The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies is launching the Arkansas Vietnam War Project, with the hopes of documenting the stories of people who were in the war, or knew someone who was. The Center hopes to record oral histories as well as collect letters, photographs and diary entries from willing participants.
Brian Robertson is manager of the Research Services Division at the Butler Center and is leading the project. He says at the time of U.S. involvement, Arkansans largely supported the war effort.
“You know being in the South, people probably tended to be not as anti-war,” he says. “Not to say that there weren’t people who were against the war; there were even a limited amount of protests in the state…[but] I think there was more support here than there was in other parts of the country.”
There were some notable Arkansan opponents of the war, including U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright. Along with the oral histories of veterans, Robertson hopes the center can collect stories from any family members or friends of people who were in the war as well as stories of people who were involved in the protest movement of the time.
Robertson says the Butler Center will make the recordings and documents it collects through the project part of its permanent collection.
“We will be digitizing and putting online these interviews and related materials,” he says. “People literally from around the world will be able to access these recordings...Our main mission is not only to document and preserve Arkansas’s history but to share it with the people as well.””
Robertson estimates there could be thousands of Vietnam Veterans still living in Arkansas.
The start of the project coincided with the 50th anniversary of Congress’ Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 7, 1964, which led to the deployment of hundreds of thousands of troops to Vietnam over the next decade. 592 Arkansans were among the more than 58,000 Americans who died in the conflict. Those interested in contributing their stories to the project can go to the project's website and fill out an online questionnaire.