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"I didn't see it as breaking a barrier. I saw an opportunity was presented to me and I took advantage of the opportunity." (Video Interview, 25:43)

   Solomon Reed
Collection image
Solomon Reed, 2003
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Persian Gulf War, 1991
Branch: Navy
Unit: USS Concord (AFS 5); USS Yellowstone
Service Location: Great Lakes, Illinois; Jacksonville, Florida; MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; London, England; Miramar, California; Washington, DC
Rank: Command Master Chief
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His dream as a sharecropper's son was to join the Navy and see the world. What Solomon Reed didn't know as a teenager enlisting in that branch of service was that he would be given an opening to train in technical skills he might not have received in civilian life. He served in intelligence support during the most intense years of the Vietnam War, stationed in England. But he did see the effects of that war up close, on two brothers who served in combat. Reed held fast to his faith in the Navy, in spite of antiwar sentiments back home and racial tensions on board ships.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (77 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Dream of escaping his hard life via the sea and how it influenced his decision to join the Navy; differences between commissioned and warrant officers. (04:07) Stationed in England during the Vietnam War, doing intelligence work. (06:30) Race relations in London contrasted with those back in America; dismay with anti-war and anti-military movement back home; tense race relations aboard Navy ships. (07:22)
Taking advantage of an opening to train in a technical area; how the Navy changed and weeded out those on both extremes of the racial spectrum. (04:42) Attitudes of the British toward the American military; having to lock down their offices during anti-war demonstrations. (02:05) Longing to go to Vietnam but missing that chance; accepting that he had his own role to play in the war; lack of support for the war from the public and lack of support for the military leaders by politicians undermining the effort. (08:49)
The negative effect of serving in Vietnam on his brothers. (03:19) Opinion of Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers; taking the long view of that event. (02:27) 

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