“I did a lot of crazy, dumb, and stupid things while in Vietnam; but none of those things were wrong,” says Pittsburgh’s Michael Flournoy of his duty in Vietnam. War is chaos. It goes against nature. “You are trained to do things that are not what people normally do,” he admits. “You are trained to have a battle mind.”
Immediately before entering the Army, Michael was in the South participating in the civil rights struggle. After being arrested during a voter registration drive in Louisiana for the Congress of Racial Equality, he received his draft notice while sitting in jail. He then served 5 ½ years in the Army, from 1962 to 1968. During that time, he was a member of the 101st Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the First Combat Aviation Brigade. His combat tours of duty were in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam. “We were the nomads of Vietnam,” he says, fighting from the Delta to the DMZ at various times. Many of his missions remain classified.
He went from a youngster who had motion sickness to a soldier who was jumping out of airplanes, what airborne training is like, what it is like to be a member of Army airborne units, and his combat experience – the most compelling of which was his experience in Vietnam.
In April 2013, Vietnam veteran Michael Flournoy joined us for our first veterans oral history educational project at Winchester-Thurston School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was part of our effort to work with teachers and students to provide an interesting workshop covering the oral history process, appropriate interview questions, special considerations when interviewing veterans, active listening skills, and oral history ethics.
KEYWORDS: 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION; 1ST COMBAT AVIATION BRIGADE; 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION; ANTI-WAR PROTEST; CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT; CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY (C.O.R.E); FREEDOM HIGHWAYS PROJECT; INVASION OF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; JUMP SCHOOL; PITTSBURGH, PA; RECONNAISSANCE; REINTEGRATION INTO CIVILIAN LIFE; UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA; US ARMY; VIETNAM WAR; WINCHESTER THURSTON SCHOOL