WEEKEND: Museum & Arts Center exhibit dedicated to Vietnam War veterans
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Donald Bordwell of Dungeness, left, who is holding a picture of himself and his brother, Wally, as his son Donnie, right, looks on, has contributed photographs he took in Vietnam for the Navy to the Museum & Arts Center's new Vietnam vets exhibit, which opens Saturday on Armed Forces Day.
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Items from area Vietnam veterans will be on display at the Museum & Arts Center in Sequim. Photo by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– An exhibit of photos, gear and various artifacts from the Vietnam War will be unveiled during a public reception in observance of Armed Forces Day at the Museum & Arts Center, 175 W. Cedar St., at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The exhibit, which will stay on display all summer, includes uniforms, service medals and ribbons loaned to the museum by several area Vietnam veterans.

A special display will be of photographs contributed by Donald Bordwell of Dungeness.

Navy photographer

Bordwell, 76, served 21 years as a photographer in the Navy and took pictures in Vietnam for most of the 1960s.

“You had to be crazy to do it, but those of us that were that crazy had a lot of fun,” Bordwell said.

A shutterbug who once turned his family's chicken shack into a darkroom as a teenager, Bordwell captured scenes from all over Vietnam with his government-issue Nikon 35 mm camera and hundreds of pounds of gear.

“Now, they go out with a camera and a laptop, and the picture's in the paper a couple minutes after it's taken,” he said.

“But back then, we had to lug around all kinds of film and equipment.”

His main duty was to take pictures of soldiers on base that were then sent back to the soldiers' hometown newspapers.

“I got a lot of pictures in a lot of newspapers,” he said. “But it was all hometown stuff, so nobody knows my name.”

'Kiddie cruise'

Enlisting at 17, Bord-well's first photographs in Vietnam came aboard a “kiddie cruise” on aircraft carriers in the Coral Sea from 1960 to 1963.

His primary duty was to shoot the landing and launch of every plane that took off from the carriers.

After re-enlisting at the age of 21, he was sent back to Vietnam as the conflict escalated.

From his home base in Saigon, Bordwell would hop flights all over the war zone to photograph the scenes, taking the film back to photo labs in Saigon and Da Nang.

The service allowed him to keep any pictures he took that were not classified.

Bordwell now lives at his home near the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge with his son, Donnie, who also served in the Navy for 20 years, with tours in both Iraq wars.

MAC program coordinator Priscilla Hudson said she designed the exhibit as a way to pay homage to the service of Vietnam veterans.

“I hope the exhibit demonstrates the situation these veterans were in as carriers of a burden,” Hudson said.

“We, the public, had not told them enough of our gratitude for their having served, and this exhibit is one way of doing that,” she said.

Other items

In addition to Bordwell's photographs, the exhibit features a POW/MIA flag and a U.S. military helmet shell found by Marine Larry Klinefelter, now of Sequim, in a ditch outside Da Nang.

The exhibit also features a Quilt of Valor from the Friendship Quilters and a new Olympic Peninsula Doll Club display of military dolls.

The American Legion Riders will line their bikes in front of the MAC for a flag line Saturday.

For more information, visit www.macsequim.org or phone 360-683-8110.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 16. 2013 5:31PM
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