Wednesday, April 14, 2021

An online museum shows life during the war


“Bleed it in half, exactly in half.”

The sound on the tape fell apart, almost a short story, a part of a time capsule describing a bloody day in the forever war that killed many combatants and untold numbers of civilians.

Colonel George S. Patton deployed the US Army to Vietnam, Son of famous second world war, In 1968, recorded a chilling message to his wife, Joanne. The soldiers stepped into an area east of the Lai Khap base called Catcher Mitt, a lone fighter throwing a rocket-propelled grenade at an American armored personnel carrier, killing a gunner. And seriously injured another soldier.

“The tank commander is alive at the moment,” Colonel Patton recounted the next day of the attack. “One hand is on the shoulder, the other hand is just below the elbow. The only thing that saved him was his jacket. “

Seen as an explosion in the background of Colonel Patton, then went on to tell his wife, “This is a long, arduous war.”

That recording is being made public in the collection for the first time A new history museum Dedicated to wartime correspondence by members of the American service. The Museum of American War Papers, as it is known, opened Sunday, one day before National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

The institution has no street address – it is a virtual, interactive museum designed to give visitors the feeling of traveling through a physical building with floors, ceilings and walls.

Its founder, Andrew Carroll, is a director of Center for american war letters At Chapman University in Orange, California, and has edited four compilations of letters by people in the military. The museum’s first “wing” is set aside for the Vietnam War, but he plans to expand other conflicts, with correspondence he has collected and preserved from the Revolutionary War to the present.

Mr Carroll, 51, said he wanted to make the letter, which he called “America’s great undiscovered literature”, available to as wide an audience as possible.

He said, “These letters humanize the men and women who served and showed their sacrifice.” He feels that he does not like history. “

The cost of building the museum is covered by a $ 30,000 grant from the National Humanities for the project to Chapman University. There is no entry fee.

Website visitors use a computer mouse or keyboard to move through a replica of a long gallery with a wooden floor, dark walls and dim, reverberating light. The letters are displayed as illuminated images and accompany the text that pops up, offering background on the authors and references they are describing.

The gallery includes short videos on the 1966 hit song “Song of the Green Barretts” Experiences of military nurses, African-American soldiers, Mai lai massacre, Shootout In kent state And Pentagon Papers.

Colonel Patton’s son, Benjamin Patton, said he felt the exchange of his parents showed how a military family handled the anxiety and isolation of war. In one, his mother warned his father not to get caught in what he called a “fury of war”.

While the Library of Congress and other institutions collected the letters, Mr. Patton said he believed Mr. Carroll’s message of his parents would be widely accessible to the public.

“Otherwise they end up on the ashes of history,” Mr. Patton said. “Someone said to me that when you lose a life it is like burning a library, but you are totally not when these types of letters are available and this type of audio correspondence. “

Carroll has been collecting such messages for more than two decades, inspired by their subjectivity and clarity, their value as historical artifacts and how they illuminate the lives of ordinary Americans who have endured extraordinary events.

He was an English major at Columbia University who disliked history, he said, until two events in 1989 caused him to see the power of letters. He lost his own collection of photographs, letters and magazines – including a friend, during the brutal crackdown by Chinese officials against pro-democracy students in Tianmen Square in Beijing – when a fire broke out in Washington, DC I destroyed his father’s house.

Soon after, an older cousin gave him a letter he had written decades earlier while working with American forces during World War II. It involves a cousin, James Carroll Jordan, describing his wife, Betty Anne, being freed by the United States Army in 1945, shortly after walking through the Buchenwald concentration camp. “He is describing first hand the horrors of the Holocaust,” Shri. Carroll said. “The letter made it more real.”

In 1998 he asked syndicated advice columnist Fear AB to publish a plea for Americans to donate war letters for protection. Thousands of people reacted, turning Mr. Carroll’s apartment into Washington, DC, into a retrograde store lined with white plastic postal bins.

These days a corner of that apartment has been converted into an ad hoc design studio, with plans for the museum and other paintings displayed on four wooden boards.

In the future, each wing of the museum will include a dozen or so letters, and the videos, on permanent display, will be selected for their symbol value. Some of the items will come from 160,000 bits of historical war correspondence, from the 18th-century quill and ink missile he urged to give to British colonies in the US, in 1918 for a letter from a soldier to rebel against the Taj Urge, who describes a brush with the future novelist: “A Red Cross Lie.” Which is named Hemingway, which comes from Oak Park. “

It also aims to include letters that will spread wars, love letters organized by subject, for example, censored by military officers and letters describing wartime experiences by well-known authors, such as the author Kurt Vonnegut.

In addition, veterans’ families will only be allowed to build private galleries, accessible to them.

Mr. Carroll said he began with another controversial American conflict – a war in which more than 58,000 Americans were killed and, according to some estimates, 2 million Vietnamese civilians to President Lyndon B. Was promoted by Johnson as a heroic struggle against communism – in part because the letters of the time reflected the mixture of politics, principles and sentiments that still exist in the debate over the use of military force.

“The important thing about Vietnam is the opposite of World War II and World War II because the letter was not censored so you could have those complicated conversations,” he said. “The content of the communication was, I think, much more layered and much richer than in previous conflicts.”

Private correspondence in the Vietnam wing traces the arc of the war, and displays perspectives from many Americans, including those who questioned the conflict, or expressed resentment over the violence. In a letter, Warrant Officer John H. Pohlman, a former Peace Corps volunteer, tells a friend that his political views about the war were subsumed by the simple desire to survive.

He wrote, “The first night while I was here, during a mortar attack developed the vision of this mental tunnel.” “Something happens in your mind when you realize that there are people out there who don’t like you.”

The collection also includes a message inscribed by Pvt. Ralph Kinem on a seven-foot piece of toilet paper: “My body is numb. I don’t care about anything here.

The end of America’s involvement in hostilities is marked by a series of cables from 1975 with the US Ambassador to South Vietnam. Graham A. Martin, Requested with Brent SkowcroftThe Deputy National Security Advisor then advanced as the North Vietnamese Army to help evacuate people from Saigon. In a cable, pushed with spelling errors that might reflect the urgency of its structure, Ambassador Martin cited the pain of leaving people behind: “Maybe you can tell me that out of these Americans How to make something leave half your Vietnamese children, or what it would look like if the President gave this order. “

Among the more closely scrutinized messages is Bill Clinton Letter In 1969, when he was a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, he thanked a Reserve Officer Training Corps colonel for “saving” from the draft. Clinton said that governments “vested in a limited, parliamentary democracy” should not “have the power to fight and kill and die their citizens, which they can oppose.”

One of the most haunting is the simple note, previously unpublished, Lance Cpl. Arthur Bustamante, a Marine, wrote on the clock. Lance Corporal Bustamante’s image appeared on the cover of Life magazine in 1967, featuring photographs of Con Thien, an American base near the demilitarized zone that separated North and South Vietnam. But he was not identified by name in the magazine, Carroll said.

Then, last year, Carroll stated that he had received a letter from a man named Edward Cusada, stating that the Marines on the magazine cover were his brothers and discussing providing letters with Lance Corporal Bustamante Con thien.

The yellow-lined paper and a message carefully written in black pen on November 12, 1967, is believed to be his last letter before he was killed in action at the age of 22 months. 4 in the morning, ”and described the continuous rain. He eagerly awaited his return to the United States.

“My time here is getting shorter,” he wrote. “I don’t know if I’m going to do my first thing as soon as I go home.” But I would like it. “



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