60 Rare Vietnam War Photos
By | February 22, 2019
The Red Cross "Donut Dollies" who served in Vietnam.
Do you get tired of the same old Vietnam war photos? Well don’t worry because we’ve got you covered with plenty of unseen pictures of what life was like for soldiers in Vietnam as well as their civilian counterparts in America. While the troops were fighting in a nearly 20 year war, they took a ton of photos that capture the every day life of troops in the jungle and it was a lot more interesting than you think.
We’ve got shots of USO shows, giant snakes, rock band that braved the wilds of the jungle to perform for our troops, and so much more waiting for you. So scroll on and get ready for a look at what life was really like during the Vietnam War. Let’s go!
It’s a dangerous business going out your front door - especially if your front door was in Vietnam in the 1960s and ‘70s. The “Donut Dollies” were a group of women who volunteered with the Red Cross as part of a program called Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas. The Dollies brought sweets, treats, and their own brand of wholesome entertainment to the soldiers who definitely appreciated this unique taste of hometown America.
These young women made huge sacrifices and made a positive difference in the lives of the servicemen they worked with. It’s their attempts at raising morale that likely kept many of the soldiers going throughout this long war.
Two US soldiers holding a dead python in Vietnam (1971).
When our boys in the US military were shipped out to Vietnam they faced an entirely new collection of problems than they were trained for. This war was made up of jungle warfare, and while that presented it’s own unique set of issues, there was also the concern of new and terrifying animals that we definitely don’t have in the states.
Imagine getting your boots the ground only to find an entirely new landscape filled with giant snakes that could swallow you whole. It takes guts to pick up a monstrous carnivore like this, so these soldiers definitely have guts.
Raquel Welch dancing with Vietnam Soldiers in 1967.
Raquel Welch was one of the most fervent supporters of American troops fighting in Vietnam amongst Hollywood celebrities. Rather than simply be vocal in her support, she went along with Bob Hope on his 1967 USO trip where she’d do whatever she could to give the men a little taste of home - she even cut a rug with a few soldiers.
During the shows in Saigon Welch performed solo, she danced, and she even took part in a comedy duo with Bob Hope where she added a little flavor to his performance. She was a performer that the boys definitely looked forward to.
A woman offers a policeman a flower, during the Vietnam protests, 1967.
While many of America’s young men were fighting the war in Vietnam, there were just as many young people at home who were protesting the fight. There were plenty of protests that ended in horrific violence, but there were just as many that – while they may have been tense – ended peacefully with flower children and anti-protest military members in a stalemate.
One of the most famous images of the anti-war movement of Vietnam is that of a young hippie offering a flower to a member of the military police. It shows that while these two opposing factions had wildly differing beliefs that some kind of connection could be made.
"I ain't draft dodging. I ain't burning no flag. I ain't running to Canada. I'm staying right here. - Muhammad Ali.
After receiving his draft notice for the Vietnam War in 1967, Muhammad Ali declared himself a conscientious objector, refusing to join the war. He famously told the press, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.” After refusing to serve in the US military Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, he had his passport taken away, and he was no longer allowed to professionally box.
However, he began speaking at colleges and after a while he became an incredibly gifted orator. By the summer of 1968 Ali was more popular than he’d ever been. Ali told sports writer Robert Lipsyte, “They made me bigger by taking my title. Before, that chap on the street couldn’t identify with me. He’d say, ‘You not with me, you up on the hill with whitey.’”
Soldier's engraved lighter.
Lighters from the Vietnam era are a truly unique look into the lives of the servicemen fighting in that wretched jungle. Many of the soldiers fighting in Vietnam kept their Zippos handy for a quick smoke while on break, and with little to do on their downtime they took to customizing the lighters to both make sure their property stayed theirs, and to exercise their right to free speech.
Many of these lighters are now major collectibles on the military market, with a collection of the Zippos going for around $50,000 in 2012. If you had a family member who was in Vietnam, you might want to see if they have one of these around.
Vietnam Weather Girl, Bobbie Keith.
Growing up as a military brat, Bobbie Keith was used to living in a war zone. Her father was a World War II veteran and she went to high school in Japan. By the time she started reporting on the weather from Saigon there wasn’t anything that this sight for sore eyes hadn’t seen. From 1967 to 1969 this babe put her life on the line to bring some news and entertainment to the boys in ‘Nam.
