Sunday, September 12, 2010

Images at War's End: Refugee & Marine Images from Col Waterhouse Collection & Marine Staff Photographs from Camp Pendleton Archives - Camp Pendleton

After making a quick breakfast of Feta Cheeseburgers to a wide-eyed oldest nephew who was excited at the prospect of anyone cooking for him, I headed off to Camp Pendleton, the reason why I went down to San Diego in the first place.

I had a later shift at work that day and had been meaning to check out the "Images at War's End: Refugee and Marine Images from the Col. Waterhouse Collection and Marine Staff Photographs from Camp Pendleton Archives" exhibit before it closes at the end of this month.

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Camp Pendleton might not mean much to you unless you're military or Vietnamese-American, in which case, I suggest reading my post on Little Saigon and Vietnamese American history first to get you acquainted.

On April 28, 1975, General Paul Graham was told that Camp Pendleton was one of four military bases in the United States that would receive and house refugees from Vietnam. The other bases were Fort Chaffee, Arkansas; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; and Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The refugees were then dispersed across the country, into every state and as many as 813 zip codes.

In 36 hours, the marines worked around the clock to build eight tent cities and to provide water, food, clothing, medicine, electricity, power, and security for the first 18,000 refugees. By October, Camp Pendleton had been home to more than 36,000 refugees.

The exhibit also shows drawings and paintings from then-Major Waterhouse who arrived in May 1975 to document the refugees' arrival.

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"Gossip," acrylic on masonite.

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"The New Coat," acrylic on masonite.

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The images were loosely organized into themes, arranged in groups of three or four, but I've sorted the photos a little more to give coherence as you're looking through all the photographs in this post. There were about three dozen pictures arranged on simple folding screens in three rooms.

New arrivals and preparations.

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Vietnam War-era marine uniform.

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This is one of my favorite pictures. Look at the kid in the background kicking his or her heels.

May 5, 1975. Young refugee children wearing "extra long" field jackets to walk through one of the camps. The jackets help the children acclimate to the weather in their new country.

by Maj. G.L. Gill

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Even in the midst of limbo, I was struck by how life goes on with baptisms and weddings, learning English, playing games.

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Former First Lady Betty Ford visited on May 21, 1975.

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Former South Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky on June 14, 1975.

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Even Rosemary Clooney came out to entertain.

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If you watched "Green Dragon" this scene might look familiar. That's where the families left notes with their names and sponsors' addresses in case later family made it out and so they could find each other.

"Lost, Found, Wanted," acrylic on masonite.

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Cleaning out the quonset huts in preparation for another round of refugees. The U.S. expected about 25,000 refugees would come after the Vietnam War ended; they ended up with 125,000.

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A map showing where the various refugee camp cities were located inside Camp Pendleton.

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General Graham who headed the whole operation.

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The outside of the ranch house as I made my exit.

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Even though no one in my family came through Camp Pendleton, the images reminded me of how far the Vietnamese American community has adapted, grown, and woven ourselves into the tapestry of America. My story came at another time (1979), another place (Hong Kong), and yet it was essentially the same.

For more information about the exhibit, check out:
The Los Angeles Times' article, "Exhibit Reflects Camp Pendleton's Role as Refuge for Vietnamese," which includes several photos of the "Images at War's End" exhibit as well as photos that aren't in the show from photographer Don Bartletti's photos for Vista Press when the Vietnamese refugees arrived at Camp Pendleton in 1975.

The "Images at War's End" exhibit is located at the Camp Pendleton Ranch House on the corner of Basilone Road and Vandegrift Boulevard.

The exhibit is a free self-guided tour open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"Images at War's End" will end on September 30th.

Directions: From I-5, take the Camp Pendleton exit in Oceanside, once you get through the gates, keep straight on Vandegrift Boulevard. Drive for about 15 to 20 minutes and you'll see the white ranch house coming up on the left side. Turn left on Basilone Road.

