Scope and Content
The J. Thomas Burch Papers consist of one linear foot of material which centers on Burch's tour of duty in Vietnam as a Captain in the U.S. Army's Special Forces, most of which is correspondence. Two folders contain a photocopy of Burch's diary, which is a handwritten daily account of the author's experiences from July 1967 to December 1968 as a Judge Advocate (JA) in the 5th Special Forces Group's Judge Advocate office in Nha Trang, South Vietnam. A third folder contains copies of Burch's 'Legal Activities Reports' from the period of 2 March 1968 to 17 November 1968.
Burch's diary gives an account of both his on-duty activities and his leisure time. Burch's assignment as an advisor to South Vietnamese officers and civilian officials led to extensive interaction with the South Vietnamese. His duties often involved aiding the South Vietnamese in the development of their own military legal system and prison reform. His diary often describes these work experiences. Relationships with other Army personnel are also frequent topics. Some information is included on prisoners of war, in this case Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, who were imprisoned by the South Vietnamese, and concerns over their treatment. His work involved some travel in South Vietnam, and Burch describes visits to Da Nang, Hue and Ton Son Nhut among other places.
Burch also participated in combat operations with Special Forces units. His experiences on these 'ambush patrols' are described in the diary. Some had nothing to do with combat, such as his initiation into a Montagnard tribe. Burch attended paratrooper training in Vietnam and this experience is documented in the diary. Burch also gives the reader his perspective of the Tet offensive as he was at Nha Trang when it was attacked.
A significant part of the diary is of a personal nature and deals with Burch's relationships with family and friends and his feelings concerning politics, including his assessment of anti-war protestors. Recreational activities revolve principally around Burch's extensive travels. During his tour in Vietnam Burch traveled to many other places, including Singapore, the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia. These travels are described in the diary. Burch even traveled to Europe and the U.S. during this time, events which were also written up in the diary.
The Legal Activities reports are weekly, typewritten reports to the headquarters of the U.S. Military Assistance Command (MACV) and highlight Burch's work activities. These reports include details on relations between Americans and South Vietnamese and information on the South Vietnamese legal system in an official vein. Testimonies of enemy soldiers, which describe what led them to take up arms against the Americans and South Vietnamese government, are also included.
After the information on POW camps in North Vietnam, there is a paper on 'Resumption of the Bombing of North Vietnam: Pros and Cons' from March 20, 1969. There is also a report on the accounts of two Hanoi artists who defected in April 1969, and a Psyops Policy Paper from December 18, 1968.
Finding Aid, Undated, J. Thomas Burch Collection, The Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University. Accessed 29 May. 2015. <http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?item=0340000000>.
Pub. Credit Line
0340000000, J. Thomas Burch Collection, The Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University