Of her time working as a Weathergirl Keith said:
The experiences I had because of the show were invaluable. I mean, I wasn’t paid, but it was worth more than a million dollars, because I got to see the men and the country, from the DMZ to the Delta. I think one of the best things I ever did with my girlfriends a few times, was fly in helicopters out of Long Binh or Ton Son Nhut down to the Delta and deliver mail to the guys. That was very heartwarming
Sammy Davis Jr. performing for the troops in Vietnam, 1972
When he wasn’t knocking back drinks with the Rat Pack in Las Vegas, Sammy Davis Jr. Was entertaining the troops in Vietnam. In 1972 he went to the jungle as a favor to then President Richard Nixon. Initially Davis wasn’t interested in going to Vietnam, he was against the war, but he wanted to give the boys who were fighting a taste of home.
While in Vietnam Davis performed with a barebones backup band and a simple trio of dancers. The fact that Davis didn’t want to go to a war zone but did it anyway shows that he was a true professional.
If ever a single photo captured LBJ's (Lyndon B. Johnson) agony over Vietnam, it was of him listening to a tape recording from one of the Marines he had sent to fight -- his own son-in-law.
Taken on July 31, 1968, this photo shows the true agony of a father who knows that his child is in trouble. Not only was Johnson upset that the country was embroiled in a terrible war, but he was genuinely distraught over the fact that his son in law’s life was on the line. Regardless of your feelings on the conflict, you have to know that you’d feel similarly knowing that your child’s partner was in mortal danger.
Captain Charles Robb returned from the war and served as a US Senator from 1989 to 2001. He now resides in McLean, Virginia.
Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War (top middle).
Before he was handing out vowels, consonants, and grand prizes Pat Sajak was a DJ broadcasting from the American Forces Vietnam Network in Saigon from October 1968 and December 1969. Sajak was initially trained as a clerk, but he was assigned the radio job and soon took to it like a duck to water and began entertaining the boys at 6am every morning.
Of his time as a DJ Sajak writes:
I always felt a little better when I met guys who came into town from the field and thanked us for bringing them a little bit of home. I always thought it was strange that they should be thanking me, given what so many of them were going through on a daily basis.
The Statue of Liberty draped in anti-war protest banners.
Is there any greater monument to freedom than the Statue of Liberty? It’s been taken over multiple times by protestors for a variety of reasons, but in 1971 anti-war protestors took over the entire island for three days to tell President Nixon that they blamed him for the quagmire of the war. Many of the protestors were veterans and they even posted a letter to President Nixon on the door of the statue.
Now, as we sit inside the Statue of Liberty, having captured the hopes and imaginations of a war‐weary nation, we have run out of all excuses … Mr. Nixon: You set the date. We'll evacuate.
John McCain being released 45 years ago after five years of prison in Vietnam.
During Vietnam the future Senator John McCain was taken as a prisoner of war in 1967 when he was shot down over Hanoi. He was captured by members of the North Vietnamese and was put in solitary confinement with a series of broken bones. He dealt with starvation, shackles, and intense sickness but he refused to list the names of the men in his squadron.
According to Time Magazine, McCain instead told the North Vietnamese the names of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers. McCain spent five and a half years in confinement and was finally released in 1973.
American soldier cradling dog while under siege at Khe Sanh, 1968.
American Soldiers looked to anything they could to find solace during the Vietnam War. The brutality of the fighting was so intense that all of the men were changed forever. Even though they were dealing with the chaos of battle, the men understood that they needed to take care of the animals in the jungle that needed their help.
1968 in Khe Sanh was a 77 day bloody battle from January to April that saw 5,000 Marines defend their base against something close to 20,000 North Vietnamese troops. General Westmoreland claimed the end of the battle as a victory, but on July 5, 1968 the base was closed.
Ann Margaret entertaining the troops in Vietnam in 1968.
No one wanted to go to Vietnam, but getting to see Ann Margaret up close and personal had to be a pretty good win for the boys who were putting boots on the ground in unfamiliar territory. Like many famous supporters of the US military, Ann Margaret went to Vietnam with Bob Hope for one of his USO shows and she tore down the house.
She ended up doing three tours with the USO and performed in Vietnam twice and she before her death she recalled veterans telling her how much her service meant to them. She said:
All through the years, whenever I would perform, whatever city, whatever state I was in, I would get these little notes saying, ‘I saw you in Cu Chi or Da Nang.’ … They were these little crumpled up notes and sometimes they would send me a picture of me and them that they took.
