In 1961, President John F. Kennedy committed the United States' first troops to the growing conflict in Vietnam. However, following the alleged attacks of the North Vietnamese against the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy in 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that unofficially declared war in that country. During the ensuing eleven years that the American military remained in Vietnam, 3,412 Pennsylvanians were killed in action and many more were listed as "missing in action." President Gerald Ford formally declared an end to US involvement in Vietnam in April 1975. Shortly thereafter, the war officially concluded when the capital of South Vietnam capitulated to enemy forces.
Vietnam War Records at PA State Archives
Records relating to Pennsylvania's involvement in the Vietnam War at the Pennsylvania State Archives take many different forms. They include military personnel records, health related records, records of services to veterans, and the various governors' papers.
Military Personnel Records
Please Note: there are no personnel records from the PA National Guard, as no PA National Guard units served in Vietnam.
RG-19 Vietnam Conflict Veterans' Compensation Files1969-1978 RESTRICTED - These files are the most complete records in the archive that provide a list of those who served in the war. However, they are only available to the veteran, an immediate relative, funeral homes, and veteran's agencies. A social security number is also necessary to search these records.
RG-19 Grave Registration Card Files - Burial cards filed with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. However, not all the records have been processed and organized, since every county maintains their records differently and then forwards that information to the archive. Information includes name, date and place of birth, date and place of enlistment, rank, date and place of discharge, date and place of death, and burial location. Accession #4658, 4478, 3227, 3669, 3179, 3185
RG-10 Medal of Honor Recipients-Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (PA Council on the Arts) - Limited edition publication that details the history of the Medal of Honor and provides sketches of all Pennsylvania recipients from the American Civil War up to and including the UN Operation to Somalia. Accession #2370
Health Related Records
During the Vietnam War, the US military used various "rainbow herbicides" to kill unwanted vegetation that concealed their enemies in the jungle. "Agent Orange" was by far the most used of these herbicides, and therefore as it turned out, the most harmful. After the war, in the late 1970s, many veterans realized that their exposure to this herbicide had caused very harmful side effects. Agent Orange contained TCDD, a dioxin that has now been linked to a number of illnesses, including birth defects, spina bifida, certain cancers, diabetes, Hodgkin's disease, and most prevalent, chloracne. It wasn't until the early 1980s, through different lawsuits of the makers of Agent Orange, that many veterans received both recognition and compensation for these and other side effects of the herbicide. For more information on Agent Orange and benefits available to veterans, visit the website of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
RG-11 Herbicide Exposure and Health History Questionnaire, 1984-1989 RESTRICTED - These questionnaires were sent to all Pennsylvania veterans who served in Southeast Asia in order to determine the extent of their exposure to the various herbicides and any diseases contracted since their tour of duty. Access to these records are restricted to the veteran, an immediate relative, funeral homes, and veteran's agencies.
RG-11 Vietnam Veterans' Herbicide Information Commission
Data Bank File1982-1987 - In an effort to ascertain the medical effects of exposure to the various herbicides and determine how best to assist those veterans who were exposed, this commission collected epidemiological reports and studies related to the effect of, primarily Agent Orange.
Program Files and Correspondence1982-1987 - Minutes, correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, press releases, photographs, meeting packets, public hearing transcripts, and transcripts of testimony collected by the commission. Among the items present are Agent Orange hotline telephone logs, background literature and court testimony relating to Agent Orange, American Legion materials, Dioxin task force materials, a list of veterans' names, mailing lists, medical histories, a summary of survey questionnaire responses broken down by geographic areas, and materials supplied by the Veteran of Foreign Wars. There is also one unprocessed carton (Accession #3087) that was transferred to the archives at a later date. It contains studies and reports, correspondence, and a VHS tape covering Agent Orange produced by the Dept. of Health.
RG-11 Dept. of Health Executive Correspondence and Subject Files, 1996-2002 - These records are currently unprocessed, but are arranged alphabetically by subject. Accession #4187
Governor's Outreach and Assistance Center Records 1983-1993 - This organization was intended to serve as a bridge between the individual veterans requiring information or assistance and the public or private agency which can best meet their needs. It includes newspaper clippings of Vietnam-veteran and veteran-care articles.
News Bulletins 1976-1996 - Among the topics covered in the news bulletins are quarterly reports from the state veteran's homes, the veteran emergency assistance program, pensions, Agent Orange, and other Vietnam related illnesses.
RG-19 Bonus Administration files for Vietnam War - Administrative files created when Pennsylvania began paying compensation or bonuses to its veterans for honorable service in the Vietnam War. Includes a bonus feasibility report for the Vietnam War.
RG-25 Records of the Pennsylvania Veteran's Memorial Commission, 1988-2005 - This commission was created to construct a permanent memorial to veterans on the grounds of the Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. Even though it's not directly related to the Vietnam War era, Vietnam veterans are buried in the cemetery and a number of veterans' organizations contributed funds to the construction of the memorial. However, these records are currently unprocessed. Accession #4575
MG-208 Governor William W. Scranton1963-1967 - Included among Scranton's personal papers are sympathy letters to family members of slain servicemen, press releases, activities to support troops, and political campaign materials. There is also some correspondence between Scranton and such prominent figures as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Researchers may also wish to consult the William W. Scranton Papers maintained in the Special Collections Library at the Paterno Library at Pennsylvania State University.
MG-209 Governor Raymond P. Shafer1967-1971 - Included among Shafer's papers are correspondence, newspaper clippings, casualty lists, sympathy letters to family members of slain servicemen, situation reports submitted to governor's office, presidential and state campaign material, books, pamphlets, studies, files on riots on college campuses, information concerning the establishment of the Vietnam Bonus program, and correspondence sent to veterans regarding their Vietnam Bonus.
MG-309 Governor Milton J. Shapp1971-1979 - As governor during the end of the Vietnam War, Shapp's papers contain correspondence and other documents related to the culmination of the war.
General Correspondence 1986-1995 - Topics covered include Agent Orange, Vietnamese Americans, and the National Women's Vietnam Memorial.
Issue Files 1987-1994 - Topics include Prisoners of War and Missing in Action.
Several other archival institutions and historical societies also house military personnel and other collections related to the Vietnam War.
Pennsylvania's List of Casualties Incurred by US Military Personnel in Connection with the Conflict in Vietnam (Deaths from 1 January 1961 through 30 September 1975) prepared by Directorate for Information Operations and Control Office, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), October 28, 1975.
Cumberland County Historical Society- The Vietnam Project Collection contains primary documentation on all forty plus servicemen from Cumberland County killed in action in Vietnam.
Musselman Library (Gettysburg College) - Contains special collections related to the Vietnam War.
Task Force Omega, Inc. - Nonprofit POW and MIA organization dedicated to the "return of all Americans, alive or dead, captured and held by foreign governments." Its website contains an online database of many Vietnam soldiers that were POWs or MIA.
Medal of Honor Citations - Contained on the US Army's official website is a listing of all Vietnam War recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Virtual Wall - Online listing of all the names on the Vietnam War Memorial and remembrances, poems, and photos posted by their loved ones.