Latest News, WVPA Sharing

Vietnam seen through West Virginians’ eyes


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Per capita, a higher percentage of West Virginians served and died in the Vietnam War than any other state, notes Suzanne Higgins, who has written and produced the one-hour documentary “Vietnam: West Virginians Remember.”

Cabin Creek native Dave Evans lost both his legs at age 18 in Vietnam. He has spent his life traveling to war-torn countries and fitting prosthetics to victims of conflict. He is among the Vietnam veterans featured in a new document on WVPB on the war’s impact seen through the eyes of West Virginians who served.
(Submitted photo)

The documentary will air on West Virginia Public Broadcasting at 8 p.m. today, with encore presentations at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 and 24, along with public screenings across the state.

The documentary coincides with the national release of “The Vietnam War,” a 10-part, 18-hour documentary film series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, set to premiere on public broadcasting starting Sept. 17.

According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, 36,578 West Virginians served in the Vietnam War with 1,182 killed, which was a higher death rate per 10,000 citizens than other states.

The documentary makes the point that everyone had their own perspective on the war, she added. Not everyone felt disillusioned and disengaged afterwards, said Higgins. “But many did.”

It depended on your assignment, she said.

“Only a fraction were out front under fire the majority of their tour. Many were stationed back on base, had other supporting and very vital assignments, but weren’t out in front with an assignment to draw enemy fire.”

The combat solder’s assignment was to attract enemy fire and then a radio operator would call in for air support, she said.

“That kind of stress, tension, walking in jungles that are booby trapped, that are riddled with tunnels where the enemy just disappears — that plays havoc on your psyche. That leaves scars,” she said.

Among the servicemen profiled and their years of service are: Dave Evans, U.S. Marine Corps, 1969-1971; Mossie Wright, U.S Army, 1969-1970; Lou Nutter, U.S. Army, 1971-1972; Paul Casto, U.S. Marine Corps, 1967-1969; Stephen Coonts, U.S. Navy, Vietnam 1969–1971; and Ed Rabel, a CBS News war correspondent, who grew up in St. Albans.

Dave Evans lost both his legs after encountering an explosive booby-trap along a rice paddy dike. Evans has spent the last 30 years traveling to war-torn countries, fitting victims of war with prosthetic limbs.

“I went there [Vietnam] wanting to defend the Constitution and I believe my activity in the anti-war movement when I returned was also in defense of the U.S. Constitution,” Evans told Higgins.

“When you send an 18-year-old kid to war and they cross that bridge from peacetime into wartime, there’s no way they ever come back,” said Evans. “There’s no way. That bridge is burnt. You’ve changed forever.”

“Vietnam: West Virginians Remember” will be screened at:
Bluefield High School, 535 West Cumberland Road, Bluefield.

Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Contact: Steve Hopta, 304-320-1572

Concord University

Friday, 2 p.m.

Concord’s Fine Arts Theater, Athens, W.Va.

Contact: Chuck Elliott, 304-384-5334


Sept. 21, 6 p.m.

WVU-P College Activities Center

Contact: Jeff Olson 304-549-4599

Panel discussion with college representatives and local veterans.


WVU Libraries

Sept. 27, 4 p.m.

Mountainlair Gluck Theater, 1549 University Ave, Morgantown, W.Va.

Contact: Danielle Emerling, 304-293-2574.

Will include a round-table discussion with WVU faculty members and Suzanne Higgins, documentary producer.

Brooke County Library

Sept. 29, Noon

945 Main Street, Wellsburg, W.Va. 26070.

Contact Alex Eberle: [email protected]

Popcorn will be served.

Ohio County Public Library

Nov. 10, 7 p.m.

52 16th Street, Wheeling, W.Va.

Contact: Erin Rothenbueler: 304-232-0244

See more from the Charleston Gazette-Mail

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address