April 2001/May 2001
Arts of War
Combat Artist Ed Orr Traded His Grenades For Graphite Mid-Tour
By Marc Leepson
A funny thing happened to Ed Orr in 1967 while working as a U.S. Navy
radioman doing coastal surveillance work in Dong Ha, just south of the
DMZ. The Navy discovered that he had artistic talent. Orr was soon
transferred to the Naval Support office in Da Nang where he spent the rest
of his tour as a combat artist and photographer, traveling throughout I
Corps. His job was to portray the Navy's role in Vietnam through his
drawings and photographs.
"It was an interesting tour," Orr told us. "I went all
over the place: Hue, Phu Bai, Khe Sanh, Dong Ha, and many other cities,
villages, and hamlets." Orr's pencil drawings and photos were
published worldwide in many military and civilian newspapers and
magazines. "Just about every civilian reporter I talked to brought
home one of my drawings, and the Navy sent my work out to anybody and
everybody," he said.
Orr extended his tour for an early out and came home on Veterans Day
1968. He soon developed a severe case of readjustment blues. Chronic PTSD
prevented him from continuing with his art and photography in civilian
life. The good news is that Orr, who lives near Seattle, has recently
resurrected his artistic talents.
The process began last year when he created The Grenadier, a bronze
bas relief that won a gold medal in the VA's 2000 National Veterans
Creative Arts Competition. Orr dedicated The Grenadier to those who
served in Vietnam and did not return home. On October 18, 2000, he
presented the sculpture to his alma mater. Stivers High School in Dayton,
Ohio, had World War I and II memorials, but none honoring Vietnam or
Korean War veterans.
"I decided to take it upon myself to do the sculpture and present
it to the school," Orr said. "I paid for the sculpture out of my
own pocket. I thought it was the least I could do to honor Stivers
graduate Joe C. Paul [a Marine who was killed in action near Chu Lai in
1965 and received the Medal of Honor] and all the others."
Orr recently put together an illustrated book of his Vietnam War poetry
called Cracks in the Wall and is looking to pick up where he left
off 31 years ago. "I'd really like to get back into sculpture,"
he said, "and I may pick up that camera again."
Clayton Rye has been involved in making films and teaching film and
television production since he completed his higher education after coming
home from Vietnam in 1970. Rye, who today is a professor in the Television
Production Department at Ferris State University in Michigan, served as an
RTO in the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1969-70.
Rye worked in the film industry in Los Angeles and as a public TV
producer and director after receiving his MFA in cinema from the
University of Southern California in 1977. Since then, he has written
three full-length film scripts and has made a dozen films and videos. That
includes three award-winning works dealing with the Vietnam War: Ten
Vietnam Vets, a one-hour 1983 television documentary; "F.N.G.,"
a 13-minute Vietnam War drama; and "Boom," an animated short.
The latter two are available on line at www.atomfilms.com
Rye's latest work is Drawing Flies, a hard-hitting drama he
wrote, produced, directed, shot, and edited. Drawing Flies tells
the story of a Vietnam veteran who loses part of his hand in an industrial
accident. The veteran spins out his tale in a stream-of-consciousness
style while recuperating in the hospital. In flashbacks to the war, Rye
makes evocative use of archival footage. The story rambles back and forth
through time and at times is not easy to watch. But it's a from-the-gut
tale that effectively conveys one man's war and postwar traumas.
Drawing Flies has been submitted to several film festivals and Rye
hopes exposure will lead to a distribution deal. If you'd like to contact
Clayton Rye, email email@example.com
or call 231-796-1176.
ARTS IN BRIEF
This year's national Memorial Day concert in Washington will feature
Ossie Davis, Walter Cronkite, Charles Durning, Travis Tritt, John
Schneider, and Tom Bosley, along with Erich Kunzel and the National
Symphony Orchestra. The concert, to be broadcast live on Sunday, May 27,
on PBS, will feature a tribute to the World War II generation and will
commemorate the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the tenth anniversary
of Operation Desert Storm. The event, a blend of musical performance,
dramatic readings and archival footage, also will include the story of Jim
Drappeaux, a Marine who fought at Khe Sanh and was later homeless.
The documentary Breathe In, Breathe Out follows three Vietnam
veterans with readjustment problems back to Vietnam with their adult
children where the veterans confront their pasts. The documentary, made by
filmmaker Beth B, was shown March 29 at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum as
part of the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison.
