AFSC Vietnam Curriculum Project: Children’s drawings depict life in 1960s Vietnam

Author: Alyssa Tkach, Archives Assistant

Children's drawing: two men shake hands with soldiers and a plane in the background

“Tong Thong Di Honolulu (The President Goes to Honolulu),” created by Le hoang Cuong in 1966 in Cholon, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

University Archives and Special Collections holds a collection of eighteen children’s drawings that document life in Vietnam in the 1960s. The drawings were made possible by various world peace organizations and activists, including the American Friends Service Committee, the Committee of Responsibility, and Le van Khoa. 

Child's drawing of Batman standing on grass with a building in the background

“Batman,” created by Vo Phuc Hai in 1966 in Cholon, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

These drawings were created by Vietnamese children around 1966 as resource materials for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The AFSC is a Quaker organization that was formed in 1917 by the Religious Society of Friends in order to aid civilians who were affected by World War I. In the 1960s, they helped build anti-war coalitions to challenge U.S. policy in Vietnam (1). Today, they continue to work to improve racial relations around the globe, advocating for social justice and peace. 

Child's drawing: a house with clouds and a tree

“Canh Nha Que (Country Scene),” created by Nguyen Huu Cuong in 1966 in Thi Nghe, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

Le van Khoa is a music composer, photographer, and educator who arrived in the United States from Vietnam in May 1975 as a war refugee (2). He was born to a working-class family on June 10, 1933, in Can-Tho, a city in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. As a child, Le van Khoa taught himself how to read and play music, which ultimately led him to win an award at age nineteen for two songs he had composed and submitted to a national music contest (2).

Child's drawing: a woman standing and a person rowing a boat

“Chinh Phu (Soldier’s Wife),” created by Vu thi Bich Tram in 1966 in Gia Dinh, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

Le van Khoa’s success earned him a job as a host for a children’s television show, World of Children (2). In addition to his passion for music, Le van Khoa is a renowned photographer who co-founded the Artistic Photography Association of Vietnam and published three books (3). The Special Collections and University Archives department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is home to a small collection of his photographs, which focus on life in Vietnam (3). The drawings were submitted to a contest that Le van Khoa sponsored in connection with World of Children, and he later donated the drawings to the Committee of Responsibility in an effort to help raise funds for Vietnam (4). 

Child's drawing: a smiling cat holding an umbrella in the rain

“Con Meo Xach O (Cat With Umbrella),” created by Ta thai Duong in 1966 in Cholon, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

The Committee of Responsibility (COR) was formed in 1966 by medical personnel, scientists, religious leaders, and other conscious citizens to assist Vietnamese children under the age of sixteen. The Committee provided medical assistance by bringing children to the United States for various treatments and rehabilitation. Around 100 children were treated by this program, and after completing their treatment, nearly all of them returned to Vietnam (5).

These images range from lighthearted cartoon characters and nature scenes to emotional depictions of soldiers and war. The drawings contextualize the impact of the Vietnam War from a Vietnamese perspective; researchers who study the residual effects of war on civilians and children will find this collection to be particularly valuable.


References and further reading

1. “Vietnam Summer,” American Friends Service Committee, accessed April 23, 2020, https://www.afsc.org/vietnamsummer.

2. “Le Van Khoa Collection,” UMass Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, accessed April 23, 2020, http://findingaids.library.umass.edu/ead/mums170.

3. “Le Van Khoa Photograph Collection,” UMass Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, accessed April 23, 2020, http://scua.library.umass.edu/umarmot/vietnam/.

4. “American Friends Service Committee, Vietnam Curriculum Project: children’s drawings and resource materials, 1954-1977, bulk 1963-1976,” UMass Boston Digital Collections, Joseph P. Healey Library, accessed April 23, 2020, https://openarchives.umb.edu/digital/collection/p15774coll8/id/135/rec/1.

5. “Committee of Responsibility Records, 1966-1978,” Swarthmore College Peace Collection, last modified February 9, 2018, https://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/DG151-175/DG173COR.htm.

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Doug Clifford’s “Return to Vietnam”: Photographs document a Vietnam War veteran’s trip to Hanoi in 1988

Black-and-white photo of a woman farmer with a man and young child

Woman Farmer in Dalat Agricultural Region, 1988

Author: Shay Park, Archives Assistant

In 1988, educator, photographer, and UMass Boston alumnus Doug Clifford traveled to Vietnam with his wife. It was not Clifford’s first time to Vietnam, however. He served as an aerial reconnaissance film-lab technician during the Vietnam War—in other words, a photographer, who was trained by the United States Air Force along with other military cameramen to photograph the war. Reflecting on his first impressions of Vietnam, Clifford experienced “a sharp contrast” with the images he had seen in the U.S. media, which he understood to be invested in “how we could identify with American GIs, and how without substance or context were the Vietnamese” (1). Clifford saw this as one version of reality, with the other being “the reality of Vietnam” populated by “not just soldiers, VC and ARVN, but schoolchildren, farmers, merchants, and the countless others who worked at the bases”:

I tried to present Vietnam as a place where people lived, worked, went to school, and struggled with their lives, in spite of the war…. I wanted to take pictures of little children looking like children; I wanted the landscape to be shown for its beauty: the tropical sunsets were spectacular and with the monsoon came every shade of green, from rice stalks to the grass on the hills; and on some days the Central Highlands rose up through the low cloud cover like a panorama in a Chinese screen painting (1).

