Will I Return?

In the fall of 1966, Zeb Armstrong of Clover, South Carolina, was nineteen, making about $75 a week at a textile mill, and newly married to his wife “Billie.” The couple had rented a house and ordered furniture.

Audio Track: Working Class War

By the following January, the mill worker was wearing military fatigues as he trained to repair radios as a member of the 337th Signal Company. In August 1967, he was aboard the troopship Walker headed for Vietnam.

Deeply in love, he inscribed a bunk canvas with his wife’s name, “Billie Armstrong,” then added, “My Dear Wife.” He also wrote “Black Café,” the name of a local hangout, owned and operated by Mabel Black, where he, Billie, and other teenagers met, ate hot dogs or hamburgers, and danced to juke box music.

When in groups aboard the ship there was never talk about fear of what was to come. Troops kept such thoughts to themselves or maybe shared them with a ‘buddy.” In a quiet moment, Zeb used a marker to write, “Will I Return???” He did.

Almost 40 years later he was asked if he remembered being scared during the voyage. He responded, “Going over there? Oh, yeah.”

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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.