Campus Life

Heard on Campus: Doug Bradley

Vietnam veteran Doug Bradley has written and taught extensively about his Vietnam, and post-Vietnam, experiences. He is the author of the book "We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War." Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

"What connected that experience for me was music. In those days, it was radio. Radio was our internet. We all, especially this generation — me, the baby boomers — listened to radio and we listened to the DJs. ... That was our lifeline. All kids my age, especially when we got transistor radios, would listen to that music. That's what connected us. You could be in Philly, you could be in Pittsburgh, you could be Poughkeepsie, you could be in Pocatello — you got the same music. It connected us as a generation. And that's what's great about this book — because sure, we talk about the music-based memories of Vietnam vets, but you, who grew up in that era, have those memories, too. You have your own memories. [It] might not be in a quonset hut in Vietnam, or at USARV [U.S. Army Vietnam] headquarters like me. It might be on your college campus, or you just broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Music is that trigger. It's that thread."                                                                                                        

— Doug Bradley, a Vietnam War veteran and co-author of "We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War," at the Penn State Forum on Sept. 20 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.

Bradley was drafted into the U.S. Army in March 1970 and served as an information specialist at the Army Hometown News Center in Kansas City, Missouri, and USARV in Long Binh, South Vietnam, from 1970 to 1971.

Following his discharge and graduate school, Bradley relocated to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1974, where he helped to establish Vets House, a storefront, community-based service center for Vietnam-era veterans.

Bradley has written and taught extensively about his Vietnam and post-Vietnam experiences, including as a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He co-authored "We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack to the Vietnam War" with Craig Werner. The book, which recounts the experience of the Vietnam War through music, was named "Best Music Book of 2015" by Rolling Stone magazine.

During his discussion at Penn State, Bradley talked about how music served as a lifeline to soldiers fighting the war, and how the same song meant different things to different people.

"Music is that trigger, that thread," he said. "The book, just being in the space with these men and women, many of whom haven't talked about this experience in 45 or 50 years — shame on us that they haven't been able to — [were] talking about the song, talking about the experience. They finally got home."

Last Updated September 20, 2017