Some folks are born to wave the flag
August 13, 2010 5:53 PM   Subscribe

How can I determine when and where my father served in Vietnam?

My father and I have a complicated, painful, and currently non-existent relationship. I've been thinking a lot about him lately (after finding some photos he took during his service in Vietnam), and I've always suspected he was pretty gravely affected by his time there. In therapy and otherwise I've been trying to make steps towards getting to a place where I can forgive and repair my relationship with him, and I think that maybe understanding a bit more about his time in the service might help me do that.

My father is currently alive and living in another state, but we haven't communicated in several years, so asking him isn't really an option. Other family members are more or less equally clueless (poor communication is a genetic trait in our family).

Is there a place of public record (or service of some source) online (or otherwise, although I'd prefer online) where I can determine when and where my father served in Vietnam? He did two tours that I know of but I'm not sure when or where exactly. All I know is that he was in the 101st Airborne Division. I also have basic information about him (DOB, place of birth, family member names), of course.
posted by citywolf to Law & Government (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
National Personnel Records Center
posted by gyusan at 6:00 PM on August 13, 2010

citywolf, I don't believe you can request this information from the link above until after your father dies -- you have the be the veteran, next of kin, or with an agency that has the right to know. For example, when he dies, you can use that form if he's buried in a National cemetery.
posted by Houstonian at 6:44 PM on August 13, 2010

People who served in the 101st Airborne Division have formed several organizations. 101st Airborne Division Vietnam Veterans
Organization's site
includes a history of the Division's role in Vietnam. The 101st Airborne Division Association's, site includes a list of books written about the Division.
posted by carmicha at 7:14 PM on August 13, 2010

Best answer: As a vet from that era, and, as a father, I would want you to ask me for that information. It may open a door.

And, without his telling you directly, do you have a right to know?

Perhaps, prior to doing this, you could spend some time doing some research/reading/information gathering about the activities of the 101st..

You have my respect for trying to repair this relationship, I hope it goes well.
posted by HuronBob at 7:40 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

without his telling you directly, do you have a right to know?

It is public information.

I am also a Viet Nam vet's daughter. I highly recommend this book about how the war connected two generations of American families. It gave me a very clear idea what kinds of things my dad experienced and a much better understanding of why he enlisted.
posted by Miko at 8:20 PM on August 13, 2010

Best answer: You do not have to wait until your father dies. You would get more information with his cooperation, but you can get a substantial amount without it.

I requested service records from several people over the years in order to verify their stories (I was a newspaper reporter).

If you don't have your father's cooperation, you can make a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The info you can get includes where he was stationed and when. You can cross reference that info with any public information or contemporary news accounts of what was happening in the war at that time, and begin to piece together history that way.

Good luck.
posted by Buffaload at 8:33 PM on August 13, 2010

What HuronBob said ... with added emphasis on doing some research on the 101st.
posted by philip-random at 8:35 PM on August 13, 2010

Was looking for this book last night and didn't have the title right. A good guide to locations and what they were like: Where We Were in Vietnam.
posted by Miko at 6:42 AM on August 14, 2010

One angle -- I don't know how prevalent "hometown news releases" were in the 1960s, especially with the controversy of Vietnam, but you might try searching your local newspapers around the time frame he would have deployed. About 20 years ago when I was in the military I was a hometown news unit coordinator and we were encouraged to submit any important news to public affairs, which they would then pass on to the member's local newspaper (the service used it for recruiting and PR purposes).. most people participated but members were also free to decline.
posted by crapmatic at 8:31 AM on August 14, 2010

check your memail.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:12 AM on August 14, 2010

There is also a buddy finder feature on Good luck in your search and relationship patching. Don't give up.
posted by KneeDeep at 11:16 AM on August 14, 2010

Response by poster: These are some thoughtful responses and helpful resources, as well as the encouragement.

I'll definitely look more at these resources available online, but I think I have some soul-searching about the whole issue to do before I do anything that involves submitting forms to the Government or contacting my father.

Thanks all.
posted by citywolf at 3:46 PM on August 14, 2010

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