During the conflict in Vietnam, U.S. Army Engineers played a significant role in support of U.S. and allied forces, both in construction and in combat. Over those years, an OCE (Office of the Chief of Engineers) Liaison Officer routinely traveled to various locations in Southeast Asia to visit army officers and engineer troops and to gather information on the many activities and projects undertaken by army engineers in the region. These liaison officers wrote reports, took photographs, and captioned the images. They then used these materials to brief their leadership in country and the Office of the Chief of Engineers and other Washington-based officials.
At least one set of these slides and reports was held by the U.S. Army Engineer Group, Vietnam, the 1972 successor to the U.S. Army Engineer Command, Vietnam. In 1974 they transferred the set to the Engineer Museum, part of the U.S. Army Engineer School. The materials were in turn given to the Office of History, Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, upon the museum’s closure at Fort Belvoir when the Engineer School moved to Fort Leonard Wood.
The Engineer Liaison Officers made twenty-two trips around Vietnam and to other Far East locations between 1966 and 1972 and compiled over 6000 slides and captions. The Office of History maintains copies of these slides and captions in its research collection. The images primarily depict army engineer activities and sites in Vietnam, Thailand, Okinawa, and elsewhere; a smaller number show activities and facilities of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, South Vietnamese armed forces, and other international military units. A very few images depict scenery and local citizens.
Between October 2014 and March 2015, members of the USACE Veterans Curation Program digitized approximately half of the slides and worked with caption lists to create a finding aid for the collection. In May 2015, Office of History staff continued the project; in August 2018, an Office of History contractor converted the 300 remaining slides to digital files. The 35mm color slides are generally in remarkably good condition, with only a small percentage suffering from correctable color degradation. Although the eight slides posted in this gallery have been edited for visual clarity, no adjustments were made to the originals during the digitization process.
In January 2017, an initial complement of more than 700 unedited slides were made available on the USACE Digital Library hosted by the Corps’ HECSA Library. As of January 2018, this number had surpassed 2,100. Each slide is linked to its detailed explanatory caption and has also been provided keywords, subject headings, and geographic locations, when known, thus providing users several ways to search the images on the Digital Library. The Office of History is continuing to prepare the remainder of the slide collection and will post additional files to the Digital Library until the entire collection of 6000+ public domain slides is available to researchers to download.
The Vietnam Trip Briefing slide collection provides a valuable historical visual record of army, especially army engineer, activity during the Vietnam years. The high quality images depict the wide variety of activities and structures built by army engineers in Southeast Asia, from ports and airfields to barracks and latrines, from roads and bridges to offices and storage depots, from petroleum facilities to hospitals, cantonments to quarries. Click here to visit the full collection.
(update Oct. 2018)