About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for “Remembering Vietnam” exhibit opening

I’m very pleased to welcome you all to the National Archives for our new exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam.”

As a veteran of the Vietnam War, I was determined to mark the 50th anniversary of the height of the Vietnam War with an exhibition here at the National Archives. Our records, some recently declassified, continue to yield discoveries and provide insight and evidence for people seeking to understand the war. But as important as the National Archives records are, the most important part of this exhibit are memories we’re capturing in interviews; people on both sides of the Vietnam War telling the story from their own perspective.

In the book “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War,” Viet Thanh Nguyen [Viet Tang When] writes that wars are fought twice: once on the battlefield and once in memory. That’s what “Remembering Vietnam” is all about. We’re sharing the memories of veterans, as well as others involved in or affected by the war. The exhibit examines the human consequences of war and provides a variety of lenses through which to view history. It attempts to answer questions that have remained unanswered for five decades.

This new exhibit has been years in the making, and it took the concerted efforts of National Archives staff across the country. Thank you to Alice Kamps, the curator of “Remembering Vietnam,” Amanda Perez—exhibit designer; Dan Falk, technical coordinator; Michael Hussey, project manager; Darlene McClurkin—A/V coordinator; Karen Hibbitt, registrar; Patrick Kepley, registrar technician, and Abigail Aldrich, conservator. Many, many more National Archives staff members played essential roles: archivists and technicians in textual, motion pictures, and still pictures, digital imaging specialists, curators, and conservators. This exhibit would not have happened without collaboration among so many National Archives staff, here in Washington, DC, and at seven Presidential Libraries.

I would also like to thank the people who were interviewed for this exhibit. Historians Edward Miller, Fredrik Logevall [Low Je Vall], Lien-Hang Nguyen [Lean Hang When], Timothy Naftali, Gregory Daddis, James Willbanks, Viet Thanh Nguyen [Viet Tang When], and Penny Lewis. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights. And thank you to Rufus Phillips, Arnold Isaacs, Jeff Anthony, DeVier [De Veer] Pierson, Cuong Dinh [Kong Din], Bui Diem [Buoy Diem], Mai Elliott, Le Ly [Le Lee] Hayslip, Cora Weiss, and Terry Provence for sharing your stories and experiences.

 The National Archives is grateful to the government leaders, distinguished military and Vietnam veterans, and renowned historians who have endorsed our efforts through the Remembering Vietnam Honorary Committee. We have a few members of the committee here in the audience. Thank you for serving on this committee.

I would like to personally acknowledge one member of the committee tonight, Congressman Sam Johnson. He was a decorated fighter pilot in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, where in the latter he was an American prisoner of war in North Vietnam for nearly seven years. You are a distinguished veteran and an American hero.

We also have Congressman Steve Pearce here tonight. He was a Vietnam War combat pilot, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and several other medals.

Thank you both for your service. We are honored to have you with us tonight.

And thank you to Congressman Dennis Ross and Congressman Ralph Abraham for coming tonight!

Now, I would like to take a moment to recognize 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, here tonight. Can you raise your hands?

Each of you should have been presented with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin at the registration desk this evening. If you didn’t get one, please go to the registration desk before you leave. 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. 

I want to express gratitude to the National Archives Foundation for supporting this exhibit and our many other public outreach projects.

The Foundation has long supported us in our mission to serve the public and increase awareness of our remarkable holdings. We are truly grateful for the support and enthusiasm of the Foundation’s board members and its dedicated staff, which allows us to educate, entertain, and enlighten through our exhibits and public programs.

Now, I welcome you to explore our latest exhibit “Remembering Vietnam.”