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Veterans History Project News: Fall 2002/Winter 2003

Veterans Day

Numerous events honoring Veterans were organized around the country last Veterans Day. The Library of Congress and the Veterans History Project staff were proud to participate.

On November 11, the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, accompanied Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp to launch the Veterans History Project in Chattanooga. Congressman Wamp, local veterans and dignitaries honored the day with the announcement that sixteen counties in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia will help launch a project to collect the memories of military veterans. Interview space and equipment for a 30-month project will be provided by Erlanger Hospital working in conjunction with Channel 3 Eyewitness News, and First Tennessee.

VHP representatives, along with founding sponsor AARP, hosted a day-long program in Sacramento, California. The program opened with the University of California, Davis, ROTC providing a Color Guard. Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, Director of the Veterans History Project, along with Celia Esquivel, Associate State Director of AARP, welcomed the participants. Brigadier General Donald E. Mattson, USA (Ret.), Director of the California Military Museum, delivered the keynote speech underscoring the importance of collecting oral histories of veterans. Ed Berman, President of the Rossmoor Veterans History Project, conducted an oral history demonstration with Lillian Hominda, a Marine who served in WWII. Brigadier General Ezell Ware, Jr., Assistant Adjutant General of the California National Guard, made brief remarks at the official partners meeting following the public event. At 11/11/11:00 a.m., the audience observed a moment of silence to recognize veterans who have served our country. The VHP National Registry of Service was announced at the partner meeting. (http://www.loc.gov/vets/news-registry.html).

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the National Park Service co-hosted the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, November 6-11, with special events and activities. VHP staff, Peter Bartis and Sheila Dyer, made personal contact with hundreds of participants. Over 58,000 names are inscribed on the black granite wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. These names were read aloud in November for the third time since the wall's dedication in 1982, when the first reading took place.

Every November the town of Branson, Missouri, provides an opportunity to recognize the service American veterans have rendered to their country. During the week preceding November 11, veterans are welcomed at receptions, reunions, and banquets. The town's newspaper, television station, and businesses unite to honor, entertain, and provide free meals to local and visiting veterans. Program officer Virginia Sorkin represented the VHP in Branson.

  • If your contact information has changed since you filed your partner form, please let us know by calling 202-707-4916, e-mail vohp@loc.gov, or write to the Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center 101 Independence Avenue, SE, Washington DC 20540-4615.
  • Please note that mail is still slow due to security measures. Other means of communication are recommended.

In Memoriam

Stephen Ambrose
Distinguished Historian
Five Star Council Member

Five Star Council Profile: Everett Alvarez, Jr.

Everett Alvarez, Jr., a founding member of the Veterans History Project Five Star Council, was the first American aviator shot down over North Vietnam. He was a POW for eight and one-half years and was released in 1973. Mr. Alvarez returned to the U.S. to earn a Juris Doctorate from the George Washington School of Law after which he served in program management at the Naval Air Systems Command in Washington, D.C., until his retirement from the Navy in 1980. In 1982, he was nominated Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration by President Reagan.

Mr. Alvarez left the position of VA Deputy Administrator in May 1986. He held the position of Vice President for Government Services with Hospital Corporation of America until the fall of 1987 when he formed his own consulting company, Conwall Incorporated. Mr. Alvarez is the author of two books: Chained Eagle, a historical account of his captivity in Vietnam; and Code of Conduct, the story of the rebuilding of his life.

Representative Joe Baca Honors Veterans

U.S Representative Joe Baca spoke at the Library of Congress on October 1 on "Honoring Latino Veterans Through the Veterans History Project" on the occasion of Hispanic Heritage Month. The Congressman is an inspired speaker and spoke entertainingly and poignantly about his own service experiences during the Vietnam War era. He served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper with both the 101st and the 82nd Airborne Divisions from 1966-68.

VHP Highlighted from Coast to Coast

National Book Festival

Veterans History Project staff had an opportunity to share project information at the second National Book Festival, October 12. The Library of Congress Pavilion on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol welcomed its share of the 40,000 attendees. In a presentation on Collecting Wartime Memories, former U. S. Congressman Sam Gibbons and American Folklife Center Director Peggy Bulger demonstrated how to conduct an oral interview. Festival celebrities included award-winning writer Tony Hillerman who served in combat in World War II and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart after being wounded in 1945. Other authors of note included David Halberstam, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his Vietnam reportage, and Gail Buckley whose most recent book is entitled American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm. Mr. Gibbons and Ms. Buckley are members of the VHP Five Star Council.

