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Veterans History Project News: Winter 2001

Founding Corporate Sponsor Named

At a press briefing at the Library of Congress on November 8, three days before Veteran's Day, the AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, announced its support of the Veterans History Project from January 2002 through 2004, with a donation of $1 million per year. The project's core funding is provided in the Library of Congress's annual appropriation from Congress.

Five-Star Council Members Advise Project

As of November 8, we are pleased to announce our Five-Star Council of prominent leaders who will bring increased visibility to our project nationwide. The Five-Star Advisory Board now has 26 members. The Board met on Thursday, November 8, at the Library of Congress. Council members, listed on our Web site, are: Hon. Everett Alvarez, Steven Ambrose, Lieut. Col. Lee Archer (Ret.)) Lieut. Col. Julius Becton (Ret.&$041;, Tom Brokaw, Hon. Max Cleland, Walter Cronkite, Hon. Robert Dole, Hon. Sam Gibbons, Hon. Chuck Hagel, Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm (Ret.&$041;, Dolores Hope, Hon. Amo Houghton, Hon. Steny Hoyer, Hon. Daniel Inouye, Commander Francisco F. Ivarra, Hon. John Kerry, Hon. Ron Kind, Hon. Bob Michel, Hon. Norman Mineta, William D. Novelli (Executive Director, AARP), Hon. Anthony J. Principi, Francis Sogi, Hon. Ted Stevens, Hon. John Warner, Hon. Sheila Widnall.

Department of Veterans Affairs Endorses Project

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, a member of the Five-Star Council, endorsed the Veterans History Project at the November 8 press briefing. Secretary Principi said: "I am deeply honored to be on the Five-Star Council of the Veterans History Project. On the eve of Veterans Day, we pay tribute to and celebrate the contribution of the 25 million men and women who have served our nation in uniform."

Disabled American Veterans Add Support

With a grant from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Veterans History Project will print an instructional kit for volunteers wishing to participate in the project by interviewing veterans or contributing materials to the collection being developed at the Library of Congress and VHP partner repositories around the country. The kit will be made available also in a version for blind and disabled persons, with expert technical assistance from the Library's National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Division.

Project's Partners Now Top 100

Our expanded Web site now includes names of the first veterans organizations, university programs, museums, libraries and historical societies to join the Veterans History Project. The list is arranged by state, and also has a section for national partners, such as the Oral History Association and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It can be viewed at http://www.loc.gov/vets/partners/partners.html. Updates are made as new partners join the project. Partners are urged to advise VHP staff of corrections or changes.

Partners Nationwide Span Big Four Veterans Organizations, Diverse University Programs

The Veterans History Project's organizational partners strengthen and enrich the nationwide initiative by their activities in support of the project's goals. Partners' interest in honoring our wartime veterans, in first-hand accounts of the effects of war abroad and at home and in the methodology of recorded interviews, strengthen the project. Many partners means more attention to our veterans' stories of service, and development of collections nationwide. A higher profile for veterans and oral history makes it easier for veterans and volunteers around the country to hear about and participate in a local or statewide initiatives.

Partners Encouraged to Report Activities to VHP

The Veterans History Project wants to help our partners get the attention they deserve for the work they are doing. Your news is good news for all, and we can help you share it. Please let us hear from you, by phone, fax, email, or mail any time you have news to report, not just when we ask for it. Tell us about:

  • A veterans project you are developing
  • Interviewed veterans' names and other details (using our Biographical Information Form), so our database can include your veterans
  • Public programs you have planned or presented, supporting the Veterans History Project
  • Related publications or publicity
  • A reception or event honoring veterans in your community

National VFW Meeting in Milwaukee Features Veterans History Project

In August 2001, Veterans History Project director Ellen McCulloch-Lovell spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)'s annual conference in Milwaukee. The session was opened by Rep. Ron Kind, one of the five original sponsors of the project in October 2000. McCulloch-Lovell, working closely with the VFW's Mike Gormalley, director of Citizenship Education and Community Service, told vets of the value of the project and how to get involved. This generated strong local press coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The newspaper article itself inspired scores of letters, calls, and emails (vohp@loc.gov) to our Washington office. Most callers were military veterans, and we also heard from volunteer interviewers, and an annual Milwaukee veterans parade organization. Replies went out immediately, and many vets have since followed through by donating materials to add to the collections.

The September 2001 issue of VFW Auxiliary, published by the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, included a piece on the Veterans History Project, emphasizing its participatory and cooperative nature: the project's success will come as a result of individuals' participation-children interviewing grandparents, veterans interviewing each other-and a range of institutions''involvement from libraries, veterans organizations, and university programs.

