Historical 1960s Photos of U.S. Soldiers in the Vietnam War
This collection from old photo negatives was taken in the late 1960s by my brother Jim when he was serving one of his two tours of duty in Vietnam. He had some of his war buddies snap some photos of him in that setting also.
I never saw these photos in an album. Until recently, these negatives sat in an old shoebox on one of my mother's closet shelves in our home.
My brother died when he was only 35 years of age, and his massive injuries, which impaired the balance of his life, occurred while he was still in the military but not in Vietnam.
He was injured in a helicopter crash at Fort Hood, Texas, and was one of few survivors with most of the young men in that collision being killed at that site. So-called war games were being conducted, and the Secretary of Defense was there according to my memory. Despite the fact of it being horrendous weather with tornadoes sighted in the area, the exercise commenced.
At 200 feet up in the air with just about zero visibility, two helicopters collided and fell like rocks to the earth. My brother was hospitalized for a full nine months before ever being able to get a weekend pass outside of the hospital. He was not expected to live at first but survived that accident only to have multiple surgeries on various parts of his body during the rest of his short life.
These old negatives, while faded and scratched up, are a part of history. The images will not be of the best quality, but at least they are now preserved in this format.
Vietnam Exchange Photo Service
Old Photo Negatives
Thanks to a friend of mine who purchased a machine that can turn old negatives and old slides into a JPEG format, these negatives can now be viewed. When my brother was alive, he never showed me a photo album containing these photos. So I have no idea if they were developed, or if so, whatever happened to them.
The photo above shows the holders of these negatives from the Vietnam theater of war.
Most of these photos derived from the old negatives dating back to the Vietnam era are faded and scratched up in many places. With photo editing, I could only do so much. I eliminated some but not all of the scratches. I debated about just presenting them in black and white due to the fading but decided to show them as they are and in color.
I am presenting them for everyone who may have served in Vietnam around the time when my brother was there.
My other brother John was in Vietnam at the same time. He was stationed on the flagship of the fleet while in the Navy. The action he saw was much less intense than what Jim experienced.
High School Days
My brother was a difficult kid to get through school. My parents tried every which way to get him to comply with what was expected, simple things like doing his homework and turning in his papers on time. They tried being strict. They tried backing off and being more lenient. When they finally had him tested, it turned out that he rated a genius level in many subjects and areas.
He was bored in school!
They checked into possibly utilizing private schools (although it would have been a financial hardship at the time) and even went so far as to check out some of them. Fortunately, the people at the schools admitted that while they would have been happy to have accepted Jim, most of their students were there for disciplinary reasons. They did not think that they could have presented a curriculum that would have kept Jim interested and engaged.
Today there are many more options regarding schooling for kids with genius-level IQ's, but that was back in the 1960s.
When my brother Jim voluntarily joined the army, he found his niche in life. Not only did he excel but was one of the youngest instructors teaching most people above his rank the mechanics of helicopters.
My brother always was a tinkerer taking things apart and putting them back together even as a young kid. He once fixed an old antique radio of my grandfathers that had not worked in years. He was less than ten years old when he did that!
As a tiny kid, once he took the faucet handles off during the middle of the night! Our family only had one bathroom at the time! A pleasant surprise for the rest of us in the morning. Ha! I have no idea what he was thinking or planning when he did that. He was a good kid. Jim was just curious about so many things, and as we all found out, highly intelligent.
My brother became a crew chief aboard helicopters during the two tours of duty that he saw in Vietnam. That was hazardous work with a high mortality rate.
A book that my brother Jim had read and which he recommended that might understand a bit of what that experience was like was the following: Let a Soldier Die written by Gary Holland.
My mother and I both read that sobering book and came away with a bit of a numb feeling. So many of the young men that my brother would have served with in Vietnam never came back home to their families. Those were buddies of his at the time. War is horrible for all concerned. The reading of that book gave me some sense of the daily horrors that would have been his at the time he served.
My brother Jim read this book, and my mother and I also read it after he passed it on to us. He said that of all the books he had read regarding what transpired during the war in Vietnam, this was the most accurate from his perspective of having served there. Those who served aboard helicopters saw more than their share of losses. Be forewarned. It is heart-wrenching!
Many Die Vietnam War Footage
Vietnam Soldier Photos
Here are some of the people that would have been sharing similar wartime experiences with my brother Jim. Hopefully, they all made it home to their loved ones, but undoubtedly some of them did not. The majority of them were merely patriotic kids following orders and doing their duty, as was my brother.