Marine Corps Vietnam War veterans recreate photo after being apart for 50 years, during weapons training in Oceanside, CA to Cinnamon Beach Palm Coast, FL., 2016.
Not only is it amazing that these guys were able to reconnect after spending so many years apart, but also that all four of these guys survived the war. These veterans first met in 1966 when the men were just out of bootcamp and took a break from Camp Pendleton to get some surfing in before heading off to war.
These four friends trained together for four months in Oceanside before taking off for the Philippines where they continued to train. After splitting up when they went to Vietnam the men earned Purple Hearts and later met up in Florida to recreate the photo.
Black Panthers protesting against the Vietnam War, Washington D.C, 1969.
In 1969 the Black Punter Party, a group of revolutionary African Americans, came out of Oakland, California to peacefully protest the United State’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Aside from simply protesting the war, the Panthers were able to institute free breakfast for students in every city where they had a chapter, and they gave out free shoes to the poor.
When the Panthers marched on Washington D.C. in 1969 it became one of the largest peaceful protests to ever hit America. Despite the peaceful protest, the FBI considered the Panthers public enemy #1. In spite of their ideals persisting, the Black Panther party has failed to sustain.
If you’ve seen a helmet from the Vietnam war then you’ve likely noticed that it’s covered with personalized art. Much of the art is made up of hand lettered slogans and ironic visuals. Each helmet is unique to the soldier, but many of them featured anti-war rhetoric covering the very heavy “steel pot” style hats.
People will always find a way to express themselves, and soldiers are no different. It’s likely that you can find helmets from every era that are emblazoned with a similar personal aesthetic. Helmet art was made most famous in the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket where the character Joker’s helmet reads “born to kill.”
A United States soldier holds up a giant jungle centipede during the Vietnam War, 1967.
Okay, so hold onto your lunch because this nuts. Did you know these things existed because I didn’t now I don’t know what to think about the world. Seriously, up is down, black is white, and there are huge jungle centipedes just roving the forest floors waiting to trip people up. These Vietnamese Centipedes usually grow up to 10” in size, but it’s obvious that this creepy crawly got a bit bigger than that.
The centipedes mostly eat crickets and other small insects, and they tend to eat creatures that are smaller than themselves. Even though they aren’t gunning for people, veterans are still checking their boots after seeing one of these babies.
Christmas in Vietnam - 1968.
There’s no more dour reminder that soldiers were away from their families than having to spend Christmas in a far off jungle. As depressing as that sounds, our fighting boys definitely made the best of a bad situation. During Christmas soldiers would do their best to keep their spirits high, and if they were in luck then Bob Hope would be around for a killer USO show.
Some bases were able to decorate trees, and the luckiest soldiers received packages and letter from loved ones. These fellas in the picture are definitely doing their best to keep spirits high.
Protesters against the draft during the Vietnam War.
While many young men were being ripped away from their families and thrown into a war half way across the world, just as many young people were fighting the draft back at home. The anti-draft movement went far and wide, picking up everyone from farm boys to Muhammad Ali - who had his title stripped because of his views.
The anti-war movement mostly existed on college campuses, but spread to artists and members of the counter culture. Nearly 40,000 men were drafted into Vietnam each month, and many people fled to Canada to avoid being called into military service.
Marine in Danang, Vietnam in 1966 playing with a child.
While history sours our thoughts of the Vietnam war, while there the American soldiers tried their best to make sure locals knew that they were in good hands despite the messy situation. This photo shows how many of the villagers came to enjoy the presence of the US military, even if it was under dire circumstances.
Da Nang was where many soldiers got their first taste of the jungle, as it was a main entry point for the American military. In order to get to the nearby base troops had to land in the coastal city of Da Nang and travel nearly a day on foot.
MISS AMERICA USO SHOW 1971- Entertaining U.S. military during War in South Vietnam.
A surefire way to entertain American troops during the Vietnam war was with a lot of leggy ladies, and the Miss America USO show did’t disappoint. Whenever this rolling show decked out with the most patriotic of Miss America contestants came through the jungle they played to audiences of thousands of admiring young servicemen.
And what a sight for sore eyes these women were. During the war these guys weren’t just away from their country, they were away from their wives and girlfriends, which means that they were definitely happy to see these lovely ladies. Thankfully, none of these gals ever had to see a fire fight.
