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Papers contain correspondence, photographs, memorabilia, and military objects from Al Murphy’s service (1970-1972) in United States Army during the Vietnam War.


Creators: Murphy, Al (Albert), 1948-

Span Dates: 1970-2015                                  Bulk Dates: 1971-1972

Extent: 5.13 linear feet

Languages: Most materials are in English. One item is in Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai.

Repository Location: Eva G. Farris Special Collections and Schlachter University Archives, W. Frank Steely Library, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky


Military passes
Murphy, Al (Albert), 1948- --Correspondence
United States. Army
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Equipment and supplies
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Food supply
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Humor
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Logistics
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Maps
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Vietnam--Chu Lai

Murphy, Al (Albert), 1948-
United States. Army. Infantry Division, 23rd
United States. Army. Infantry Brigade, 11th
United States. Army. Infantry Brigade, 198th

Covington (Ky.)
Quảng Nam (Vietnam : Province)
Quảng Ngãi (Vietnam : Province)
Vietnam (Republic)


Existence and Location of Copies: For access to digital reproductions of the photograph albums, contact archives staff.



Al Murphy was born on December 16, 1948 in Covington, Kentucky to Luella B. Murphy and Orville P. Murphy. Murphy graduated from Holmes High School in Covington, Kentucky in1966. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Centre College (Danville, Kentucky) in 1970 with a major in psychology and a minor in history. Murphy earned a Masters of Education from Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio) in 1975 and briefly attended NKU in 1978-1979 and again in 2005-2006.

Murphy was on active duty in the United States Army from September 3, 1970 through January 23, 1972. After being drafted, Murphy trained at Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri) and Fort Ord (California). He arrived in Vietnam on February 16, 1971. He served from early March through late October as an infantryman in the 23rd Infantry Division. When the division left Vietnam, Murphy completed his tour working a desk job in Đà Nẵng as part of the 516th Personnel Services Company. Murphy finished his tour in Vietnam on January 22, 1972.

Based on the return addresses on the envelopes and the information in the correspondence, it can be determined that Murphy served with the following units at the dates listed below. Exact dates of transfer from one unit to another are unknown.

  • 02/21/1971    Replacement Company, 23rd Infantry Division
  • 03/14/1971    Company B, 4th Battalion/3rd Infantry Regiment, 11th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division
  • 05/15/1971    Company B, 4th Battalion/3rd Infantry Regiment, 198th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division
  • 10/30/1971    516th PSC (Personnel Services Company)


Series I, Correspondence (1971-1972), consists of fifty-eight letters and postcards written by Al Murphy to various family members in Covington, Kentucky. Murphy writes to his parents (Orville and Luella), brothers and sisters (Peg; Dave; Ray; George; Lorraine; Fred; Mary and her son Jeff; John; Janice; and Mike), and sister-in-law Donna (married to John) along with her son Kevin. Topics include physical health, hygiene, weather, work duties, boredom, food and drink, social activities, and packages and requests for news from home. Murphy asks about the Cincinnati Reds and other sports news. The letters do not describe much of the actual military duties assigned to Murphy and his squad or his specific locations although he does mention guarding a bridge. Murphy conveys his sense of humor in the letters to his family. For example, he uses a fake return address based on a northern Kentucky town known for its quirky character (Rabbit Hash, Kentucky) and his high school locker combination for a zip code on a letter dated February 15, 1971. He also uses military slang terms. For example, he writes about being at “pro,” referring to the fire support base professional; ordering goods from the “PACEX” or “PX” (Pacific Exchange System, a retail system for military personnel); and refers to the United States military as the “big green machine” (March 8, 1971). Several letters mention changes in his mailing address and company assignment that may not have taken place. There appear to be discrepancies between the correspondence and the creator’s service personnel records, which recorded changes in units and other military assignments. In some of the folders of correspondence, the researcher will see that Murphy inserted brief explanatory notes, written in 2014, about individual letters prior to their donation to the archives.

Locations represented in Murphy’s letters include San Francisco (California); Anchorage (Alaska); Japan; Long Binh, spelled as Long Bien in the letters (Biên Hòa, Đồng Nai Province, Viet Nam); Chu Lai (Núi Thành District, Quảng Nam Province, Viet Nam); Duc Pho District (Quảng Ngãi Province, Viet Nam); Trà Bồng District (Quảng Ngãi Province, Viet Nam), Tiên Phước District (Quảng Nam Province, Viet Nam), and Đà Nẵng.

