Information provided by the USS Kidd
The USS Kidd will be unveiling a new traveling exhibit portraying the stories of young American soldiers and Marines traveling to Vietnam in the late 1960s aboard the troopship General Nelson M. Walker. Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam will present artwork and slogans capturing the era's politics, military pride, humor, and anti-war sentiments recorded by young men headed for battle.
Discovered by chance in 1997, the canvas bunks were preserved and saved thanks to the Vietnam Graffiti Project (VGP) which was founded upon the discovery of the artifacts. While the General Nelson M. Walker has since been scrapped, the exhibit was created with the intent to travel the country and present the stories of soldiers and marines who went to Southeast Asia by troopship. The exhibit is meant to honor the military service of these young men.
Many of the canvas bunks removed from the Walker contained names and hometowns. An effort was made by VGP to locate as many men as possible to hear the rest of their story. Those efforts are also incorporated into the exhibit.
"One of our goals in bringing this exhibit to Baton Rouge is to locate Vietnam era veterans who traveled to Vietnam by troop ship and have them recount their experience of the trip in brief oral histories." Says David Beard, Executive Director. "These experiences can be compared and contrasted with those of veterans who traveled by air to give a sense of the differences between spending three weeks on a ship thinking about where they were going and perhaps traveling from the US to Vietnam is less than 24 hours.
"And while we do not have the names of any Louisianans identified on the exhibited canvases, we do have the name of a Korean War era veteran from Baton Rouge left on the Walker during that conflict. One bunk has numerous graffiti from the early 1950s, including one that reads 'Russell Gautreaux, Baton Rouge, La'. This is likely from 1954 or 1955, based on surrounding graffiti. It would be great if we could locate Mr. Gautreaux or family members. Also, any other Louisiana veterans who recall traveling aboard the Walker."
This exhibit was made possible through the generous financial support of The Baton Rouge Clinic, AMC.
Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam will be on display at the USS KIDD from October 27, 2017 through February 28, 2018, and is included in the price of museum admission. General admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children ages 5-12. Children ages 4 and under are free of charge and must be accompanied by an adult. Due to the topics of conversation typical of young men in the 1960s, parental supervision is suggested.