Local Vietnam veteran captured memories of war through lens of Super 8

Veteran Salute

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A local Vietnam veteran captured nearly 90 minutes of footage with a small eight mm camera during his time at war. Now, decades later, his footage is perfectly preserved.

Just two weeks after turning 18, Henry McVay was on his way to serve in the Vietnam War.

While away, McVay asked his parents for a Super 8 camera, a device a third of the size of a shoe box.

Little did McVay know that the rolls of film from the war he sent home would play a much different role in his life 54 years later.

“It helps me remember people’s names,” said Vietnam veteran Henry McVay.

Every three or four years, McVay watches the footage he shot during the Vietnam War.

“We’ve got in the movie in there, got a, an infantry company killed a tiger, you know, they’ve got the skinned tiger,” said McVay.

McVay’s footage includes his time in an artillery unit with the Fifth Infantry Division.

“The extreme weirdest part was when the guns would shoot,” said McVay. “There’s a big recoil and backblast and smoke, and dirt flies, but there’s no noise. It’s just silent. Pop, pop.”

McVay says he developed an appreciation for working behind the lens at a young age.

“I used to take a lot of pictures of things I did just for the history of it,” said McVay.

As the only person in his artillery battery equipped with a camera, McVay recorded the harsh living conditions they faced.

“When we got there, we had nothing,” said McVay. “We just like, we literally pulled up on a hill and said, “OK, this is going to be L-Z Nancy. Start building.””

“You can see it in the movies, the first seven to eight months we was there,” said McVay. “You know, we slept in bunkers that we made out of empty ammo boxes. You fill ’em full of dirt, stack ’em on top of each other, and that was your house.”

Of the 20 operations, McVay was a part of, he only recorded one.

“Stand up in the back of the jeep with a movie camera; I thought that could be a real good way to get shot, you know,” said McVay.

There is one scene of war forever etched in his memory without the help of his camera.

McVay says, “1968 was the bloodiest year of the war.”

“I was in Charley Battery Fifth Battalion Fourth Artillery Fifth Infantry Division,” said McVay. “The people that we friendly fired was Delta 1-11 of the Fifth Infantry Division.”

Three American soldiers lost their lives during this incident.

“I do think about it, and then I try to on December third of every year; this will be a shocker, go and have a beer or two for ’em,” said McVay.

McVay says he is considering giving a copy of his footage to a history museum one day so that his memories will live on for generations.

“I think I did it for a reason, you know, did the video, it wasn’t just to show mom and dad what I was doing now. I think I did it for the future,” said McVay.

Since his time in Vietnam, McVay has shared his story to thousands of students at area middle and high schools. He even showed a number of students where the names of the fallen soldiers are on the moving wall in Valley Center as another way to honor their memory.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Download the KSN News App and stay up-to-date wherever you are. You can even watch KSN News live for free!
Click here to get the app
Get it in the App store
Get it in the Google Play store

KSN Storm Track 3 Weather

Trending Stories