort is made in this most recent contest to restore some faith in traditional patriotic ideals. This effort has had some success but has been hotly contested by tales that absolutely reject any attempt to use patriotic honor to wipe out the memory of pain and loss.