Vietnam Center & Archive News and Updates
For all the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us and our freedoms, thank you. Happy Memorial Day from the Vietnam Center and Archive staff.
Over the past nine months the staff of the Vietnam Archive have undertaken a project to convert all of the digitized document PDFs in the Virtual Vietnam Archive into a searchable format. This project is now complete. Over 275,000 files were re-processed in the course of this project.
When the Virtual Archive was started in 2001 the majority of Internet users were on dial-up connections, so in order to keep file sizes as small as possible, the decision was made to not save digitized documents as searchable PDFs. OCR (Optical Character Recognition) was performed on the documents, and the text that was generated was added to the database for searching, but the PDF was not saved with that text embedded in it. Now, with more users having access to high-speed connections, and with the availability of better compression technology for PDFs, we have gone back and embedded the OCR into these documents, allowing users to search for words within the PDF. To search for a word or phrase in a PDF, open the file and hit ctrl+F on your keyboard. Please note that the quality of the document affects the quality of the OCR text. If the digital image of the document is very scratchy or grainy, the OCR may not have been able to pick out as many words as it would with a higher quality document. The CDEC collection is a good example of this. The quality of the microfilm that was digitized was not very good, and we were therefore unable to run successful OCR on that collection. Additionally, hand-written documents will not be searchable.
Some users may be required to update to newer versions of their PDF readers. Versions of Adobe Reader older than Version 6 will not be able to access the modified PDFs or PDFs newly added to the Virtual Archive. Adobe Reader can be downloaded free from the Adobe website – http://get.adobe.com/reader/?promoid=BUIGO
Forty-three years ago today the North Vietnamese launched a massive countrywide attack against almost all of the major cities and province capitals in South Vietnam, breaking the truce called for the Tết holiday and forever changing the course of the war. This countrywide assault became known as the Tet Offensive. To commemorate this historic event, the staff of the Vietnam Archive have created exhibits detailing the events of the Tet Offensive and three of the offensive’s major battles: Hue – the Imperial City, the Battle of Khe Sanh, and the Battle for Saigon. In addition to the exhibits, there is a new subject guide to help people locate materials about the Tet Offensive in our collection. Links to the exhibits and subject guide are below.
The Tet Offensive
Tet Offensive Subject Guide
The Vietnam Archive has a collection of over 12,000 Marine Corps records covering after-action reports, command chronologies and other documents for most of the Marine units serving in Vietnam. These records,shared with the archive by the Marine Corps History Division, are a valuable resource for anyone researching the Marines in the Vietnam War.
These records have been available in the Virtual Vietnam Archive for many years. However, many of the records were incorrectly labeled or could only be found in the database using specialized terms. After extensive database work, the Vietnam Archive archivists have fixed the errors and removed the specialized jargon terms so that the records are much easier to locate.
In addition to these fixes, the documents themselves are now fully word-searchable. The Vietnam Archive has undertaken a project to convert all of the over 3 million pages of digitized documents in the Virtual Vietnam Archive into word-searchable PDFs, and the conversion of the Marine Corps documents is now complete. Please note that the quality of the word-search capability is dependent on a number of factors, including the quality of the original. The worse the condition of the original scan, the lower the accuracy of the word-search function. To search for words within the PDF’s (in Adobe Reader), simply open the PDF, hold down the Ctrl key and F key and type in your keyword and hit enter. If the word is in the document, you will be taken to the page where the word is located, and the word will be highlighed with color – a great timesaving device.
As PDFs are converted into the word-searchable format, some users may be required to update to newer versions of their PDF readers. Versions of Adobe Reader older than Version 6 will not be able to access the modified PDFs, or PDFs newly added to the Virtual Archive. Adobe Reader can be downloaded free from the Adobe website – http://get.adobe.com/reader/?promoid=BUIGO
If you have not seen the Marine Corps records check out the new and improved version in the Virtual Archive. They are worth a look.
In honor of the holidays The Vietnam Center and Archive will be closed from Christmas Eve, December 24, through January 3. Happy Holidays Y’all!
The Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC) Microfilm Collection is one of our most often used collections, and one on the most frustrating to access due to its lack of a useful index. The collection contains a variety of documents captured from the North Vietnamese and Vietcong during the war, and is an invaluable resource for researchers. Since 2004, we have been working on adding the materials from this collection to the Virtual Vietnam Archive, and have currently added over 39,000 files (325,000 pages), representing just a fraction of this collection. Thousands of new pages are added each month.
The Vietnam Center and Archive, with the assistance of the Defense Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) and the Texas Tech Computer Science Department, is currently working on a project to make the entire collection available online, including the metadata from the 8-bit coding created by the Filesearch machine during the original filming of the materials during the war.
For more information about CDEC, including a brief history of the collection, instructions for searching for items in the Virtual Vietnam Archive, and our future plans for making the entire collection available online, see our new Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC) Collection Digitization Project page.
A unique item from the Farley E. Peebles collection is now available online – an aerial photograph and a base layout plan of the Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam. The layout shows all the buildings, runways, roads, and borders of the base, and the locations of gates, towers, posts, and K-9 posts have been marked.
The aerial photo and the base layout were attached together when they were donated to the archive, but have been separated for preservation purposes. Both items are now available for viewing online as images, and the layout plan is also available as a PDF. This is just one example of the many unique items that are added to the Virtual Vietnam Archive every day.
Our congratulations to Jake Bitonel, who has been with the Virtual Vietnam Archive as a student scanner for over three years, on his graduation from Texas Tech University. In May 2010, Jake received a B.S. with a Major in Exercise Sports Science and a Minor in Military Studies, as well as being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the U.S. Army. As part of his ROTC awards, in April he attended the prestigious, three-day General George C. Marshall Army ROTC Awards Seminar in Lexington, Virginia, which is awarded to the top first-class cadet in each ROTC program in the country based on scholarship, leadership, physical fitness and community involvement. At the TTU ROTC Awards Ceremony in May he was awarded the United Daughters of the Confederacy Saber for outstanding leadership and contribution as a cadet. In October, Second Lieutenant Bitonel will attend Helicopter Flight School at Fort Rucker, Alabama. We thank Jake for his contributions to the Virtual Vietnam Archive, both in helping to make documents available for researchers, and for sharing his extensive knowledge to identify all things military.
Session videos from the 2010 Vietnam Center Conference “Lessons Learned, Lessons Lost: Counterinsurgency from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan” are now available online on the Conference Sessions Videos page and in the Virtual Vietnam Archive.
This conference was held on March 4th-5th at the SAIS Kenney Auditorium in Washington, DC, and was co-hosted by the Vietnam Center and Archive, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, and the Center for a New America Security. Sessions included panels on Strategic Policy for Civil-Military Operations in Vietnam; Strategy and Tactics from CMO Operations in Vietnam; the Vietnam Experience; and Counterinsurgency Operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.