Black-and-white photo of two boys posing in a field in front of a woman and water buffalo

Two Young Boys Poised Happily While Older Woman Tended to Water Buffalo, 1988

Though that is how Clifford described the photographs he took while stationed at Phu Cat Air Base from 1968 to 1969, that perspective of Vietnam and its people likely influenced the photographs he took on his return trip in 1988. These photographs, held in the Healey Library’s University Archives and Special Collections department, were originally exhibited and held by the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass Boston. There are fifteen black-and-white photographs, and almost all feature human subjects, often children, many with their faces turned towards the camera. View the finding aid for this photograph collection.

Woman sits on a sidewalk and people ride bicycles in front of the Central Bank

Center of Hanoi on a Busy Weekend in Front of the Central Bank, 1988

In “Woman Farmer in Dalat Agricultural Region” a woman stands in front of harvested root vegetables. Her mouth is open and smiling, as if she is speaking to someone just out of the frame. Behind her stands a small child staring directly into the lens. The pattern of the child’s sweater is cheerful even in black and white. Other photographs are less candid but still lively. The children in “Two Young Boys Poised Happily While Older Woman Tended to Water Buffalo” are captured in close-up making faces at the camera. One smiles widely and the other scowls playfully. In the background and out of focus are the older woman and water buffalo, both turned away from the camera and the boys’ antics.

“Center of Hanoi on a Busy Weekend in Front of the Central Bank” shows a different scene, an urban street outside the State Bank of Vietnam in Hanoi. The image is framed by the sidewalk below and the boughs of a tree hanging above. Taken from behind a person crouched on the sidewalk, one can see bicycles crossing back and forth across the frame. A bus is visible behind the trees that line the front of the bank. A portrait of Ho Chí Minh overlooks the people moving about their day.

Two women sit with a guitar and a travel bag

Pleiku Air Base, 1988

Two of the most striking photographs in the collection—“Pleiku Air Base” and “Rice Farming, near Phu Cat”—may not have been taken during his 1988 trip but were acquired together with the other photographs. In “Pleiku Air Base,” two women sit on a short wooden barrier, both dressed in fashionable camouflage print. One woman holds magazines in both hands and appears to be talking to someone out of frame, while the other looks down with a serious expression, playing a worn-looking guitar covered in tape. Pleiku Air Base was used by the United States Army during the Vietnam War but in 1975 was seized by the Vietnam People’s Army and then abandoned. Eventually it was developed into the Pleiku Airport for civilians. “Rice Farming, near Phu Cat” shows rice farmers miniaturized by the surrounding rice paddy. Unlike many of the other photographs in the collection, the environment dominates the frame. The expansive landscape makes it difficult to immediately perceive depth; only the farmers and the trees mark the relative distances.

Four people work in a rice field

Rice Farming, near Phu Cat, 1988

Following the Vietnam War, Clifford returned to the U.S. and enrolled in classes at UMass Boston, including a few photography courses. Clifford’s work has been published in a variety of places, including student newspapers and The Vietnam Experience, a book series on the Vietnam War published by Time Life. Clifford was also an educator, beginning as a tutor in the Veterans Program at UMass Boston and retiring as an English professor at Bunker Hill Community College. In 2014, Clifford participated in a video interview about his time as a UMass Boston student for the UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show. In 2016, the Walter Grossmann Gallery in Healey Library at UMass Boston hosted an exhibit titled “Cuba Photographs, December 2015” that featured thirty photographs from Clifford’s trip to Cuba just six months after the United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations. For Doug Clifford’s full remarks on his experiences as a photographer during the Vietnam War, visit his profile on the National Veterans Art Museum Collection Online.


References and further reading

1. “Douglas Clifford.” National Veterans Art Museum Collection Online, https://collection.nvam.org/ index.php?artist=Clifford%2C+Douglas.

2. Doug Clifford at the UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show: Video Interview. UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show collection. University Archives and Special Collections, Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston, https://openarchives.umb.edu/digital/collection/p15774coll6/id/8384/rec/3.

