Jump directly to page content  The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center
HomeAboutParticipateDatabase SearchExperiencing WarPartnersStudentsFAQsNews

Veterans History Project News: Fall 2003

The Veterans History Project is releasing a one-hour radio program “Coming Home” in honor of Veterans Day. Please check your local public radio listings for this showcase of VHP collections hosted by former Senator Max Cleland. The program was made possible by the generosity of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust.

For other Veterans Day activities, please visit our Web site http://www.loc.gov/vets/. Newly digitized VHP collections will be highlighted on http://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/. Featured themes for these selections focus on special ties in our lives. Real life accounts under the headings of “Buddies,” “Family Ties,” and “Sweethearts” again demonstrate the value of collecting the stories of our “everyday heroes.”

For the second year in a row, the Veterans History Project participated in AARP’s National Event, “[email protected]+:
A Celebration of You,” this time in Chicago, September 5-7. VHP, working with the Chicago Historical Society, set aside space for veterans and supporting civilians to share their memories, and to be interviewed. The Chicago Sun Times September 3rd issue featured VHP collections in “Veterans tell it like it was” by Steve Neal. AARP is the project’s founding corporate sponsor. For more information about AARP, please visit http://www.aarp.org/.

At the October 4 National Book Festival, the Veterans History Project had its own tent and a multi-access booth courtesy of AARP. An estimated 70,000 people attended the festival on the National Mall. At the History & Biography Pavilion, VHP was proud to host an interview of Everett Alvarez, Jr., former Vietnam POW and author of the autobiographical Chained Eagle. James Bradley, author of WWII airmen’s story Flyboys, was the interviewer. Alvarez said support from the other POWs helped him survive his imprisonment of eight and a half years. “We had a total commitment to each other.” Other books of note highlighted at the festival included An Army at Dawn: The War in Africa 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkins, The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1941-1945 by Michael Beschloss, and They Marched in Sunlight: War and Peace in Vietnam and America, October 1967 by David Maraniss. C-SPAN2 covered the event.

The National WWII Memorial dedication ceremony has been set for Saturday, May 29, 2004. A four-day dedication celebration is planned by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The Veterans History Project has been invited to join the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington National Cathedral, and Armed Forces ceremonial and musical units to participate in ABMC’s official four-day “Tribute to a Generation,” May 27 through May 30. For more information about the Memorial, please visit http://www.wwiimemorial.com/.

  • If your contact information has changed since you filed your partner form, please let us know by calling 202-707-4916, fax 202-252-2046, e-mail [email protected], 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.

Five-Star Council Profile:
Tom Brokaw

Tom Brokaw began his journalism career in Omaha and Atlanta before joining NBC News in 1966. Brokaw was the White House correspondent for NBC News during Watergate, and from 1976 to 1981 he anchored "Today on NBC." Brokaw has won every major award in broadcast journalism.

In addition to The Nightly News, Brokaw anchored "The Brokaw Report" (1992-93). He also co-anchored the prime-time news magazine "Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric" (1993-94). In June 1997, he anchored the Dateline NBC documentary special, "Tom Brokaw Reports: Why Can't We Live Together," which examined the hidden realities of racial separation in America's suburbs.

Brokaw has received numerous awards for his work, including a Peabody for "To Be an American," an Emmy for "China in Crisis," the Dennis Kauff Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism from Boston University, and the Lowell Thomas Award from Marist College. In 1997, Brokaw received the Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and was inducted into Broadcasting and Cable's TV Hall of Fame. In 1998, Brokaw received the American Legion's top award for distinguished public service in the field of communications and the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award. In 1999, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's "Tex" McCrary Excellence in Journalism Award.

Complementing his distinguished broadcast journalism career, Brokaw has written articles, essays, and commentary for various publications. In December 1998, Brokaw wrote his first book, The Greatest Generation, an account of the generation of Americans born in the 1920s who came of age during the Great Depression, fought in the Second World War, and went on to build America. Tom Brokaw's other bestsellers include The Greatest Generation Speaks, and An Album of Memories.

