Cold War Gallery: Vietnam War Exhibit

As noted in the March 2014 issue of Call To Duty, the Vietnam and Korean war exhibit areas in the Museum’s Cold War gallery will share a joint entryway featuring introductory panels informing visitors of the differences between conventional and unconventional war and providing a framework for understanding and contrasting these two conflicts.

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Design renderings courtesy of Eisterhold Associates Inc.

The “Vietnam War” exhibit area will provide a comprehensive look at the U.S. Army’s involvement in Vietnam from 1960 to 1975. Visitors will be drawn into “The Vietnam Experience” as they encounter a collage of images rhythmically changing to the accompanying pop music from the era. Images such as a platoon on a search and destroy mission in the jungle, a supply convoy moving tons of equipment, an artillery battery on a fire support base, and a Soldier reading a letter from home set the scene of the Vietnam War era and the Soldier experience.

The exhibit walls of the “Unconventional Warfare” exhibit section will be framed by artifacts showcasing objects from the U.S. Army, the Viet Cong, and the North Vietnamese Army.

North Vietnamese and Viet Cong (VC) forces often avoided large-scale battles against U.S. and South Vietnamese troops. VC guerillas moved clandestinely among the population, assembling to fight at times and places of their choosing. With no traditional front lines and few secure rear areas, U.S. Soldiers faced a constant threat of attack. These factors forced the Army to develop new tactics and techniques for the war in Southeast Asia.

Overhead a suspended UH-1B Iroquois (Huey) Utility Helicopter will invite visitors to learn more about the Army’s expanded use of aviation technology during the Vietnam War and the evolution of the air assault concept.

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A Vietnam War-era UH-1B helicopter. U.S. Army photo.

The “Airmobile Operations” exhibit space will describe the evolution of the Army’s air assault division with enough helicopters to lift one brigade of Soldiers at one time. The 11th Air Assault Division tested the concept at Fort Benning, Ga. in 1963 and 1964. Redesignated the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), “airmobility” proved its worth during the heavy fighting in the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965. Later, the helicopter’s effect on organizations and operations was considered as influential to the Vietnam battlefield as was the introduction of mechanized forces in World War II.

The “Vietnam Stories” section will showcase the personal stories of a variety of individual Soldiers who will share their Vietnam experience. The “Feature Stories” area will explore several military occupational specialties and how this new battlefield challenged the Army’s doctrine, performance, and Soldier morale.

The last stop in the exhibit, “Beginning of Realignment,” will discuss the Army’s post-war self examination to improve its capabilities and move forward from this unpopular war. This exhibit area will explain the development of the 1970 Total Force concept which increased the reliance on the reserve components. Visitors will also learn that upon the elimination of the draft, the Army initiated another significant change in 1973 by establishing the all-volunteer Army, a force that continues today.