Bruce Whipple

When Bruce Whipple began to collect Vietnam memorabilia, he knew he was after something in specific; he just wasn’t sure what.

So, at gun and knife shows, through fellow collectors and more recently, on the internet, he continued to purchase items of historical significance related to the Vietnam War.  His collection grew from a room in his house to a van’s-worth, to a van-with-a-trailer and finally, to an Army ambulance.  He takes these on the road as a hand’s on museum.  The museum travels to high schools, VVW shows and anyplace where these artifacts of living history can be appreciated.

And yet, he says, “I left the shows with a feeling of depression; somehow, even as my collection grew, I hadn’t quite figured out what I was still missing.’

Bruce’s depression may have sprung from PTSD that resulted from his 1969-1970 tour of duty in the A Shau Valley as part of the 101st Airborne.  As harrowing as his experiences were, a scant two weeks after he shipped out, his fire base was overrun, and many friends and former comrades lost their life. 

As is well-documented, the near-misses can have as detrimental an effect on one’s mental health as the direct hits.

“In ways, my time in Vietnam seems like a two-year dream,” he says.  “When I got back, nothing that happened over there seemed real.  That’s why I assembled photo albums, and then, began to collect items to authenticate what the picture’s showed.”

And this, he discovered, proved key to figuring out exactly ‘what he was missing’.

Whipple now understands that it wasn’t a specific item he was looking for, but a validation of his experience and those of other men who, upon returning home, never spoke of their experiences.  Handling the items in Whipple’s museum allows them to verbalize.

“Equally, it’s a way to honor the men who were not as fortunate as me; those who never came home.

“I believe that this is why God kept me alive,” he nods.  “So that I could keep them alive in people’s memories.  That’s why I continue to collect…”



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