Drop Acid Not Bombs, Anti-War Moratorium, San FranciscoNovember 16, 1969
While the war raged on in Vietnam, back home protestors were taking to the streets to tune in, turn on, and drop out. One of the most popular protest slogans was “drop bombs not acid,” which called for soldiers and American civilians to open their minds to the possibilities of psychedelics rather than the spoils of war.
During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s the counter culture was a mix of drug culture and the anti-war movement, together they attempted to let normies know that it was okay to be peaceful and expand your mind. The movement never gained traction in the mainstream, but it hasn't gone away entirely.
Soldiers excited to be heading home from Vietnam War.
For the young men fighting in the Vietnam war there wasn’t a better feeling than returning home from combat in one piece. These boys must have been elated to be on a plane home from the jungle, and even if they were just getting a little R&R before returning to the fight there’s nothing that can beat a little home cooking and the sound of an American city.
At the time of their return there was a shift in public opinion towards soldiers fighting in Vietnam, although it wasn’t the men fighting across the world that were maligned, it was the war itself. It wasn’t easy for a lot of vets who returned from the way, but many young men were able to adjust to their normal lives after some time.
Jane Fonda protesting the Vietnam War.
One of the most fervent protestors of the Vietnam war was actress Jane Fonda, the daughter of a World War II veteran and a former “Miss Army Recruiter.” During the Vietnam war Fonda became sickened by the way the country was throwing our young men into a fray that she felt they had no business being in, so she spoke out where ever and whenever she could.
The only thing that Fonda regrets about her time as an anti-war protestor is the photo she took on top of a gun perch. She feels “horrible” about the message she sent with that look. Fonda has also said that she’s happy to speak to veterans any time they approach her.
Bob Hope & Raquel Welch in Vietnam, 1968.
Bob Hope started bringing joy to the military in far flung reaches of the world towards the end of World War II, but some of his greatest work came about when he started giving USO shows in Vietnam. He brought big name guests like Raquel Welch, Phyllis Miller, and Joey Heatherton into dangerous combat areas for a series of Christmas shows.
Regardless of how dangerous the war became Hope found a stage so he could perform for the brave young men who risked their lives for multiple tours in Vietnam. He continued the tradition all the way through the Gulf War.
Soldier plays with kid during Vietnam War.
During Vietnam American troops did their best to make sure that the South Vietnamese knew that they were just trying to do their jobs and keep them safe. Many of the soldiers ended up bonding with the locals and forming long lasting relationships that carried on after the war. Some troops became so close with the South Vietnamese that after attempting to readjust to life in the states they moved back to Vietnam to stay.
Many of the veterans who’ve returned to Vietnam live in and around Da Nang, a port city where they first found themselves in the 1960s at the onset of the war.
John Wayne signing a soldier's helmet during the Vietnam War.
The Duke has always been a favorite of tough guys, cowboys, and soldiers everywhere, specifically because those are the kinds of guys that he played year after year. While researching his 1968 film The Green Beret, Wayne paid a visit to the troops in 1966 as a part of a USO tour and this one gave him a chance to reach out and speak directly to the troops on the ground.
Wayne’s trip in 1966 affected him deeply, and many of the men he met began corresponding with him routinely. Just two years later one of the men he met, Sargent Gilbert Mumfort of the Fourth Infantry Division, wrote Wayne requesting a response to raise his squadrons spirits. Wayne responded, “I don’t think the Apache Raiders need any words from me to lift their spirits and moral. But tell them that the letter from you fellows raised mine.”
John Lennon and Yoko Ono protesting with peace against the Vietnam War. (1970)
What did you do for your honeymoon? Did you go on a trip to Hawaii or spend all your money in Las Vegas? Whatever you did doesn’t compare to John Lennon and Yoko Ono spending an entire week in bed. As sexy as that sounds they were actually staying in bed for a full week as a part of their “Bed-In For Peace” where they hosted the global media in their suite in the Hilton Amsterdam where they discussed the concept of peace for 12 hours straight.
We sent out a card: 'Come to John and Yoko's honeymoon: a bed-in, Amsterdam Hotel.’ You should have seen the faces on the reporters and the cameramen fighting their way through the door! Because whatever it is, is in people's minds - their minds were full of what they thought was going to happen. They fought their way in, and their faces dropped.
No one knew he was just 15 years old...
Today it would be impossible for someone so young to join the military without detection. Computer systems are far too detailed and ingenuous for someone who’s barely a teenager to slip through the cracks. However in the 1960s if you really wanted to fudge some documents and join the war effort, no one was going to stop you.
