Norwich University Alumni Donate Vietnam Letters to Archives

Office of CommunicationsNews, Z2

Office of Communications | Norwich University

December 19, 2014

When American soldiers serving in Vietnam wrote letters home, they often included—on the backs of the Airmail envelopes—the number of days until homecoming. Now, the Vietnam letters of two members of the Class of 1966 are available in the Norwich University Archives, and thanks to these generous donations, researchers can see firsthand these details and others.

On Veterans Day, the family of the late Lt. Col. Howard C. Lewis ’66 donated two sets of letters that he, as a young captain, wrote home from in-country, 1969. It became the first collection of its kind at Norwich University. The donation includes letters Lewis penned to his twin brother Harold, who also attended Norwich, and parents Daniel and Dorothy Lewis. The collection also includes several photographs of Howard and the Lewis family (1964-1966) and material tied to the dedication of the Lt. Col. Howard C. Lewis Memorial Chapel at the Camp Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho, VT, in 1988.

During his Vietnam service, Lewis was cited seven times for bravery and was awarded the Soldier’s Medal, five Bronze Stars, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, two Army Commendation medals and, later, the Vermont Medal of Merit. Following his return from Vietnam, he joined the Vermont National Guard, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel. He lived in Barre with his family until his death from cancer in 1987—the result, his family believes, of his exposure to Agent Orange. More than 500 people attended his memorial. The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus called the service “one of the largest funerals ever held in the Granite City.” At the time of his death, he was survived by wife Sandra Roscoe Lewis, and two children.

The Lewis donation evolved from a collaboration between Lewis’s youngest brother, Donald Lewis ’72, and the Norwich Record—Norwich University’s alumni magazine. Don Lewis originally presented the letters for publication in the winter 2015 issue, dedicated to Norwich alumni who served in Vietnam.

Shortly thereafter, another member of the class of 1966, William F. Bonk, donated his collection of Vietnam letters. Bonk had also provided a collection of letters to the Record for publication, and afterwards, graciously offered them to the Archive for public access.

The collection consists of letters written by Bonk to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bonk of Connecticut, during his service as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, February through October 1968. The collection also includes color slides documenting his time in Vietnam as well as a single slide probably taken during his NU commencement in 1966.

These gifts constitute the first two substantial manuscript collections from the Vietnam era to be available in the University Archives. They will serve as the foundation to helping students, faculty, staff, alumni, and researchers better understand the Norwich experience in Vietnam.

To access these collections, please contact the Norwich University Archives, Kreitzberg Library, (802) 485-2947 or archives@norwich.edu