Collecting Oral Histories from NYC’s Vietnam Veterans

November 08, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Since 2004, Philip Napoli has been collecting and preserving the memories of New York City’s veterans, a population which currently exceeds 80,000 men and women.  After interviewing almost 200 veterans and recording over 600 hours of audio, Napoli’s oral history project has resulted in a book: “Bringing It All Back Home: An Oral History of New York City’s Vietnam Veterans“.

The book aims to understand the history of the Vietnam War through the eyes of one of the county’s largest cities.

“We sent more soldiers to Vietnam than any other major American city.  We have the largest contingent of soldiers.  And we had the most Vietnam veterans coming home.  At one point, some were in the neighborhood of 250,000 veterans were back in New York City in the early 1970s,” Napoli told MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman.

Napoli, an assistant professor of history at Brooklyn College and a researcher for Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation,” said he also spoke with therapists and family members, and spent many more hours informally talking with interview subjects.  The stories he uncovered reveal a diverse population of men and women who endured a wide range of experiences and many of whom are now committed to a legacy of service.