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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Bruce Mennella Vietnam War Collection

Identifier: 2017-04-07
The Bruce Mennella Vietnam War Collection relates to the 1968-1972 military service of Mennella, an Air Intelligence Officer in Naval Fighter Squadron 114 (VF-114), nicknamed "Aardvark Squadron." The bulk of the collection consists of photographs taken by Mennella of the aircraft and activities of his squadron while serving in Vietnam and Laos. There is also a small amount of printed ephemera.

Five photograph albums include 311 photographic prints depicting Mennella's training and service from 1968-1972. The photographs are primarily color snapshots, smaller than 4x5 inches. The first album consists of 67 prints showing Mennella and fellow servicemen of Class 26. A few images, both in black-and-white and color, show Mennella receiving his commission from his father at Pensacola, Florida. Included are some scenes in New Orleans, Louisiana. There are also a few images of the Blue Angels at Pensacola before they had officially been authorized by Congress.

The second and third albums date from the squadron's first cruise and include 161 prints. Scenes depicted include a stopover and practice off Hawaii; Da Nang airfield; aerial views over Vietnam; vertical replenishment with a ship providing supplies and a helicopter that would deliver packages; underway replenishment with an oiler boat alongside the carrier; Mennella briefing squadrons via television; various scenes on the deck of the carrier; and a stopover in Hawaii before heading home. Personal images of Mennella meeting up with his parents and a former foreign exchange student in Japan are also included.

An album titled "Louise Philippines Hong Kong" was created by Mennella's wife, Louise, when she and other squadron wives came to visit in early 1971. The 68 color photographs and various pieces of ephemera do not depict any military service, but show the Mennellas and some of the other military families on vacation.

A personal album kept by the donor included 15 photographs and other pieces of ephemera related to Mennella's service that were removed from the album to be included with the collection. These materials include a program for a 1971 dinner-dance; a program for the 114 fighter squadron change of command, 1971; telegrams; assorted clippings; and photos of servicemen and their wives and the return of the squadron after their first cruise in July 1971.

In addition to the photographs in the albums, there are numerous loose prints. Included are 77 aerial reconnaissance photographs of Vietnam and Laos from 1971-1972, most of which were taken by a North American A3J-3P (RA-5C) Vigilante, which was used in tactical reconnaissance during the Vietnam War. Most of the images include identifying information, such as geographic information (name of country, coordinates), date, position, frame, and sequence number. Additionally, most include boxes and arrows with accompanying text identifying targets, including bridges, buildings, railroads, roads, vehicles, military supply and armament depots, and harbors. Some images capture before-and-after shots of aerial bombardment and missiles and bombs in flight prior to detonation.

There are an additional 149 photographic prints and 266 color negatives and transparencies, primarily snapshots from 1968-1972 but also including some official military photographs. The majority of images do not include captions or identifying information. However, a few handwritten notes with the prints provided by Mennella identify general themes, such as "Flight Deck Operations and Aircraft Stuff," "Taiwan Air Force, 1st Mission, 1971," "North Vietnam Junks," "Pete Pettigrew," "Ready room on USS Kitty Hawk," "[USS]Kitty Hawk," "Munitions," "Mennella as Intelligence Officer," "Location Photos - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sasabo," "Blue Angels Air Show," and "People, Mostly in Squadron." Mennella also provided additional identifications for the negatives (see digitized items). Some of the loose photos and negatives are duplicative of images found in the albums.

The images depict military personnel, including two group portraits of "Aardvark Squadron" in front of an aircraft. In the black-and-white group portrait Bruce Mennella is fifth from right in the back row and in the color group portrait, Mennella is third from right in the center row. Images show soldiers in casual settings, onboard the USS Kitty Hawk, and with aircraft. Among those pictured throughout the collection are Joe Cruz, Judd Holenza, Bob Hughes, Terry Jones, Pete Kellaway, John Kerr, Tom Koehler, Doug Mathews, Mike McCabe, OJ Pender, Pete Pettigrew, Commander John Pitzen, John Porter, Pete Stolle, Pete Thompson, Sargeant Washington, and others.

