Harry Mitchell, Oral History Moment
This is an audio recording of an Oral History Moment with Harry Mitchell. An Oral History Moment is a small segment of clips from an oral history interview presented by a narrator. The interview was conducted October 22, 2015. The interviewer is Rachel Branch. The script author is Nick Sprenger, and the narrator is Allan Folsom.
In this interview, Harry Mitchell discusses his service as a Marine during the Vietnam War and Tet Offensive, his struggles with PTSD, and the negative reception he received upon his return home.
Harry Thomas Mitchell was born in Welch, West Virginia on November 3, 1966. Mitchell joined the Marines on his 17th birthday, upholding a long standing family tradition of military service. Mitchell received his training in Parris Island, South Carolina. While in boot camp, the recruits were told that three quarters of them would be shipped to Vietnam. Following boot camp, Mitchell attended infantry and radio operator training.
By his eighteenth birthday, Mitchell was in Vietnam. Mitchell initially served as a field radio operator, and later in an infantry unit. On January 19, 1968, Mitchell was flown from Dong Ha to Khe Sanh, which is where he was stationed when the Tet Offensive launched. He recalls his experiences during that conflict and the difficulty of witnessing death and destruction and the loss of comrades. Mitchell was wounded twice during his service, which earned him the Purple Heart.
Mitchell found himself disconnected from life on the home front, receiving only one letter from his father, and disconnected from anything else that was going on during the war, unless his unit was involved. Mitchell discusses troop morale, opinions about war protests, and the bond between members of his unit.
Mitchell finished his tour of duty and returned to the United States. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton, with the 5th Anti-Tank Battalion. He eventually received a medical discharge, due to struggling with PTSD. He recalls the difficulty of returning home, with both civilians and his own family members treating him with disrespect.
Out of Mitchell's eight cousins who went to Vietnam, four were killed, and the rest were wounded at least twice. Mitchell never realized his service meant anything to his mother, but when he moved back home in 1996, his mother encouraged him to display his medals from the war. He says the first thing she did every time she came to his house from then on was to make sure he was displaying his medals.
Special Collections and University Archives
Mitchell, Harry; Branch, Rachel; Folsom, Allan; and Sprenger, Nick, "Harry Mitchell, Oral History Moment" (2015-10-22). All Oral Histories. 108.
Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Vietnam War -- Protest movements -- United States; Tet Offensive, 1968; United States. Marine Corps; Purple Heart; Post-traumatic stress disorder
East Texas War and Memory Project; ETWMP; PTSD