1053 – Art Beltrone is saving pieces of Vietnam War history

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The “Johnny from New York’’ canvas is part of an exhibition on the Vietnam War at the New-York Historical Society in Manhattan. Credit Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

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Vietnam Graffiti Project co-founder Art Beltrone and Smithsonian Institution museum specialist Kathleen Golden with canvas.

Episode 1053 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast will feature Art Beltrone and the work he is doing for the Vietnam Graffiti Project. James Barron wrote an article about the project titled: The Hunt for a Vietnam-era Johnny for The New York Times. In his story Barron pointed out that it all started for the Vietnam Graffiti Project back in 1997 when it’s co-founder, the aforementioned, Art Beltrone happened to discover a treasure trove of Vietnam War Era articles and memorabilia. The discovery was made on the General Nelson M. Walker, a transport ship launched in 1945 as the Admiral H.T. Mayo. It transported troops and equipment during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. Since most of the items found by Beltrone were from the Vietnam Era he decided to save them for posterity to see and enjoy.

Beltrone became involved in the search for memorabilia twenty years ago when his neighbor Jack Fisk, the husband of actress Sissy Spacek and a Hollywood film production designer asked him for help. They were getting ready to make the movie “The Thin Red Line.” It was a fictionalized version of the Battle of Mount Austen that took place during the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific Theater of World War II that starred Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Nick Nolte, John C. Reilly and John Travolta.

Beltrone was tasked with finding a troop transport that could be used as a guide in creating realistic interior scenes of the ship. After making a few phone calls he found the Walker, a ship in what was called then the James River Reserve Fleet. Out of more than 100 ships tied up off Newport News, Virginia, the Walker appeared as if it was stored in a time capsule since it was taken out of service in 1967. Beltrone found not only a perfect example of a transport’s interior but also that treasure trove of Vietnam Era mementos.

Listen to episode 1053 and discover what Art Beltrone did with that treasure trove of Vietnam Era mementos.

CLICK HERE for more information about The Vietnam Graffiti Project.

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