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Veterans History Project News: Summer 2002

D-Day Event Features Vets History

Two color guards marched in crisp military cadence on the hangar deck of the USS Intrepid docked in the New York City harbor on Thursday, June 6, the 58th anniversary of D-Day, to launch the Library's Veterans History Project celebration and national call to action.

The celebration, strategically sited aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier, which is now a floating sea-air-space museum, was hosted by the Library of Congress with support from AARP. More than 500 New York area residents attended, some in their U.S. Marine Corps dark blue and white uniforms, others wearing colorful VFW caps and badges, and still others in their National Guard Militia olive green uniforms and insignia.

Not only veterans and active-duty military, but also representatives of some of the project's 250 partner organizations were on hand, ranging from academic and humanities organizations such as Columbia University, the Oral History Association, and the New York Public Library, to reunion groups and local schools, such as the Floyd Bennett Field Task Force and the High School of Graphic Communication Arts.

The day's most celebrated veterans were Sam Billison, a Navajo who had served as one of the US Marine code-talkers in the Pacific theater during World War II, who participated in a demonstration of an oral history interview, and Lt. Col. Lee A. Archer, Jr., USA (Ret.), who was a Tuskegee Airman during World War II and serves on the Veterans History Project's Five-Star Council of advisors.

Sen. Lugar Delivers Indiana Tapes to Veterans History Project

At a June 28 press conference in the Member's Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building, US Senator Richard G. Lugar personally delivered a batch of recordings of interviews with Indiana veterans to the Library of Congress. With the delivery, Lugar has submitted more than 500 tapes to the Veterans History Project. The Lugar material is the largest collection of material from a single source contributed to the Project.

"Where once there was someone on every block, in every family serving in the military, now we have to strain to make a direct connection," Lugar said. "In the United States Congress, where once nearly 80 percent of members had worn the uniform, we are down to one-third."

"Most Americans have simply lost touch with what it means to serve in the Armed Forces or to serve a cause greater than self," said Lugar. "I believe it is important that veterans communicate to the next generation an understanding of the sacrifices and hardships involved in life in the military, which cannot be gained by reading books or watching movies."

VFW Helps Locate World War I Veterans

The Veterans History Project (VHP) wishes to thank National Partner representative Mike Gormalley, National Director of Citizenship Education and Community Service for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), who sent an email to all VFW State Departments asking for their support in finding World War I veterans as quickly as possible. Based on this and a follow-up email, the VHP has received leads from Kentucky, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. We have also heard from a Florida VFW Auxiliary member who put us in touch with the Veterans of WWI Headquarters and sent us 2001 WWI veterans census data. Several names have been given to us over the telephone. As we find WWI interviewers we are contacting professional oral historians to conduct the interviews, a departure from our normal procedure. We have made progress but we are still seeking World War I veterans and encourage you to contact us if you know of one or more by calling 202-707-4412.

Five-Star Council Profile

"Ace" fighter pilot Lt. Col. Lee A. Archer, USA (Ret.), a member of the Project's Five-Star Council, is a 29-year Air Force veteran. Lt. Col. Archer began his service and entered flight training at Tuskegee Army Air Field. Cadet captain of his class, Archer graduated as a Fighter Pilot I Class 43-G. He joined the 302nd Fighter Squadron of the 322nd Fight Group, flying his famed P-51, named "INA the Macon Belle" in honor of his wife Ina. He shot down his first German Me-109 on July 18, 1944. On Oct. 13, 1944, he destroyed three Me-109s on one mission; he was one of only four pilots to score three fatal hits on a single mission.

Archer is chairman and CEO of Archer Associates and president of the Organization Publishing Co. He serves on the boards of several corporations and is active in several civic and educational organizations. He earned his B.A. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his M.A. degree from New York University. Lt. Col. Archer has been a vigorous advocate of the Veterans History Project.

Promotional Video Debuts

The D-Day program included the premiere of a five-minute film describing the project and destined for distribution to all partners and through AARP's national reach. It included poignant clips from interviews with Jerry Brenner and Marion Gurfein, Washington-area veterans whose histories and documents reside in the Veterans History Project collection at the Library.

Media Coverage of Project

The D-Day event caught wide media attention. ABC carried the event on its morning national radio news show on June 6; NBC's "Today" show mentioned the event; Black Entertainment Television and CNN Headline News carried the story that night; and 35 local television and radio stations from New York City to San Francisco mentioned the story. The Associated Press carried the story on its wire, and the event was reported in at least 14 print and Web publications, including the June 10, 2002 "US News & World Report."

Members of the Five-Star Council who gave print, radio, and television interviews were Lt. Col. Lee Archer, Lt. Gen. Julius W. Becton, Ms. Gail Buckley, Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm, Commander Francisco Ivarra, and US Representative Ron Kind.