United States Marine Corps
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
Public Affairs Office

Box 55501
Marine Corps Base
Camp Pendleton, CA 92055-5019
760-725-5043 or 760-725-5044

*****
1 year ago today, Hemenway House - Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado.
2 years ago today, I turned my sprouting potatoes into homegrown fingerling potatoes.
3 years ago today, 4 of 7 random things about me meme: I own two woks and show you How to Season a Wok.

15 comments:

  1. hi wc - great post on the exhibit. those photos were so poignant and captured an important part of San Diego history...thanks for the info too. i hope we can catch it before the end of the month as well...

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  2. OMG! Were you there on the 11th of September???! And I was at the beach off to the left when you enter through the gates! I know exactly where that is too!! I'm sorry I'm using so many exclamation points, but I would have been so happy to meet you.. that is if you recognized me first since I don't know what you look like... hmm I didn't think that through. :/ (I know I sound crazy, but I'm not I promise. I'm more quirky than crazy.)

    But anyways, I'll definitely stop by to see it before the exhibit ends. :)

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  3. oh wow! i am so glad that you shared that. it makes me think about the time my mom and her entire family had when they came here. they went to fort chaffee but it still is very different seeing those pictures trying to imagine what they went through.

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  4. Hi WC,

    Thank you for the pics. It too reminds me of how my parents came here. My mom was pregnant with me at the time. They ended up at Ft. Chaffee, went to Indiana and then to California. I wonder if there are any similar photo collections for the other camps?

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  5. That's interesting my family lived there when I was a little kid my father was in the Marines went to Vietnam 4 times over the years. We had moved away long before the end of the war and the arrival of Families from Vietnam. Interesting change of pace thanks for posting it.

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  6. CC,
    It's well worth checking out if you're in the area.

    Diana,
    Nope. I wasn't there that day. This was a few weeks ago. My blog is rarely real time.

    Bluang3lbby,
    I know a number of people who went through Fort Chaffee too.

    Yum Cha Girl,
    UCI's Southeast Asian Archive has 245 photos from Fort Chaffee. If you get a chance, you should go check them out. Who knows? You might find photos of your family among them.

    Cringe Schrapnel,
    Four tours? Crazy! Tell your dad thanks for his service.

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  7. Thanks for posting these, WC. Gave me some images (and statistics--imagine the logistics!)to mull over.

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  8. Tammy,
    Yeah, kinda amazing to think of how quickly it was all set up and how many people went through it all. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend watching Green Dragon. I think they captured the sense of what it was like inside the camps pretty well.

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  9. Hey, Wandering Chopsticks. I was looking at the pictures of every little kid to see if any of them was I. I was there in 1975. I do not remember much of it, though. :( I am trying to get in touch with people who were at Camp Pendleton in May 1975.

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  10. Btw, do you happen to have a picture of a little boy lying on his stomach on a bunker bed and he was looking at the camera?? I am interested because that little boy may have been I.

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  11. Vietgamer45,
    All the photos I took were just the ones at the exhibit. Not sure if Camp Pendleton would let anyone in to check since this was just a special showing. There might be more at UC Irvine's Southeast Asian Archives. It's open to the public by appointment. I know they have a bunch of photos from Fort Chaffee. Hope that helps. Good luck!

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    2. Wandering Chopsticks, thank you. I just wished I had not lost the pictures that were sent to me!! Unfortunately, I live in NJ so I can't make an appointment. :( I hope to visit Camp Pendleton again. :)

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  13. I have a question about three pictures. Do you know who that little boy was, writing on paper and he was with the soldier?? Do you know who that little boy looking out of the bus window was?? Do you know who that Vietnamese man was, handing out medicine?? If so, please let me know by emailing me at my email address: vietasianfox45@gmail.com. I am very interested in who those three people are. I am wondering if the boy in the two pictures was I or not and if the man was my former guardian.

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