Browse Exhibits (38 total)
In all of history, the everyday soldier tends to be forgotten while major generals, presidents, and others left, for the most part, out of harms way are credited with successes and failures of others. In an effort to change this, this exhibit introduces you to Alfred J. Mirabelli. A proud military man and a proud father, Mirabelli lived his life according to him. He was unapologetically loud, honest, and was either loved or hated. Though he is long since passed, this exhibit looks to tell the story of an everyday soldier by looking at various images, artifacts, and government documents left behind from his time in the service.
General George S. Patton once said "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men". While most military historians accept this as gospel, I want to document the weapon side of the conflict. This war encompassed well over thirty years of strife and conflict, which leads to an immense amount of weaponry implimented. From the Japanese occupation in World War II to the French colonization until 1954 to the United States' involvement until 1975, the swath of weapons that you could find on the battlefield would cover the entire globe in terms of manufacture and design. It is simply impossible for anyone to truly determine every single firearm used by both sides due to the sheer amount of variety. Therefore, I will focus on the main weapons utilized as well as some unique ones not mentioned often.
This exhibit covers weaponry on both sides of the conflict; the allied powers (US, ARVN, French, and smaller nations) and the North Vietnamese. We take a look at what the average soldier carried as well as their experience with what they carried. We will also look at the development, trials, and field experience with that piece of technology. The troops in Vietnam experienced many issues on the battlefield when it came to weaponry. I want to categorize that and share these episodes.
The Vietnam War to this day remains one of the most controversial wars in modern United States history. There were Americans who supported this all-in approach to prevent the spread of communism and those who were staunchly against it. Muisicians like Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte Marie, Neil Young and others spearheaded a very public opposition to this war. Students from hundreds of college campuses across the country vehemently disagreed with the war and let this be known at massive demonstrations. There was another group that was a major part of the antiwar movement. In 1967, Vietnam Veterans Against the War was founded by six veterans. The organization shaped some Americans' opinion on whether the United States should be involved in the war to begin with. The organization continues to this day, as their website states it is "continuing its fight for peace, justice, and the rights of all veterans."
Ronald (Ron) Cleo Redding was born July 31, 1949, in Omaha, Nebraska. To parents Gerald and Lois Redding. Ron attended kindergarten thru Twelfth in Omaha. He was an Omaha Benson alumni. He was the third of five kids. His siblings consisted of John, Diane, Cindy, and Cathy. Ron is that father of two daughters, Wendy and Sabrina. Married to Patty in the early ’70s. Following with a later divorcing in 2001. Later remarrying in 2017 to Janice. Ronald was joined by his first grandchild Cooper in 2009, followed by Mackenzie in 2011. Since then his family has continued to grow.
“I could feel pulled toward 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 this wall and yet I was afraid that some mistake had been made and the name was left out. Then I saw it. My heart seemed to stop. I seemed to tremble. I shook as though I was freezing. My teeth chattered. I felt as though I couldn’t breath. How it hurt. From the wall, like a mirror reflecting through my blurry tears, I seemed to see faces. Then I realized it was not the faces of the ones who had died, but of the living, who were here, like me, to find the name of a loved one.”
letter left at the Wall, 1985
There were only a handful of defining battles of the Vietnam War. The conflict in Indochina was a “continual taking and retaking of territory.” Essentially, the enemy could never be fought back from Vietnam, because the enemy lived in Vietnam: the Viet Cong were part of the population. Consequently, the territory was marked by villages; such a “village-by-village scale” ultimately allowed the sense that there were few secure places. In light of this, there was an absence of controlled territory, and instead a presence of “juggled” territory: what might be secure one day had the potential to be lost the next. As a result of such unclarity, both in progress of the war, as well as political support and regime, “counting other things, especially bodies,” became the means of progress.
As a result, the fallen Vietnamese soldiers were repeatedly counted, and the American dead were “undercounted,” or “minimized” in number. It was a “non-political quantitative measure” to display American military potential of success in an unclear conflict. However, it was a controversial issue. In retrospect, it revealed the disrupted status of the individual American soldier, by raising questions on the morality and the value of soldiers in America. The MIA and POW issue heightened the challenging aspect of American soldier and war memorialization. More so, it questioned the American tradition of mourning and value of bodies. It changed the memorialization of war, and mourning, in America.
This website aims to explore the history of the Vietnam Memorial, and how that has transformed American memorialization of the war and its soldiers, by way of the design, mourning, and gifts present at the Wall.
