These oral histories were developed, collected, and produced by the Summer 2017 Student Historians, a New-York Historical educational program for high school students who engage in complex historical research and share their scholarship through creative projects.
Captain Barbara Chiminello, born 1944, grew up in a military family. She enlisted through the Army Nurse Corps in 1963, and served in the Vietnam war from 1966-1968 for a total of two tours. She served her first tour in Nha Trang and her second in Pleiku, Vietnam. While overseas, her brother Thomas, who also served in Vietnam, was killed in a helicopter crash; Barbara accompanied her brother's body back to the United States. Now, Barbara pursues a career in the arts and has exhibited and sold her work throughout the greater Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. areas....read more and listen to oral histories
Ed Blanco was born in Manhattan in 1948 and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. At age 19, surrounded by young men in his community who were willingly entering the draft, it was only natural for Blanco to volunteer for service as well. Serving two years in the U.S. Army with the 101st Airborne, Blanco witnessed the bloody Tet Offensive and was later awarded the Purple Heart after a grenade injury. During his service, Blanco participated in the United States’ Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) initiative and had extensive contact with the Vietnamese people. In 1969, Blanco was honorably discharged from the army. ...read more and listen to oral histories
Born in 1941 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan amongst a Ukrainian community, Don Fedynak grew up during the onset of America’s involvement in Vietnam. While in college, he studied advertising at the Pratt Institute and participated in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program before developing a deep love for film and photography and transferring to the School of Visual Arts to study filmmaking. After completing his time at SVA, he went to his local recruitment office and rescinded his student deferment. ...read more and listen to oral histories
Douglas Hostetter was born in 1944 in Harrisonburg, Virginia, as one of America’s great conflicts came to an end. Nearly two decades later, as the Cold War led the U.S. to engage in the Vietnam War, Hostetter felt an obligation to serve. Having been shaped by the nonviolent values of his Harrisonburg Mennonite community and his alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University, Hostetter became a conscientious objector. Rather than support the perpetual war machine, Hostetter chose another path and performed his alternative service under the Mennonite Central Committee, forging personal relationships and utilizing the power of education....read more and listen to oral histories
Born in 1956, Merle Ratner became an activist at the age of 13 and has continued to engage in activism throughout her adult life. Her family had a history of progressive activity, and she believed that as an American she had a responsibility to protest the government’s waging the war. Merle was arrested at age 13 for her participation in a protest of the Vietnam War. She has worked with many activist organizations, including not only those against the Vietnam War, but also various social justice movements. Currently, Merle and her husband, Ngô Thanh Nhàn, are part of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign to fight for aid for those affected by Agent Orange. ...read more and listen to oral histories
Ngô Thanh Nhàn
Ngô Thanh Nhàn was born in 1948 under French rule in Vietnam, where he lived with his family in a French army barrack. His life drastically changed when Ngô Đình Diệm made himself president of South Vietnam. He was no longer able to read certain books and his family could not practice Buddhism as freely as before. As Diệm’s restrictions on Buddhists grew more severe, Nhàn and his mother joined protests against the regime. During the war, Nhàn continued his education and became valedictorian of his high school. This allowed him to be recognized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program, which gave Vietnamese students like Nhàn an opportunity to receive education in America. He went to college at San José State University in California, where he was made aware of the anti-war protests that divided the United States. Soon after, he joined the protests and became an anti-war activist, beginning a life of activism. Currently he is fighting for American Vietnam veterans, Vietnamese Americans and Vietnamese people who are victims of Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide used during the war. ...read more and listen to oral histories