Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Philip F. Napoli's "Bringing It All Back Home"

Philip F. Napoli is an assistant professor of history at Brooklyn College, where he also directs the Veterans Oral History Project. He was one of the chief researchers for Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and An Album of Memories.

Napoli applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Bringing It All Back Home: An Oral History of New York City's Vietnam Veterans, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Bringing It All Back Home is a representative slice of the entire work. The book is an oral history, based on 600 hours of interviews conducted between 2004 and 2010. It tells the stories of a wide range of New Yorkers who went to Vietnam and were profoundly transformed by the experience. Those events of more than 40 years ago continue to shape the way they understand the world around them today.

This page contains quotations from interviews, historical documentation that I have uncovered, and my interpretation of my interviews with Joan Furey, a nurse who served in Vietnam. Arriving as a young woman committed to the cause of anti-communism and believing in the American mission in Vietnam, by late fall she was opposed to the war.

Furey was stationed at a hospital in the central highlands of Vietnam. There the staff planned an antiwar protest – actually a Thanksgiving Day fast -- to attract public attention to G.I. opinion. Additionally, 141 soldiers, including members of the medical staff, signed a letter to President Nixon denouncing American involvement in the war. Furey was among them, and worried that her antiwar attitude and willingness to speak out publicly might lead to a court – martial. While that never happened, nevertheless, word of the fast and the letter to President Nixon spread. Patients would occasionally arrive and ask, "Is this the antiwar hospital?"

At a distance of 40 years, Furey is still proud of what she did. She spoke up publicly — and was even quoted on the front page of the New York Times and on the ABC television news broadcast – and made her views known to the entire nation. But she had to defend her actions to her parents. In a letter to her mother she explained that she participated because "I am a concerned American, because I love my country and I love my people and I do not wish to spend the rest of my life watching them destroy each other – in Vietnam, Africa Egypt, Israel and Nigeria and the United States.”

Oral histories explore the connection between the past and the present. On this page, Furey explicitly engages in the process of recollection and evaluation.
Learn more about Bringing It All Back Home at the publisher's website and Philip F. Napoli's website.

--Marshal Zeringue