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Historical 1960s Photos of U.S. Soldiers in the Vietnam War

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

My youngest brother Jim in Vietnam

My youngest brother Jim in Vietnam

Vietnam War

This collection from old photo negatives was taken in the late 1960s by my brother Jim when he served one of his two tours of duty in Vietnam. He had some of his war buddies snap some photos of him in that setting also.

I never saw these photos in an album. Until recently, these negatives sat in an old shoebox on one of my mother's closet shelves.

My brother died when he was only 35 years of age, and his massive injuries, which impaired the balance of his life, occurred while he was still in the military but not in Vietnam.

He was injured in a helicopter crash at Fort Hood, Texas, and was one of few survivors with most of the young men in that collision killed at that site. So-called war games were happening, and the Secretary of Defense was there according to my memory. Despite the fact of it being horrendous weather with tornadoes sighted in the area, the exercise commenced.

At 200 feet up in the air with just about zero visibility, two helicopters collided and fell like rocks to the earth. My brother was hospitalized for a full nine months before being able to get a weekend pass outside the hospital. He was not expected to live at first but survived that accident only to have multiple surgeries on various parts of his body during the rest of his short life.

These old negatives, while faded and scratched up, are a part of history. The images will not be of the best quality, but they are now preserved in this format.

Vietnam Exchange Photo Service

The envelopes in which these negatives were stored.

The envelopes in which these negatives were stored.

old-photo-negatives-of-vietnam-war-1960s

Old Photo Negatives

Thanks to a friend who purchased a machine that can turn old negatives and old slides into a JPEG format, these negatives can now be viewed. When my brother was alive, he never showed me a photo album containing these photos. So I have no idea if they were developed, or if so, whatever happened to them.

The photo above shows the holders of these negatives from the Vietnam theater of war.

My brother Jim in Viet Nam

My brother Jim in Viet Nam

Vietnam Photos

Most of these photos derived from the old negatives dating back to the Vietnam era are faded and scratched in many places. With photo editing, I could only do so much. I eliminated some but not all of the scratches. I debated about just presenting them in black and white due to the fading but decided to show them as they are and in color.

I am presenting them for everyone who may have served in Vietnam when my brother was there.

My other brother John was in Vietnam at the same time. He was stationed on the flagship of the fleet while in the Navy. The action he saw was much less intense than what Jim experienced.

High School Days

My brother was a difficult kid to get through school. My parents tried to get him to comply with simple things like doing his homework and turning in his papers on time. They tried being strict. They tried backing off and being more lenient. When they finally had him tested, it turned out that he rated a genius level in many subjects and areas.

He was bored in school. Today, there are many more options regarding schooling for kids with genius-level IQs, but back in the 1960s it was not so.

Jim during his high school days

Jim during his high school days

Helicopters

When my brother Jim voluntarily joined the army, he found his niche in life. Not only did he excel but was one of the youngest instructors teaching most people above his rank the mechanics of helicopters.

My brother always was a tinkerer taking things apart and putting them back together even as a young kid. He once fixed an old antique radio of my grandfathers that had not worked in years. He was less than ten years old when he did that.

My brother became a crew chief aboard helicopters during the two tours of duty that he saw in Vietnam. That was hazardous work with a high mortality rate.

Book Recommendation

A book that my brother Jim had read and recommended that might understand a bit of what that experience was like was the following: Let a Soldier Die written by Gary Holland.

My mother and I both read that sobering book and came away with a numb feeling. Many of the young men that my brother would have served with in Vietnam never returned home to their families. Those were buddies of his at the time. War is horrible for all concerned. The reading of that book gave me some sense of the daily horrors that would have been his at the time he served.

Many Die Vietnam War Footage

Vietnam Soldier Photos

Here are some of the people that would have been sharing similar wartime experiences with my brother Jim. Hopefully, they all made it home to their loved ones, but undoubtedly some of them did not. The majority of them were merely patriotic kids following orders and doing their duty, as was my brother.

Their duties while in helicopters included providing cover for the soldiers on the ground. They also offered quick transit for medical care for those wounded. Picking up the war dead in preparation to be shipped home was also a grim part of what they did daily.

While off duty, they did as all soldiers do. They joked with one another, wrote letters home, had their pinup girl posters, did a little drinking and card playing, and read books and magazines. They would have learned about each other as only soldiers in the heat of battle do. These young men would have laid down their lives to protect one another and often did.