September Outreach Meeting

In September the Veterans History Project held a special meeting of its Official Partner organizations recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as Veterans Service Organizations. Also included were historians from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. This was an opportunity to meet with a handful of Official Partners to discuss outreach to the millions of people they represent. Co-conveners were Ellen Lovell, director, and Peter Bartis, senior program officer. After a brief update on the Project's progress and increasing Congressional participation, the conversation focused on ways to motivate membership, increase the numbers of volunteer interviewers in communities, and generate even more grass roots awareness. Suggestions included the development of a generic article for project partners to personalize for their magazines and newsletters, outreach to auxiliary organizations whose memberships consist of the sons, daughters, and wives of veterans, e.g. Sons of the VFW, and ways to reach out to state governors and legislators. Ellen summed up the morning noting that "it was a terrific meeting full of energy and creative thinking." Attending the meeting were representatives from the American Legion, the American Red Cross, American War Mothers, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc.

Former Vietnam POWs Tell their Stories through Photograph Exhibit

The Decatur House in Washington, D.C. is presenting a traveling photography exhibit "Open Doors: Vietnam POWs Thirty Years Later," November 11, 2003 through January 9, 2004. Writer Taylor Baldwin Kiland and photographer Jamie Howren Quinn spent eighteen months interviewing and photographing thirty extraordinary men, who demonstrated the real meaning of heroism as prisoners of war in Vietnam. The Veterans History Project will partner in an educational program in connection with the exhibit. The program will feature local POWs from the Vietnam War who will speak about their wartime experiences and answer questions. (The Decatur House was completed in 1818 for naval hero Stephen Decatur and his wife Susan. In 1956 the unique mansion was bequeathed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation).

Saturday, November 15, 2003, and Saturday, January 10, 2004, from10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Decatur House, 610 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006.

To reserve seats, please call (202) 842-0920 ext. 223. http://www.decaturhouse.org.

VHP Statistics/Highlights

At the end of September, the number of VHP partners topped 800, and the total of individual submissions is over the 10,000 mark. Monthly Web hits number in the tens of thousands, nearly reaching 100,000 in June. We also receive hundreds of phone and e-mail inquiries monthly.

"When History Speaks"

Three gay combat veterans spoke at the Library of Congress at a September 17 panel co-sponsored by the VHP, LC-GLOBE, and AVER - American Veterans for Equal Rights, Inc. Donna Sumption was an Army Captain during the Persian Gulf War, Mike Rankin, USN (Ret.), M.D., was a Navy psychiatrist and a Vietnam War combat veteran, and Franklin E. Kameny was an Army Private First Class during World War II. The panelists discussed their experiences in an environment where sexual orientation placed an additional burden on situations already filled with stress.

The Washington Post noted on September 14 that of the 25.1 million living veterans 1.3 million are gay men or lesbians. The article, "A Call for Eternal Equality" by Garance Burke further noted that the "Library of Congress has also made an effort to include the testimonies of Gay Veterans in its Veterans History Project." AVER's Lara Ballard has been videotaping gay veterans about their combat experience. Ballard served in the air defense artillery during the Persian Gulf War.

Hispanic Heritage Month Observed

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the VHP sponsored a special film screening on September 29 of "Soldados: Chicanos in Viet Nam" with Director Sonya Rhee answering questions. Rhee co-directed and produced this PBS documentary with Charley Trujillo, whose award-winning book served as the basis of the film.

Soldados recounts the experience of a generation of Chicano boys, whose first journey outside the cotton fields of their California hometowns was to the war-torn land of Vietnam. Trujillo, a Vietnam veteran, has taught college courses in ethnic and Chicano studies, and the Vietnam war. He earned both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

Growing up as a Korean-American with a father who served in the U.S. Army, Rhee, a graduate of Wellesley College, identified strongly with many of the sentiments brought up by Charley and his fellow Chicano veterans. Rhee believes it is important for people to realize that everyone has a story worth telling.

Five-star Council Profile
Decatur House
Congressional Support
VA Statistics

High School Partners with Retirement Home

On June 5, 2003, twenty students and faculty members from Loudoun Valley High School, a Classroom Partner of the VHP, met with residents and staff of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C., also a Project Partner. To conduct interviews, the students brought video cameras, recording equipment and note pads to take down the wartime memories of eighteen volunteer veterans. Recording sessions were held in the chapel.

The veterans provided the students with historical information and numerous stories, including first-hand accounts of the liberation of concentration camps in Nazi Germany during World War II. Conversations were not always serious, though. Many of the veterans shared hilarious stories from both their youth and their time in the service. They recounted many other memories of wartime experiences as well especially of the friendships and camaraderie that were formed within their units.

After the interviewing had taken place, the students were invited to dine in the retirement home cafeteria for a lively lunch with the veterans and students continuing their conversations over the meals.

