VIETNAM Revisited Saturday & Sunday 20-21JULY2013
10am till 4pm
21-22JUL2012 Photos and Commentary
Scroll to the bottom page for links to videos and face book pages
The weather for 2012 cooperated as usual. It was sticky, hot and humid with the threat of showers. We noted a record number of Vietnam era veterans visiting for the first time along with our regular fans of the event. Our "Welcome Sign" shows evidence of many more signatures and will be out again in 2013.
Our "In-Processing" sign was inspired by a suggestion from re-enactor and US Army retiree, Tom Gray. The acronyms are based in reality. 0825 is the numerical designation for the museum within the state bureaucracy; PHMC is the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; BHSM stands for Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums.
Close up photos of our "Welcome to the Republic of Vietnam" sign. In country veterans are encouraged to sign the board with their name, rank and dates of service. Some signatories include additional info such as the guy who spent some time at the LBJ Prison.
New to the event this year was local folk guitarist Doug Irwin who shaved his goatee to conform to regs and play some protest songs. Doug served for real as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Kay Williamson sets up her Viet Cong display adjacent to the Americans. "Indian Country" was the common term used to describe anything outside the wire. Even Native American servicemen referred to the bush as Indian Country.
Nick Griffey from Moon Twp (center photo in boonie hat) holds court with our resident nurse, Eileen Walsh from Oakmont (on the left), Roy Stewart of Pleasant Gap (in tiger stripes), and Justin Tressler of Newark, DE.
Museum educator Joe Horvath briefs a "squad" before going out on patrol. Small groups of visitors accompanied the "pointman" as he led them through the combat trail. The point would demonstrate a variety of techniques for walking, stalking and detecting enemy booby-traps set up along the trail. Out of all the personnel who served in Vietnam, more than 75% were support troops assigned to garrison areas who kept those doing the fighting supplied. Our combat trail, combined with the heat and humidity of July, provided an eye-opening experience for visitors to the bivouac. Many of the veterans in attendance admitted that they were part of the 75%. We honor them all with our efforts.
Mike Williamson of Indiana, PA interacts with the public looking no worse for the wear despite going out on several patrols as evidenced by the bandaid on his elbow.
SFC Tom Gray (spoon in helmet) from the Greater Pennsylvania Military Preservation Association out of Altoona prepares the squad for the upcoming tactical engagement. PVT Hunter Ryan of Carslile (radio on back) will have the most important job in the ambush demonstration. . .he will maintain communication with the firebase so the public may hear the radio traffic.
Conducting a public demonstration of a tactical battle reenactment is quite easy for 18th and 19th century reenactors. The Napoleonic tactics used during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars were designed for an audience sitting beside the battlefield. Tactics changed as the weapons improved and by the mid 1960's American soldiers found themselves in an environment much different than anything they ever faced. The question faced by living historians and professional institutions: How to respectfully interpret modern combat for a public audience in a safe manner without seeming fake or far fetched? Just as the Vietnam War was a remote and isolating experience, so to is the public demonstration of combat. Visitors experience the patrol action by listening to the radio communication traffic between the squad leader and firebase as well as see and hear the firefight in the distance through the dense forest underbrush. The following photos are from the 2011 demonstration.
The combat patrol moves out from the firebase along the same "trail" traveled by the public. A series of booby-traps and pitfalls with "the enemy" running circles around the civilian "patols" educated the public throughout the day.
Photo Credit Jillian Decker c.2011
An ambush demonstration was conducted at 1400 each day. Time and space were condensed so that all action taking place is within 200 meters of the base camp audience. It concluded in 15 minutes. Just as in some real firefights, intense terror was experienced for very brief moments followed by complete silence.
Pete Michel and John Wagner react to an ambush left situation while Scott Beal calls in a SITREP.
Photo Credit: Jillian Decker c.2011
Pete Michel unloads a clip in the direction of the enemy during the tactical ambush demo. Visitors back at the firebase are instructed in listening for the different sounds each weapon makes so that soldiers can distinguish between enemy and friendly in the dense underbrush..
Photo Credit: Jillian Decker (The photographer took many shots to get this perfect photo of a muzzle blast.)
The crowd mingles with the reenactors after being invited into the camp after the 2012 ambush demonstration.
Mark the calendars. . . 20-21JULY2013
Please visit the links below for a video example of the ambush demonstrations as well as our face book page!
for several dozen more photos of the 2011 bivouac