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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Fred Quarnstrom Vietnam War Collection

Identifier: 2019-05-14
The Fred Quarnstrom Vietnam War Collection documents the military service of Quarnstrom as a combat dentist and the construction of Chu Lai airfield during the Vietnam War with color 35mm photographic slides taken May-December 1965, digitized film clips, and a personal memoir written in 2018-2019.

327 color 35mm slides make up the bulk of the collection. The slides were numbered and inventoried by Quarnstrom, though they do not appear to be in any particular order. The slides were numbered 1-329 though slides 100 and 112 are not present. The slides depict life and activities of the Seabees, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 10 (NMCB-10) at the camp at Chu Lai including construction of the airfield, roads, helicopters pads, fuel farms, equipment yards, wells, and other necessities. Both American and Vietnamese troops are pictured. Named individuals pictured include General Walt, LtJg Zander, Skip Coglan, Ens. McBride, Ens. Nenier, Dr. Starr, and Ens. Pat Donnelly as well as actor George Jessle. The battalion's mascot, Booboo the Malaysian honey bear, is in some images, including ones where he is undergoing dental treatment by Quarnstrom. Aircraft depicted include A-4 Skyhawks, UH-1 Huey helicopters, DHC-4 Caribou cargo planes, C-130s and C-123s. Many of the images show life in the local villages including villagers, children, fishermen, workers in rice paddies, as well as local restaurants and markets. Street scenes, buildings, and sights in Saigon and Hong Kong are also present.

The video clips are digitized from 8mm films taken by Quarnstrom and depict scenes from training at Camp Pendleton to Okinawa, Quarnstrom's eight months in Vietnam and returning home, per donor notes.

Quarnstrom's memoir is a 75-page bound typed document written in 2018-2019 to record his memories of his service for his grandchildren. The text is interspersed with photographs and maps. The memoirs chronicle Quarnstrom's service and tell many specific anecdotes of his time there.


  • 1965, 2018-2019


Language of Materials

All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The digitized film on the flash drive is not accessible pending preservation of the digital media. The remainder of the collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. 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.


.2 Cubic Feet (1 half-width letter size document box, 1 flash drive)


Fred Quarnstrom was a combat denstist who served in the Vietnam War from May-December 1965 with the Fourth Marine Force. The collection documents Quarnstrom's military service in Vietnam and the construction of Chu Lai airfield during the with color 35mm photographic slides, digitized film clips, and a personal memoir.

Biographical Note: Fred Quarnstrom

Fred Quarnstrom was a combat denstist who served in the Vietnam War from May-December 1965 with the Fourth Marine Force. He went through one month of Naval training at Camp Pendleton in California then served as part of the Seabees, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 10 (NMCB-10), under the Fourth Marine Force. They were stationed in Okinawa, Japan before going to Chu Lai, Vietnam where they built an airfield. They were the first amphibious assault into Vietnam. The Chu Lai airfield was to serve as a backup for Da Nang. As part of his duties, Quarnstrom would provide dental care to military personnel, perform dental work in nearby villages, and do other odd jobs such as helping other medical officers, acting as an airdrop officer, and picking up payroll in Saigon.

As of 2019, Quarnstrom volunteers as a Museum Docent.

Biography derived from collection materials and donor information.
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.


The slides are in the original order provided by the donor.


No further accruals are expected.
Guide to the Fred Quarnstrom Vietnam War Collection
Completed - Level 3
N. Davis
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
1st edition

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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