San Diego AARP Convention

The Veterans History Project gained new friends and participants among the 11,000 who attended the September 12 AARP national convention in San Diego. Veterans, their spouses, and retirees seeking new careers as oral historians stopped to hear about the project, view a five-minute promotional video, and investigate the project's Web site http://www.loc.gov/vets/ at the VHP large exhibition booth, a very visible and popular addition to the convention's program, "Life @ 50+."

The Library of Congress was also represented at the convention by Deputy Librarian Donald L. Scott, who retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of brigadier general. General Scott spoke movingly about the project and generated much interest among the 7,500 AARP members at the plenary session. He appeared on the dais with Walter Cronkite, a member of the Veterans History Project Five Star Council. The previous evening, both participated in the Korean War Service ceremony honoring veterans who received service medals. The ceremony was the result of an AARP and U. S. Department of Defense project to locate American service men and women who served in Korea.

VHP staff Sarah Rouse, Nancy Mitchell, and Jason Lee spoke personally with more than 500 veterans and distributed hundreds of project brochures, bookmarks, and buttons. "It was very exiting for the project to see the enthusiasm on the part of the AARP members," said Rouse, senior program officer. "Many people were intrigued that a government project was interested in their own personal experiences-that their experiences could be a part of the historical record at the Library of Congress."

The AARP, with a membership of 35 million, is the founding corporate sponsor of the Veterans History Project. AARP plans a number of events and programs supporting and promoting the Veterans History Project.

VHP Statistics

The current VHP holdings passed the 4,000 mark in December, an exponential increase from about 600 last year at this time. Actual items amount to over 15,000. Based on the recent partner survey, we estimate thousands more interviews are on their way to us. Our official partner number is over 500, up from 115 of a year ago! About 100,000 kits have been distributed in the last year. Partners contributed 40% of the VHP collections.

Partner Survey Information

Results from the partner survey indicate many interesting projects underway. Some of the roadblocks, not surprisingly, involve the initial impetus of getting started and obtaining funding. On the latter topic, local humanities councils may prove helpful, also direct appeals to local groups and businesses. The non-profit, non-partisan Foundation Center materials are available in many libraries, and their Web site is http://fdncenter.org. This organization provides information on various funding sources.

American Memory

Please visit the Library of Congress American Memory Web site for recently added information on Pearl Harbor, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/afcphhtml/afcphhome.html as well as on Military Battles and Campaigns, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/milhome.html.

Program Assistance

  • To arrange a free interview workshop in your area, please call our Training Coordinator, David Albee, at 202-707-3410 or e-mail him at dalb@loc.gov with the date, place, and time you would like to host a workshop, indicate how many participants you will have (a group of about 20 to 30 is suggested), and who the partner organization contact will be. Using the talents of AFS and OHA members across the country, we will locate a workshop leader near you and have that person call you to make arrangements.
  • Our founding sponsor, AARP, offers a free online tutorial Remembrance: Recording Veterans' Oral Histories at http://www.aarp.org/learn (AARP Core Courses).
  • Please write us for our Event Planning and Publicity Toolkit, or to download the text, please go to http://www.loc.gov/vets/vets-partners.html.


G.W. Duquette Envelopes

Donated by G.W. Duquette: 60 envelopes sent to his wife from the Pacific during World War II. These air mail envelopes are distinguished by water-color cartoons by the donor's friend, Samuel Boylston, of South Carolina. The artwork depicts scenes of the friends' "Jungle Life," featuring boredom, letter writing, drinking, and goofing around. Prior to the war, Samuel Boylston was an art student. Upon his return to the United States, he entered law school and became a State Representative from South Carolina. Well preserved and extensive in subject matter, these envelopes are a unique and exciting addition to the collection.


Five Star Council Profile
Congressman Joe Baca
Partner Activities

Census Figures

The U.S. Census Bureau featured a number of interesting statistics on Veterans Day*#058;

Based on Census 2000, veterans in the United States number 26.4 million - counting persons "18 years old and over who, at the time of the enumeration, had served on active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard in the past (even for a short time), but were not then on active duty, or who had served in the Merchant Marine during World War II." This adds up to 13% of the civilian population 18 or over.

  • Nearly 6 million served in World War II.
  • About 4 million served in the Korean War.
  • More than 8 million served during the Vietnam era.
  • About 3 million served since August 1990, which includes Persian Gulf War veterans. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data indicate that, as of 1999, there were 2.2 million Gulf War veterans.

