Editor’s note: This is an encore of a blog post that originally appeared in May 2012.
“Grandpa, I heard you talking on the Internet!”
“Grandson, what do you mean?”
“Yes, I heard you talking about landing on the beach in France on D-Day!”
“How can that be?”
“It’s the Library of Congress, Grandpa. They put your interview online for everyone to hear your story.”
One of the most satisfying and interesting experiences of being a member of the Association of Personal Historians is the work our members worldwide have put into saving the stories of veterans, some through individual projects and some, specifically in the United States, through our involvement and support for the Veterans History Project. (Scroll down for information on a veterans oral history project in Canada and an Australian veterans documentary project.)
The Veterans History Project is part of the American Folklore Center of the Library of Congress and its mission is to collect first-hand stories from real US veterans from all the wars since WWI. Also invited to tell their stories are those family and friends who were actively supporting the war efforts at home including the “Rosie the Riveters” working in war-production factories, USO workers, and volunteers working in local communities.
Individual members of APH have been capturing interviews with veterans and their families for years as part of their normal personal historian projects.
Ben Patton, an APH member from New York, and the grandson of General George Patton, was interviewed on MSNBC about his book, Growing Up Patton: Reflections on Heroes, History and Family Wisdom, and his experiences as a personal historian.
His company Patton Productions has established a user-generated way for families to upload their own video interviews and stories about and with veterans.
In recent years, since becoming an official participant in the Veterans History Project, APH members have volunteered countless hours to help capture the voices and stories of those from the “Greatest Generation” of World War II, and those from the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, and current involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Participation in the Veterans History Project process is very easy. Anyone can become a volunteer to help with this important project. Just click here for information and guidelines. Or contact any member of APH and they can help find a volunteer to interview your veteran or help get you in the system.
These veterans stories can include audio or video interviews as well as copies of letters, diaries, photos, scrapbooks, etc. These materials will be digitized and made available at the Library of Congress, accessible by future generations of students, scholars, historians, and families—to learn about what really happened in the trenches by those who were there.
Many of these interviews and materials are available to see and hear right now online. From the Veterans History Project home page, click on “search the veterans collection.” You can search by name, service location, ship, or several other categories. Use “Association of Personal Historians” as a search item, and you will find eighty people, so far, who have been interviewed by our members and are in the database. It’s really cool to find the name of someone you know in the database—a grandparent, uncle, or aunt—and with a click a button, hear him talking about his landing on the beaches of D-Day or her relating her experiences as a nurse on Bataan.
The University of Victoria Special Collections Canadian Military Oral History Collection is composed of close to 600 interviews of veterans of WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the War in Afghanistan. Summaries of all of the interviews can be found by searching the Canadian Military Oral History Collection database. Online access to the first 200 interviews of the collection is available here.
To accompany Australians at War, an eight-hour TV documentary, this website includes written excerpts from diaries and letters, with photos, sketches and other material, from Australian veterans, ranging from the Boer War through today’s Peacekeeping efforts.
~APH: Life, Story, People~
About today’s contributor: RJ McHatton, an APH member from Oregon, has been capturing video interviews with veterans as a volunteer for the VHP since 2005, even before becoming a member of APH. Through his company, Inventive Productions, Inc., he has interviewed veterans from Battle of the Bulge, D-Day, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, Chosin Reservoir, Guadacanal, Iwo Jima, and many more. See sample clips of RJ’s video interviews with VHP vets here.