Aircraft depicted include McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantoms, Grumman A-6 Intruders, and LTV A-7 Corsairs. A few images show the Taiwan Air Force in flight for a 1971 mission. Other images depict shots of aerial bombardment, including one oversize aerial photograph of a McDonnell RF-4C Phantom II and a S-75 Dvina (Missile) in flight over the village of Phu Dong (Vietnam), before-and-after shots of bombing runs, and the ready room and flight deck operations of the USS Kitty Hawk. Additional photographs depict North Vietnamese junks [ships] at sea; scenic shots featuring civilians, such as rice farmers; and scenes from urban and rural life. Identified locations include Tokyo and Sasebo (Japan) and Hong Kong (China).

In addition to the visual materials, there is a small amount of printed ephemera, including a "United States Navy Fighter Weapons School" decal and a 48-page booklet entitled Summer of '72 that contains inside jokes and comics featuring "Joe Cool" [Snoopy's alter ego] that reference people and events from the combat tour. Additionally, a partial Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper, dated May 9, 1972, is included as well as a photocopy of an issue of the NAS Miramar newsletter with a picture of Mennella.

At the end of the collection are 26 color photographs of the Blue Angels performing at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show, circa 1970-1971.


  • 1968-1972


Language of Materials

All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. The folder of negatives has not been fully processed and may need additional processing time. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


0.9 Cubic Feet (2 full-width letter size document boxes and 1 oversized folder)


Bruce Mennella (b. 1946) served during the Vietnam War from 1969-1972 as an Air Intelligence Officer for U.S. Navy Fighter Squadron 114 (VF-114). The collection contains photographs and a small amount of ephemera documenting his military service.

Biographical Note: Bruce Mennella

Bruce Mennella served in the U.S. Navy with Fighter Squadron 114 (VF-114) during the Vietnam War. He later operated a car dealership in Burien, Washington.

Bruce Edward Mennella was born on September 16, 1946 in New York City to Vincent and Madeline Mennella. His father had been a pilot in World War II flying transport airplanes from Sand Point Naval Air Station. After the war Vincent obtained a college degree under the GI Bill, and then moved his family to the Seattle, Washington area in mid-1947 where he worked for National Cash Register. In the mid-1950s Vincent opened a Ford dealership in Burien, Washington and remained an active pilot flying in the Navy Reserves.

Mennella attended school in Burien, Washington, graduating from Highline High School in 1964. He attended the University of Washington’s School of Business. He planned on joining his family’s car business after graduation, however, the onset of the Vietnam War altered Mennella’s post-graduation plans. As a sophomore he went to the Navy recruiter and worked out a deal to enter the military after graduation. He passed the aviation written exam in order to become a pilot but due to his eyesight, did not pass the medical exam. Instead he went into Air Intelligence. Graduating in June 1968, he reported to Aviation Office Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida two months later. From there he went to Air Intelligence School at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado. While in Denver he re-connected with Louise A. Vacca, a woman he had dated occasionally in high school who was then a flight attendant with United Airlines. They were married in 1969.

Once he had completed his training, Mennella was assigned to NAS Miramar in San Diego, California arriving there in November 1969. The VF-114 Squadron flew McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom aircraft and was reformatting after a Western Pacific cruise. Mennella spent the next 11 months training, including flying in the back seat of VF-114 airplanes whenever possible. The USS Kitty Hawk, associated with the squadron, was at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington for refurbishing at that time.

Mennella's first cruise was from November 1970 until July 1971 on the USS Kitty Hawk. Operating in the middle of a bombing halt and in the southern area off the coast of Vietnam, the cruise did not see a great deal of activity. Mennella worked in the Integrated Operations Information Center (IOIC) briefing pilots on their targets both before and after the missions. Briefings included weather conditions, rules of engagement, tanking procedures, emergency procedures, and an idea of everything going on in the area of operations. In his off time he traveled in Sasebo, Japan; Hong Kong; and Subic Bay, Philippines where his wife was able to meet him.

Mennella’s second cruise, also on the USS Kitty Hawk, began in February 1972. This time the carrier operated off the north coast of Vietnam and included missions going into Hanoi. Each alpha strike took 35-40 airplanes in a three operations per day cycle. Briefings were longer and more complex due to the area of operations. About five months into the tour, Mennella’s wife had their first child. Since Mennella’s replacement was on board, Mennella was sent home. He left the Navy in October 1972. He was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for his first cruise and earned the Navy Commendation Medal on his second cruise.