Source9 U.S. Census Bureau Public Information Office (301) 763-3030

Media Coverage of the Project

Parade Magazine, ABC, USA Today, MSNBC, CBS, NPR, Washington Post, Roll Call, Stars and Stripes, and many other media outlets have featured the Veterans History Project recently. USA Today in its December 16, 2002, article referred to the VHP as follows: "The Library of Congress program, barely two years old, may be the most ambitious effort both in scope... . It also carries the imprimatur of a government project within the nation's largest and most prestigious library." The article noted the late Stephen Ambrose's Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans with oral histories from veterans of D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, the Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington,D.C., the U.S. Army Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Latinos and Latinas World War II Oral History Project at the University of Texas-Austin, and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation.

The VHP Web site logged over 20,000 hits on Veterans Day thanks to the publicity on ABC News and Parade Magazine.

Partner Activities

City Partners

VHP partners come in a variety of guises. For instance, two cities are working collectively to preserve the histories of their veterans. The City of Forks, Washington, was the first community partner to join the Veterans History Project with the sanction of the city council and Mayor Nedra Reed, a former "army-brat." The moving force behind this effort is Rod Fleck, City Attorney/Planner and a U. S. Air Force veteran, who has been active in engaging local veterans organizations and members of the local Quileute Tribe, as well as local schools under the aegis of Frank Walter, Superintendent of the Quillayute Valley School District. The City of Warwick, Rhode Island, is the second city to become an official partner. The Mayor of Warwick, Scott Avedisian, is asking teachers and students to participate in the project as a way of linking the city's five high schools with the larger community.

Other Partners

Temple Emanu-El, Palm Beach, Florida

Dr. Haviva Langenauer of Temple Emanu-El in Palm Beach, Florida, writes of their Eyewitness to History program interviewing WWII veterans: "Thank you for all of your help. I don't know if anyone is doing a report of the psychological effects of interviewing these elderly men. All I can say is that it certainly makes a difference in their lives. They stand taller, hold their heads higher. I had two of the veterans give us 5 minutes of anecdotes from their tapes when we commemorated Pearl Harbor. It was an incredible experience. Our total event was very emotional and moved people to tears." This Pearl Harbor Commemoration also featured music from the era.

Young Marines of California, Michigan, and Ohio

The Young Marines continue their fine work. In Sacramento, we were pleased to meet a contingent of the Nor Cal Young Marines with their commanding officer, Lisa Romero. The Veterans History Project celebrated the efforts of the Young Marines of Monroe County, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, at a ceremony on October 24. In one of the beautiful, 19th century Library of Congress rooms, 12-year-old Lance Cpl. Edward Litten and others were cited for their enthusiastic involvement in the project, which has resulted in 18 videotaped oral interviews.

Veterans Day Commemorations

  • Indiana Senator Richard G. Lugar's staff worked with students of Paoli to collect veterans' stories for the VHP collection, and also with students of the Park Tudor School of Indianapolis on a book-signing of Words of War: Wartime Memories from the Civil War Through the Gulf War at a public library in Greenfield.
  • In Farwell, Michigan, the Surrey Township Public Library with the Library Teen Council launched their official partnership with the VHP. The Michigan Oral History Association, Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries, Michigan State University Museum's folklife unit, and other organizations hosted an all-day oral history workshop. MOHA will support the Friends of Michigan History with an annual recognition of veterans.
  • On November 12, 2002, The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, First Southern Region, and Shaker High School, Latham, New York, two Veterans History Project Partners, honored their local veterans during an evening program held at the high school. The program, which included guest speakers, video clips, and music, featured the Veterans History Project. A highlight of the evening's program came when 39 completed interviews were presented to guest speaker Tim Schurtter, a Veterans History Project program officer.
  • The Mary L. Cook Public Library in Waynesville, Ohio, created a display of memorabilia collected in conjunction with the Veterans History Project.
  • The Pacific Theater Project of Mountain Green, Utah, is creating a library of broadcast-quality digital video interviews with Pacific theater WWII veterans, and two series of educational documentaries. The Digital Video Library of WWII Pacific Theater Veterans is to be located in the Center for Pacific War Studies at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.
  • The National D-Day Memorial Foundation conducted two ceremonies at the site of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.
  • The Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library in West Virginia, local television station WBOY, and Fairmont State College produced a week-long celebration for veterans.

Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4615

Newsletter contributors: Peter Bartis, Anneliesa Clump, Nancy Mitchell, Rebecca Petersen, Tim Roberts, Sarah Rouse, Tim Schurtter, Virginia Sorkin, Taru Spiegel.

Newsletter email: vohp@loc.gov


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