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"I don’t think there’s anybody who understands the real horror of war better than soldiers do." (Video interview, part 3, 30:25)

   George Shirilla
Image of George Shirilla
George Shirilla in front of his AH-1G attack helicopter
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army
Unit: 4th Battalion, 77th Artillery (Aerial Rocket), 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile)
Service Location: Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Eustis, Virginia; Fort Stewart and Fort McPherson, Georgia; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Arkadelphia, Arkansas; Lexington, Kentucky; Kaiserslautern and Mannheim, Germany; Seoul, South Korea
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
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Although he studied education in college, with the intention of becoming a history teacher, Lieutenant Colonel George Shirilla wound up spending his career in Army aviation. As he explains in his oral history interview, his position as an officer in charge of maintaining three Cobra helicopters required him to teach, train, and mentor those beneath him. Shirilla’s life at Camp Evans, Vietnam, revolved around two things: making sure aircraft were ready to go at a moment’s notice, and strengthening the tight-knit bonds between members of his unit that enabled them to complete their task. Both are reflected in the photographs in his collection, which include “still life” photos of helicopters as well as candid portraits of his comrades.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) | 
Download: video(3) | 
Download: video(4) (105 min.)
  Photos
»Photo Album  (105 photos)
More like this
»Personal Snapshots: Picturing the Vietnam War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Hearing about My Lai; could not believe it could have been carried out by one of his own; understanding impact and import of his job as a soldier. (01:29) Difficulty of keeping in touch while in Vietnam; impact on his family; difference between wartime communication then and now. (05:10) Hearing about casualties; first time he learned a friend had been killed. (02:18)
Obligation to his unit; importance of bonding as a unit; life depended on being able to depend on his unit. (02:27) When and why his unit would be called to assist other units needing firepower; building a team; units needed to deploy helicopters on a moment’s notice. (01:19) (NaN:NaN)
[Continued] When and why his unit would be called to assist other units needing firepower; building a team; units needed to deploy helicopters on a moment’s notice. (04:11) Means of relieving stress; near impossibility of truly relaxing; long days; dedication of mechanics and crew chiefs. (04:16) Feelings upon becoming “short” and leaving Vietnam; camaraderie of his unit; total respect for his fellow soldiers. (03:37)
  
 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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