Back in Seattle Mennella went to work for his father’s Ford dealership. He assumed the role of general manager in 1980 and five years later bought the business. He added Isuzu and Subaru franchises shortly after. His success brought him on to the Ford National Dealer Council where he served for two years. After that he was elected chairman of the Northwest Ford Dealers Advertising Group covering Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.

Mennella and his wife ultimately had three children and seven grandchildren. As of 2020 they were still living in the Seattle area.

Biographical sketch derived from donor information, oral history recording, and records on
Historical Note: Vietnam War The Vietnam War between North Vietnam and South Vietnam lasted from approximately 1955 until 1975 and was fought with the goal of reunification. The North Vietnamese were aided financially and militarily by China and the Soviet Union, while South Vietnam was backed by the United States.

Regular U.S. deployments began after the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident. However, U.S. involvement peaked in 1968 following the Tet Offensive, which was an attempt by North Vietnam forces to execute surprise attacks on military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam. The Tet Offensive triggered the decline of support from the U.S. public, eventually dovetailing into the anti-Vietnam War movement. In May 1968, peace talks began between the United States and North Vietnam in Paris, France.

Gradual withdrawal of U.S. ground forces began in 1973 as part of "Vietnamization," a policy of President Richard Nixon's that sought to end American involvement by providing equipment and training to the South Vietnamese with the goal of transferring fighting solely to their forces. Additionally, President Nixon suspended military offensives against North Vietnam and on January 15, 1973, direct U.S. involvement ended.

Despite all parties signing the Paris Peace Accords, fighting continued between North and South Vietnam but South Vietnam was not able to sustain its defense against North Vietnam. The Vietnam War ended in April 1975 when the North Vietnamese Army captured Saigon, the capital city of South Vietnam. The countries reunified the following year.

Source and Further Reading:

Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: a history, New York: Viking Press, 1983.
Historical Note: VF-114 The U.S. Navy Fighter Squadron 114 (VF-114), nicknamed the "aardvarks," served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. It was established in 1945 out of Alameda, California. During the Vietnam war it was based out of Miramar Naval Air Station in California and made nine cruises to Vietnam aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. It was disestablished in 1993.


No further accruals are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Materials from this collection have been digitized and are available at The Museum of Flight Digital Collections.

Related Archival Materials at The Museum of Flight

Bruce Mennella has also recorded an oral history at the Museum of Flight.

There is additional material related to the Vietnam War in the following collections:

Roy T. Church Vietnam War Photograph Collection (2017-09-29). The collection contains photographs, slides, and a map related to Church's service as a navigator and bombadier in Vietnam from 1968-1969.

Calvin and Yun Yau Kam Papers (2017-03-24). The collection contains military documents, photographs, and slides relating to the military service of Calvin H. Kam during Vietnam and photographs and clippings related to his father's, Yun Yau Kam, service during World War II and the Korean War.

Jim Platt Vietnam War Slides (2017-10-19). James H. Platt served in Vietnam from 1967-1978 as a U.S. Air Force Rescue Commander. The collection contains twenty (20) slides and one (1) photocopy document related to his service.

Robert Withrow Vietnam War Collection (2008-10-15). Robert Withrow served as a U.S. Navy Fireman (E-3) aboard the USS Kitty Hawk from 1965-1967. The collection contains photographs, patches, and yearbooks related to his service

Separated Materials

The following materials have been separated from the archival component and are kept in Objects storage:

  • Dog tags
  • Ribbons, patches, and medals
  • Belt buckle
  • Pendant
  • Rank insignia
  • Processing Information

    As much as possible, photographic prints were removed from album pages and sleeved individually for preservation purposes. Some prints were unable to be removed so were left on the pages, but the pages were removed from the albums. The album in Box Two, Folder 4 was kept in tact due to numerous items being affixed to the insides of the album cover.
    Guide to the Bruce Mennella Vietnam War Collection
    Completed - Level 3
    J. Parent; N. Davis
    Description rules
    Language of description
    Edition statement
    3rd Edition

    Revision Statements

    • 2018 November : Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace.
    • 2019 January : An addition of negatives and transparencies was added to the collection.
    • 2019 June: Negatives processed and added to collection; additional information and some paper ephemera items also added to the collection.
    • 2022 June: Addendums from April 2021 added to the collection.

    Repository Details

    Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

    9404 East Marginal Way South
    Seattle Washington 98108-4097

    The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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