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Local Vietnam Stories

Reflecting on the Vietnam War: A Community Dialogue

The Local Impact of War

In September, WGBY and PBS premiered a landmark 10-part, 18-hour documentary from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, entitled The Vietnam War. Ten years in the making, this extaordinary film reignited a national discussion about the war that defined a generation and remains hotly debated today.

WGBY (as part of a community engagement initiative organized by WETA), encouraged viewers to share their own personal stories about the Vietnam War era. A video booth was set up inside the Academy of Music in Northampton during an advance screening of The Vietnam War.

The videos below are the personal Vietnam War era accounts shared by western New England locals. These are the stories of your neighbors:

Lindon Chevannes

For years, Vietnam veteran Lindon Chevannes was haunted by the image of 9-year-old Kim Phuc running from her napalm-devastated village. Chevannes eventually experienced some healing after meeting Phuc at an Amherst College event.

Doug Anderson of Northampton

Vietnam Veteran Doug Anderson's poem, "Night Ambush,' is a moving reflection on his time serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War.

Joseph Ames

This is the story of Vietnam Veteran Joseph Ames. When he returned home from war in 1969, strangers threatened to kill him. Today, strangers approach him to thank him for his service.

Dale Melcher of Northampton

Dale Melcher’s lifelong activism began after witnessing the first teach-in against the Vietnam War at the University of Michigan in 1965. Now a Northampton resident, Melcher shares her story.

Paul Lyons of Leeds, MA

Veteran Paul Lyons, stationed in Germany during the War, experienced disparaging remarks against veterans while taking night classes at UMass Amherst.

Gary Johnson of Granville, MA

US Army Infantry pointman Gary Johnson of Granville, MA talks about being part of the Bob Hope Christmas Special after he was wounded in Cambodia in 1969.

James Bouchard of Granby, MA

U.S. Navy combat veteran James Bouchard reads a letter he wrote to his family describing the Vietnam War battle in which he was wounded.

Andrew Bombard of Northampton

Andrew Bombard experienced the War through the eyes of a curious 4 year-old watching Walter Cronkite on the nightly news.

Tom Gardner of Amherst

Tom Gardner grew up in a military family, but after researching the history of Vietnam, came to believe the war was wrong. He applied for conscientious objector status, and worked to bring the GIs home.

Pete Rogers of Amherst

Pete Rogers had what he calls a ‘unique perspective’ of Vietnam because he spoke the language. He served in the military intelligence detachment of the 173rd Airborne befriending the South Vietnamese in order to get information. But after some time, he came to believe the United States was on ‘the wrong side’ and was concerned about the plight of the Vietnamese people.

Peter Harding of Plainfield, MA

Peter Harding’s experience of Vietnam was tempered by the near-death of his mother in a serious car accident.

Lady Borton of North Haverill, NH

This is the story of Lady Borton, an American Friends Service Committee volunteer who gave aid to citizens in both South and North Vietnam during the war.

Larry Zabielski of Westfield

What Larry Zabielski remembers most about his time in Vietnam was the incoming mortars, which fell most often at night. As he explains, "if you’re near one, you’re gone.”

Michael Finn of Chicopee

After serving as an Army infantryman in Vietnam and observing the fighting firsthand, Michael Finn made the military his career. He credits that experience with helping him cope with his memories of Vietnam.