Vietnam Graffiti Project (X sucks, etc.)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Oct 21 07:22:36 UTC 2005

Some of you may be familiar with Texas Tech's Virtual Vietnam Archive,
searchable here:

A recent addition is the "USNS General John Pope Collection", aka the
"Vietnam Graffiti Project" -- a collection of 400 canvas bunk bottoms
covered in graffiti. The curators have carefully transcribed each
graffito, and it's all searchable! Most item records have both transcribed
text and JPEG images of the canvas (though some just have the text). Truly
an amazing resource.

Though the items themselves aren't dated, many of the graffiti writers
wrote the dates that they were transported on the ship. Most of the
scribbling was apparently done between 1966 and 1969. (According to _The
Dictionary of Fighting Ships_, the General John Pope transported troops
across the Pacific to Vietnam from Nov. 1965 through 1970.)

I don't see any way to create stable URLs for the collection itself or
individual items. But you can search on the collection by entering
"graffiti" in the Collection Title field, along with whatever text you're
looking for in the Keyword field. (The results will include any word
beginning with the search string entered-- so for instance searching on
the keyword "ass" will also return "asshole", "assholes", etc.).

The language is about as graphic as you'd expect -- so, for instance, 173
of the 400 items include the word "fuck", 161 have "FTA" (for "fuck the
army"), and so forth. Plenty of obscene art too.

Not surprisingly, this is an excellent corpus for the early history of "X
sucks", as "suck(s)" appears on 113 items. Below are the text descriptions
for the first several items (sorted by relevance). Most examples are of
the plain intransitive "X sucks" (where X is human or nonhuman), but there
are also many variations on "X sucks dick(s)" (elaborations include
"Parker sucks dead donkey dicks", "People from Atlanta GA suck scabs off
of dogs balls", etc.). Also note that the fellatory versions sometimes
appear with nonhuman subjects such as "Army" ("Army sucks big dick", "Army
sucks big slimy dicks", etc.). I believe that this is the first time such
usage has been found from the '60s (unless Ron Butters has discovered
examples since his 2001 _Dictionaries_ article).

Record 274879  (Item Number: 1574c0003)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
Terry Wayne St. Pierre, Larose, Louisiana ETS 10 days, Oct 15, 1967 going
Love you Baby Amy Bouvier II now Amy St. Pierre I, sweet thing
USMC Sucks
Gary also sucks
Calif Sucks
Sky sucks
WM Rosey Rotten Crotch
Louisiana is Boss
[artistic drawings - pornographic]

Record 275108  (Item Number: 1574c0210)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
Heven's [sic] Discards, New York
Matias Yiaguirre Jr. Brownsville Tex. may 10, 1968 ETS
Mill City Oregon ETS 5 Feb 69. Garrison
April 11, 1967 S.F.
Robstown Texas
Ron Asleson ETS 24 Jan 68 Fontana Calif.
14 Jan 67 Bob Petersen Vietnam 2/47 9 Div.
ETS 2 May 68
Albert Poole ETS March 69
The food sucks. The Guards suck. The boat sucks
You got fucked
Don't be lifer
Bon voyage, love the 20th MP Co. sucks

Record 275055  (Item Number: 1574c0158)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
May the lifers re-up and go away amen
Sp/4 Wells Fargo ETS 15 Dec 67, Jan 12, 1967. Martinsville Indiana
Precious Hayes Memphis Tenn. ETS Nov 22, 67 Vietnam bound
Date left July 23, Ft. Lewis WA. HH Co. 2/8
Re-up for the Bennies
Edwin K. Miller, Fort Ashby West Virginia
The Army sucks
Sp/4 Ford, 176 days and becoming slowly short timer
This ship sucks
Wheeling West Virginia
Motown July 9-21
West Virginia [18]
Nineteen days on this ship and I'm going nuts
We land in Vietnam in four days. I wonder what it will be like
This boat trip sucks
Today was a fucked up day, we didn't do shit
Sp/4 Jerry M. Wells [Fargo], today 23 Jan 1967, ETS 15 Dec 1967
Martinsvill Indiana. Stopped in Okinawa the 24 Jan. We got passes, good
booze and [illegible] women. We leave today 25 Jan. Land in Vietnam 28
Well today is the 28, we land tomorrow the 29th Jan. A soldier jump
overboard, we never found him

Record 274981 (Item Number: 1574c0084)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
Motown's Flower Power
Cool Drunk Mac
Rat sucks
FTA [fuck the army]
Heat put
ETS short, Motown Detroit
Don't look back
Short ETS Louisiana
sucks California dicks
Wupe me, South Bend Indiana 66-68
Rat sucks dick
you es
ETS May 15 1969

