Skip to main content

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

Related Articles