tv Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection CSPAN March 25, 2016 8:00pm-8:36pm EDT
tonight on c-span3, it's american history in prime time with our series american artifacts. a look at some of the items left at the vietnam veteran s memoril in washington, d.c. then inside philadelphia's congress hall which served as the capitol in the late 18th century. after that, a tour of the whitney plantation slavery museum in louisiana. and later, a look at what's on display at the national museum of american jewish history. each week, american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic places. the vietnam veterans memorial collection includes 400,000 items left at the memorial since it apriled in 1982. the collections are stored in the blue boxes. next, we visited the national park service to see a selection of items left at the wall. >> hi. i'm the museum technician for
the national park service. i work specifically for the vietnam veterans memorial collection, which is housed here in the museum resource center. the building is for the national capital region parks. but our collection specifically is housed entirely in this building. we are a collection of objects that are left at a memorial in d.c., vietnam veterans memorial. visitors come by every day, leave objects at the memorial which our park rangers collect. and then every two weeks or so, we do a pickup at the memorial. we bring them out here to our moo zeal resource center where we sourt through them and catalog them and make them part of our collection. i have chosen objects to show you from the collection. they kind of cover the range of topics that the collection interprets, including ptsd, mothers and fathers who lost
children. they are objects that will go on display soon. they are good examples of the tin things in the collection. this was left at the wall in the '90s. this is part of a door that was in this man's -- corporal petals' room when he was in high sk school or so. the note sfr his from his broth. it tells you the context of the scene you see here. petal drew this on his door when he was still at home. it depicts a serviceman over the body of maybe a dead soldier. after he drew it, he drew his own name on the dog tags of the dead soldier. his mother was not okay with that. she didn't think that very was cool. she made him erase it. soon after, he went into the
military, went to vietnam and he was killed in action. and his brother cut this out of the door and brought it to the wall after he wrote michael's name again on the dog tags. he left it at the wall for his brother. and i don't know if you can get a close-up of the letter here. it's a really good letter. it tells the same story. in a much better way than i could ever. big brother, you never made it home so i brought a piece of home to you. here is the picture you drew on your bedroom door before you went to vietnam. i know you put your name on the dog tags and mom made you erase it. so i filled it back in. you seemed old when you went to vietnam. now i know you were a young man. i remember the things we did together, the motorcycle rides and the handstands up the stairs. i wanted to thank you for watching out for me.
these are some of the objects that we have selected for potentially going on loan to the ronald reagan library. they are having an exhibit in november. so we have done some initial selections for them. we're waiting on them to make the final approvals. they showcase kind of what is in the collection, what things the collection speaks about. this one specifically is a really good example of something left from a mother to a son. this was left on veteran's day in 1983. it was left by a woman called eleanor wimbish whose son, spanky, was killed in action in vietnam. she has leaving this type of object since the wall was first dedicated. this one specifically mentions -- it was from '83.
but this one specifically mentions her diary she wrote the year previous in 1982. she was there the day the wall w was dedicated. she describes seeing his name on the wall for first time and walking up to the wall, seeing his name and what she felt seeing his name. but then also looking around and seeing all the other people around her who was also touching the names of their loved ones. so it describes how overwhelming that was for her. she continued to leave letters like this, wrapped in plastic, on a poster board for at least ten, 15 years. for her son. and she would do it on his birthday, on the day he died, mother's day, veteran's day, christmas, easter, things like that. just for the holidays that he missed. the day was unseasonably warm
and sunny when we arrived in washington, d.c. we got out of the car and started walking towards this memorial. i could feel the pull towards this black wall and yet my feet didn't want to move. i was so scared. i was afraid i would find your name on the black wall and yet i was afraid some mistake had been made and your name had been left out. so how does one try to explain such mixed emotions? i will never forget the day as your father and i started looking for your name. we had been looking for about a half an hour when your father quietly said, honey, here he is. as i looked to where his hand was touching the black wall, i saw your name. william r. stocks. my heart seemed to stop. i felt as though i couldn't breathe. it was like a bad dream. my teeth chattered. i felt as though i were freezing. god, how it hurt. i looked around at all the people and then up and down this black wall.