3. Elder, Andrew. “Photographs by Doug Clifford show Cuba in December 2015, six months after restored diplomatic relations with the U.S.” Open Archives News. University Archives and Special Collections, Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston, 30 November, 2016, https://blogs.umb.edu/archives/2016/11/30/photographs-by-Doug-clifford-show-cuba-in-december-2015-six-months-after-restored-diplomatic-relations-with-the-u-s.

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Collections document history of the Vietnam War, local activism, and community groups

University Archives & Special Collections (UASC) in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that six collections of previously unavailable archival material are now open for research. This is the fifth of a series of posts to announce newly available collections, toward the goal of making all of UASC’s collections, both processed and unprocessed, open for research. Collections that have not been processed, or that are minimally processed, will be made available upon request to researchers in approximately two to three weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the collection. Contact library.archives@umb.edu for more information.

To learn more about the collections that were made available this week, click the collection title in the list below.

  • Voice of Women records, 1962-1993: The Voice of Women organization was founded in 1960 to protest the Vietnam War and continued afterwards to advocate for disarmament. The organization collected materials related to other peace organizations in Massachusetts, and members conducted teach-ins, sit-ins, and protests in Newton and Boston. Peak activity was in the 1960s-1970s with women also running the Peace Boutique, a craft and gift shop of peace-related items that also served as a meeting place. These records document the interests and activities of the Voice of Women. Materials consist of reports, correspondence, notes, pamphlets, flyers, newsletters, correspondence, magazines, publications, clippings, and articles. Topics include Vietnam and other countries in conflict, such as Cambodia, as well as disarmament, peace movements, children and women in conflict zones, and American civilian and government official reactions.
  • Karen Turner Ho Chi Minh Trail papers, circa 1959-1999: Karen Turner is a historian at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her research interest developed during her time in college in the 1970s and focuses on the study of gender and its intersections with violence, particularly in the Vietnam War and published on topics relating to East Asia, and on gender in relation to law and politics.
    Two black and white photographs depicting Vietnamese women soldiers, date unknown

    Photographs from the Karen Turner Ho Chi Minh Trail papers, circa 1959-1999

    Karen Turner has made multiple trips to Vietnam and has conducted oral histories with women soldiers from the Vietnam War. These papers collected by Turner document the Ho Chi Minh Trail experience during the Vietnam War. Materials consist of translated manuscripts, photographs, and printouts. The images depict Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War, and the text describes the experiences of people there.

  • Coalition for Community Control of Development, 1986-2015: The Coalition for Community Control of Development (CCCD) was a local activist organization in the 1980s and 1990s with the goal of helping communities in Boston create ways to control the development of their neighborhoods. Some of the issues they helped address included tenant advocacy, strategies for helping communities organize, and environmental concerns within neighborhoods. One area of importance in which the CCCD helped communities strategize was how to advocate for or against real estate development. Materials consist of meeting records, articles, correspondence, notes, pamphlets, flyers, clippings, photographs, contact sheets, negatives, and questionnaires on topics relating to the organization, its activities, and the tenants and neighborhoods in Boston.
  • Dorchester Day ephemera, 1976-1988: Dorchester Day, also known as Dot Day, has been held since 1904 to celebrate the founding of the town of Dorchester in 1630. Typically held at the end of May through the first week of June, the event includes a parade, reenactment, banquet, road races, a doll carriage and bicycle contest, open house and flea market at Dorchester Historical Society, essay contest, soap box derby, and other events, along with vendors and speakers. The parade route typically begins on Dorchester Avenue at Pierce Square (Lower Mills) and ends at St. Margaret’s Church on Columbia Road and Dorchester Avenue.
    Two flyers advertising Dorchester Day, 1978

    Dorchester Day flyers, 1978

    These records document the Dorchester Day event’s programming and marketing activities. Materials consist of flyers, clippings and articles, programs, and rosters.

  • Monday Evening Club ledgers, 1906-1913: The Monday Evening Club met in Boston, Massachusetts, in the early twentieth century for the purpose of dinners with discussions on topics of interest, usually scientific, approved of by members. Materials consist of two ledgers kept by the secretary, including meeting minutes, both on club business and educational talks, and club information, such as voting in new members, costs of meetings, and officer ballots and voting.
  • Peace Action records, circa 1983-1993: Peace Action is a national grassroots organization composed of state and local groups, chapters, and affiliates. Massachusetts Peace Action began in the 1980s as Massachusetts FREEZE, and joined the Boston branch of SANE in 1987 at the same time as the national organization. The Boston chapter participated both on the local and national level in peace campaigns within Massachusetts and national political action towards disarmament and demilitarization under the direction of the organization’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Materials consist of meeting minutes, correspondence, publications, flyers, articles, clippings, and other supplementary materials relating to topics relevant to the organization, including nuclear war, military and political policies, demilitarization, disarmament, and other contemporary issues related to their peace-making campaigns.

