National Guard — March 2013
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Educational Foundation News
Amelia Meyer

A Better Telling of a Difficult Story

The museum’s Vietnam Gallery has been renovated to present a clearer picture of a tangled period

THE VIETNAM ERA Gallery in the National Guard Memorial Museum sits between galleries dedicated to World War II and the 9/11 era.

The World War II exhibit recognizes the Guard’s vital role in the global fight against fascism, when every Guard division went overseas. The 9/11 Era Gallery recognizes all the Guard has contributed and sacrificed over the last 11 years.

Both galleries acknowledge the unmistakable significance of the Guard’s labors in those conflicts.

The Vietnam Era Gallery has always presented more of a conundrum, in part because of the Guard’s reputation among some as a haven for those avoiding the draft, as well as the unpopular law enforcement role Guardsmen played during a period of tumultuous social change.

Until now, the museum has never directly addressed either issue. The museum’s latest renovation, to be unveiled this month, is an attempt to present a more complete version of the Guard’s history during this period.

Most of the gallery renovation consists of changes to the text on the exhibit panels and the addition of photographs to more fully capture the complex history of the time.

For three years after sending the first significant number of ground troops to Vietnam in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson refused to mobilize Guardsmen and Reservists for the conflict, believing it would trigger opposition to the war effort.

This had a negative impact on public perception of the Guard. Since it was well-known that Johnson did not want to mobilize reserve forces, the Guard was seen as a refuge for those wishing to avoid the draft.

Relegated to carrying out missions solely at home, Guardsmen were often mobilized to quell anti-war protests and race riots, where they were forced to confront members of their own generation who viewed the Guard as representative of the institutions they opposed.

When Johnson finally mobilized Guard forces in 1968, more than 9,000 Guardsmen deployed to Vietnam.But this represented a tiny fraction of the Guard’s total strength.

Those who served there did so honorably and bravely while performing a wide array of missions.

More than 100 Guardsmen did not return.

The renovation also includes a new artifact that helps tell the story of the Guard’s service in Southeast Asia.

Retired Lt. Gen. Roger C. Schultz, a former Army Guard director, donated the blouse he wore during his time in Vietnam. He also contributed funds for the renovation.

Schultz was a lieutenant in the Iowa Army Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 133rd Infantry, when he volunteered for duty in South Vietnam in 1969.He served with a battalion in the 25th Infantry Division, an active-component unit, earning a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.

His uniform represents the Guardsmen who deployed overseas as individual replacements for regular Army troops.

The Guard’s relative absence from the fight actually underscored its importance to the nation’s defense psyche. Simply put, America doesn’t go to war until the Guard, with its ties to more than 3,000 communities nationwide, goes to war.

Consequently, defense leaders decided they never wanted to go to war again without the support of the American people and established the Total Force policy that continues to this day.

The goal of the renovation is to better tell this story, thorns and all, as it reinvigorated a force that is now a crucial component of our national security.

The author is archivist for the National Guard Educational Foundation. She can be reached at 202-408-5887 or at amelia.Meyer@ngaus.org.
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