this memorial to all these men and women who lost their lives in vietnam, these thousands and thousands of names. the collection started unexpectedly in 1982 from the very, very beginning of the memorial people started leaving things. right from the dedication people were leaving things at the memorial for their loved ones, for their missing loved ones, for those who came back and were wounded in action. it was an unexpected phenomena that kind of sprung up out of nowhere. for first two years, the park service wasn't sure what to do with things being left at the wall. it was unprecedented. no one had ever done anything -- no one had seen something like this happen before. and for the first two years, they kept the objects isolated out of the way, trying to figure out what do with them. in 1984, our previous regional
curator decided to make this -- all the objects an official park service collection. so after 1984, it became an official park service collection. we started collecting things regularly. and we have been doing it ever since. the blue boxes are kind of anticipate iconic -- what people see when they come here to the museum resource center to see the vietm veterans memorial collection. they are made specifically for our collection. they are large. they are made out of plastic that won't decay or cause damage to the objects. they store all of the objects from vietnam veterans memorial collection. this is a letter left for a man named gary from gritt. it was left august 5, 1989. the letter describes gary and
gritt's interaction in vietnam. they were comrades in arms. apparently, gritt would always ask gary for the time. he never knew what time it was even though he was the radio operator and could easily call in and ask what the time was. so gary would always tell him. he also always lost his -- he called it his john wayne, which is the can opener here. so he would always have to use gary's can opener. and gary was killed after an explosive device detonated near him. and the letter describes how gritt held him if his arms as he grew cold and he wouldn't let him go. and finally, in 1989, he decided to leave his watch and his can opener at the wall for gary. it was gary jenks. he's on the wall.
so this flag and note were left on veteran's day 1992. the ten-year anniversary of the wall. and it was left by john sparks who was a prisoner of war for five years in vietnam. he coincidentally has done an oral history project with the library of congress which is very interesting, if you want go into the veterans history project, you can hear about his experience as a prisoner of war. but he left this flag which was presented to him upon his return to the united states after he was released. on it is a crucifix which he made out of a toothpaste tube and the tie is from his prison uniform. and right here there's a pin for the p.o.w. m.i.a., prisoners of war, missing in action. the note is saying he is dedicating his flag to all the other men who are still missing in action or prisoners of war in vietnam.
a lot of times veterans, if they want to come see the things that they left, we are always willing to give them a tour and show them around. it also helps us because we can connect specific names, donors to what they left. we have a big barrel that was left. i think it was left in 2002. i am too young to know what it was. but i have been told that in vietnam they used it as a letrine. an unfortunate soldier was given the job of burning it. but they came and they gave us a bit of context about what it was and when they left it and why. so that's really cool. there's some donors who are still really active and want to
see the things that they left. so this, as you may or may not know, is a roll of toilet paper. you may wonder why we have it in our collection. but toilet paper was as good as gold in vietnam, because if you were out in the field and you didn't have any toilet paper, you had to make due with something else less desirable. so we get little rolls of toilet paper. we get the little -- in the rations they were given sometimes a little thing of toilet paper. we get those left at the wall often, too. because vietnam veterans understand, when they see toilet painer in this context, they know what it was left for. but this one was left with this little note. it says, the jungle, it won't wash off. the sounds, the smells, like the waves that come and go in the occasi ocean in my mind, the memories remain. left in 1992.