Credits: Julia Cormack
From the American perspective, the irregulars fighting in Southern Vietnam take on a clandestine mystique. They're often perceived as phantoms, being nowhere and yet everywhere at the same time. Little attention is given to who these people were, how they were organized, and the nuances and complexities that culminated to form their organization. Their members were more than just guerrillas and peasant farmers fighting in the shadows. Some were prominent businessmen in Saigon, some were highly educated in French universities, some acted as secret agents that operated within the Diem and U.S. supported regimes. Their motivations and beliefs were as diverse as the people that formed their ranks. Many were not even communist. Nationalism, independence, and the hopes for a better life were often the driving force that compelled them to take up arms. This exhibit, then, seeks to illuminate and portray the humanity of Viet Cong.
It will examine the background and context that lead to their formation, the political front and military wing that operated in the countryside, the motivations of those who joined, their tactics, training, equipment, and the stories of individual members. A feature inherent to the nature of the Viet Cong is perpetual adaptation and dynamism. They had an uncanny ability to adapt to any situation and develop methods of facing overwhelming firepower.
From April 17, 1975 to January 7, 1979, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for killing almost two million Cambodians. The communist regime of the Khmer Rouge aimed to change the country into a classless society based on agrarianism. Within the first week, over two million people were evacuated from the citites and moved to the countryside where they would be used in forced labor. Almost 20,000 of these people would be sent to the Tuo Sleng Centre, a prison more commonly known as S-21. Those who opposed the regime were either sent to a prison or were sent to the Killing Fields where they would be killed then disposed of in mass graves. The genocide and the reign of the Khmer Rouge was ended by the invasion of the Vietnamese in 1979. In the early 2000s, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal was established to try leaders of the Khmer Rouge for genocide and crimes against humanity. Only five people have been indicted for these crimes.
The draft has become one of the most contentious aspects of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Re-established in 1948 after the end of World War II, the draft was often lauded as a hallmark of American democracy until military involvement in Southeast Asia escalated in 1964 and 1965. With the advent of a desegregated military and affordable mass communication devices such as televisions, problems familiar only to the top brass of the military became topics of discussion in many civilian homes. Even though the U.S. military during the Vietnam conflict was overall the best-educated military in history up to that point, men of lower intelligence, disproportionately minorities, often were overrepresented in combat positions due to various reasons.
With a poor understanding of the reasons for being in Vietnam and mounting casualties for little tangible gain, American public opinion turned against the war and the draft. Symbolic burnings of draft registration cards and attacks on draft boards in an attempt to destroy records and impede operations became commonplace beginning in the late 1960s. In 1968, presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon ran on a promise to end the draft altogether and return to an all-volunteer military. Accusations that the draft targeted the poor, minorities, and those of lower educational status led to a modification of the draft procedure beginning in 1969. A commission appointed by President Nixon found that it would be economically and militarily viable to return to an all-volunteer military, and so the bill which gave the government the authority to conduct a draft was allowed to expire in 1973 and not renewed.
Todd Leisy volunteered for the Marines on July 7, 1969. He served in Vietnam from September 1970 to June 1971. He was a Special Radio Operator. Todd was located in DaNang and Landing Zone Baldy. He was in the 1st Radio Battalion. After the withdrawl from Vietnam he was later transfered to the 2nd Radio Battalion.
Todd Leisy is originally from the small town of West Point Nebraska and as a young child moved with his family to Colorado. Then, when he graduated high school he joined the Marines. After finishing his duty in the Marines he went back to Colorado with his family and moved to Wisner Nebraska where he meet his wife. They have one child and she lives in Arizona with her family. Todd spilts his time between Wisner and Arizona by spending the winter in Arizona with his family. Then, comes back to Winser in the spring. He is very involved with the Wisner community by being on the board for the Wisner Museum and is also on the board for the Norewiegn Cemetery with his cousins Randy and Terry Johnson.
For anyone who is not aware of what the USO is and what they do for the troops, here is a little background about the USO.
The USO was founded shortly before WWII in February of 1941. The USO was formed by the joining of six different organizations; the Salvation Army, (YMCA) Young Men’s Christian Association, (YWCA) Young Women’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Service, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board. The USO's main objective is to raise the morale of the troops. They bring celebrities, professional athletes, musicians, as well as comedians to perform for the troops. It can range from a huge show like Bob Hope's Christmas Special filmed in Vietnam, to Dalton Fuller and the Nebraska Playboys, my great uncle's Band. Each act was assigned a marine protection detail due to the bounties that were placed on them. Bob Hope had a $250,000 bounty and never spent a night in Vietnam, after each show he was flown back to thailand. Dalton Fuller and the Nebraska Playboys, spent the majority of their tour in Vietnam, even staying in the barracks. However, part of their tour was in Thailand.