Project Talent and the Vietnam Experience
Fifty-one years ago, the United States officially began its military involvement in Vietnam. The conflict involved over 2.6 million American servicemen and women from all branches of the military and of those, around 60,000 would make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The war affected all Americans, service people and civilians alike, and had a profound impact on American life in the 1960s and 70s.
In 1983, Project Talent participants were the subject of a groundbreaking study called Lives after Vietnam (Card, 1983). Approximately half of all males from the class of 1963 who participated in Project Talent either enlisted or were drafted into service during the early years of the Vietnam War. The study examined the impact of active and non-active combat on the lives of veterans upon their return to the United States.
Lives after Vietnam compared 1,500 Project Talent participants from the class of 1963. Of those, 500 served in the Vietnam war zone, 500 served in the military during the same period but were never assigned to Vietnam, and 500 had never served in the military. The pioneering study showed the negative impact of active combat on the physical and psychological wellbeing of combatants. It added compelling evidence to confirm the existence of a syndrome that the American Psychological Association had recently termed ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’.
We recently received a comment from a Vietnam veteran who was curious about the number of Project Talent participants who served in the war. While we are unable to verify this number with certainty at present, the involvement of Project Talent participants in the Vietnam War is an area of great interest to researchers and will receive further attention in the future.
We are always interested in hearing from veterans who participated in the Project Talent study. If you were involved in the Vietnam War, when and in which branch did you serve? For those who were not directly involved in the conflict, what memories do you have of living in America during this time period?