these two photographs were left on veteran's day 1993, of which the dedication of the women's memorial. the women's memorial is dedicated to the women who served and died in vietnam. you don't often talk about the women of the war. there are eight women names on the member oral. there are 60 women who died in vietnam. they weren't enlisted in the military like the other eight women were. these are two photographs of doughnut dollies who are essentially american red cross volunteers. those were the other 60 women who died were volunteers or something of that sort. often were nurses in vietnam. they staffed the field hospitals. so these two are dedicated to the boys at cameron army. it says all gave some, some gave
all. it lists the ladies of the american red cross. they are from -- they were there from november 1971 to january 1972. this object was left at the vietnam veterans memorial june 4, 1992. it has a countdown of 365 numbers which 356 days is the standard tour that veteransgnyó served in vietnam. so i am assuming -- we don't have any other information about this. no background information, no note or anything. but i assume that he printed this out and counted down the days that he had to serve in vietnam. because it's titled, the long road home. on the bottom down here it says, my vietnam holiday. and this is really interesting, because as he was crossing off the days, he would put a little bit more information about what
his 280th day was. he points here, 269th day was christmas. he was at landing zone sue when he was in the hump for these days. his first anniversary, we don't know of what. doesn't describe what the anniversary is. i'm assuming as he would experience a day, he would cross it off. it has some other interesting days here, too. because we have the 4th of july. his 62nd day -- well, his day that he only had 62 more days was man has landed on the moon. and then his last five days, five-day drop. and then here he says, caution, vietnam may be hazardous to your health. so this is what we see often for
people who -- we get a lot of things for short timers where that was people who had 30 days or less in vietnam. so we have a lot of short timer sticks where they would notch off the days they had left. we have a lot of calendars where they were counting down the days until they got to go home. it's really interesting to see things like this, personalshls they carried it in vietnam. the park service is guided by certain rules that we follow. the antiquities act, the organic act that kind of -- i don't know. they set the basis for all museum collections in our nation. and specifically, for us, our collection is guided by a statement. every museum collection in the park service has a specific museum -- scope of collection statement and ta dehat dictatest we keep, what we're interested in and our theeps a themes are,
falls within our parameters and it also tells you what does not fall within the parameters of the collection. once they are brought here, we do what we call processing. that's kind of sorting through them, putting things together that go together, they were left by the same person or group of people. organic items like flowers and leaves and stuff that you really should not become part of a museum collection, food. we don't keep things that are hazardous to our health, obviously. that would include things like live ammunition, stuff like that. we don't keep unaltered, unpersonalized things. miniature flags that no one has written anything on. once we process it, we put them into archival standard containers, bags and folders and stuff like that, boxes.
then it gets cataloged into our cataloging database. then we -- we can use the objects for interpretation, for exhibits, for loans for things like that. so this is an example of a box that has been cataloged. everything in it is in our database. we could look up an object by its catalog number, which we see right here. this is the number which tells us when we received it into our collection. that's important for us to know when we took property of it, essentially. and as you can see, they are nicely folded. they have tags that will associate them if we have to take it out of the bag. we know what catalog number it is. we tie up nicely the american flags. and we put archival objects,
paper objects, in these folders. it's all organized that way. so if i need to pull something for a researcher or for an exhibit or something, i can look into our database and it will tell me where the object is and i go to that box and it's fairly easy to find, either in our folders or in a bag. this box is all this one -- they were all left at the wall around the same time. we organize everything by when it was left at the wall. this box i think is from around the ten-year anniversary. maybe just after the ten-year anniversary, which was november of 1992. so this is maybe around christmastime, which is why you would see these types of ribbons, you know, bows and stuff like that.
>> the oldest box in here would be 1984? >> we have four boxes from the two-year period, 1982 to 1984. when they were just initially collecting things. and that's one -- this is one of thechl right here. and you can see, a lot of the same types of things as were in the other box. it's a lot of the same types of things being left today. we have a lot of patches and pins. badges of all kinds, religious items. we have a lot of newspaper clippings. what we call documentary artifacts, the largest -- it's the largest category of objects that are left at the wall. paper objects essentially. it includes letters, notes, poems, clippings, greeting
cards, business cards, things like that. we get a lot of flags. a lot of plaques. so this card was left in 2000. it was left by ellen for barry bausch who was killed in vietnam. i'm just going to read it. it says, my dearest barry, it has been over 31 years since you were taken away from me. but you remain in my heart, my truest love always. as i visit the memorial wall today in washington, d.c., i leave with you the ring i gave you on your 18th birthday, the first summer we met. always know that i love you still. although i am married and have three beautiful children, laura, named affidav ed after your sis and raina. will mourn for the family we were never given the chance to have. when the lord takes me home, i know i will meet you again and share many memories.