For questions about these collections or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Exhibition celebrates thirty-year history of Joiner Institute’s Writers’ Workshop

The exhibition includes two wall displays. Pictured here, attendees at the exhibition’s opening reception view mounted translations of Zen poems from early Vietnam.

Earlier this summer, University Archives & Special Collections worked with staff from the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass Boston on an exhibition celebrating the thirty-year history of the Institute’s Writers’ Workshop.

The display, in the Walter Grossmann Memorial Gallery in the Healey Library, includes a range of materials related to the Writers’ Workshop, as well as archival materials, photographs, and artwork from the Archives’ Joiner Institute collections.

This year’s Writers’ Workshop Festival and Celebration, which was held in June, “celebrated 30 years of community and creative responses to war” and continued the Institute’s “tradition of focusing on the intersections of writing, war, social justice, and peace making.” In this exhibit, we look back on the history of the Writers’ Workshop, as well as the wide range of accomplishments and activities of the Joiner Institute since it was established in 1982. Additionally, this display features materials from a number of archival collections in University Archives & Special Collections that document the history of the Vietnam War (many materials were originally collected by or in collaboration with the Joiner Institute).

This display was organized in close collaboration with the Joiner Institute.

University Archives & Special Collections has curatorial responsibility for material acquired by the William Joiner Institute (formerly the William Joiner Center) as part of its mission to study the effects of the Vietnam War on our society, as well as the study of war and social consequences more broadly. The collections of archives, manuscripts, photographs, and videos primarily explore veterans’ issues and experiences.

Explore the Joiner Center/Institute collections and collections related to war and social consequences. For a guide to researching the Vietnam War, click here.

Visit the display in the Grossmann Gallery on the 5th floor of the Healey Library at UMass Boston. The exhibition will run through the fall of 2017.

For questions about the exhibition and these collections, or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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In the Archives: The Papers of an Antiwar Activist

Perrin, Richard. G.I. Resister: The Story of How One American Soldier and His Family Fought the War in Vietnam. Trafford Publishing, 2001.

Perrin, Richard. G.I. Resister: The Story of How One American Soldier and His Family Fought the War in Vietnam. Trafford Publishing, 2001.

Massachusetts native Richard Perrin enlisted in the United States Army in 1967. Soon after his enlistment, he became an antiwar activist, and was particularly opposed to the Vietnam War. Perrin and several others in the Army began distributing antiwar leaflets and the publication The Bond. Perrin’s antiwar activities eventually resulted in a court-martial for a minor pass infraction. In September 1967, Perrin deserted the Army, traveling by train from Heidelberg to Paris. While in Paris, Perrin connected with other deserters and formed Resistance Inside the Army (RITA). This Wikipedia entry offers a brief summary of RITA’s history and activities. RITA published a newsletter, ACT, which is considered the first underground GI paper. ACT had a mailing list of about ten thousand and had a worldwide circulation. In Perrin’s own words, “it turned on a lot of guys and opened up a lot of avenues.”

"Cloak and dagger: U.S. deserters at Paris press conference." Newsweek. February 26, 1968.

“Cloak and dagger: U.S. deserters at Paris press conference.” Newsweek. February 26, 1968.

In 1969, Perrin left France for Regina, Saskatchewan, where he taught a university seminar on the US Army and founded the Regina Committee of American Deserters, which provided housing and other assistance to military deserters. In 1975, Perrin was granted amnesty in the United States. In 2001, he published his autobiography, G.I Resister: The Story of How One American Soldier and His Family Fought the War in Vietnam.

Regina Committee of American Deserters (RCAD) stamps

Regina Committee of American Deserters (RCAD) stamps

Richard Perrin donated his papers to University Archives and Special Collections via the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass Boston in July 2001. A large portion of his papers comprises correspondence between Perrin and his family members, documenting his life after he graduated from high school, his experiences in the Army after enlistment, and his desertion to Paris in the fall of 1967. The collection also contains a newspaper-clipping scrapbook of Perrin’s activities which was assembled over the years by his mother, Betty Perrin; information on amnesty rights and specific amnesty organizations; information on the Regina Committee of American Deserters; and a copy of Perrin’s book.

Campaign flyer for U.S. House of Representatives election. [1998]

Campaign flyer for U.S. House of Representatives election. [1998]

One folder that may be of particular interest in light of the current US presidential race is a subject file on Bernie Sanders, who was mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s and a member of the US House of Representatives from 1991-2007. The file spans 1975-1998 and includes correspondence between Perrin and Sanders, press coverage, and campaign items.

View the finding aid for the Richard Perrin papers here.

For questions about this collection or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.

aam_c_0To celebrate Archives Month, I will be posting highlights from our collections throughout October. I hope that this will turn into a regular series. To learn more about Archives Month, visit the Society of American Archivists website.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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