Jewish Military Museum to create Vietnam War exhibit

Marine in Vietnam with Magen David helmet, ca. 1968
Marine in Vietnam with Magen David helmet, ca. 1968 (Photo courtesy of National Museum of American Jewish Military History)

The Vietnam War is one of the longest military engagements in U.S. history, with 2.7 million American men and women serving in the 20-year conflict. It’s this era that will be the focus a new exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington. 

The exhibit will focus on the first-person accounts of Jews who served in the conflict. Michael Rugel, the museum’s programs and content coordinator, said many people today have misconceptions about the Vietnam era and the new exhibit will help shed light on the variety of experiences Jews had in the war. Even though the conflict officially ended in 1975, Rugel said the lessons from the war are still relevant today.

“There’s obviously a lot of parallels between the divisiveness of the Vietnam War and what’s been going on the past few years,” Rugel said. “So it seems like the right time to understand how people in a divided country can still have their own unique personal experiences and how we shouldn’t be looking at this as a monolith.”

The idea for the exhibit has been discussed among museum staff for years, but work only began six months ago. Rugel said the museum has raised enough funds to complete the exhibit, but is still accepting donations as “the more [money] we can get, the better exhibit it’ll be.” The funds will go toward the construction of display cases and the hiring of exhibit designers.

The last permanent exhibit the museum created was its core exhibit on Jews in the American Military, which was unveiled about six years ago, according to Rugel. 

Rugel said the museum is aiming to have the new exhibit completed by Veterans Day in November.

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