The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress
ARTS OF WAR
You Have a Friend at the Archives:
Nam Vet Shaun Shaughnessy
BY MARC LEEPSON
Trying to find information at the
National Archivesofficially known as the National Archives
and Records Administrationcan be intimidating. Aside from
being the home of some of the nation's most priceless
documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the
Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, the Archives houses all
of the federal government records. That includes a massive
mountain of material of Vietnam War records, known officially
as Record Group 472, The Records of the United States
Forces in Southeast Asia, 1950-1975.
There is good news, though, for Vietnam veterans and others
who wish to delve into those records. First, they are freely
accessible to the public. Second, the man in charge of them,
Charles "Shaun'' Shaughnessy, is a Vietnam veteran who is
devoted to helping fellow veterans, historians, Vietnamese
expatriates, and others sort through and find after-action
reports, command histories, daily journals, reports,
publications, and other Vietnam War military records.
Shaughnessy began working at the Archives in 1971. A native of
Portsmouth, Virginia, he went to the University of Richmond,
where he signed up for Army ROTC. "I was either going to make
a career out of the Army or I was going to teach,''
Shaughnessy told us in a recent interview from his office at
the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland. "I
was bound and determined to do ROTC. That's the reason I
Shaughnessy was commissioned as a second lieutenant the day he
graduated from college with a degree in history and political
science in 1967. He went on active duty in October, starting
with armored officers' basic school at Fort Knox. After being
sent to Fort Lewis, Shaughnessy volunteered to go to Vietnam.
Not surprisingly, that request was soon granted, and he
arrived in country on September 14, 1968. Shaughnessy became
an infantry platoon leader with the 199th Light Infantry
Brigade, which operated near Saigon, then was transferred to a
MACV Advisory Team in the CORDS program in Gia Dinh Province.
"For a little while I worked with the ARVN Airborne
Division,'' he said. "Then in late March of '69, a small
mobile advisory team in Binh Long Province up near the
Cambodian border got wiped out. They needed a replacement
team, and they just grabbed mine and sent me up there. I spent
the rest of my time in Binh Long Province.'' The area, he
said, "was like the foothills of Virginia with its rich,
red-clay soil. And there were a lot of rubber trees and rubber
plantations. That's where I saw most of my action.''
Shaughnessy's only battle wound does not appear on any Purple
Heart citation. "It wasn't a bullet wound,'' he said. "An RPG
round slammed into a tree I was standing beside. I got a lot
of splintersnot shrapnel, just splinters. My medic pulled the
splinters out of my face and there was no problem.''
Shaughnessy faced some readjustment problems after coming home
from Vietnam and getting out of the Army in August of 1968. He
tried graduate school at his alma mater, at George Washington
University, and at the University of Maryland. "I never got my
master's degree,'' he said. "I would get almost there, and I
would have a fight with a teacherthe usual PTSD crap. I would
just blow up. I'd stop going to class, just walk away from
The former Army lieutenant took a job as a National Park
Service park ranger in Washington and in Fredericksburg,
Virginia, at the Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville Civil War
battlefields. "That was one of my favorite jobs,'' he said. "I
got to dress up every day in a Civil War costume.'' The job
ended in 1971 when the Park Service laid off a group of
workers, "mostly Vietnam veterans,'' Shaughnessy noted.
His next job was at the Archives in downtown Washington, where
he began working in military records in 1971 and was promoted
to an archivist's position in 1976. In 1987, Shaughnessy
transferred to the Modern Military Field Branch, where he
began working on the Vietnam Records Project. A year later,
Shaughnessy became the project's lead archivist. He directed
the mammoth job of locating and cataloging hundreds of
different record groups and was instrumental in creating and
filing Records Group 472, the Vietnam War collection.
Doing that job was a "massive and complex undertaking that
involved working closely and productively with Department of
Defense agencies and NARA units,'' said Archivist of the
United States John Carlin in October when he presented
Shaughnessy with an award for his outstanding contribution to
the Archives. "It was also carried out in a harsh physical
environment that required Shaun to pull shelved records from
the platform of unstable 13-foot ladders while coping with the
symptoms of multiple sclerosis.''
The Vietnam War records, Shaughnessy's supervisor Henry Mayer
said, "are ready for future generations'' in "large part
because of his strong professional and personal commitment to
the records themselves. Shaun also brought dignity, grace, and
good humor to his work on the Vietnam Records Project. He
could not have done a better job.''