AARP PR firm Fleishman-Hillard estimates that the media impact of coverage of the June 6 event reached a total of almost 73 million impressions.

Young Marine Heeds the Call

Eleven-year-old Edward Litten, a native of Newport, Michigan, is on a mission this summer. After a recent trip to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress, Lance Corporal Litten, who is a member of the Young Marines of Monroe County, decided to make the Veterans History Project in the American Folklife Center his own. He began by interviewing his great-grandfather, a veteran of World War II. "I told my commander that I was taking this mission seriously and was going to commit my summer to this project," Litten explains in a letter that accompanies each interview he sends to the Project.

To date, the sixth-grader has conducted ten interviews, including nine veterans from World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf Wars, as well as the widow of a decorated World War II veteran. Litten plans to finance his expenses by "collecting returnable bottles from the racetrack."

Reflecting on what his involvement in the project has meant to him, Litten incites his fellow Young Marines: "Young Marines, you don't know what you are missing, I have learned so much. I will remember this information and history, plus the hugs and pats on the back from all these Veterans. You can learn so much from these Veterans. It is truly your loss and our Nation's History if we do not complete this mission."

Code-talker Interviewed at D-Day event

At the June 6 New York event Peggy Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center, under which the project resides, demystified the oral history interview with an explanation of guiding principles and a demonstration. Sam Billison, a Navajo and one of the celebrated World War II code-talkers in the U.S. Marines in the Pacific theater, was interviewed by David Dombroski, a New Jersey high school sophomore and Junior ROTC member who has participated in the Veterans History Project. This exchange also showed the project's inter-generational appeal.

In the ten-minute sample interview, Billison answered Dombroski's standard interview questions. He told of joining the Marines right out of high school and described the Navajo language-based code. He explained& "We could send a coded Navajo message and on the receiving end, the Navajo Marine could translate it in two or three minutes. That saved hours of decoding time, and our code was never broken."

Workshops Offered

The Veterans History Project has entered into an agreement with the American Folklore Society (AFS) and the Oral History Association (OHA) for them to serve as national training partners to the Project. The AFS and the OHA will manage workshops on conducting interviews to be offered to community-based groups. They will also coordinate workshop scheduling, offerings, and leaders. Folklorists and oral historians provided by the AFS and the OHA to community groups will lead these workshops, which will be designed to increase participants' understanding of the personal aspects of oral interviewing and the technical aspects of audio and video documentation. Partners interested in scheduling workshops should contact David Albee of the Veterans History Project at (202) 707-3410 or dalb@loc.gov.

Folklorists and oral historians provided by the American Folklore Society and the Oral History Association to community groups will lead these workshops, which will be designed to increase participants' understanding of the personal aspects of oral interviewing and the technical aspects of audio and video documentation. Workshops will run for about three hours, although some could be longer, and will use Veterans History Project-developed instructional materials for interviewers as a basic text and guide.

Further information on the Veterans History Project training workshops may be obtained by visiting its Web site at http://www.loc.gov/vets/workshopinfo.html or by calling its toll-free message line at 1-888-371-5848. Further information about the American Folklore Society may be found on their Web site at http://afsnet.org/; the Web site for the Oral History Association is http://omega.dickinson.edu/organizations/oha/.

Promotional Video debuts
Young Marine Heeds the Call
May 14 Events at LC
Partner Activities

Mail Service Update

As part of new security procedures, our U.S. Postal Service mail is subject to screening procedures, which may damage your submissions. For this reason, we are asking donors to send recorded interviews and collection materials to us through commercial services such as UPS and Federal Express, or deliver them in person if you live nearby. Deliveries from commercial services will be screened before they are accepted by the Library, but those screening procedures have not resulted in any damage to the contents of the packages.

Partner forms, requests for information, and other routine mail may be safely sent via the U.S. Postal Service, but screening procedures have slowed mail delivery. Therefore, until normal mail service resumes, you may wish to contact us via email, fax, or telephone.

May 14 Veterans History Project Events at Library of Congress

Representatives from more than 30 partner organizations of the Veterans History Project met at 2:30 P.M. in Room LJ119 in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress on May 14 to share success stories and techniques from the front lines of this effort to collect and preserve oral histories of America's war veterans and those who served in support of them. Widely publicized as a project of the Library's American Folklife Center, the Project is actually dependent upon the work of its partner organizations throughout the country who are conducting the interviews. The number of partner organizations has increased from around 100 in November of 2001 to more than 350 today. Welcome to all our new partners!

The Partners Meeting was one of four major Veterans History Project events that day. The Project's Five-Star Council met in the Whittall Pavilion at 4:00 P.M. An all-day exhibit of the Project Partners' materials was presented in the mezzanine of the Great Hall, and the day concluded with a 6:30 P.M. gala reception in the Library's Great Hall.