Their duties while in helicopters included providing cover for the soldiers on the ground. They also offered quick transit for medical care for those wounded. Picking up the war dead in preparation to be shipped home was also a grim part of what they did daily.
While off duty, they did as all soldiers do. They joked with one another, wrote letters home, had their pinup girl posters, did a little drinking and card playing, and read books and magazines. They would have learned about each other as only soldiers in the heat of battle do. These young men would have laid down their lives to protect one another and often did.
U.S. Soldiers in Vietnam Serving With My BrotherClick thumbnail to view full-size
I am assuming that most of the pictures which follow this text revolve around the base camp or nearby places. There are photos of a dog that was probably much beloved by the soldiers who thought of their pets back home.
The whir of helicopters coming and going would have been a constant factor. Camouflage was used to disguise some of the equipment. Cattle are being herded in several of the photos. There are coils of barbed wire meant to protect our soldiers from enemies. Judging from all the shirtless young soldiers in these and other photos, it was hot and humid much of the time.
I Assume That These Were Probably Base Camp Photos in VietnamClick thumbnail to view full-size
I wish I could ask my brother about the location of these photos, obviously snapped while riding in a helicopter. Similar to other war veterans, he did not talk much about his experiences while in Vietnam, and of course, he died at so young an age.
Perhaps some readers of this post will recognize some of these places?
Photos Taken From The Air During The Vietnam WarClick thumbnail to view full-size
I have no idea if the USO, which so often entertains our troops during wartime, was responsible for this show or if another group arranged it. Of one thing, I am sure. There were probably loads of appreciative smiles, laughter, whistles, catcalls, and applause when this troupe of shapely entertainers hit the stage.
Did they remind our soldiers of girlfriends and wives back home? Perhaps!
Jan Daley on Bob Hope USO Tour - Vietnam
In any case, it would have relieved the stress of what they saw daily and was probably relished and talked about long after these entertainers left. It takes special people to put themselves in potential danger to go out and entertain troops in the middle of a war.
Bob Hope and many other celebrity entertainers, as well as others, have done this for many years. Whoever these young girls were, they are to be thanked for their service to our country as well.
Entertainment For The TroopsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Part of History
While these photos of the Vietnam War, as experienced by my brother in the late 1960s, are not the best by way of clarity and definition, I thought that their historical value was worth sharing.
My brother and other soldiers like him came back to a country that pretty much disdained their service to our country or, at the least, did not thank them. Draft dodging was rampant back in those days. Vietnam, particularly towards the end of the war, was not seen as a popular war, and many of the soldiers were called names like "baby killers."
Of course after the accident at Fort Hood, his life was forever changed. He was deemed 100 percent disabled and had years of pain and suffering until his death. My brother went to a Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting only once, and the other vets there did not welcome him. I know that it hurt his feelings.
Tribute To Jim And Others Who Served
My brother was one of the kindest, smartest, and most gentle human beings ever to inhabit this planet. He loved singing and was a self-taught guitar player. He could no longer smile after the accident because of facial nerve paralysis. Those smiley faces were all the rage when he could no longer smile.
I could see the sparkle in his one eye. The other eye was sewn shut to protect the cornea. Those were the least of his injuries but ones that affected his appearance upon which strangers judged him.
This article is a tribute to my brother Jim. It also serves to thank all soldiers who have served our country during wars, whether they are declared ones or others such as Vietnam. May they be long remembered and honored.
Some Pictures of my Youngest Brother JimClick thumbnail to view full-size
Scars and Memories
All of the people living in what was at the time North Vietnam and South Vietnam, plus many soldiers from different countries, suffered through the Vietnam War. For those still living, there remain scars and memories. Was it worth the long drawn out battle? Depending upon where one lives and how one thinks, the answers, I am sure, would be different.
The United States and other countries are still involved in wars in different places. I genuinely wish that there would be no need for battles ever to take place. Everybody ultimately loses. Will we, as human beings sharing one small planet ever learn to live in peace?
My brother Jim and I used to strum a few chords on a guitar, and we used to sing together. He was much better a player than I was. The video below shows Peter, Paul, and Mary singing one of the songs we regularly sang together.
I miss my brother Jim!
Were you or a family member a soldier in Vietnam?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Peggy Woods