Vietnam War

John Pemble

Forty years ago, the U.S. withdrew its last troops from Vietnam, marking the end of what was then America’s longest and most wrenching war.

On this edition of River to River, four Iowa veterans reflect on their time in Vietnam.

Dan Gannon, Roger Elliott, Ron Langel, and Caesar Smith join the program to share their experiences as medics, repairmen, career soldiers, and draftees. Host Ben Kieffer talks with them about post-traumatic stress disorder, what it was like to come home to those not in support of the war, and how they have viewed military conflicts since.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A new museum exhibit opens this morning in Johnston, honoring veterans of the Vietnam War. It was financed by an appreciative Iowan who was unable to serve because of football injuries. Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen reports.

Gene Gabus auctioned off his family’s antique cars in donating $250,000 for the Gold Star Military Museum’s Vietnam War display. Upset by the disrespect shown to returning veterans, Gabus says the exhibit is meant as a tribute.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Web Extra: Reflections from Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, who recounts his prediction on the fall of Saigon soon after returning from an assessment in Vietnam; a time when many diplomats were in denial. His prophecy was validated on April 30th, 1975.  

Quinn, who is the former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, is now president of the World Found Prize Foundation in Des Moines. He is the only civilian to win the U.S. Army Air Medal. After the Vietnam War, he spearheaded Governor Ray’s campaign to welcome Southeast Asian refugees to Iowa.

Douglas Potratz / Fall of Saigon Marines Association

On this date 40 years ago, two marines were killed in Saigon, including an Iowan; the last American combat deaths of the Vietnam War. Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen reports on a memorial to be dedicated in their honor.

Marshalltown native Darwin Judge and fellow marine Charles McMahon were guarding an airport gate during the final evacuation when their position was shelled. A bronze plaque will be unveiled in their memory tonight. Douglas Potratz is heading a delegation from The Fall of Saigon Marines Association.

manhhai / flickr / Jim Stanitz Collection

Thirteen years, four months and one week after the death of the first American killed in open combat with the enemy, American troops withdrew completely from Vietnam on April 30th, 1975.

On this archive edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Bob Drury, author of a book about the final hours of the withdrawal. Also joining the conversation, former Marine platoon commander in Vietnam Dan Gannon. Gannon is now a Vietnam of America representative to the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs. 

Jonathon Colman

A recent poll shows that a majority of Americans (71%) now say the war in Iraq “wasn’t worth it.” That’s similar to sentiments from the Vietnam era about that conflict.

Courtesy of Rick Fredericksen

Robin Williams' death earlier this week sparked many stories of how he touched the lives of his fans and the people he met.

Jonathon Colman

A recent poll shows that a majority of Americans (71%) now say the war in Iraq “wasn’t worth it.” That’s similar to sentiments from the Vietnam era about that conflict.

In Uniform

Nov 11, 2013

In war or in peace, thousands of Iowans have served in the armed forces.  With both archival audio and original interviews, "In Uniform" honors and remembers Iowa veterans who sacrificed and served the country since the Civil War all the way up to the War on Terror.

Bernie Contreras

They were known as "POW bracelets," a symbolic metal band bearing the name of a Vietnam POW, or a man missing in action. More than 40 years after the prisoners came home, a Florida man rediscovered the bracelet he wore as a teenager and traced it back to a Navy veteran in Des Moines. We interviewed both men for Veterans Day.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Grateful Americans are honoring former President Gerald Ford this weekend at a reunion in Dana Point, California.  They owe their citizenship, and perhaps their lives, to the man born in Omaha, 100 years ago this Sunday. Iowa Archives remembers “Operation Babylift,” and the epic rescue of several thousand Vietnamese orphans. 

Rick Fredericksen / IPR

It was code-named Operation Homecoming, when the U.S. and North Vietnam signed a peace agreement and our prisoners of war started coming home.We remember the defining events of that time, with historic sound from our Iowa Archives project.

A keepsake from the Vietnam War will be returned to an Iowa soldier who lost it in 1971 on the bottom of Iowa’s Lake Delhi. John Jones’ gold, 25th Infantry Division ring came off while swimming. Two years ago, after the dam broke and the lake drained, a Chicago treasure hunter found it under the muddy lake bottom, and a veterans official was able to trace it back to Jones, who lives in Cedar Rapids.

IPRs Rick Fredericksen has the story.

Rick Fredericksen

An Iowa soldier took along a small tape recorder for his tour of duty in Vietnam and sent tapes home to his family in Burlington. We witness the Vietnam War through the voice recordings of Lt. Robert McKnight. John Pemble provided technical assistance. The 1968 recordings are held by the State Historical Society of Iowa.