This collection contains the records of the National Vietnam Veterans Coalition (NVVC), a Washington, D.C.-based organization involved in advancing the causes of Vietnam veterans at the national level. The NVVC, founded in 1984, had 78 member organizations in the early 1990s which represented 325,000 individuals. Although most of the documents cover the period 1984 - 1995, there are many documents dated earlier, the oldest being 1945. As the NVVC is a coalition of numerous single-issue or regionally-identified organizations, it has of necessity adopted eight broad goals that the member organizations can rally behind. The goals are: the return of all POWs and the full accountability for all MIAs, maximum relief for Agent Orange victims, the appointment of Vietnam veterans to government policymaking positions, the attainment of meaningful job programs for Vietnam veterans, political support for Vietnam vets from the national political parties, to institute judicial review for Veterans Administration decisions, to enhance public recognition of the service of Vietnam veterans and to ensure priority is given to Vietnam veterans for government loans and contracts. This collection provides documentary evidence of not only the NVVC’s work in pursuit of these goals but an insider’s view of the issues themselves. The collection contains in excess of one hundred files of correspondence categorized as POW/MIA, Agent Orange or Coalition correspondence. Twelve files in the collection are specifically marked William T. Bennett. They contain a good deal of correspondence mixed in with other documents which cover the gamut of Vietnam veteran issues.
The collection has, by far, more documents devoted to the POW/MIA controversy than any other single issue. There are 155 files that contain correspondence and news items specifically related to this issue. A large number of other files document specific aspects of this cause, such as those on the Perot Commission, covert rescue attempts, Soviet/U.S. cooperation in locating POWs and MIAs in Vietnam and Afghanistan, and records of congressional hearings. There are also numerous files on individual organizations affiliated with the NVVC whose own efforts on behalf of POW/MIAs are documented. Agent Orange is another important political issue that is extensively documented in the collection.
The Vietnam War and its aftermath has had a tremendous psychological influence on veterans and Americans in general. The NVVC collection is especially valuable as a resource to investigate this phenomenon. It gives “real-life” documentation of the “psychological impact” of the war through correspondence with veterans, government studies and veterans organizations whose sole purpose is helping veterans afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other psychological disorders. Especially noteworthy are the records, of the North(west) Cascade Vietnam Veterans Rap Group which provide extensive documentation of Vietnam veterans’ readjustment difficulties. On the other hand the collection contains significant material which indicates that many veterans had little difficulty adjusting to civilian life. For many of these veterans their efforts are directed at dispelling the negative image that swirls around Vietnam veterans and the war itself. From the struggle to keep President Reagan true to his commitment to account for all the POW/MIAs (his “highest priority”), to efforts to prevent President Clinton from reestablishing diplomatic relations with Vietnam, the NVVC did business at the highest levels of government. The NVVC’s efforts with national politicians are contained in this collection and are represented by personal letters, congressional testimonies, official government publications, and political endorsements.
In the course of its work the NVVC received or created videos and audio-cassettes. These included interviews with coalition leaders, speeches, and awards ceremonies as well as commercially and privately produced video/audiotapes on veteran experiences, health issues and public events. These have been removed from the collection and placed with the sound and video/film collections in the Archive. Separate lists of each are attached to this finding aid. The old filing system is retained with the parenthesis in order for scholars who have used the collection to retrace their research. The Archivists can provide assistance with such work. The NVVC periodically sends material for addition to the collection and therefore the organization is "open" and designed to facilitate expansion. The new divisions within the NVVC are:
Administrative Files - These files deal with the NVVC administration, including finances, board meetings, organizational events and general administrative material.
Campaign Files - The NVVC's active role the campaigns of 1984, 1988, and 1992 are documented in this series.
Congressional Files - The NVVC also lobbies each incoming administration for the placement of Vietnam veterans in policymaking positions. These files chronicle that effort.
Individual Files - These files consist of material related to individuals with associations to the NVVC or J. Thomas Burch.
Agent Orange Files - The Agent Orange issue follows a close second to the POW/MIA issue in importance and is one the NVVC has had considerable success. The efforts of the NVVC on behalf of Agent Orange victims was rewarded in both 1986 and 1996 when the government agreed to make monetary compensation to veterans victimized by Agent Orange. These files document the role of J. Thomas Burch and the NVVE on the Agent Orange question.
Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Files - The NVVC’s most significant issue and the one that has drawn the most public attention is that of the POW/MIAs. Rallies, news conferences and extensive lobbying efforts have kept this issue in the public eye. One significant result of these
activities was the passage of legislation that declassified POW/MIA documents.
Subject Files - These files represent the general files of J. Thomas Burch and his material from the NVVC. There is some overlap with the Agent Orange and POW/MIA issues.
Veterans Organization Files - This collection contains files on the numerous local, regional and national level Vietnam veterans organizations. These groups run the gamut in size and influence from the tremendously powerful American Legion to small local groups such as the Massac County Vietnam Vets Association. Likewise, the contents of the files of these groups vary. Many have only the initial correspondence between the NVVC and themselves. Other groups have several files containing their documents. Many of the veterans organizations produced newsletters, which are a good source for information on the groups’ character and the issues on which they focused.
Gulf War Files - These files were added to the collection in July 2000 as the organization began to collection information on Gulf War veterans. The material examines Gulf War syndrome.
Original Collection Processed by Fred Allison (August 1996)
Additional Material and Reorganization (July 1998, February 1999, July 2000)
Finding Aid by Ron Frankum
Processed by Ron Frankum - Isaac Dowlen - Chris Heinemeier - Leif