Photograph by Bruce Jackson

Lydia Fish 

I received my BA and MA degrees in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1960 and 1962 respectively. For the next three years I taught history in a secondary modern school in England, performed professionally as a folksinger, and served as an instructor for the North Carolina State College extension division at Fort Bragg, where I first became interested in the occupational folklore of the military. In the fall of 1965 I entered the Ph.D. program in folklore at Indiana University and received my degree in 1974. In 1967 I took a teaching position at Buffalo State College, where I am now a professor of anthropology.

Between 1967 and 1982 I did extensive fieldwork in the urban folklore of the Niagara Frontier, with special emphasis on legend and religious folk custom and belief. In the thirty-five years I have been at Buffalo State College my students and I have amassed a collection of approximately five thousand fieldwork projects, one of the largest regional folklore archives in the United States. Since 1982 I have been doing research in military folklore, with special emphasis on the songs written in Vietnam by the men and women who served there. The archive of the Vietnam Veterans Oral History and Folklore Project, of which I am director, contains over four hundred hours of songs recorded in Southeast Asia. Articles about the Project have appeared in the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor. I have produced concerts of these songs for the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives, as well as a recording, In Country, for Rounder Records and an Austin City Limits special program hosted by Kris Kristofferson and broadcast on PBS on Veterans Day, 1992. I am also listowner of vwar-l, an Internet discussion list set up to facilitate communication among veterans, teachers, scholars and students of the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam Veterans Oral History and Folklore Project


The Smithsonian Institution, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, PBS, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Archives, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, CBS News, the Washington Times, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Penthouse, National Public Radio, Stars and Stripes, the Army Times, the New York State Vietnam Memorial, the Media Center at the American Press Institute, Fox Television, USA Today, Radio Telefis Eireann, ABC News, the Arts and Entertainment Channel and Belo Interactive.


My articles on the folksongs of Americans in the Vietnam War were published in SUNY Research, Vietnam Magazine, the New York State Veterans' Interchange, Folklife Center News, New York Folklore and the Journal of American Folklore. Articles on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial have appeared in Reflecting, American Association for the History of Nursing Bulletin and International Folklore Review. My book about the Memorial, The Last Firebase: A Guide to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was published by White Mane Press in 1987. My notes for the CD In Country were nominated for an Indy. Recently I have been working with Border City Records to produce documentary CDs of the material in the archive of the Vietnam Veterans Oral History and Folklore Project.



I have read scholarly papers and chaired panels on the folklore of Americans in war at meetings of the American Studies Association, the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, the Western New York Association of Historical Agencies, Sixties Generation, the New York Folklore Society, the American Folklore Society, and the Popular Culture Association. I have also presented papers for the Media Center at the American Press Institute, the National Archives, the DeCordova Museum, the Washington Program for the Arts, the National Museum of African Art, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the Festival of American Folklife, and the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program.

I have given lectures on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or the folklore of Americans at war and produced concerts for many colleges, museums and universities including the Naval Academy, Hampden-Sydney College, Marist College, the Hudson River Museum, SUNY Binghamton, Canton State College, SUNY Purchase, City Lore, the Buffalo Naval Servicemen's Park, the Museums at Stony Brook, the Washington International Studies Council, the Montshire Museum, the Roberson Center, the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching Seminar, and the NEH Summer Workshop for Secondary Social Sciences Teachers. I have also taught courses on the war. I was a guest speaker at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day, 1990, and have given lectures and addresses to numerous veterans groups, usually under the sponsorship of the New York Council on the Humanities. I have spoken at the Moving Wall on many occasions and I have produced concerts for several reunions and veterans' organizations including the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Reunion and the Capital Aviation Club.
Page updated
10 July, 2002

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