so this letter and the trophy were left on october 30, 1988. for joseph craig peters. i believe it was left by his son. the trophy on the back says, with all my love, christmas, 1969, dad. so i assume that maybe his dad gave it to the son. the son came to the wall and left it. the note says, were you afraid? of course you were. the trick is not to be always fearless but never to be hopeless. the brave again -- to be brave again for those who have been brave for us and for those who will yet depend on us. it's a beautiful day. we would be playing golf. i would be beating you by two strokes, sucker. and it's always, michael. it has a peace pendant on it. we have to kind of infer the
background information for this. maybe they would always play golf together. before his dad went away to war. we don't really know. this note is all we have. this harmonica and the note was left on october 10, 1995. it was in an envelope addressed to gary thomas. he served as a radio telegraph operator for the third reconnaissance third marine. dear brother, ever since you were killed, i have been blowing the blues. i leave my harp here at the wall for you to blow some heavenly blueses for all those you left behind in this veil of tears. i miss you daily, brother bob. so this is an in-country
photograph left at the wall on august 9, 1989. it depicts first and second platoon c company, first battalion fifth marines. they are honoring three dead, which you can see three rifles stuck in the ground here with helmets on top of them. on the back he wrote what he knew of the men. one he named his name was robert sowia. another he called the new guy. and another he called mr. point. i looked -- i can look up the names. mr. sowia was killed on december 15, 1967. and so by looking up the people who were in that company who died on the same day, i found out that the other two men are probably william edwin pierson, who was the new guy, and eddie lee jackson, who was mr. point. the one-fifth command chronology
gave the reason for the deaths as company c squad patrol was hit by a command detonated booby trap consisting of two or three artillery rounds. the area was searched on 16 december and lead wires were found and followed with negative results. the incident resulted in one killed in action and six wounded in action. two of the men obviously later died. the new guy, mr. pierson, he had been in vietnam for just 24 days. before he was killed. both of these notes were left in august of 1986. i assume they're from the same woman. although, they both touch on two very different topics. in one she's describing about how she was a nurse in vietnam. she signs it, lieutenant d. baker, r.n. the other one is talking about her husband tom who died in vietnam. she signs it dana.
the one she -- when she was a nurse, it starts off, i went to vietnam to heal and came home silently wounded. i went to vietnam to heal and still awaken from nightmares about those we couldn't save. i went to vietnam to heal and came home to grieve for those that we sent home blind, paralyzed, limbless, mindless. i went to vietnam to heal and discovered i am not god. and then the other one she talks about her husband tom. we would have been married 21 years this year. they got married when he was on leave in san diego. and i assume they both went back to the war where he was killed. so they were only married a very short time. but she leaves this letter in honor of him 21 years later. we get a lot of very similar objects left at the wall. a lot of poems, a lot of cards, notes and stuff like this. but this one was left just this
past july. it was pretty spectacular, i thought. it doesn't look exactly like it did when it was left at the wall. but it was 13 letters. they were written by this young man. his name is jim arbuthnon. addressed to his potential girlfriend back home. they are letters from when he was in basic training, up to ten from when he was first in vietnam. and so he was enlisted -- well, i think he joined voluntarily, not drafted. jim went to vietnam in early 1966. and he learned quickly that he only had to serve five months instead of the regular year-long tour because of some previous
experience or some previous work that he had done. so he was very excited to get home and maybe get to know patricia better who he had just met before he went to vietnam. so his letters kind of show him putting his feelers out, trying to get to know her personality. they also show the types of things he was experiencing in vietnam like just going there for first time. the heat. the smells. all these men around him. no women anywhere. and he continued to send her letters until he was killed in march of 1966. he was only there for two months of his five-month tour before he was killed. his last letter to patricia is dated 24th march 1966. he was killed on march 30th.
