The Graffiti

Graffiti found on the General Nelson M. Walker’s berthing units represents the most honest expression of the writer’s feeling at the moment written. Musings of home town, love, women, anxiety, military pride, the 1960’s, humor and folk art-like drawings express a soldier’s or Marine’s personal feelings and aspirations, likes and dislikes. The graffiti also indicates how a person felt in the middle of a vast ocean, facing an uncertain future. As writer Anton Chekov wrote much earlier:

“When a man in a melancholy mood is left tete-a-tete with the sea, or any landscape which seems to him grandiose, there is always, for some reason, mixed with melancholy, a conviction that he will live and die in obscurity, and he reflectively snatches up a pencil and hastens to write his name on the first thing that comes handy.” And that is exactly what many of the men on the Walker did.

Time On Their Hands

Most soldiers and Marines found time passed very slowly during the voyage aboard the Walker. They drew calendars on the face of the berthing canvases to keep track of days spent on the troopship. Another common expression was “ETS”—estimated time of separation. Once they boarded, the men were quick to note the date they expected to be discharged from service.


Exhibit Schedules

    Part of the Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam is currently at the New York Historical Society in Manhatten through April 22, 2018. Information about the full Vietnam exhibit is available here

    Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam will be open at the USS Kidd Memorial in Baton Rouge, LA, from October 27, 2017 through February 28, 2018.