Record 274940  (Item Number: 1574c0043)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
Bill Jones, Union City, PA, Vietnam 66-67
Finest Training Anywhere
Fun Travel Adventure
'Mr. Wonderful' Art Bright, Terryville Conn.
Crip ETS May 68 was here Apr 14, 67 to Apr 28 67
Donald R. Laughry ETS 13 Dec 67
Hi Crip
Gen John Pope sucks
Fuck you Crip
Tom sucks
Crip eats it
Bill Pulley ETS 4 Jun 68, Bakersfield Calif
FTA in 68 [fuck the army]
The pope sucks
36th Eng. Bn. (Const) 19 Sept 67, Steve Gunter, Taft Calif. ETS 23 Mar 68
Bill, Paterson MO

Record 275043  (Item Number: 1574c0146)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
Eat me
Asshole sargents
Fuck Uncle Sam
This boat sucks
Army sucks
Fuck the Army
Bad ass
>From the City NY, going to the war. 6 July 1967. 21 July okie 1967. 26
July Nam 1967. Big 'O'
The Kid
>From Missouri, Vietnam bound. 11 April 1967. Arrived 29 April 1967
>From tennessee to Georgia. From there to Virginia. From there to
Washington. Now Vietnam bound
1966 Vietnam bound! Rising star Texas 65-66. Sept 18, 1966
Look out! Uncle Sam will fuck you while you sleep

Record 274954 (Item Number: 1574c0057)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
'Liebe' Germany [diamonds, swastika]
588th Sig. Vietnam 2 May 67
[illegible] sucks
R.H. sucks dick
Obscenity you
Brocton NY ETS 4 Dec 69 [map of New York]
R.E.H. New York, 36th Engr Bn, Sept 67
La Corine Rael y el Lacho [heart]
Newburgh New York July Vietnam bound 3000 Marines
[art - arrow and heart]
[art - heart and cross]
art - people]

Record 276894 (Item Number: 1574c0364)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
Parker sucks pricks
Parker eats shit on rye
Parker jerks off twice a night
Parker sucks dead donkey dicks
Dick Eater Parker
Baltimore Maryland
Dave Mattull, St. Pete Florida
Mimi Corfar
To Vietnam, Jan 10 ETS May 24, 68 D.G.M.
Mung ho
Gary Stolz, Mt. Vernon Oregon, Vietnam 25 Nov 66, ETS 22 Nov 67 Short
Mimi Corfar, Florida
Spring has sprung, the grass has riz. I wonder where he hell the gophers is
Big Dave
Grenadier Goerge
Roses are red, violets are blue, most poems rhyme but this one don't
Youngstown Ohio, Mercer, Jim, 9th Division FTA
[foreign language]
Mt. Vernon Oregon
FTA [fuck the army]
Fuck you

Record 276821 (Item Number: 1574c0291)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
L.M.H. Mt. View, MO. ETS 12 Sept 68
Aug 68
Blichfield was here 1946
Knight sucks
ETS Dec 20, 1967. US forever. Army sucks big slimy dicks
John Mogan, Clifton Maine, ETS Aug 68
Donna Rhea Taylor
David P. Meritt, Hurley MO, ETS 9 May 68
Ed [illegible] + Nancy, Springfield Mass 1967 ETS Aug 1968

Record 275023  (Item Number: 1574c0126)
Statements as they appear on canvas:
The Army sucks
I love pussy
38th BPO 10 April 68 arrived at pier
RA all the way
L/Cpl Roy Painter, Okie, 22 July 1967
Army sucks big dick
Sorry about that but jenks eats pussy
2/47 C Co. arrived at pier 2:00 pm
Weiland sux
Jari Glines, Reno Nevada
Weiland eats cock
Fat Ass
Minnesota aint shit
[illegible sea journal 9-25 Jan 67]
The Devil loves me
ETS 9/26/69
Weilands a pussy
See ya in my wettest dreams
Harrisonburg Virginia
10 April arrive at pier
11 ' ' left pier 2:00 pm
12 ' ' ocean - seen flipper
13 ' ' at sea
14 ' '
15 seen flipper
16 hit a huge rock
17 run over a fish
19 broke the Nation's line
20 over run Okinawa 13 killed
PX is fucked up a line or what
First day trip of sickness
The only town is Motown Mich and there is no town like Motown
I love huskey boards
Trails in the desert by Peter Dragon
Follow me boys
VC puss
Left Calif July 7, 1967
Arrive Okie July 22, 1967
Arrive Vietnam July 26, 1967
VC land - Land of opportunity
Weiland eats VC pussy
He's going to have big lips instead of a big dick
PFC Bob Jenks. Detroit Mich. 11 April 67 VC land
E-1 PFC Raymond suck VC dicks
Mr. Fred Loniello, Madison Wisconsin. Left Okinawa Dec 1, 1967. Arrived
Calif Dec 15, 1967

--Ben Zimmer

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