Spotlight: Dr. James Wells Discusses his Investigative Memoir with "Veterans for Peace Radio Hour"
An interview with Dr. James B. Wells, Professor in the School of Justice Studies, recently aired with the "Veterans for Peace Radio Hour" at WFMP-LP 106.5 FM, Louisville. Peter Berres, Vietnam War veteran, instructor for EKU’s Veteran Studies, & the host for the program, says:
"James' story is an important contribution to the literature on families and our awareness of the forever lingering cost of war on loved ones who live out the hell of war for the duration of their own lives."
The interview discusses James's in-progress investigative memoir about his whistleblower father's still-classified 1965 death in
Vietnam and focuses on the trauma he and his family experienced and what veterans and others can learn from his book and experiences.
The 1991 discovery of hundreds of his father's letters a quarter-century after his 1965 death in Vietnam fueled Dr. Wells's interest in whistleblowing. Corroborating what his father wrote in his letters by conducting archival and field research across two continents, Dr. Wells has discovered evidence from multiple sources confirming a government lie and coverup concerning his father's death.
Dr. Wells says, “What my father wrote in letters has impacted the last third of my academic career. His letters make his insistence on doing the right thing, being truthful in his reports, exposing others' laziness or corruption, etc., clear. After realizing from his letters and my scholarly research as a criminologist that his character and actions would qualify him as a "whistleblower," I wondered to what extent his superiors and others, especially during the Vietnam era, tolerated his behavior. Some force drove me to search for clues in his letters, to corroborate what he wrote, to question whether he was making enemies, and to find out what I could about the details of his death.
“At EKU, I've taught undergraduate and graduate courses on whistleblowing in organizations. My father's case also inspired me to research whistleblowing in other settings, especially one I am close to. An article on whistleblowing in jail settings, authored by three co-authors and me, was recently published in a peer-reviewed criminal justice journal.
“And despite its negative connotation, our founding fathers ingrained whistleblowing in the US Constitution and even voted unanimously to enact the first law promoting it on July 30, 1778. I'm committed to educating others about the value of whistleblowing and to fulfill my need to inform others about it, I tweet a whistleblowing fact each morning on Twitter. If you want to learn about whistleblowing, follow me on Twitter. My handle is @JamesWellsB2.”
In 2012 James began writing about his quest to determine the truth about his father's death. As a result of completing EKU's Bluegrass Writers Studio (BGWS) MFA program last summer, James completed his thesis, a draft of his memoir.
Robert Johnson, BGWS Director, and James's thesis advisor, says “this book does so well so many of the things we want to see in creative nonfiction—deepens the familiar, takes us beyond the places we thought we knew, and tells us stories only the author could tell. And it’s been an amazing journey watching James’s storytelling skills sharpen and catch up with the astonishing facts his research has been unearthing. The whole process is exactly what an MFA program is designed to do—give students the tools and support to tell their story in their own way.”
Excerpts from Dr Wells’s work investigating the circumstances of his father’s death appear in Collateral Journal, About Place Journal, Shift, Wild Roof Journal, Military Experience and the Arts, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, and Shift. Links to publications, presentations, trailers, social media, and other information can be found at jamesbwells.com.
Published on April 14, 2023