North Dakota's Sen. Dorgan Galvanizes Leadership for Statewide VHP Participation

Also in August 2001, director McCulloch-Lovell traveled to North Dakota's capitol, Bismarck, and met with that state's U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan and a steering committee of twelve leaders of statewide veterans groups, and other state-level leaders of press and education organizations. Senator Dorgan had convened North Dakota's leadership team, which will pull together veterans (69,000 living in this northern plains state), college students, and others for the Veterans History Project, and gather the oral histories telling North Dakota's soldiers' wartime experiences. ""orth Dakota is the first state to bring various veterans and educational groups together to begin a history project," said director Lovell.

Both the Minot, ND, and the Bismarck daily newspapers carried an AP story on the meeting. The American Legion's North Dakota newsletter The Message also reported the event, naming steering committee members representing the American Legion, the VFW, the Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, and AMVETS. These veterans own experiences span three wars-World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Prepare to Participate

In July, attendees at the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) 80th annual conference packed the workshop given by VHP's Peter Bartis. Bartis presented an oral history workshop to DAV members at the conference in Miami. The DAV's September-October magazine spotlighted the Veterans History Project in "Collecting Veterans Stories,"quoting the DAV's Washington Headquarters Executive Director David W. Gorman: "The men and women who have served and sacrificed so much to preserve our precious liberty and way of life deserve to have their stories told."

LC Collects Accounts by Women Veterans

One of the project's earliest acquisitions at the Library's American Folklife Center was an interview with one of the first class of Women's Army Corps, Mrs. Mary Louise Rasmuson. The interview was conducted by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington at the home of Mrs. Rasmuson in Anchorage, Alaska. A clip from this interview is included on the Web site, to show the breadth of veterans' experiences, and to encourage other women veterans to become involved in the project.

Vigorous Activities of Partner, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York

With extra energy from partnering with the VHP, the Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) will expand a previously planned October exhibit of the dioramas of Vietnam War artist Michael Cousino, adding photographs by a photographer for The Stars and Stripes, Red Grandy.

Using questions from VHP+s suggested list, TAUNY plans to interview a local veteran from World War I, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf wars, and excerpt these interviews on a local radio station. TAUNY also plans workshops to train local volunteers to conduct interviews, with sponsorship from local vets groups such as the VFW, American Legion, and AmVets.

Oldest Vets First-Congressional Objective

A pre-Thanksgiving press release from the Library of Congress exhorted World War I veterans willing to be interviewed to contact the project via its email address (vohp@loc.gov) or its message line (1-888-371-5848). Almost 200 calls were fielded, and VHP staff arranged an interview with a 102-year--ld veteran at Leisure World near Washington, DC. One other interview with a World War I veteran has been conducted for the project, and will be received in January 2002.

Project Offers Information, Ways to Participate

  • All 535 Members of Congress were sent two information packets (one in May, and one in October) about the Veterans History Project. The packets specify actions Members can take and urge their constituents to take, to become involved in the project. In spite of congressional buildings' temporary closure for anthrax screening recently, the October packets were received at over 75 percent of congressional offices.
  • VHP staff met with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs staff to fine'tune a department'wide plan to conduct interviews with veterans, especially those in VA hospitals.
  • In September, VHP staff completed a major phase of preparation of our How'To Kit. The kit will guide novices as well as experienced oral historians in interviewing and research. These materials will be printed in an abridged version, as well as a fuller form. A comprehensive version is now online for printing out or reference purposes.

VHP Web site Use Triples

In November, project staff headed by Janice E. Ruth improved the readability and ease of use of our Web site, with redesign and added material, including civilians' interview questions. Hits at the Web site (www.loc.gov/vets) tripled from October to November 2001, from 13,000 to 39,000.

War Movies Screened Near Veterans Day

From late October through early December, the Library of Congress, through its American Folklife Center, presented a series of six films in support of the Veterans History Project. Films from the extensive collection of the Library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division included Hollywood feature films, plus shorts and documentaries. The films emphasized experiences of veterans, or featured veterans in acting roles. Shown free to the public in the Library of Congresss Pickford Theater, from late October through early December, were:"They Were Expendable" (WWII); "All Quiet on the Western Front" (WWI); "The Bridges at Toko-Ri"(Korean War); "The Lost Battalion" (WWI); selected short subjects and documentaries about rationing from the World War II era, and TV documentaries about the Vietnam War.

Homefront News

A big milestone in the Veterans History Project was the final design and printing of our handsome project brochure, identified by the project's distinctive "dogtag" logo. The logo and brochures are offered free to partner organizations.

Vet's Daughter Interviews Dad's Pals in the 411th AAA Gun Battalion, 3rd Army, World War II

The project recently received eleven videotapes from a single interviewer. Martha Hopkins, Library staffer, interviewed her father and ten other men and women veterans and wartime volunteers in July at an annual reunion of the 411th AAA Gun Battalion in Roanoke, Virginia. The 411th served in Europe during World War II, part of the Third Army under Gen. George S. Patton. One of the veterans interviewed, a company clerk, told of setting up an office, complete with typewriter and a filing cabinet, in a foxhole. Another, a USO hostess, recalled one of the USO's ground rules-don't go outside with the men until the evening is over!

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

email: vohp@loc.gov

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