"What's Going On? - California and the Vietnam Era"
A New Exhibition at Merced County Courthouse Museum Explores the Influence of the Vietnam War on California
Sunday, December 5, 2004
1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
The landmark exhibition "What's Going On? - California and the Vietnam Era" opens at Merced County Courthouse Museum on Thursday, March 23 from 5-7pm. "What's Going On?" provides a timely examination of the impact of the Vietnam War on California life and culture. Home to numerous defense contractors and military training centers, the state also served as the primary portal for both returning soldiers and Southeast Asian immigrants following the fall of Saigon. As the epicenter of the war's home front, California became a hotbed of social and political movements that spread across the country, and, ultimately, redefined what it means to be an American.

At the opening reception, Ed Mentz, local Chapter President of the Vietnam Veterans of America; and Houa Vang, Executive Director of Merced Lao Family Community, will share the stage to tell their stories of the war and the postwar experiences.

The exhibition focuses on events in California from the 1950s Cold War era to the present, with special emphasis on the tumultuous years from the Vietnam conflict's escalation in 1965 through its end in 1975. During that time, California was the epicenter of the war's domestic front. The state was the staging ground for most of the nation's defense contractors, the location of principal military centers where troops were trained and transported, and the base of legendary peace protests and New Right politics ushered in by Reagan's gubernatorial election in 1966.

The exhibition includes historical artifacts, photographs, and documents interwoven with oral histories contributed by veterans, activists, and former refugees. Based on a larger exhibition of the same title developed by the Oakland Museum of California, this 1,000 square-foot exhibition provides visitors an opportunity to consider and ask question about this important period in our nation's history.

In addition, Merced County Courthouse Museum will exhibit an honor roll of Vietnam Veterans of Merced County, artifacts from the local Laotian community, and a photo display put up by the American Legion Post 83. "What's Going On?" will continue at Merced County Courthouse Museum through May 14.

The "What's Going On? - California and the Vietnam Era" exhibition tour was organized by the California Exhibition Resources Alliance (CERA) in concert with the Oakland Museum of California. CERA is a network of professionally operated museums and cultural organizations that collaborate to create and tour smaller, affordable, high quality exhibitions that enhance civic engagement and human understanding. CERA is generously supported by The William Randolph Hearst Foundation and the California Council for the Humanities.

PFC Clairborne L. Shaw
PFC Clairborne L. Shaw

Vietnamese Refugees at Camp Pendleton 1975
Vietnamese Refugees at Camp Pendleton 1975