the last thing he ever wrote to her was, it won't be long now. signed, jim. the collection -- i feel like the purpose of the collection is to help people -- the purpose of the wall was to help people heal, to get over their -- the things that happened to them in the past and to remember specifically the men who died in vietnam and this collection kind of lends a helping hand to that. people will leave things that are folk art that just make the process of making a craft helps them heal. there's a lot of things in the collection that have to do with ptsd. we have a lot of ptsd groups that go to -- they do a therapy group and make something and they leave it at the wall. that's helping the healing process. then we have a lot of things
that give just a little bit more information about a specific soldier's life. so when you go to the wall, you see all the names on the wall. but the collection kind of gives a little background history to those names. as long as somebody left something for a specific person, we can tell just a little bit more about that person's life. that's really what i think is the purpose of the collection. i am a history buff. i do enjoy seeing the fabric of our country and how things just how they work and how they're made. >> i love american history tv. the presidency. american artifacts. they are fantastic shows. >> i had no idea they did history. that's something i would really enjoy. >> with american history tv, it gives you that perspective. >> i'm a c-span fan.
each week american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic places. and up next, we travel to philadelphia's independence national historical park to learn about congress hall. the meeting place of the u.s. house and senate between 1790 and 1800. our guide is park ranger matthew aifel. >> we are in the old house of representatives in a building we call congress hall. originally, it was built as a county courthouse for philadelphia. for most of its history, that's what it was. in the years that the city of washington, d.c. is being built, philadelphia serves as our temporary u.s. capitol. this room serves for the house of representatives, the second floor of the building that we will see in a moment was the united states senate. the house of representatives, each representative at that point in our history represented 30,000 people. we had a population at our first census of about three and three-quarters million.
we had 106 members of the house would sit in this room. and eventually, from 16 states. the story of philadelphia as the u.s. capital is the story where we take a new constitution and actually operating it, doing things like adding new states to the original 13. also the bill of rights would become a part of our constitution while philadelphia was the capitol. in fact, the setting of state thomas jefferson would announce the amendments to the constitution by basically coming to congress here in this building and officially announcing that we have changed our constitution. which, of course, the bill of rights is a huge part of our history and will be in the future continuing talking point in our political life. but also, it's the amendment process itself. we're proving that that part of the constitution works, that we can update and make changes to that constitution without having to start completely over again from the beginning.
but really, for this building, it's to a large degree -- it is creating the american political system. the two party system that we know today is going to begin here. and it's going to begin with issues much as you would expect. early issues that we face as the united states would be debt. we had debt and spending arguments and debates in this building. it's not any different except for the details as to what we do today in washington, d.c. we argue about debt from the revolutionary war, our early government alexander hamilton, treasury secretary wanted all the debt from the states to come to the federal government and then to use that debt paying it off to build credit for the young united states. not everybody agreed with his plans. so you start seeing division. and then foreign policy questions would arise. britain and france go to war in the 1790s. a lot of americans would feel like we owed france. they helped us in our war.
we still don't line the british very much. for george washington, the first president, the notion of neutrality is preferable. we don't really have any money. we didn't really have a navy at all. and our army was not much to speak of. so we certainly weren't in a position to go and fight a war. certainly not in europe and probably not even fighting our neighbors in british canada in those days. so he is going to present with his cabinet approval a neutrality proclamation which starts dividing us into this question of ought we be doing more to help france. in the same notion of keeping us out of war, george washington will send john jay, who was at that time our first chief justice of the supreme court, send him to britain to negotiate a new treaty with the british. with the idea of keeping us out of this european war and settling some of those questions of border and ocean rights and such that we were arguing with
the british. john jay had been on the team that negotiated the peace treaty that ended the revolutionary war. he seemed like a good candidate for washington to send. the treaty that he brought back becomes very controversial and one of the tipping points in creating the two parties as sort of leading to what we know today. the treaty is basically starts becoming publically attacks in the press. the press of the -- what would become the democratic republican party, the party of thomas jefferson and james madison would start vilifying this treaty. what's interesting is nobody has read it. it hasn't been published. but yet, it's going to be pilloried in the press to people hate the treaty that they don't know anything about. the federalist side, of the john adams and alexander hamiltons, is in favor of the treaty. they are in favor of building