Vietnam War

Oral History Interview: John Metzger

A man being interviewed on set

John Metzger WSIU

John Metzger grew up in Metropolis, Illinois in the 1940s and 1950s in a large Catholic family.

After graduating high school, he attended Southern Illinois University to keep from being drafted. He later changed his mind, enlisted in the Army and was sent to Vietnam in 1969 where he became a chaplain’s assistant.

He completed six weeks of clerk typist school before he was sent to assist a priest at the base in Quy Nhơn. As a chaplain’s assistant, Metzger accompanied the priest on outings to other military locations in Vietnam. His duties ranged from serving at mass or helping the priest administer the last rites for fallen soldiers. One location the priest often frequented was the leprosarium in Quy Nhơn.

Because of his assignment as a chaplain’s assistant, Metzger’s working quarters were relatively comfortable with hot showers, air conditioning and flushable toilets.

When he returned from the war, Metzger continued his education, received a Ph.D. in history and eventually became a school superintendent. He occasionally looks through the letters he and his family wrote to each other during the war, and he hopes to collect more information about this time through these records.

Central Illinois Vietnam Stories - John Metzger