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February 12, 2004

Library of Congress Veterans History Project Highlights Project Highights More Stories of Service

"Lessons of War" Goes Online Feb. 16

A new collection of 18 fully digitized collections of materials submitted by veterans and civilians will be available for the first time on the Library of Congress Web site on Feb. 16 at www.loc.gov/warstories.

This is the third set of individual stories - comprising interviews, letters, photographs and written memoirs - to be featured on the site, which is titled "Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project." Last year, 44 stories on the themes of Courage, Patriotism and Community, Sweethearts, Family Ties and Buddies debuted. "Lessons of War," the latest addition of stories, complements the growing online collection.

This third presentation of personal narratives includes moving tales that span the themes of "mission," "life-altering experiences" and "hurry up and wait." The digitized materials are part of the continuing effort by the Library to make its collections accessible online. The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center plans to make other stories from the 13,000 submissions the project has received available in the future.

"We encourage everyone to visit the Veterans History Project site and learn about "lessons of war" and to ask a veteran or civilian supporter, 'What did you do during the war?'" said Peggy Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center.

One of the featured veterans, Rafael Hirtz, was the son of a wealthy businessman with contacts all over the world. When Hirtz attended the Berlin Olympics in 1936 as a teenager, he could sense the storm that was brewing in Europe. After the United States entered World War II, he dropped out of college, so eager to serve against Hitler that he took on the dangerous job of spying for the newly formed Office of Strategic Services.

In 1942 a young Oregonian, Jeanne Holm, was determined to serve in World War II. Holm was among the first women to enlist in the military - the beginning of a life-altering experience for her. Starting out as an Army truck driver, Holm soon became an officer and a leader. At war's end her patriotic impulse developed into an Air Force career of more than 30 years. Holm wrote three books on women in the military, stories in which she played a major role thanks to her advocacy while on active duty and during her retirement. General Holm serves on the Veterans History Project Five Star Advisory Council.

Veterans from World War I, World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, and the civilians who supported them, are coming forward to record their personal stories and contribute personal documents for a growing archives at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The goal is to collect, preserve and share with future generations the stories of all American war veterans.

Authorized by legislation passed in 2000, the project is being carried out in the way that Congress envisioned: with grandchildren interviewing grandparents, veterans interviewing each other, and students conducting interviews as part of classroom assignments. This program is the only nationwide oral history and documentation effort that relies on volunteers rather than professional oral historians to collect stories and artifacts. AARP is the founding sponsor of the project, with more than 900 other organizations also participating.

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress was created in 1976 to document, preserve and present all aspects of traditional culture and life in America. With more than 2 million items, it maintains the largest repository of traditional cultural documentation in the United States.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for older Americans.

Those who are interested in becoming involved in the Veterans History Project are encouraged to e-mail the office at vohp@loc.gov to request a project information kit. The kit is also available on the Veterans History Project Web site at www.loc.gov/vets or call the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848.

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PR 04-021
02/12/04
ISSN 0731-3527

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