Rivers of history: Vietnam mobile museum to be on display at Beltrami County Fair
BEMIDJI -- In the murky rivers of South Vietnam, a group of soldiers sacrificed everything for their country. Now, almost half a century later, their stories now are being told.
Starting Wednesday through Saturday, the Mobile Riverine Force Museum will visit the Beltrami County Fair. With fundraising conducted by area veterans and the Bemidji American Legion, the museum will be on hand to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, an event which was partially responsible for the start of hostilities in Vietnam.
The museum features pictures and memorabilia from the war and focuses on the role played by the United States Navy and the Ninth Infantry 2nd Brigade in the patrolling of the rivers of South Vietnam.
One of the men responsible for bringing the museum to the fair is Wendell Affield, a 67-year-old Vietnam veteran and author who lives in Shevlin.
Affield was 18d when he arrived "in country," he said. After serving on a destroyer and doing construction, he volunteered to serve on a seven-man riverboat. The converted World War II landing craft were heavily armored and designed to "slug it out" with enemy Viet Cong soldiers. While transporting American troops and sweeping for Chinese- and Soviet-made mines, the riverboats were often ambushed.
Affield was wounded in one such ambush when a rocket struck the boat. "Our boat was kind of in the middle of the kill-zone," Affield said. "Almost all the troops were wounded and one was killed -- we were hit with seven rockets and just countless rounds of machine gun fire."
The Mobile Riverine Force took some of the heaviest casualties in Vietnam. The names of more than 5,000 of Affield's brothers-in-arms who didn't come home alive are listed on the sides of the mobile museum.
Affield hopes the mobile museum will help people understand the role he and his friends played in the conflict, and the war's place in history.
"There's a lot of time-sensitive things from that era that many folks are just not familiar with. Anyone who's interested in history at all or the Vietnam War will walk away better informed," Affield said.
The museum will arrive in Bemidji on Wednesday with a ceremony at 2 p.m. Veterans will be present at the museum throughout the week to discuss the war and Affield will also be present for book-signings of his memoir "Muddy Jungle Rivers."
For more information on the Mobile Riverine Force Association, visit www.mrfa.org.
For more information on Affield, visit www.wendellaffield.com.
Beltrami County Fair ScheduletThe Beltrami County Fair will take place from Wednesday to Sunday. Here’s a schedule of events:MidwayThe Gopher State Expositions will offer arm band days for $25 from 6 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.Grandstand events● 6 p.m. Wednesday: Horse and Pony Pull● 6 p.m. Thursday: Hot Laps for Motocity Motocross● 7 p.m. Thursday: Feature Races for Motocity Motocross● 7 p.m. Friday: Triple B Rodeo● 7 p.m. Saturday: Triple B Rodeo● 1 p.m. Sunday: Lawnmower RacesHorse Arena events● 10 a.m. Thursday: Tiny Tots Horse Show● 6 p.m. Thursday: North Star Rider Barrel Run● 5 p.m. Friday: Draft Horse Halter● 8 a.m. Saturday: Draft Horse Harness● 8 a.m. Sunday: Open house W.S.C.A.Marilyn Shutter Country StageWednesday● 6 p.m. Kids Talent Show● 8 p.m. Music Jam SessionThursday● 1 p.m. Happy Wanderers● 2 p.m. First City Singers● 3 p.m. Three Skinny Dutchman● 4 p.m. Mike Rearick● 5 p.m. Fraser Family● 6 p.m. Calico Cords● 7 p.m. Bemidji Music Studio● 8 p.m. Music Jam SessionFriday● 2 p.m. Sonia● 3 p.m. Drew and Friends● 4 p.m. Nanny’s Family Band● 5 p.m. First City Squares● 6 p.m. Mark Winger● 7 p.m. 4-H Fashion Review● 8 p.m. Music Jam SessionSaturday● Noon. Pinetones● 1 p.m. Shorty● 2 p.m. Bended Knee● 3 p.m. Melodie and Harmony● 4 p.m. Just Bummin’ Around● 5 p.m. Keith Winger and Classic Country● 6 p.m. Cowboy band - Kelly Julin● 7 p.m. Bullet - Dan Grimsley● 8 p.m. Music Jam SessionSunday● 10 a.m. Church Service● 1 p.m. Common Band● 2 p.m. To be determined● 4 p.m. Old Friends4H EventsTuesday● 1 - 7 p.m. Conference JudgingWednesday● 2:30 p.m. Share the Fun/Performance Arts● 5 p.m. Pet Show● 7 p.m. Dog Shownmanship JudgingThursday● 9 a.m. Goat Show● 4 p.m. Swine ShowFriday● 8 a.m. Horse Perf and Games● 9 a.m. Poultry Show● 1 p.m. Beef Show● 7 p.m. Fashion Review and Static, Exhibit Award CeremonySaturday● 8 a.m. Rabbit Show● 9:30 a.m. Dairy Show● Noon. Sheep Show● 4:30 p.m. Market Livestock AuctionSunday● 10 a.m. Dog Agility Show● 1 p.m. Premier Showmanship and Livestock AwardFor more information, call 444-8169 or visit www.beltramicountyfair.org.Pioneer Staff Report