This plastic casing protects a reel of film on which U.S. Army Private Frank A. Kowalczyk recorded an audio message to his family during the Vietnam War. On the 45-minute message recorded over a number of days in March 1969, Kowalczyk talks about his experiences in the military and in Vietnam, friends he has made and his plans for the future. He also enquires after various family members and friends back in Illinois and makes references to letters received from them.
Frank Kowalczyk was with HQ 46th Engineers Battalion, 20th Brigade in Long Bihn Vietnam and at the time of this recording, was being transferred to B Co. in Saigon. He was in Vietnam for a total of 11 months and 20 days and left Vietnam and the U.S. Army at rank of Spec/4 (or E4).
Personal tape recordings were encouraged during the Vietnam War. The American Red Cross ran a ‘Voices from Home’ program to assist families to record messages at small recording studios, and set up facilities in Vietnam and the Pacific for the use of service members. The relative simplicity and affordability of the equipment also meant that some families and servicemen had their own recording equipment, as was the case for Frank Kowalczyk. It was widely believed that the tapes helped boost morale, as separated families and servicemen often remarked that hearing a loved one’s voice was the closest thing to being reunited.
Free mail allowances included sound recorded communication sent by military personnel in combat zones (referred to in this “letter” between minutes 39 and 40); and, the Post Office Department included “personal tape recording” parcels under the “space available military” (SAM) transportation program to airlift mail on U.S. commercial airlines to military personnel overseas.
The logistics of the Vietnam War required special procedures to be put in place to ensure that mail reached the serving units. All outgoing mail was initially processed through San Francisco, California though Seattle, Washington was added as the volume of mail increased. From there it was transported by chartered commercial airlines to military Post Offices in Vietnam.
Museum ID: 2011.2020.1