Afterwards students were invited to a musical show in the auditorium, and enthusiastically attended. Staff from the retirement home were so excited to see the students enthusiasm that they invited them up on stage, where many of the students performed for the veterans, singing and dancing to old wartime songs.

The trip to the Armed Forces Retirement Home was an invaluable experience for the students of Loudoun Valley High School. Not only did they get the opportunity to document important accounts of these veterans wartime experiences, but they made new friends as well.

Congressional Support

The West Virginia University School of Journalism is offering a graduate course in public relations to promote VHP throughout the state. Students in an undergraduate course in the school will conduct the interviews. The classes were created at the urging of Senator Robert C. Byrd's office last fall.

Senator Lincoln Chafee's Rhode Island office has become a VHP Partner. They are teaming up with another partner, the Rhode Island Historical Society.

In September Senator Tom Daschle, South Dakota, promoted the VHP at the Sioux Falls Veterans StandDown, an annual event to help homeless veterans as well as those in need. The University of South Dakota Oral History Center, another VHP partner, intends to work with the Senator's office.

Congressman Bill Jenkins of Tennessee has also become an Official Partner working together with Partner East Tennessee State University.

Earlier this year Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia hosted VHP kickoffs in Brunswick, Pooler, Savannah, and Warner Robins.

Congressman Bob Ney championed VHP in Zanesville and Chillicothe, Ohio. The event in Zanesville was a meeting with John Kunkel, a Veterans Administration staff member and Vietnam veteran, as well as Chuck Martin, a reporter with the Times Recorder. Chillicothe's kickoff event included members of the VA, and local veterans.

Statistics from the
Department of Veterans Affairs

The following is a thumbnail sketch of veterans statistics from the major 20th century conflicts.

World War I (1917-18)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 4,734,991
Living Veterans: fewer than 200

World War II (1941-45)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 16,112,566
Living Veterans: 4,370,000

Korean War (1950-53)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 5,720,000
Living Veterans: 3,580,000

Vietnam War (1964-75)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 9,200,000
Deployed to Southeast Asia 3,403,000
Living Veterans: 8,211,000

Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-91)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 2,322,332
Living Veterans: 1,889,000
(The estimate of living Gulf War veterans is the number of surviving servicemembers on active duty August 1990 through June 1991, but no longer in military service.)

Approximately 890,000 living veterans served in two conflicts and an additional 130,000 served in three conflicts.

Estimates as of September 30, 2003.
Issue Date: October 2003
-- From VA Office of Public Affairs,
Washington, DC 20420
(202) 273-6000

VHP Staff Attend AFS, OHA Annual Meetings

Project staff were pleased to be invited to highlight VHP during a variety of venues at both the American Folkore Society and the Oral History Association meetings in October. Both of these organizations have provided trainers at the free VHP workshops.

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 [email protected] with the date, place, and time you would like to host a workshop; indicate how many participants you will have (a group of about twenty to thirty is suggested); and who the partner organization contact will be.

Free Subscription to Folklife Center News

The Veterans History Project is part of the American Folklife Center. If you are interested in American folklife, the subscription to the Folklife Center News magazine is free. To subscribe, please contact the Center with your name and postal address.

They may be reached at: [email protected] or American Folklife Center,
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20540-4610.

Inquiry: Japanese American Veterans

The Japanese American Veterans Association, located in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with the National Japanese American Veterans Council, both partners of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, is compiling a list of all organizations which have conducted, or are planning to conduct, oral history interviews of ethnic Japanese who served in WW II, Korea, Vietnam and Middle East wars. The purpose of this exercise is to facilitate access to the totality of ethnic Japanese oral histories to qualified historians and researchers. If your organization has interviewed ethnic Japanese veterans, please send your acknowledgment to the grateful:

Terry T. Shima, Coordinator, JAVA Oral History Project
8909 Falls Chapel Way
Potomac, MD 20854
email: [email protected].


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

Newsletter email: [email protected]

Newsletter contributors: Peter Bartis, Jim Hardin, Tim Roberts, Sandra Savage, Tim Schurtter, Virginia Sorkin, Taru Spiegel.

Return to Top of Page TOP OF PAGE
HomeAboutParticipateDatabase SearchExperiencing WarPartnersStudentsFAQsNews
  The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center
  August 11, 2010
For Researchers | Disclaimer | Contact Us  
Legal | External Link Disclaimer