Document Type

Oral History

Interviewee name

Christopher M. Beam


Doug Rawlings

Interview date




Download Transcript (5.2 MB)


Christopher “Chris” M. Beam, interviewed by Doug Rawlings, August 29, 2000. Beam reviews his early life, attending Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, being invested in the “domino effect,” being disturbed about his fellow students seeking a way out of service, his gendered perspective of serving in the military, enlisting with the U.S. Marines feeling it was a prestigious branch of the military, feeling it was his patriotic duty to serve, signing up for three years of active duty and three year in an active reserve, his mother’s opposition to him entering the military, experiencing a change in heart as his reporting for service as he began wondering about the U.S. Government’s reasons for being in Vietnam, signing up for the officer training program, and hawkish friends evading the draft through student deferment. Beam discusses experiencing fear as he reported to Quantico because of his changing perspective spurred by hawkish right wing congressmen characterizing the Vietnam War as a battle between “the Cross” and Communism and realizing he was “in league with the wrong people,” the intake process at Quantico rendering individuals “anonymous” through homogenous haircuts and uniforms, the Marine’s organization of his class of 300 to 400 enlistees, candidates drummed out of officer training, tactics used by drill sergeants to psychologically break candidates, sergeants who told recruits what was happening in Vietnam to prepare candidates to lead, brief rhymes used by soldiers to indicate which MOS were safer than others, 20% of his class assigned to infantry, being confronted by the uniform code at party when he criticized Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara. He recounts the names of men he knew who died in Vietnam, his growing contempt for draft dodgers, the growing strain on his family relationships, feeling estranged from American society, being stationed in Okinawa, putting in for transfer to Vietnam, being stationed with the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade aboard the Tolland-class attack cargo ship U.S.S. Seminole, classism aboard ship, and the seven months he spent in country. Text: 93 pp. transcript, plus 22 pp. supplemental content, 2 pp. administrative.

No recording; transcript only.


Military History | Oral History | United States History

Birth date

February 21, 1945


Portland, Cumberland County, Maine

Nation of origin

United States

Home state/Territory







Professor of History, Bates College; Director, Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

Civic groups

Vietnam Veterans Against War

Branch of service

U.S. Marine Corps

Service Unit

9th Marine Amphibious Brigade

Dates of service

September 1967-May 4, 1970, Vietnam, 1968-1969

Date of entry

September 1967

Service entry


Location of Service

USMC Officer Candidates School, Quantico, Virginia; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Camp Schwab, Okinawa; Da Nang, Vietnam; An Hoa, Vietnam

Wars & Conflicts

Vietnam War

Battles & Engagements

Tet, 1969

Entry Rank

O-1 2nd Lieutenant

Highest Rank

O-2 1st Lieutenant

Exit Rank

O-2 1st Lieutenant


President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Bob Dylan, Edmund Muskie, Barry Goldwater, Madison, Wisconsin, Thailand, Fred Greene, Frederick Shuman, 2nd Lieutenant William Gilger III, Eddie Braun, Earl Garrison, Ron Garrison, General Ramsey Clark, Edward A. Bayer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy (Merriman) Korgen, Reinhard L. Korgen, Bill Ryan, Sergeant Barts, Tom Berringer, Staff Sergeant Yannick, Miles Davis, Major General Raymond Davis, Ed Davidson, Major Brahm, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, Gene McCarthy, John Abbott, Ed Davidson, Bill Jones, Bill Hernden, Russ Eckley, Dave Wright, Marianne Holmes, Cecil Holmes, Hank Fuller, George Wallace, Coretta Scott King, Gunnery Sergeant Costa, Lieutenant Mack, Lieutenant Colonel Wilson, 1st Lieutenant Marlin Robb, Charles Robb, Lance Corporal Eck, Captain Midnight [folklore], Melvin Laird, Brownie Carson, Herbert Coursen, George McGovern


Brunswick, Maine; Portland, Maine; Topsham, Maine; Mississippi; Hartford, Connecticut; Missouri Ozarks; South Vietnam; Albany, New York; Boston; Quantico, Virginia; Orr Island, Maine; Louisiana; South Carolina; Canada; Washington, D.C.; Bethesda, Maryland; Chevy Chase, Maryland; Haight Ashbury; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Jacksonville, North Carolina; New Hampshire; Da Nang; San Francisco; Huston, Texas; Okinawa; Singapore; Hong Kong; Subic Bay, Philippines; Choson Reservoir, Korea; An Hoa, Vietnam; Sydney, Australia; Kuala Lumpur; Taipei; Malaysia; Bangkok; Rochester, New York; Anchorage, Alaska; Los Angeles; Champaign-Urbana


Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Civil Rights; Military casualties; USMC Officer Candidates School

Collection name

Maine Vietnam Veterans Oral History

Collection number


Item number


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Christopher “Chris” M. Beam, interviewed by Doug Rawlings



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