Such is the case for this young man who managed to alter his birth certificate in order to fool military recruiters so he could enlist and fight in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines. And they say the kids aren’t alright.
Vietnam War veteran and anti-war activist Ron Kovic in Miami Beach for a demonstration during the 1972 GOP Convention.
The 1972 Republican National Convention was contentious to say the least. Anti-war and Democratic protestors marched on Miami Beach for three days straight, bringing an air of chaos to the event that overshadowed even the ’68 convention. Ron Kovic was a Marine veteran who was paralyzed from the waste down, and during the convention he lead a march of 1,200 vets who walked along in complete silence.
While many marches and protests had the air of a riot about to break out, that wasn’t the case with Kovic’s march. Instead, the police blocked off traffic for the veterans and helped coordinate their route. The march started at the beach and ended at the hotel where many of the members of the Republican Party were staying. Kovic delivered a touching speech in light rain as police and bystanders watched on.
Here he is with his mom before shipping out. He eventually became a world champion ping pong player and owner of one of America’s most successful seafood companies.
Okay, so Forrest Gump may have not actually served in Vietnam, but his time spent in the jungle is one of the most touching and accurate depictions of what American troops fced while fighting the war. While there are definitely more intense movies about the Vietnam War, Forrest Gump was the first film that brought the plight of the American soldier to mass audiences.
The film doesn’t just show the horrific conditions that every soldier faced, it also shows the bonding process that took place for many of the men fighting over seas. Despite their differences Forrest, Bubba, and Lt. Dan are bonded in battle and thus bonded for life.
Vietnam War - that's one big ass snake!!
The Viet Cong. Jungle Warfare. Traps laid out at every conceivable step - all childsplay compared to the big ass snakes that populated the jungle of Vietnam. While you can prepare soldiers to take bullets and avoid RPGs, it’s an entirely different thing to prepare them for a run in with a snake that’s as long as a living room floor, if not longer.
Many soldiers had to go on a kind of snake detail in order to make sure their bases were free of giant carnivorous snakes, which must have been a delight to the ophiophobes in the military.
Nancy Sinatra with 1st Infantry US Army, Vietnam, 1967.
Bang bang, this baby wasn’t shot down during her first USO tour in 1967, and thank goodness because that would have been a national tragedy. In February 1967 Sinatra made her first trip to visit troops in Vietnam where she performed hits like “These Boots Were Made For Walkin’” for the entertainment deprived troops overseas in between meet and greets.
Sinatra said that she wanted to entertain the troops because everyone she knew had been touched by the way in one way or another. She explained:
All of the people in my generation were involved in one way or another with the Viet Nam war. They were enlisting, drafted, escaping to another country or a marriage and children they didn’t really want. I knew I had to do something so I called the USO and volunteered to go and entertain the troops. When you are in a war zone the people around you become your brothers and sisters. They were then, are now and will always be a huge part of my life.
US soldiers in Vietnam hear the radio report that they're going home -1975.
April 23, 1975 was a monumental day in the life of American troops stationed in Vietnam. Not only did President Ford declare an end to the Vietnam war, but he told US troops overseas that they were coming home. During a speech at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana President Ford said that the war in Vietnam “is finished as far as America is concerned” and soldiers began pulling out.
As Saigon collapsed US soldiers were airlifted out in droves, and at the time Newsweek reported that “no more than 1,100 Americans remained” in the area by the weekend following the speech.
Vietnam War protester holding a sign, 1970.
As the Vietnam war raged throughout the 1960s and into the ‘70s the public attitude towards the war shifted from disapproval to downright depression. Anti-war protestors were ubiquitous in any public place and what began as a hopeful group of people who believed that they could convince the government to pull out of the war using their words turned into a sour collection of folks who feared for the worst.
By 1970 it was clear that American forces weren’t ready for the intense, on the ground warfare of Vietnam, and the news of napalm bombs became common place, along with the news that entire villages were destroyed in the process.
Reflection Pool, Washington, D.C. War protesters in DC, May 1970.
On July 4, 1970 there was a confluence of protests on the National Mall in Washington D.C. called Honor America Day. This was meant to be a huge blow out of fun and entertainment for people of all races, colors, and ideologies. However, it also took place in the middle of the Vietnam War, when tensions in America were at their most thin.
