A Vietnam Veteran Visits U.S. History Class

Douglas Bates speaks to HST 112 classOn November 9, Douglas T. Bates III and his wife, Molly, of Centerville, Tennessee, visited Dr. Andrew Offenburger’s class on post-1865 U.S. history. Bates, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a practicing lawyer, spoke with students about the colonial roots of Vietnam’s history, about his experiences in the 1960s and during the War, and about historical perspective and bias.

Bates was a military policeman in Vietnam and escorted shipments of armaments and goods between the coast and the interior. His convoys followed behind infantry soldiers, who were often attacked and killed along the roadside. Such service and sacrifice enabled Bates's convoy to reach its destination. “Sometimes we talk about the men and women who have died for our freedom,” he said, “but in Vietnam I could see the bodies of those who died for mine.”

Thirty years after serving, Doug and Molly returned to Vietnam in an attempt to come to peace with the War’s legacy, both personal and national. At one point, they asked their tour guide to stop so that the couple could meet local farmers. On a whim, Doug waded into a rice paddy and asked a worker if he could carry two baskets of rice with a bamboo yoke, a feat that he struggled with and that left his shoulders aching for six months. When Doug asked what one onlooker was saying to another, the translator said, “Our men are strong like elephants. He is strong like a duck.”

Doug’s humor, his passion, and his storytelling connected with students on multiple levels. Following class, he and Molly joined Dr. Offenburger, Michael Orr, Nick Herrmann, Nathan Hoch, and Laura Paprocki for lunch.