Base Camp

I am assuming that most of the pictures which follow this text revolve around the base camp or nearby places. There are photos of a dog that was probably beloved by the soldiers who thought of their pets back home.

The whir of helicopters coming and going would have been a constant factor. Camouflage was used to disguise some of the equipment. Cattle are being herded in several of the photos. There are coils of barbed wire meant to protect our soldiers from enemies. Judging from all the shirtless young soldiers in these and other photos, it was hot and humid much of the time.

Vietnam Photos

I wish I could ask my brother about the photos' location, obviously snapped while riding in a helicopter. Like other war veterans, he did not talk much about his experiences while in Vietnam, and of course, he died at so young an age.

Perhaps some readers of this post will recognize some of these places?

USO

I have no idea if the USO, which so often entertains our troops during wartime, was responsible for this show or if another group arranged it. Of one thing, I am sure. There were probably loads of appreciative smiles, laughter, whistles, catcalls, and applause when this troupe of shapely entertainers hit the stage.

Did they remind our soldiers of girlfriends and wives back home? Perhaps!

It would have relieved the stress of what they saw daily and was probably relished and talked about long after these entertainers left. It takes special people to put themselves in potential danger to go out and entertain troops in the middle of a war.

Bob Hope and many other celebrity entertainers, as well as others, have done this for many years. Whoever these young girls were, they are to be thanked for their service to our country.

History

While these photos of the Vietnam War, as experienced by my brother in the late 1960s, are not the best by way of clarity and definition, I thought that their historical value was worth sharing.

My brother and other soldiers like him came back to a country that pretty much disdained their service to our country or, at the least, did not thank them. Draft dodging was rampant back in those days. Vietnam, particularly towards the end of the war, was not seen as a popular war, and many of the soldiers were called names like "baby killers."

Of course, after the accident at Fort Hood, his life was forever changed. He was deemed 100 percent disabled and had years of pain and suffering until his death. My brother went to a Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting only once, and the other vets there did not welcome him. I know that it hurt his feelings.

Tribute To Jim And Others Who Served

My brother was one of the kindest, smartest, and most gentle human beings ever to inhabit this planet. He loved singing and was a self-taught guitar player. He could no longer smile after the accident because of facial nerve paralysis. Those smiley faces were all the rage when he could no longer smile.

I could see the sparkle in his one eye. The other eye was sewn shut to protect the cornea. Those were the least of his injuries but ones that affected his appearance upon which strangers judged him.

This article is a tribute to my brother Jim. It also serves to thank all soldiers who have served our country during wars, whether they are declared ones or others like Vietnam. May they be long remembered and honored.

My brother Jim and I used to strum a few chords on a guitar, and we used to sing together. He was much better a player than I was. The video above shows Peter, Paul, and Mary singing one of the songs we regularly sang together.

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 11, 2020:

Hi Mary,

It would be nice to know more about where some of these old photos originate. John McCain has been in the news recently because of what the current resident of the White House has said about our soldiers, in particular, McCain. In my opinion, John McCain will always be honored for his sacrifices and his service to our country.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 11, 2020:

I wish I had read this when we were still working in Hanoi. I could have asked where these places were. Our residence was right beside the Hanoi Hilton, where McCain and his fellows were imprisoned.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 08, 2015:

Hi James,

Yes, I truly miss my brother Jim as well as my other brother John and my parents who have all now entered eternity. I am the last remaining of our nuclear family. I was the oldest and Jim the youngest, but we had a special bond. Jim had served two tours of duty in Vietnam only to suffer that horrible accident in the military while on home ground. Thanks for your comment.

James A Watkins from Chicago on June 08, 2015:

Peggy W---I am so sad to hear of your wonderful brother's accident, injuries, and early death. You have put together a marvelous tribute to him here, backed by all these fascinating old pics that your friend helped you develop. Your brother was a great guy. I can tell how much you have missed him.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 08, 2015:

Hi Peg,

He was a real gem of a guy...smart and kind. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 08, 2015:

Thanks Rebecca.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 08, 2015:

Hi Paul,

You were indeed fortunate in that your field of expertise kept you from the horrors of that particular war. Thanks for your comment and the sharing of this hub with others.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 08, 2015:

This collection of your treasured photos is amazing, Peggy. I'm so glad you took the time to share these experiences with the rest of us. It's hard to imagine losing him after he made it through those rough tours in Vietnam. So sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was a real gem.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on March 08, 2015:

Your brother and many others are our heroes. He was so handsome. I am sorry you lost him.