While Bob Hope tried to host an apolitical show for the whole family, an anti-war group staged a “smoke-in” where they got stoned in front of every body while a group of Neo-Nazis showed up to offer their thoughts on the subject of America. The entire scene turned into bedlam, and by the end of the day there were anti-war protestors in the reflecting pool. Somehow only about two dozen protestors were arrested.
Silas Robertson, aka Uncle Si of Duck Dynasty served in the Vietnam War.
You may know him as “Uncle Si,” the incredibly quotable duck call master who with the nattiest beard in all of Louisiana, but before he appeared on Duck Dynasty Si was serving in the US Army. Si was drafted during the Vietnam War, and his mother made sure to send him off to bootcamp with plenty of jalapeños - seriously, she put two jars of jalapeños in each of his boots. That’s a dedication to spice.
Si served in the Army until 1993 when he retired from the service with the rank of Sergeant First Class (E-7). After retiring he went on to work with Duck Commander where he fashioned reeds for their duck calls.
Soldier in Vietnam 1960s - 'Missing Home'
It may seem rote after the success of MASH, but troops stationed in Vietnam were able to get through the day by thinking about their home towns while counting down the days until they were able to make it back. It must have been awful to be so far away from home while real life was going on outside the bubble of war.
One way soldiers got through the day was to imagine that they were simply one a long road trip that took them all the way around the world. Unfortunately many of the men who went to jungles of Vietnam never returned home.
Actor, Sgt. Jerry Mathers from "Leave It To Beaver" served in the US Air Force from 1966-1969.
That’s right, the Beave was in the US military during the Vietnam war. However while many of his comrades were fighting in the wet jungles of Southeast Asia, Jerry Mathers was lucky enough to be stationed in the U.S. of A. While serving with the Air Force from 1967 - 1969 he was mistakenly reported as killed in action during the war, but luckily that didn’t happen.
After retiring from military service Mathers went to the University of California in Berkley where he graduated in 1973 with a degree in philosophy. He ended up splitting his time between real estate investments and a few later acting roles.
Army nurse Kate O'Hare Palmer.
While we mostly think of men serving in the military during Vietnam, there were plenty of women who put their lives on the line as well. Kate O’Hare-Palmer served in Viet Na as a nurse for the US Army. She not only dodged enemy fire, but dealt with some of the worst parts of war - trying to save troops who were far beyond saving.
During the war O’Hare-Palmer worked in two field hospitals where she saw the worst of the worst, but managed to make it back home intact. Today she’s chair of the Women Veterans Committee of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Dennis Franz from the "Hill Street Blues" (left - when he was in the Vietnam War; right - when he starred in Hill Street Blues)
Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s Dennis Franz made a name for himself as a character actor in some of the best films by Brian De Palma and on Hill Street Blues, but before he was baring all on television he was serving as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division in Vietnam. Franz said of his time in the military:
I was curious about the military service and went into the Army. [It] was a very traumatic, life-changing experience… I'm not as frivolous as I once was. I experienced death over there, and losing friends. I got as close to being shot as I care to. I could feel and hear bullets whizzing over my head, and that shakes you up quite a bit.
Christopher Walken, in the Vietnam War movie "Deer Hunter - 1978.
The Deer Hunter is one of the few movies that manages to capture the intensity of PTSD and a veteran’s struggle to return to normal life after living through the chaos of the Vietnam war. Christopher Walken’s turn as Cpl. Nick Chevotarevich is so drenched in trauma that it earned him his first nod from the Academy Awards for best supporting actor.
In the film Walken not only manages to convey the feelings of someone destroyed by PTSD, but the nihilism that overtook many vets who weren’t able to free themselves from the mental torture that came with the war.
Bob Hope with Miss World, Eva Rueber-Staier. Cu Chi base camp, 1969.
Of all the beauties that Bob Hope brought along with him on his USO shows, Eva Rueber-Staier was one of the biggest knock outs. This former Miss World appeared with hope at his sixth annual USO Christmas show, performing for thousands of troops. Along with The Golddiggers and Connie Stevens, Rueber-Staier wowed the soldiers with songs, dancing, and mirth.
Eva Rueber-Staier may have been from Austria, but she was all for entertaining the boys who put their life on the line to defend the people of south Vietnam, and that’s a truly brave thing to do. She'll go down in history as one of the brightest stars of the USO.
Vietnam War - member of 23rd Infantry with puppies.