David Willson and Bruce O. Solheim have resurrected the Viet Nam War
Generation Journal. Vol. 1, No. 1 of the new and improved journal
features an impressive collection of short fiction (by Ruben Quintero,
Walter Jones, and Marc Levy, among others), essays, memoirs, reviews, and
poetry. The journal will be published quarterly. For subscription and
submission information, write: 23630 201st Ave. SE, Maple Valley, WA
98308, or go to the website www.vwarjournal.com
The most recent WLA: War, Literature & the Arts journal,
Vol. 12, No. 1, includes "Goodnight, Saigon," a lecture given by
Philip Caputo at the U.S. Air Force Academy, along with an interview with
the former Marine lieutenant who wrote the seminal Vietnam War memoir, A
Rumor of War. WLA is published by the Air Force Academy's Department
of English and Fine Arts. The editor is Donald Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org
). WLA's web site is www.usafa.af.mil/dfeng/wla.htm
Wayne Karlin, the novelist, essayist, and college literature professor
whose work is strongly influenced by his service as a Marine in the
Vietnam War, gave a presentation at Tulane University April 16. Karlin's
talk focused on the Holocaust and My Lai, subjects that were at the heart
of his critically acclaimed memoir, Rumors and Stones. The talk was
sponsored by the university's Hillel organization and the Fertel
Foundation. "Wayne is one of the finest writers to come out of the
war and the key editor today of Vietnamese fiction in translation,"
says Randy Fertel, who teaches a course on Vietnam War literature at
Mara Wallis, the producer of the documentary Entertaining Vietnam,
a film about performers who entertained the troops on both sides of the
Vietnam War, tells us that she has completed the film and that it will
soon be distributed. For more information on the documentary, which was
shot in the United States, Australia, and Vietnam, go to www.entertainingvietnam.com
Ibiblio.org, the cultural web site that is a collaboration of the
University of North Carolina and Center for the Public Domain, contains a
multimedia tribute to Radio First Termer, the pirate FM radio
station that operated in South Vietnam in the early seventies. The host of
Radio First Termer, Dave Rabbit, provided a decidedly
countercultural contrast to the Pentagon-produced AFVN. Rabbit played Jimi
Hendrix and other non-AFVN rock music, and offered off-beat, often raunchy
newscasts. The web page includes sound clips from a broadcast of Radio. To
listen, go to: www.ibiblio.org/lawhome/rft.html
The annual Joiner Center Writer's Workshop will be held June 17-29 at
the University of Massachusetts Boston campus. The faculty includes top
Vietnam War veteran writers Larry Heinemann, Tom O'Brien, Yusef Komunyakka,
and Bruce Weigl. For information, contact T. Michael Sullivan at
617-287-5850; e-mail: Michael.Sullivan@umb.edu
O'Brien and Stewart (The Names of the Dead) O'Nan are among the
novelists, poets, and playwrights who will be offering workshops at this
year's Sewanee Writers' Conference, which will be held July 17-29 in
Sewanee, Tennessee. For more information, go to www.sewaneewriters.org
or call 931-598-1141.
The U.S. Postal Service will release a new stamp in May in honor of the
nation's veterans. The new first-class, 34-cent stamp, designed by Carl
Herrman of Carlsbad, Calif., features a billowing American flag against a
blue background with the words "Honoring Veterans" at the top
and "Continuing to Serve" at the bottom. The stamps and
first-day postmarks may be ordered by calling 800-STAMP-24.
Audio news: BDD Audio this spring released four Vietnam War nonfiction
books on cassette: Death in the Jungle: Diary of a Navy SEAL by
Gary R. Smith and Alan Maki and Papa Bravo Romeo: U.S. Navy Patrol
Boats in Vietnam by Wynn Goldsmith, both read by Eric Conger, and Diary
of an Airborne Ranger: A LRRP's Year in the Combat Zone by Frank
Johnson, read by Don Leslie, and LRRP Company Command by Kregg P.J.
Jorgenson read by Don Lewis. Each consists of two two-hour cassettes and
retails for $9.99.
On line: You can read all of Gary Jacobson's novel, One Soldier's
Story, online. Go to: http://PZZZ.tripod.com/Nam.html
Correction: Last issue we misreported the address of Prof. John K.
Swensson's De Anza College Vietnam War course. The correct address is: http://saturn.fhda.edu/instructor/swensson/ewrt2vn.html
For help with verisimilitude in a novel in progress, Stan Oliver would
like to hear from former Vietnam War Army medics and infantrymen. The
novel "revolves around Army soldiers and my questions regard the
training they received in AIT after basic training, before going
in-country," Oliver tells us. E-mail: email@example.com
and use the word "Hero" in the subject line. Or write to: Custom
Design Studio, P.O. Box 2071, Salem, MA 01970.
For a book aimed at those under thirty, Adam Navis is looking for
Vietnam veterans' war stories written by veterans themselves. All stories
should be previously unpublished. Contact: Donald Hettinga, English Dept.,
Calvin College, 3201 Burton S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49546, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For a documentary film, British filmmaker Judith Clough is in need of
home movies taken in Vietnam during the war. Contact: Available Light
Productions, 3A Boyces Ave., Bristol, BS7 8EW, United Kingdom; e-mail: email@example.com
or call (44) 117-908-4433.