June 6, 2002, Declared Veterans History Project Day in New York City

To commemorate the Veterans History Project event aboard the USS Intrepid in New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg issued a proclamation declaring June 6, 2002 Veterans History Project Day.

The proclamation, presented to Veterans History Project Director Ellen McCulloch-Lovell prior to the celebration by Michael Handy, the director of Mayor Bloomberg's Office of Veterans Affairs, recognized the launch of the project and the importance of preserving the stories of America's veterans.

The Mayor proclaimed, "The Veterans History Project allows veterans and war workers to look back with pride on their achievements and enriches all Americans with the legacy of some of the most significant times in our Nation's history."

AARP In San Diego

Founding Corporate Sponsor AARP will be holding its annual meeting in San Diego September 12-14, 2002. The theme of the event is ""Life @ 50+ : A Celebration of You." The Veterans History Project will have a space in the exhibit hall at the San Diego Convention Center by the edge of San Diego Bay. Partners in the area are invited to stop in and say hello. Further information is available on the AARP Web site at http://www.aarp.org/events/.

Partner Activities

  • Donna Kenny of Clio Associates in Massachusetts reports that they are doing oral histories for us this summer with the help of a summer intern - they are having a high rate of activity - about 60 interviews done in the past three weeks. These will be sent to us as a group at the end of the summer.
  • The Michigan Oral History Association's major contribution is in oral history education. They have completed summer workshops in Comins (Oscoda County) and at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie. Next are Dearborn on September 28 and Rochester Hills on October 5. On November 9 they join the new Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries in a special event focusing on VHP and Michigan's role in the project. This event precedes the Friends of Michigan History's massing of the colors and program honoring America's veterans. Last year this organization focused on survivors of Pearl Harbor; this year the focus is on Vietnam Veterans. The Michigan Historical Center, the site of the November 9 event, is across the street from the newly dedicated Vietnam Memorial.
  • On July 25, seven new videotaped interviews were added to the Veterans History Project collection. Paul Zigo of the Center for WWII Studies and Conflict Resolution at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, brought the first seven of 25 tapes to the Veterans History Project. The Center has taped 33 interviews with central New Jersey World War II veterans which are scheduled for public viewing over the Brookdale cable system. The Center's stated goal is ""o utilize lessons learned from the war to prevent the recurrence of global conflict in a world of sovereign states with divergent interests, wants, and needs."

Remember to Make Transcripts

If time and resources permit, the Veterans History Project strongly recommends that you or your organization create transcripts of your interviews. Transcripts offer several important benefits, such as: aiding researchers in quickly skimming and assessing the relevance of an interview; saving on the wear-and-tear of the audiotapes and videocassettes; helping researchers comprehend voices on the tapes that are difficult to hear or understand; and providing, in the case of transcripts submitted on disk, the means to search via computer for specific words and phrases mentioned in the interview.

Collections Growing

As of July 2002, the Veterans History Project has received approximately 2600 submissions from participants ranging from individual veterans and their family members to students, teachers, historians, writers, and partner organizations. Of these, 2150 collections contain original or duplicated audio/video oral interviews, substantial textual memoirs, diaries, and correspondence, and/or photographic documentation of a veteran's or support civilian's experiences in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and/or the Persian Gulf.

In April of 2002, VHP staff began organizing, labeling, re-housing, and providing database entries (over 1400 so far) for these submissions, maintaining the relationships between donor, interviewer, and interviewee. At this point, we are focused on capturing contact information, service histories, and information on the format, quantity, condition, and length of submitted materials. We are also in the process of building a subject thesaurus specific to the needs of this collection, and considering various preservation strategies that address the physical and digital housing, storage, retrieval, and presentation of this valuable collection.

VHP Staff Changes

Incoming: David Albee, Mark F. Hall, Nancy Mitchell, Rachel Mears, Judy Ng, Matthew Richardson, and Sandra Savage joined the project in the spring. Mandy Brown, Cary McStay, Lowell Perry, and Willeke Sandler are assisting the project for the summer of 2002.

Outgoing: Janice E. Ruth has resumed her regular duties in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Ronald Sterriker has returned to upstate New York.

"Freedom periodically expects a heavy toll from those who would enjoy it. With God's help may we be ever ready to comply."

-Walter A. Novak, European Theater, 1942-45

"I also realize that I gave something to my country that not many people can say they have. I risked my life and gave up my freedom in defense of my country, and that is something never to be forgotten."

-Seymour L. Lichtenfeld, Co. I, 422nd Inf., 106th Inf. Div.

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

Newsletter editor: Mark F. Hall
Writers: Mandy Brown, Mark F. Hall, Judy Ng, Tim Roberts, Sarah Rouse, Virginia Sorkin
Newsletter email: vohp@loc.gov


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