Vietnam took place in an era within the military where dogs were used heavily as scout and patrol animals. These dangerous jobs were a necessary part of every day life and the canine soldiers served their country well. Of course, the other part of their jobs was to comfort soldiers in the midst of battle, and their furry snuggles were a welcome respite from the horrors of war.
Soldiers and village people alike grew close to their four legged companions, and it’s likely that they were responsible for many of the troops holding onto their sanity while in the grips of an unwinnable battle.
Swinging with an unknown American soldier (c.1969).
Even though US troops were in Vietnam for a very serious reason that doesn’t mean that they didn’t take a break every once in a while. While there are plenty of stories about the horrors that soldiers inflicted on locals, there are just as many Vietnamese villagers who saw the softer side of the American military. Take for instance this photo that shows a solider kicking back and doing his best to placate a young boy who’s living in the middle of a war zone.
Even though this soldier was in the middle of a fight, he did his best to make sure that this child felt safe, secure, and happy - and for that he deserves to be thanked.
Soldier in Vietnam war with a cute little kitten.
Cats all over the world are just begging to be picked up and cuddled, and that goes double for the jungle kittens of Vietnam. While in the midst of a horrendous battle it must have been a slice of heaven to be able to snuggle with a cute little cat and pretend that you were back at home. While the jungles of Vietnam were filled with giant snakes and huge bugs, it was also home to plenty of cuddly animals.
Soldiers weren’t necessarily allowed to keep pets, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t take a breather to play with a cute cat. That would just be inhumane.
In a curious ending to a bizarre conflict, American troops boarded jets under the watchful eyes of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong observers in Saigon.
After the fall of Saigon in 1973, the US military got out of Vietnam faster than you can say “Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.” One of the strangest things about their departure was how it was so heartily supported by the Viet Cong - the very people who the US had been fighting up until then.
Rather than risk escalating a war that was ostensibly over, the North Vietnamese were happy to see the US troops go, and they essentially counted troops to make sure no one was sticking around to continue some kind of shadow war. It was truly a bizarre end to a bizarre war.
Memorial service, 12th Infantry Regiment.
There’s nothing worse than having to say goodbye to fallen comrades who’ve given their lives in the service of their country. The braves men of the 12th Infantry Regiment have been fighting for America at home and abroad since the War of 1812, and they’re one of the most celebrated infantries in the military.
During Vietnam the 12th Infantry Regiment was the only regiment that sent five battalions to the war, which means that they lost a lot of brave men. The men in this photo are paying their respects not only to the friends they lost in the war, but the troops who gave their lives in every war previous.
Protesters want the end of the Vietnam war.
Whether they served in the military or not, there isn’t one person in the United States that the Vietnam War didn’t effect. While many anti-war protestors were painted as being unpatriotic, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The anti-war movement was dedicated to bringing home troops that they felt were fighting an unjust war.
Protestors didn’t know why the government was sending young men to fight a war when there was no reason for America to intrude. This movement was one that spanned color, creed, and generations. Even though the movement didn't end the war, they made their voices heard and that's what counts.
Phyllis Diller performing in 1967 during the Bob Hope show for American troops at Can Ranh Bay, South Vietnam.
It’s hard to imagine a loud, meta-comic like Phyllis Diller going over with American troops stationed in Vietnam, but like many performers of the era she made it her business to make sure that the boys ensconced in this insane war knew that everyone back home was thinking of them. Diller toured with Bob Hope’s Christmas special from 1966 to January of the next year and traveled to places like Vietnam, Thailand, Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines.
In 1978 Diller was awarded the USO Liberty Bell Award “for demonstrating concern for the welfare and morale of America’s armed forces” from the USO of Philadelphia Inc.
Oliver Stone (writer/director enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam War and requested combat duty. Awarded Bronze Star with V for heroism in ground combat.
Most young men who faced military enlistment during Vietnam didn’t exactly want to go to the front lines, but most young men weren’t future director Oliver Stone. In 1967 Stone joined the U.S. Army and requested combat duty. The director later said of his fervent decision to join up:
I thought war was it; it was the most difficult thing a young man could go through... It was a rite of passage. And I knew it would be the only war of my generation, so I said, 'I've gotta get over there fast, because it's going to be over.' There was also a heavy streak of rebelliousness in the face of my father, and I think I was trying to prove to him that I was a man, not a boy.
After his service Stone was awarded the the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam.
Joey Heatherton & Bob Hope entertaining the troops, Vietnam, 1967.
