Rest in Peace Colonel Clifford C. Neilson

By Gerald "Jay" Gaidmore - Marian and Alan McLeod Director of Special Collections

In 2016, the Williamsburg Vintage Ladies visited Swem Library to see treasures from our Special Collections. During the event, I spoke about our collections and shared information about what we are looking to collect. I told the attendees that we seek to document and preserve United States military history and collect letters, diaries, photographs, and ephemera of military veterans who have served our country from the colonial times to the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

May 23 and May 24, 1968 entries from Colonel Neilson's diary. 
The red underline on May 23 indicates a day of combat.

After my talk, Stephanie Heller told me that her husband, Col. Clifford Neilson, had kept a diary of his time serving Vietnam and asked if that would be something we would be interested in having in our collections. I immediately responded yes, and she put him in touch with me.

A week or so later, I met with Col. Neilson, who had served as the commander of 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry, 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam from May to November 1968. He showed me the diary and explained the contents. The diary provides an amazing description of combat in Vietnam and is exceedingly rare. Why? Because soldiers from World War I and onwards were under strict military censorship rules and discouraged to keep journals or diaries of their service to prevent enemy forces from learning about potential military actions.

I was deeply sorry to hear of Col. Neilson’s passing on April 17, 2024. We are honored to have his combat diary in the William & Mary Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center and to preserve the legacy of his military service for future generations. You can learn more about his diary and request to view it at Special Collections here.

Deepest condolences to his family for their loss. Rest in peace, Colonel Neilson, and thank you for your service.


June 2 and 3, 1968 entries from Colonel Neilson's diary. Details include "7 hour hard rain."
June 17 and June 19, 1968 entries from Colonel Neilson's diary.
June 17 is described as an "unquiet nite [sic]" while June 19 is described
as a "quiet nite [sic]."