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on March 08, 2015:

Peggy, let me begin by saying I'm sorry about your brother's helicopter accident and early death at 35. I was lucky in that after I joined the Navy, I got into a field where my chances of being sent to Vietnam were very low. If I had gone as an infantry soldier, I most probably would have been killed or seriously wounded. This is an awesome hub and your photos and videos are really interesting and informative for someone who knew nothing about the war. Voted up and sharing with HP followers and on Facebook.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 16, 2014:

Hi Glenn,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I am glad that you see some historical value to this. Your last 2 sentences say it all! We lose so much more than just our loved ones lives!

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on June 16, 2014:

Peggy, I am so sorry that you lost your brother. It's sad that with all that went on in Vietnam, that he ended up getting badly hurt in Fort Hood on our homeland. It's terrible that he suffered his last few years after that.

I must say, you did a great job covering this story in honor of your brother Jim. It's a story that applies to many solders and it's good you told it.

You left me wondering why the other solders in the Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting did not welcome him. I wonder if they couldn't deal with his injuries, not knowing how to react.

It's wonderful that you were able to scan those negatives into digitized format because they definitely do have historical value. And now they will be preserved.

As I read your hub, I was thinking what great achievements Jim would have had if he only had survived. Being as intelligent as he was, who knows what he could have succeeded at.

This goes to show that the world has lost more then just the men and women who lost their lives at war. The world lost unknown accomplishments and discoveries that they would have made.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 28, 2014:

Hi The Dirt Farmer,

Every time someone comments on this hub it reminds me of my dear brother Jim and I get to see the photos again, so I thank you. He was my baby brother whom I dearly loved. :))

Jill Spencer from United States on April 28, 2014:

Thanks for sharing your photos & the portrait of your brother, Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 11, 2014:

Hello Country Sunshine,

I am so sorry to hear that you lost your husband to the after affects of Agent Orange used when he was in Vietnam. Nice that you have all of his letters and photos he sent to you. Yes, it is not only personal for you but also a part of history. Bless you! Appreciate your comment.

Country Sunshine from Texas on February 10, 2014:

My late husband served in the 1st Cavalry in Vietnam from 1970-1972. Like your brother, he also served 2 tours. Unfortunately, he died from the effects of Agent Orange exposure in 2010. I treasure the photos & letters he left behind. Not only because it is personal, but as a part of our history.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 27, 2013:

Hi Rajan,

I agree with you in that everyone loses something when it comes to war. Why can't people settle things peacefully? Will we ever learn? Sorry to hear about your grandfather being a prisoner of war. Was he able to return home safely after those 8 years? It is so sad for families to not know about where their beloved sons, fathers or other people involved in wars end up. Some never do find out. Thanks for your comment and the shares.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 26, 2013:

Lovely tribute to your brother, Peggy. Humanity is the loser in wars and I too wish all humans coexist peacefully with each other. My grandfather was a prisoner of war in WW1. For 8 long years there was no news of him whatsoever. It must have been a trying time for the family I'm sure, as it is for so many of those reported as missing in wars.

Thanks for sharing glimpses from his life and these pictures.

Voted up, beautiful. Shared and pinned.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 24, 2013:

Hi moonlake,

Thanks for liking this hub enough to pin and also appreciate your comment. With Memorial Day right around the corner, I am thinking of my brothers who are both in VA cemeteries as well as others who have honorably served our country. Wishing you a Happy Memorial Day!

moonlake from America on May 23, 2013:

I really liked this interesting hub when I first read it. I'm going to pin it to my military board. Thanks for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 04, 2013:

Hi AlexDrinkH2O,

Sadly my brother has been gone a long time now and I have no way of finding out the location of his "base camp." He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and the first one would have been in the late 1960's. For many years I had kept all of the letters that he and my other brother John had sent to me but then thought that many years later they might enjoy rereading what they had written so I gave them back to them. They both must have gotten rid of them after reading them. Wish I could have answered your question with more specifics.

Thanks for serving our country!

AlexDrinkH2O from Southern New England, USA on April 04, 2013:

Wow - thank you for this. Some of those pictures are like many that I took. Do you where the "base camp" in the photos was and what dates he served there?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 08, 2013:

Hi DIYmommy,

Yes, the uniforms definitely change over the years and I think that they try and match the natural terrain of where our brave young men and women are posted to furnish a bit more camouflage. Glad that your husband returned home and can spend some time with his growing family. Thanks for your comment.

