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Text by Mike                Photos by Bill              Bill is available for slide presentations on his trip
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I have been wanting to do a story on Bill's travel's to Vietnam since last September. Bill had phoned me and left a message on my machine that he was giving a slide presentation on his trip at Cat's Impetuous Books in Kent.
I have know Bill Arthrell for almost 30 years. We met when I was a new freshman at Kent State in the Fall of 1970, only 5 and a half months after the murder of the 4 students. We marched together and demonstrated together at Kent State and in D.C. Bill is one of only  two individuals from my freshman days that I still see on a regular basis.
However, he lives in Oberlin and I in Kent and we didn't get to see each other that often. So I jumped at the chance to  go see him and hear about his exploits. Bill is a great story teller. His trip to Vietnam was not his first overseas excursion. Kendra and I have been entertained many a time by his whimsical tales of travel throughout the world. Now don't misunderstand me. Even a dry rendering of Bill's exploits would thrill the average individual. Bill just doesn't go somewhere and let fate happen to him. He molds it and guides it and challenges it. We were not disappointed on listening to his   presentation on his Vietnam tip at Cats.

It so happened that I had been looking for individuals to submit personal stories to this website  about how May 4, 1970 at Kent State had personally effected their lives

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Bill helping out in the rice fields on his way to My Lai, Vietnam

And, of course, Bill's trip to Vietnam would never have happened if not for Bill being at Kent State on  May 4, 1970  and having been fired on by the Ohio National Guard.
Well, due to events beyond our control,  illness and the weather, we were only able to meet 3 times in the 7 months, the latest being just one week ago on April 6 when I began to construct these pages. So I apologize for whatever consequences arise out of my need to get this up as soon as possible.
Bill was a sophomore history major in May of 1970 and had been active in Kent State's antiwar movement.  He is probably best known for his famous (or infamous)   "napalming of the dog" incident on April 22, 1970. Needless to say, there was NO napalming of a dog nor had Bill ever planned for there to be one.  However, according the The Daily Kent Stater on April 23, 1970, "members of the Animal Protective League stood close by." For the Stater's full article on the "incident" click HERE.
Bill was one of 25 individuals present on campus on May 4, 1970, indicted by a Portage County Grand Jury for alleged acts of inciting riot and other such nonsense. (Charges against Bill and most of the 25 were dropped.)This grand jury also exonerated the killers and blamed the victims for their own deaths. Bill was also a member of Tent City for those 62 days of struggle in an attempt to prevent the KSU administration from abusing  and altering the site where the May 4 murders were concocted and carried out.
You can also read an article written by Bill on the Gym Struggle in this web site. Bill is also a poet and an author. He has written numerous articles about his experiences on May 4, 1970 and at Tent City. Bill has a chapter in Scott Bill's, Kent State/May 4-Echoes Though A Decade (see our resource page) and has written  and edited books of poetry. Link here for a poem Bill had published in A Gathering of Poets, a collection of poems about Kent and Jackson State (also listed on our resource page.)

The genesis for Bill's Guilt Trip (a title, I might add,  embraced by Bill) actually began about 10 years before Bill "returned" to Vietnam. Bill had embarked on a trip around the world, of which one segment found him living in Thailand for a year. It was while in Southeast Asia that Bill began to feel a need to deal with his feelings about what had been done to the people of Vietnam by his countrymen in what the Vietnamese refer to as the American War. This was a war that had cost the lives of over 3 million human beings, mostly Vietnamese but also the lives Allison, Bill, Sandy and Jeffrey, classmates of Bill's at Kent State. It was a war which had "come home" to Kent State, and thrust Bill and hundreds of others at Kent State onto the front lines. Sixty-two seconds of gunfire...but a lifetime of emotional consequences.
According to Bill, his stay in Thailand "unearthed a lot of unsettling feelings I wasn't even aware of about  Kent State and about Vietnam that still were embedded in the pit of my stomach." At that time Bill had a Cambodian girlfriend and he even  attempted to apologize to her for the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970 (which precipitated the tragedy at Kent State.)

The longer he stayed in Thailand the more these demon's surfaced and more Bill became affected by them. However at this time Bill feelings were mixed. "When I lived in Thailand, I was really afraid to go and confront  that [his feelings abut the war]. I wasn't ready for it psychologically. And it took me 10 years to even go back to Thailand after I lived there."

Bill returned to Southeast Asia in the summer of 1998 and spent 3  agonizing weeks in Laos and Thailand before finally getting on a plane and flying to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). While on the plane Bill began a poem which he finished about two days into his trip. It too is entitled Guilt Trip and will take you into a Vietnam that is as old as Bill's memories of the American War and as new and fresh as his experiences on the ground in a reunited Vietnam.

Go to Guilt Trip the poem

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