Joey Heatherton is easily one of the hottest babes of the 20th century. In the early ‘60s she appeared all over the variety sows of the day, but it was her years on the USO circuit with Bob Hope that seared her into the memories of US military service members. She performed with Hope for over 10 years, and she never missed a chance to wow soldiers with her skimpy costumes and saucy dancing.
It’s inspiring to know that a performer like Heatherton was confident in putting her life and career on the line to give the troops a taste of home - especially in such a revealing outfit.
Silas Robertson, aka Uncle Si of "Duck Dynasty" served in the Vietnam War.
Taken on May 1, 1968, this soldier who was stationed in Cu Chi, South Vietnam took helmet decorations to new extremes by decorating his helmet band with photos of his hometown love. If you look closely you’ll see the heart breaking progression from a photo booth shot of the two of them together to photos where the young woman is alone and modeling for an audience of one.
Many soldiers lived through their letters and photographs as a way to remind themselves that something good was waiting for them back in the states. Hopefully this soldier made it home to get back in the booth with his best gal.
Jan McClellan of The Debutantes playing at USO show in Vietnam, 1969.
Is there anything cooler than an all-girl rock band? The Debutantes were formed by Jan McClellan at the age of 14 after she saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. The band may not be a household name, but they toured across America and even made it a mission to join up with the USO to entertain the troops.
It must have been a gas to see a rock n roll trio of ladies shredding onstage in the middle of Saigon, if only there was footage of their shows available. This photo may be the only proof that we have.
Marching in the streets against the Vietnam War.
The anti-war movement got its start on the campuses of American universities, where students were horrified by the idea of being sent to fight a war in which they didn’t believe. They weren’t simply averse to the policy of the draft, but they felt that it was unfair that they were being forced into a conflict that they didn’t know anything about.
Protests took place on college campuses across the country, and while many of them were non-violent, a few of them - specifically the protest at Kent State - turned into riots that saw the death of multiple students and members of the anti-war movement.
Kris Kristofferson Was An Army Captain helicopter pilot who attended Ranger school - He turned down a teaching assignment at West Point to become a musician an actor
You know Kristofferson from his songs Me & Bobby McGee and Jody and the Kid, but before he was a singer-songwriter he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam who’d graduated from Ranger school. He worked his way up to being a captain, and after the war he was offered a spot at West Point teaching literature. He turned down the opportunity to pursue a career and songwriting - which you might say worked out pretty well.
After retiring from the military Kristofferson made his feelings about the war and U.S. government known, saying:
I want you to know I'm an Army brat; I was a captain in the Army and my brother was a jet pilot in the Navy. So I support our troops; I identify with them. But I sure as hell don't identify with the bastards who sent them over there.
On November 15, 1969, more than 500,000 protesters flooded into Washington, D.C., for the Moratorium March—one of the largest anti-war demonstrations in U.S. history.
One of the largest anti-war protests of the Vietnam era took place on November 15, 1969 and it was known as the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. This march saw half a million protestors take descend on Washington D.C. to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in complete silence. The protest was peaceful until a fight broke out at DuPont Circle, imploring police to spray the crowd with tear gas.
The protestors scattered in an attempt to escape riot police, and many of them hid in schools and churches. After the protest President Nixon said:
Now, I understand that there has been, and continues to be, opposition to the war in Vietnam on the campuses and also in the nation. As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it; however, under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it.
Diverse group of people protesting the war. One of the protesters is holding a sign that states "Send Marines to Alabama NOT Vietnam."
While the Vietnam war was in full swing, America was in the throes of the civil rights movement. Major protests were taking place across the south in order to insure that fair voting laws were enacted, and two leaders of the civil rights movement - Dr. Martin Later King Jr and Malcolm X - were assassinated for simply fighting for equal rights.
Many anti-war protestors believed that the U.S. government should worry about conflicts that were taking place on their own soil rather than a war that was all the way across the globe. These protestors were made up of clergy people, college students, and even some of their professors.
Bringing the strip club to the soldiers in Vietnam, 1968.
It wasn’t all Bob Hope and G-rated performances during Vietnam, there were plenty of go-go dancers around who were happy to help soldiers with a little R & R in between missions. Some go-go dancers were employed by the USO while others worked in cities like Bangkok or in Saigon where they made plenty of cash catering to sex starved soldiers.
Many dancers were backed up by a paltry band who knew just what kind of beats to play to make sure these exotic dancers would entertain their hosts. It may seem strange, but it’s the little things that make life worth while.