Julie on February 08, 2013:

It's interesting just how much the Army uniform has changed over the years. Having just returned from Kuwait not too long ago, we just started unpacking my husband's duffle bags. The ACU digital pattern of the uniform now is completely different.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 30, 2012:

Hello JaneA,

Thanks for your nice comment.

JaneA from California on December 29, 2012:

Lovely, touching hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 17, 2012:

Hi KatyWhoWaited,

I think that many people wrestled with that question back then. War has long lasting consequences and should never be entered into without consideration for the costs...especially the toll on human lives...those who die and others who are scarred for the rest of their lives in one way or another. Hope your husband came back in one piece mentally and physically. The Vietnam War was very divisive in our country in terms of what people thought and how they treated our returning soldiers. Sad situation!

Kate MacAlpine from Anywhere, USA on October 17, 2012:

I was 23 in 1968 and went to a party of my college friends. No beer, no vodka, no pot - just a guy playing a guitar while we all sang "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" "Blowin' In the Wind." The young man I would meet the next week became my husband. He had enlisted in the Army while we were dating and we married when his orders came for Vietnam. The next year, I was going around with petitions to stop the bombing in Cambodia while he was stationed in Quang Tri. It was a terrible time of analyzing what was right and what was wrong. The question we all asked, and rightfully so, was "Was it more morally right to participate in that war or more morally right not to?"

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 11, 2012:

Hi Dim,

That song bears as much meaning today as it did when it was written. It certainly takes me back to the 1960s when I hear it. Thanks for your comment about the old photos from the Vietnam war era.

Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on October 11, 2012:

Oh , I remember it well.... .. My heart goes out to you and families of all young men....... gone to graveyards,everyone..... where have all the flowers gone??

When will governments ever learn?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 10, 2012:

Hi Sherry,

Vietnam was so long ago and our young soldiers are still mired in wars today. So sad that the people on this small planet of ours cannot get along with one another! Thanks for your comment about my brother Jim and his comrades in arms.

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on October 10, 2012:

I'm so sorry for the loss of your bright and handsome young brother. Thank you so much for sharing these amazing photos of your brother and his fellow soldiers. They were all so young; what terrible things they saw and experienced.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 10, 2012:

Hi Michelle,

Yes...we owe much to our veterans. Both of my grandfathers, my father and both of my brothers were in the armed services. They all served as a matter of patriotism to our country. Thanks for your comment.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on October 10, 2012:

I think veterans are a very underrated group of people, because they have contributed so much and yet are forgotten or even mistreated. Thanks for bringing it to light, Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 23, 2012:

Hi again barbergirl,

It would be nice if that article you wrote about the Korean vets can be found and salvaged. Am sure it would make good subject matter for a hub. After all, it is a part of history just like the Vietnam war and hopefully we can learn from it. Good luck with your search.

Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on August 23, 2012:

I did write the article on the Korean War Vets... Sadly, I don't know if I still have a copy of it. I used to keep a paper from every week so I could have all the articles I wrote but a box got wet and several got damaged. I should see if I can find it. I know in the past the vietnam vets weren't given a heroes welcome. I hope as time goes on things have changed. Our soldiers and our vets do so much for our country it is hard to think of them as anything but.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 23, 2012:

Hi barbergirl,

Most of the Vietnam vets when they came home were not treated as "heroes." Hopefully all of our soldiers in this day and age will be honored for their sacrifices...up to, and including their lives in many cases. Thanks for your nice comment. Did you ever write that article?

Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on August 23, 2012:

This was a very touching hub. It reminded me when I was in Fort Carson, Colorado. I worked for the Fort Carson Mountaineer and an older gentleman came in and approached us about doing a story on the Korean War Veterans. I got the opportunity to go to a few of the meetings and listen to all the stories from these vets. I also got a chance to look at some of the old photos. Without knowing any of the people or where these places were, I loved looking at the photos. It showed people and how they got through the hard times of war. I felt the same thing as I looked at these photos. I can only assume that those who have been in the military, can smile at all the fond memories that they have made while in, the fun times - not the hardships. When you are in the military there is a brotherhood that instantly helps you relate to what others have gone through. Your brother is a hero and you did a wonderful job at honoring him and his memory.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 21, 2012:

Hello MizBejabbers,

I am so very sorry to hear about the post war problems your husband is having with the VA, etc. Even though my brother was deemed 100% disabled and kept needing more and more surgeries, every few years they would challenge it and put him through all kinds of mental turmoil getting his pay re-established. Crazy!!! He also had the welcome home that your husband got. He once went to a Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting and was told he was unwelcome. Imagine his feelings!!! I'm glad that the current veterans are at least being welcomed home.

