Vietnam War Exhibit Opens in Pentagon

Members of Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines board the Mayaguez. Gas masks were worn because the ship was bombed with tear-gas cannisters by the Air Force.

By MarEx 2016-12-20 19:04:45

A corridor in the Pentagon honoring Vietnam veterans and their families has officially been opened.

The secretaries joined 15 Vietnam veterans Tuesday afternoon to mark the official opening of the museum-quality exhibit. The permanent exhibit, located on the 3rd floor of the Pentagon between corridors 2 and 3, uniquely documents and illustrates the history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War through a variety of media outlets of the time. It exhibits historically accurate material and interactive experiences designed to help today’s American public better understand and appreciate the service of the nation’s Vietnam veterans and their families, and the history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

The commemoration took place at the center of the exhibit, an alcove that features two Huey helicopters. Other highlights in the corridor include a binnacle from the SS Mayaguez, iconic memorabilia left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, statues and paintings, and chronological and thematic timelines of the Vietnam War.

The Mayaguez incident took place between May 12–15, 1975, less than a month after the Khmer Rouge took control of the capital Phnom Penh ousting the U.S. backed Khmer Republic. It was the last official battle of the Vietnam War.The merchant ship's crew, whose seizure at sea had prompted the U.S. attack, had been released in good health, unknown to the U.S. Marines or the U.S. command of the operation before they attacked. Nevertheless, the Marines boarded and recaptured the ship anchored offshore a Cambodian island.

“Today's unveiling and the government-wide commemoration that accompany it are an important part of commitment to honor veterans from Vietnam and their families, for service, for valor, for sacrifice,” said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. 

"This exhibit really and truly represents the service of a generation of citizens who were asked to do something for their country at a difficult time, as difficult a time as probably we've seen in our lifetimes,” said former Secretary of Defense and Vietnam veteran, Chuck Hagel.  “This exhibit very much reflects all that and pays tribute to men and women who never asked for anything in return; they never came back to any expectations. They wanted to get on with their lives and put that war experience behind them.”  Hagel and his brother Tom served in Vietnam in 1968.

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration leads the nation’s effort to thank and honor the more than seven million living Vietnam veterans and the families of the nine million who served. The commemoration was authorized by Congress, established under the secretary of defense, and launched in 2012 by President Barack Obama. The commemoration has partnered with more than 10,000 organizations to thank veterans and their families in their hometowns across the country.

About nine million U.S. troops served during the Vietnam War era, and about seven million are still alive. More than 58,000 Americans were killed during the conflict.