Memories come flooding back for Dave Wallingford as he surveys a permanent new exhibit, containing some of his own gear, at the New York State Military Museum on Lake Avenue.
More than two years in the making, “Hot Spots in the Cold War: Korean and Vietnam Wars” covers the period 1950-75 and uses numerous photographs, artifacts and oral history videos to tell the story of New Yorkers in combat, life at home during the Cold War, and civil strife that accompanied the Vietnam War during the late 1960s and early 70s. Known to his fellow U.S. Marines as “Lieutenant Wally,” Wallingford served most of his 1968-69 tour in Vietnam near the demilitarized zone, north of Da Nang. As an officer, he was especially vulnerable to enemy fire while on patrol.
“The NVA (North Vietnamese Army soldiers) weren’t stupid,” he said. “If you were in an ambush situation, they knew the guy right in front of the radio operator was an officer.” Wallingford, who achieved the rank of captain, was a forward observer for an artillery battery assigned to a Marine rifle company — Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. In March 1969, he was seriously wounded during a day-long fire fight.
Flown out by helicopter, Wallingford was taken to Da Nang and rehabbed at a naval hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, where he met his wife, Helene, a Navy nurse. Both of their uniforms are part of the exhibit, created by museum Chief Curator Mark J. Koziol, with help from Maine-based Ted Anderson Design & Photography. Koziol wrote all of the accompanying text for “Hot Spots,” which required months of extensive research. Most artifacts are from the museum’s collection Items from the Korean War (1950-53) include an M 1911A 1 .45-caliber pistol, the A-frame pack Korean porters used to transport supplies, water purification tablets, and a 155 artillery shell like those fired in combat by the New York Army National Guard's 955th Field Artillery Battalion. Several Soviet-made weapons, used by communist forces, are featured, too. Also, there are color pen-and-ink drawings done by Navy Corpsman Steve Jordan, of Ballston Spa, depicting scenes such as fighting in Seoul, South Korea and during infamous Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
“This brings home from a first-person point of view what he saw,” Koziol said. One display case features the outfit, including life vest, worn by naval aviator William Choltco, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was shot down during one mission and spent many hours floating at sea before getting rescued. Psychological warfare was a big part of the Korean and Vietnam wars, which the exhibit explains, also, along with the constant underlying threat of nuclear attack. Items used to explain the Cold War’s history includes a Civil Defense sanitation kit found in bomb shelters, a radiation detector that would have been used after an atomic bomb attack, and survival ration crackers. (Saratogian.com 12/8/18).