By GAIL FINEBERG
Indiana's growing interest in interviewing its war veterans for the Library's Veterans History Project will contribute to the flow of veterans' tape-recorded interviews, letters, memoirs, diaries and photographs to Library of Congress archives.
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), presented the Library and Veterans History Project managers from the American Folklife Center with several packets of Indiana veterans' materials during a brief ceremony in the Members Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building on June 28. Lugar has engaged 15 of his staff members in organizing the project in Indiana and in interviewing veterans.
"We have exceeded 500 interviews," Lugar said. "The good news is that we now have 30 partners, including Purdue University and a number of high schools, as well as a number of veterans' organizations who, as I speak, are interviewing more Hoosier veterans."
"We are just at the beginning," Lugar said. "The 500 is a very small down payment on all that is to follow; this is certain to move in geometric proportions as the enthusiasm in Indiana increases for this project."
Lugar said Hoosiers appreciate the Library's role of collecting, preserving, and making accessible the personal histories of veterans who fought in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf conflict.
"I think the people of Indiana take this [project] very seriously because of the partnership with the Library of Congress," Lugar said. "The thought is … that we will bring these tapes and records and photographs to the Library of Congress, where they will be appropriately … processed in all the ways that you do so well, so that the friends and relatives of these veterans in perpetuity will be able to gain access, through the marvels that are now available in technology, to these stories."
Lugar said he thinks it is appropriate to involve high school and college students in the project to interview veterans and capture their memories on tape. The project brings people of two and three generations together and gives students an understanding of "what life was like in the forties or during the periods of the Korean or Vietnam wars, the outlook of people who were living lives in our communities then, who were attempting to do their part for their country," Lugar said.
He said he had witnessed "vivid discussions" in three high schools, in which students planning their interviews expressed their own sense of service to their country.
Lugar noted that an Austin, Ind., newspaper carried a front page story about the town's high school participating in the project. "The paper in Austin considered this to be a very significant event; it got front-page coverage because of its importance to people," he said.
The senator, a Navy veteran, later told a group of reporters that he had interviewed two veterans himself. "They had remarkable stories, and vivid memories of events that occurred over 50 years ago. One, telling his story of the Battle of the Bulge, was able to recollect the circumstances remarkably," Lugar said.
He predicted that "these nuggets of history," many of them never before shared by reticent veterans, will enhance the knowledge that historians have of events that shaped the 20th century.
Accepting the Indiana veterans' histories on behalf of the Librarian, Associate Librarian for Library Services Winston Tabb noted that, in the "mere 17 months" since the Library accepted Congress' unanimous charge to lead the project, the Library had amassed "an army, and a navy, of volunteers" to help, among whom were 291 partner organizations and members of Congress.
"We particularly wanted members of Congress involved in the project, but it was beyond our wildest dreams that we would ever have a member who would be as enthusiastic and deeply involved on a personal level as you have been—all the more remarkable because of all the responsibilities you have as a senator," Tabb said, thanking Lugar for his contributions.
Gail Fineberg is editor of The Gazette, the Library's staff newsletter.