‘I was there as a person who was trying to save lives’: The life stories of the American medical personnel who served in the Vietnam War

Cassie, Nicole (2018) ‘I was there as a person who was trying to save lives’: The life stories of the American medical personnel who served in the Vietnam War. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


The Vietnam War is an event of enormous significance to American history, culture, politics, and memory because American defeat in Vietnam punctured the post-Second World War national mythology which had proclaimed American exceptionalism. The impact of the Vietnam War on its veterans has also become synonymous with the evolution of our understanding of trauma and the development of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis. This thesis examines the life stories of the American men and women who served as non-combatant medical personnel in Vietnam between the outbreak of war in 1964 and the US evacuation of Saigon 1975.

Medical Vietnam veterans witnessed the immediate aftermath of warfare. Some medical veterans developed PTSD as a result of what they witnessed and participated in during the war, whereas others managed to retain resilience. The thesis argues that we can learn from both of these experiences. By conducting a narrative analysis of oral history interviews which were conducted in the 2000s the thesis explores the ways in which the medical Vietnam veterans’ distinct experience of serving in Vietnam, and their engagement with trauma and PTSD, has shaped their understanding of their lives and themselves.

It utilises oral history, narrative, trauma, Holocaust narratives and memory theories as conceptual frameworks to interpret the process by which medical Vietnam veterans have constructed narratives of trauma and resilience when narrating their life stories in oral history interviews in the 2000s. It is also concerned with how medical veterans have responded to and drawn from broader public narratives and the contemporary political and discursive context on the Vietnam War, its veterans, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when creating their own life stories.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Vietnam War, veterans, medical, trauma, resilience, memory.
Subjects: E History America > E11 America (General)
E History America > E151 United States (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Newman, Professor Simon and Abrams, Professor Lynn
Date of Award: 2018
Embargo Date: 5 June 2023
Depositing User: Dr Nicole Cassie
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-81424
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2020 07:28
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2020 07:28
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81424

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