Shaughnessy says he wants to continue doing that job. He plans
on working at the National Archives, he told us, "until I die.
I'm doing what I want to do here.''
Note: The Vietnam War records at the National
Archives contain material relating to the U.S. Army. To
contact an Archives Vietnam War archivist, call 301-837-3510,
or fax 301-837-1752. Vietnam War records for the Air Force are
at the Air Force Historical Research Center at Maxwell Air
Force Base in Alabama; phone 334-953-2395. Marine Corps
Vietnam War records are held at the Marine Corps Historical
Center in the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.; phone
202-433-3439. The Navy Historical Center in Washington
contains the Navy's Vietnam War records; phone 202-433-3224.
SON IN ARTISTIC TOUCH
Tom Kindt Hubbard of Columbia City, Indiana, was two years old
when his father, U.S. Marine Sgt. Thomas Patrick Kindt, was
killed in action in Vietnam on September 21, 1966, in a
firefight near Kim Lien, a small coastal village north of
Danang. Hubbard, a graphic artist, took a strong interest in
the details of his father's Vietnam War experiences several
years ago. That led to a trip to The Wall in Washington
where he met Ed Henry, a VVA member who for several years has
led tours for veterans, family members, and others of American
War sites in Vietnam.
Henry helped Hubbard reconstruct his father's tour of duty.
Hubbard spent five weeks in Vietnam traveling with his mother
and his wife, visiting sites where his father served, taking
photographs, and keeping a journal. That resulted in an
exhibit, Semper Fidelis: How I Met My Father, which was
described in the March/April 2003 issue of The VVA Veteran.
The exhibit ran at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art for two months
beginning in early December 2003.
Central to Hubbard's exhibit are 21 ceramic vessels that he
based loosely on military bunkers and artillery shells.
Hubbard grafted words from his father's letters onto the
vessels, along with his own journal entries and photographs of
Vietnam. Hubbard's photographs, arranged in diptychs, and a
family altar to his father also were part of the exhibit.
``My hope is that by sharing my story I can help others who
have suffered a similar loss and provide support to the
veterans who served in Vietnam,'' Hubbard said.
ROUND EYE BALLAD
Stacey Engels' new play, The Ballad of Round Eyes, had
its debut at the Duncan Smith Theatre in Holmdel, N.J., early
in February before moving to the American Theatre of Actors'
Sergeant Theatre in New York City for ten performances. The
play, which is set in Vietnam in December 1967-January 1968,
focuses on several American women who served in the war as
nurses, journalists, and Red Cross volunteers.
Engels consulted both female and male Vietnam veterans while
she was writing the play, which was directed by Krista Smith,
an actress and director who founded New York's Visible
Theatre. "I consider [the play] a meditation on war, not just
the Vietnam War, but the war inside of us,'' Smith said.
Future performances of the play are planned at outreach venues
for veterans, nurses, and women's organizations. For info,
call 212-615-6989, or e-mail
ARTS IN BRIEF
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History
announced in January that it will open a $19 million permanent
exhibition on American military history. The
18,200-square-foot exhibit, called "The Price of Freedom,'' is
scheduled to open on Veterans Day. A Huey helicopter that flew
in Vietnam in 1966-67 with the 173rd Assault Helicopter
Company will be part of the exhibit. That helicopter, which
had been in the Texas Air Command Museum in Fort Worth, lifted
off on February 10 and made more than twenty stops before
arriving at the museum for a March 19 ceremony.
Acclaimed stage, film, and TV actor Stephen Lang will perform
Beyond Glory for the first time in a series of
performances at the Women In Military Service Theater in
Arlington, Virginia, beginning April 2. Lang adapted his work
for the stage from Larry Smith's book of the same title. In
his performance, Lang plays seven American soldiers and
sailors who were awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II
and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Lang is best known for his two acclaimed Broadway performances
in which he played Vietnam veterans: as Col. Jessep in Aaron
Sorkin's 1989 drama, A Few Good Men, and as a homeless
Vietnam veteran in Steve Tesich's Speed of Darkness in
1990. Lang was nominated for a Tony for the latter
performance. For info about his WIMSA shows, which run through
May 2, call 202-772-1165, or go to
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