At the National Archives, you never know who will come in to do some research. A few weeks ago, the Still Pictures and Motion Pictures research rooms hosted about 30 Vietnam Veterans who were interested in researching the records of the Department of Army Special Photography Office– or DASPO for short. The best part about their visit was that these men were actually the creators of these records!
DASPO was started in 1962 at the request of President Kennedy to have the Army document it’s efforts in the Cold War worldwide, especially the “hot war” in Vietnam. The films and photos created were strictly military in content, and they were sent directly to the Pentagon, Department of the Army, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The men of DASPO captured combat action, military movements, and documented how military equipment worked in the field throughout the Vietnam War. As the US pulled the military out of South Vietnam in 1974, DASPO began to downsize, and eventually became Army Special Operations Pictorial Division (ASOPD). Today, the pictorial legacy of DASPO is carried on by the 55th Combat Camera Company out of Fort Meade, MD, as this new unit travels to hot spots around the world.
The men who met in the research rooms of the National Archives belong to the DASPO Combat Photographers Association, which meets every few years to honor friends on the Vietnam War Memorial on the National Mall. Traveling from such far away places as Hawaii, Thailand, and Virginia, they decided this year to look up their records at the National Archives, and we were happy to have them here!
One veteran, Harry Breedlove, immediately saw a photo of himself framed on the wall of the Still Pictures Research Room in College Park.
Harry served in Vietnam after already serving in the Army for 10 years, and filmed for DASPO from 1965-69 and 1970-73. Part of his legacy to DASPO has included the use of one of his photos of soldiers jumping out of a helicopter in Vietnam being used on a US postage stamp as well as on the Vietnam Veterans National Medal.
The visit by the DASPO veterans was a memorable one, and after looking at the photos they created for the federal government, it is apparent that their bravery allowed them to record just what was happening during the Vietnam War.