My heart goes out to you and your husband and many others who are still battling the after effects of the Vietnam War era...and hoping things are greatly improved for our current veterans. They deserve so much!

Thanks for your comment. I have a lump in my throat reading about your trials. God bless you and your family.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 21, 2012:

I couldn’t help but tear up at this wonderful tribute to your brother. I wish things could have turned out different for him. It so saddens me to read of these fine men and women and what they went through. Every day, I am reminded of the things these wonderful veterans went through because my husband is a Vietnam-era veteran, blind in one eye and experiencing PTSD. He told me that upon his arrival in this country, he was spit upon and called “baby killer”, so there’s no doubt that our own citizens stooped so low as to do this. He was stationed in Japan but made undocumented TDYs to Cameron Bay to transport out wounded and dead soldiers. He was an aircraft mechanic at the time, and actually crawled into Agent Orange tanks and cleaned them out. As a result, he suffers from ischemic heart disease, including a major heart attack in 1985. The VA refuses to acknowledge that he was exposed to Agent Orange at all, although his exposure was greater than soldiers in the field. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with PTSD by the VA in 1999, and he has been trying to get his 100% disability since then. He has not been able to work since 1985 because of the heart attack and the PTSD. Because the TDYs were undocumented during wartime, various VA boards that his application and appeals have gone through have accused him of lying about his service. He has even submitted photos that he took in Vietnam, but they said it couldn’t be proved that they were taken there. And he is just one of many still going through this ordeal.

Our Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans are now facing the same thing. Unlike the Vietnam vets, they are coming home to parades and accolades, but far too many are still facing the same hurdles when they try to get their benefits.

It appears that in both wars, only the veterans who are shipped out wounded from the battlefield are deemed worthy of proper veterans’ medical care. On one positive note, a purple heart recipient automatically qualifies for PTSD disability. At least that’s what his lawyer said.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 17, 2012:

Hi Vinaya,

Yes...these are unvarnished real photos taken in Vietnam during the 1960's. Appreciate your comment.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on April 17, 2012:

I have watched movies on Vietnam war, but never seen the real photos. These pictures ushers us into the history.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 06, 2012:

Hi Terry,

Are you saying that your Grandpa who was serving in Vietnam is a MIA (missing in action)? I'm afraid as a civilian I cannot be of much help except to encourage you to contact your local representatives (congressional and senate) to maybe point you in the right direction. So sorry to know of your personal loss. We owe so much to the people who served in our armed services no matter what the cause or declared or undeclared war in which they served.

Terry on April 06, 2012:

My grandpa died in vietnam Feb 17 1960, how come I cant find out what really happened to him, or the guys that that he was serving with at the time?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 31, 2012:

Hello KatyWhoWaited,

Thank you for your positive comment about these old photos taken back in the 1960's during the Vietnam War. Will look forward to reading "Tim's letters" that you are posting. One would think that we could learn from past wars and avoid future ones. Sadly, we seem to be slow learners!

Kate MacAlpine from Anywhere, USA on March 31, 2012:

Peggy, I am most certain your brother would be quite amazed and honored by all the work you have done in the re-creation and publication of these historical and personal photos. History and the lessons it teaches are taught best by the stories it tells. If your brother ever flew into Quang Tri in 1969 or 70, he was brought in by the radios in the control tower, the beacon, and the runway lights repaired by "Tim" who wrote the letters from Vietnam that I'm positng. I kept looking at your pictures to see if I could recognize anything familiar matching Tim's because looking at the pictures keeps begging the questions "why war" and "what did it all mean." Yesterday I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and bought a lovely candle. When I turned it over to read the fragrance, it said "made in Vietnam" and I was happy because in some small way, it meant peace. And then I thought about war, and to be quite honest, I really expected that Vietnam, the protests, songs the one you posted, and the entire movement during the 60s would have made us more enlightened and less militaristic. Thank you for this hub which will become your legacy and your brother's of seeing war for what it is.