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Art & Lee Beltrone, Vietnam Graffiti: Messages from a Forgotten Troopship September 24, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Books, History, Radio.
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Posing with Vietnam Graffiti while writing this post

Last October, early in my Homecoming Weekend radio show on WCWP, fellow alumnus Art Beltrone, who hosted the show before mine, gave me a copy of a book he published in 2004 with his wife Lee. The book is called Vietnam Graffiti: Messages from a Forgotten Troopship.

It took nearly a year to read the book, but I finally did over three days last week.

One morning in February 1997, Art and Lee Beltrone traveled with Jack Fisk – their Keswick, Virginia, neighbor – to the James River Reserve Fleet near Fort Eustis. They assisted Fisk in research for the upcoming World War II movie The Thin Red Line. Among the ships they toured in the fleet was the General Nelson M. Walker.

The Walker dated back to the end of World War II, when it went by the Admiral H.T. Mayo. But touring the ship revealed it was a time capsule to the Vietnam era. Machinery, utensils, cleaning supplies, tables, chairs, and bunks were among the artifacts aboard, mostly intact. Soldiers bound for Vietnam wrote graffiti on the bunk canvases, including sketches, poetry, names, and personal messages.

The discovery led to a traveling exhibit called “Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam,” which has traveled for 15 years to 35 states and over 70 venues. The exhibit will open at the National WWI (World War I) Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, and will open this November 8 and end May 31 next year. Beltrone’s exhibit is part of the New York Historical Society‘s exhibit called “The Vietnam War: 1945-1975.”

Vietnam Graffiti consists of Art’s written recollections of the Walker tour and Lee’s photographs of the fleet, the ship, and artifacts therein. There are also profiles of a few surviving veterans. I won’t spoil this post with excerpts. You’ll have to read and see for yourself. It sells for $25.

The book is 88 pages worth reading and viewing. I should have read it sooner. Thank you, Art, for blessing me with a copy, and thank you to all the soldiers who served aboard the Mayo/Walker.

In the years since the book’s publication, the Vietnam Graffiti Project was formed. On their behalf, during his show last October (1960s Post Scripts), Art presented Dan Cox, WCWP’s director of broadcasting, with one of the bunk canvases found on the Walker:

Comments»

1. Chimeri William - September 24, 2019

Sounds like a good book.

Mike C. - September 24, 2019

Definitely.


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