Series II, Photographs (1970-2015), includes two photograph albums and a few loose photographs that Murphy had either included with his correspondence from Vietnam or that his family had taken at his going away party and homecoming. Murphy took photographs in Vietnam with at least two or three cameras and sent the film out to be developed by different individuals—sometimes directly by the military and sometimes by his parents in the United States. Therefore, photographs were not necessarily developed in chronological order. He identified locations, activities, and individuals on the back of some photograph’s. The subjects of some of the photographs correspond to topics Murphy discussed in his letters, including flowers that he sent his mom for Mother’s Day, a Vietnamese soldier nicknamed “Ro” that was attached to his unit, and a pizza that he made in camp (July 8, 1971). There are photographs of individuals from Murphy’s unit; landscapes and city scenes; social activities such as basketball and swimming; daily life such as housing and cooking; and work assignments such as driving the trash truck, digging a trench, and walking patrol. There are several photographs of barracks, light operation helicopters in the field, and of a fire support base, including aerials. Other subjects include the Bob Hope U.S.O. show in December 1971 and Murphy at his desk job toward the end of his tour. One of the albums contains a letter from US Representative Gene Snyder to Murphy dated September 23, 1971. In the letter, Snyder responds to an anti-Vietnam letter Murphy had sent him.

The series also contains photographs of reunions with army friends in Colorado in 1979 and in northern Kentucky in the early 2000s. There are also two photographs of Murphy’s 2015 meeting with Pamela Hamblen, the widow of Johnny Jackson. Jackson was a fellow squad member of Murphy’s who was killed in action by a booby trap while they were on patrol together in June 1971.

Series III, Memorabilia (1971), contains a safe conduct pass, a ticket to a Bob Hope U.S.O. show given in December 1971, and a pocket bible with the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, given to Murphy by the Gideons International. The color two-sided safe conduct pass, issued by the Republic of Vietnam, features the flag of the Republic of (South) Vietnam with other allied flags. Giấy thông-hành (Safe Passport) is printed in large text at the top, with smaller text in English, Korean and Thai at the bottom. It promises the holder of the pass safe conduct to South Vietnamese, American, and other allied military locations.

Series IV, Military Objects (1970-1971), contains a U.S. Army Map Service topographical map (43 ½” w x 23” h; color), a rubber cover for a military identification tag (dog tag), a pair of jungle boots, and a pair of green slippers. Murphy marked the locations of his patrol duty on the topographic map of the Tiên Phước district in what was then the province of Quảng Nam and the Trà Bồng district in Quảng Ngãi province, tore it into three segments, and mailed each segment home separately. The rubber cover, which Murphy attached to the laces of his jungle boots, prevented his metal dog tags from rattling. The series also has a metal can opener, referred to as a P-38 by military personnel.


Papers consist of four series: I correspondence, II photographs, III memorabilia, and IV military objects.







Series I: Correspondence




Correspondence from Al Murphy to his family
   in Covington, Kentucky

1971-1972, 2014



Series II: Photographs




Photograph album




Photograph album




Photographs of send-off, homecoming, 
  Mother’s Day flowers, and reunions




Photographs of Al Murphy and Pamela




Series III: Memorabilia




Safe conduct pass




Ticket to U.S.O. Bob Hope show

December 1971



Pocket bible

circa 1971



Series IV: Military Objects




Tiên Phước District and Tra Bὀng District
  topographical map, Sheet 6739-IV, Series
  L7014, Scale: 1:50,000, U.S. Army Map

circa 1970

O/S Box 5


Jungle boots

circa 1971




circa 1971



Can opener

circa 1971



Cover for military identification tag

circa 1971





Conditions Governing Access: This collection is open for research access. Items containing private information have been redacted by archives staff.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, US Code) governs the reproduction of copyrighted material. The User assumes full responsibility and any attendant liability for the fair use of materials requested in total compliance with the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) that may arise through the use of any requested materials.

Preferred Citation: [Box #, Folder #], MS-54 Al Murphy Vietnam Military Service Papers, Eva G. Farris Special Collections, W. Frank Steely Library, Northern Kentucky University


Immediate Source of Acquisition: Gift from Al Murphy, 2014 and 2015 (NKU2014-010, NKU2014-011, NKU2014-012, NKU2015-012)


Processing Information: Processed by Anne Ryckbost, 2016