About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War"

Good afternoon. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. Thank you for coming today to hear James Wright tell us about his book Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War. I’m glad you could be with us this afternoon, whether you are here in the William G. McGowan Theater or joining us through YouTube.

Before we go any further, though, I’d like to tell you about the programs we are presenting in this theater later this month.

On Thursday, November 16, at 7 p.m., the U.S Association of Former Members of Congress will be our partner in presenting a panel discussion on the topic “Vietnam: Lessons Learned and Lessons Ignored.” A bipartisan group of former Members of Congress will join experts on the Vietnam War to examine the tumultuous Vietnam era.

On Wednesday, November 29, at noon, historian Edward L. Ayers will discuss his new book, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America. Ayers retells the story of the Civil War by focusing on two counties, one in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. Check our website or sign up to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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Now I ask all Vietnam veterans or any United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, to stand and be recognized.

Veterans, as you exit the McGowan Theater after today’s program, National Archives staff and volunteers will present each of you with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. On the back of the pin is embossed:

“A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a national initiative, and the lapel pin is the nation’s lasting memento of thanks.

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Last Friday—the beginning of the Veterans Day weekend, we opened a new exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam.” I encourage you all to walk through the exhibit—if not today, then another time in the coming year.

“Remembering Vietnam” is a media-rich exploration of the Vietnam War, featuring interviews with American and Vietnamese veterans and civilians with first-hand experience of the war’s events as well as historic analysis. It is a fascinating collection of newly discovered and iconic original documents, images, film footage, and artifacts that illuminate 12 critical episodes in the war that divided the peoples of both the United States and Vietnam.

The exhibit draws on National Archives records from all parts of our agency—federal civilian and military records, Presidential libraries, still photography and motion pictures, sound recordings, and electronic records.

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“Remembering Vietnam” could have told the story of the Vietnam War by relying solely on those records in our holdings. But a key part of “remembering” is remembering the people who lived through it and hearing their memories in their own voices.

The numbers involved are impressive—of those who served in the military, who were wounded, and who died. But we must remember that every number actually stands for a person. And during the Vietnam War years, so many of them were young—in their late teens and twenties.

Enduring Vietnam recounts the experiences of the young Americans who fought in Vietnam and of families who grieved those who did not return. While doing his research to write Enduring Vietnam, James Wright interviewed more than 160 veterans and families, including me! He tells the story of a generation—why they went into the military and what it was like to serve in Vietnam and to come home again.

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James Wright, a Marine Corps veteran, is President Emeritus and Eleazar Wheelock Professor of History Emeritus at Dartmouth College. He is the author or editor of several books, including Those Who Have Borne the Battle. His efforts on behalf of veterans and education have been featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, National Public Radio, and more. He serves on the Boards of the Semper Fi Fund, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Campaign Leadership Committee for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Education Center.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome James Wright.