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  • Writer's pictureGreg

A side of Vietnam I never knew existed (Part 1)

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

Estate sales can be as dull as ditch water or as fascinating as a museum of world history. The likelihood that it will be the former and the chance that it could be the latter, is why digging for a story is so rewarding.

The sale I found just before Christmas was the perfect gift on my list. In a well-made home tucked in the hills of Shelton, CT I found an item that didn't know it was lost. Among the "cast-offs" of a life well-lived, I found two film reels of 8mm home movies.

By the faded scrawl in ballpoint pen these appeared to be footage of the Vietnam conflict. The opportunity to hold first person perspective of a pivotal point in US/world history literally had my heart racing. What made this discovery more intriguing was a small box next to it containing two more reels - of audio.

I didn't really need to open the case to know what was inside. I watch too many movies. I suddenly had an image in my head of the film, "Apocalypse Now" and one of the calmer scenes where the youngest soldier "Clean" is sitting on the deck of the gunboat (PBR) listening to a tape recorded by his mother. (spoiler) In an attack Clean is killed and the crew stands around his body while listening to the trailing words of his mothers voice. That was a powerful depiction of the "Talk a Tape," which has stayed with me.

Standing there feeling the gravity of my discovery I feared that my excitement would spoil the negotiation to purchase. Without giving away all my tricks, let's just say that 30 minutes and $10 later I was placing my precious cargo gently in the car.

As I drove away, my mind began working on how I would transfer this content so that I could edit it together. After all, I was holding a mini-documentary in my possession - I thought.

With the help of Dominick and Justin, friends with antique stores, I was able to dig up ancient tech and transfer both the film and the audio reel to a digital format. It wasn't easy, but I was too excited to let any barrier in technology - analog or digital - stand in my way.

One thing still holds true; the quality and durability of things built/produced over 50 years ago enabled these lost items to be transferred with acceptable quality.

Editing them into a final story told with video is where the story of a simple find turns into and even better tale of serendipity and redemption. ( Part 2 coming soon....)

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