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Mansfield Magazine

Mansfield Historical Museum Honors Vietnam Veteran Recognition Day Through Exhibit

Mar 24, 2015 08:17AM ● By Kevin

Vietnam Exhibit, courtesy of Mansfield Historical Society.

On March 27 and 28, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., the Mansfield Historical Museum will present a special display to honor Vietnam Veterans. The museum is located at 102 North Main Street, Mansfield. The display will include uniforms, equipment, photos, art prints, and models. It will also include newspapers, books, and magazines from the Vietnam War era.

Approximately 2.7 million Americans served in Vietnam. What is called “The Vietnam War,” also included fighting in Laos and Cambodia, and American air bases in Thailand, as well as ships shore provided air and fire support. More than 3,403,000 Americans served in Southeast Asia, during the war. About 58,220 Americans died in the war, including 3,417 Texans. 

The dates of the display coincide with March 29, the date that the Texas legislature has set aside to honor Vietnam Veterans. March 29 is a date of significance. The last American military personnel, aside from embassy staff, left Vietnam on March 29, 1973. 

Contrary to the popular misconception, the American forces were not defeated in battle in 1975 and driven out of the country in a hasty retreat. The American forces began withdrawing in 1969. All but one of the nine American combat divisions were out of the country by the end of 1971, and the last one left in March 1972. 

A treaty was signed in January 1973 by which communist forces would cease offensive action, and the last Americans would withdraw within sixty days. 

In December 1974 the North Vietnamese began their final push to take the south, and South Vietnam fell in April, 1975, two years after the Americans left. As South Vietnam fell, an American task force arrived to evacuate American civilians. 

Sadly, American military members were killed and wounded in assisting with the evacuation, and they are rightly recognized as casualties of the Vietnam War. However, although this is recognized as part of the war, for the American military, it was a very brief return to Vietnam and not an end to an ongoing American participation in the war. 

This year, it is especially appropriate to recognize Vietnam veterans in March, because March, 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first American ground combat units in Vietnam and of the beginning of the sustained air campaign over North Vietnam. 

The first American military casualties were in 1957 when thirteen American were injured in a terrorist bombing in Saigon, and the United States government set 2012 for the beginning of the 50th anniversary observance, and the Americans who served prior to 1965 took casualties and are Vietnam War veterans. But in those years, American activities were primarily advising, training, and supporting South Vietnamese forces, and the military members in Vietnam were still officially advisors until the end of 1964. And too, there were some limited bombing strikes against North Vietnam starting in August 1964, but they were limited and in retaliation for specifics acts. But, with the arrival of ground combat units, and the beginning of the major bombing campaign, March, 1965 was the beginning of what most people think of as the Vietnam War.

The display is to honor the veterans, and not a celebration of war. There will be no reference to the politics of the war in the display. The veterans have varied views about the war. Regardless of what a veteran thinks about the war or the politics, honor is due to the veteran. And too, honor is due regardless of the type of job they did in the war, or during which period they served.

Written by Joel T. Nichols

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World War I exhibit, courtesy of Mansfield Historical Society.

In November, the museum showcased a display on World War I. Below is a synopsis of that exhibit, also written by Nichols.

The words “The Great War for Civilization.” are inscribed on the back of the World War I Victory Medal. The Mansfield Historical Society’s records list more than 130 Mansfield men who served in World War I, and this was when the population of Mansfield was about 500 people. 

The list of veterans might include men with a Mansfield postal address as well as those who lived in the city limits, but it is clear that most of the men of military age served in the war, and few families in the area did not have a member in the service. In 1919, the people of Mansfield dedicated a building as a memorial to those who served, and at some point a memorial was erected that listed the names of those who served. The building is long gone, and the memorial is in storage. There is little memory of the great significance of the war to the people of that time.

The United States entered the war in April 1917, but the war began in July of 1914. Armistice Day, November 11th 1918 had a very special meaning to the people of our nation, and Veterans Day, November 11th, 2014 is a good time to remember the war that had such a major impact on this nation, Texas, and Mansfield. 

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the war, a World War I display will be presented at the Mansfield Historical Society Museum, 102 North Main Street, from Tuesday November 11, through Saturday, November 15.

The Museum will be open from 9 AM until 5 PM. The display will include a World War I uniform and equipment on regular display, as well as newspapers, books, and military items from a private collection. Also models depicting uniforms and equipment, and aviation art prints with the signature s of World War I aces will be on display.

The war impacted the entire state of Texas. New training bases were opened, and new army divisions were organized and trained in Texas. Also, new battalions were formed to construct and maintain the new training bases. 

The 36th Division was formed from Texas National Guard units and trained at Camp Bowie, near Fort Worth, and the 90th Division was formed from draftees from Texas and nearby states, and was organized and trained at Camp Travis near San Antonio. A few Texas National Guard units were attached to the “Rainbow Division” comprised of units from several states. Almost all of the Army Air Service Squadrons were formed and activated at Camp Kelly in Texas. Soldiers selected at induction centers for the Air Service were sent to Camp Kelly, and as they arrived they were formed into squadrons. Aside from army units formed or trained in Texas, many men from the state also enlisted in the Marine Corps and Navy. 

More than 116,500 service members died in the war, as did more than 200 nurses, 192 Coast Guardsmen, and 629 American merchant sailors. One source reported that more than 198,000 Texans served, and more than 5100 Texans died in the war.

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