Diverse Experiences in Service

The following curated presentations feature Veterans History Project collections that relate to veterans from groups whose stories and experiences have sometimes been overlooked in traditional historical narratives.

Our Research Guides, StoryMaps, and blog posts provide additional ways to explore the collections.

  • African Americans at War: Fighting Two Battles For many veterans, serving in the military meant pushing past their own physical and mental limits in order to defeat the enemy. African American veterans also had to contend with and break through the limits placed upon them by society. Whether they fought stateside or overseas, in integrated or segregated units,the veterans profiled here persisted past prejudice to serve their country with honor.
  • Asian Pacific Americans: Going for Broke Asian Pacific Americans have made lasting contributions wartime efforts. These stories emphasizethe 442nd Regimental Combat Team (the Go for Broke outfit of Japanese Americans) who fought valiantly in Europe during these wars. Many of these men put their lives on the line for their country while their families were confined to internment camps back in the States.
  • Breaking Ground and Boundaries: Veteran Changemakers In this presentation, VHP explores the stories of military changemakers: veterans who broke new ground and boundaries, on and off the battlefield. In addition to honorably serving their country, these men and women challenged the status quo, and many of them won citations, or high ranks, but more importantly, their accomplishments forged new ground for future generations.
  • Buffalo Soldiers: The 92nd in Italy The 92nd Infantry Division was a segregated unit that served in both world wars. During the Italian Campaign of WWII, elements of the 92nd Division were among the handful of African American units to serve in combat. As featured in the novel and film Miracle at St. Anna, the 92nd distinguished themselves on the battlefield, disproving skeptics and earning an honored chapter our history.
  • Determined to Serve: African American Women in World War II African American women who donned a uniform during World War II confronted tremendous obstacles. Joining up meant taking a stand against those both inside the service and outside of it who maintained that women and African Americans had no place in the military. Whether stationed stateside or abroad, they persevered with honor and often humor, their accomplishments a testament to their integrity and determination.
  • "Equality of Treatment and Opportunity": Executive Order 9981 To commemorate the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9981, this presentation, featuring the collections of African American veterans who served before, after or in the midst of desegregation. Their stories describe the struggles these men and women faced in serving their country--oftentimes, even as it discriminated against them--and the battles they fought to prove themselves in the military.
  • First, Serve: Athletes in Uniform No matter their chosen sport, or whether they were professional athletes or amateurs, the men and women featured here found that service to their country, on the battlefield and in athletic competition, would employ all of the natural abilities and skills that they had forged on the playing fields of America’s sand lots, schoolyards, and stadiums.
  • Hispanics in Service Whatever their individual backgrounds before they came to serve their country, the Hispanic veterans in these collections all found opportunities without impediments by donning the uniforms of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Some, like Joseph Medina, came from families with rich military backgrounds; others, like Eva Jacques or Raymond Ayon, were students enticed with the notion that their country needed them.
  • Jewish Veterans of World War II Fighting Nazi Germany took on special significance for one group of U.S. servicemen in the European Theater. Even those Jewish soldiers and sailors who were serving elsewhere in World War II understood that defeating the Axis would be a defeat for blind hatred of any ethnic group or nationality.
  • Legacies of Service: Celebrating Native Americans Native American veterans have a long history of military service, a legacy which continues to inform their current participation in the armed forces. Since 9/11, Native Americans have served at a higher per-capita rate than any other ethnic group. Here, we present narratives of Native American veterans who served in conflicts from WWII to Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Prisoners of War While their imprisonment may have meant an end to combat, for prisoners of war (POWs) held during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, incarceration marked the beginning of a new chapter of pain, suffering, and deprivation. Here, we present stories from POWs who endured some of the worst that these wars had to offer.
  • Serving in Silence: LGBTQ+ Veterans While military service oftentimes demands sacrifices from those in uniform, historically, LGBTQ+ veterans have faced a unique set of challenges. For many of these veterans, following a call to serve meant keeping their private lives entirely private, for fear that exclusionary policies would hold them back or end their careers altogether.
  • They Also Served: Coast Guard and Merchant Marine This presentation focuses on veterans who served in the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine branches of the military. During wartime, the men and women of the Coast Guard have served under the Navy--now part of the Department of Homeland Security. Those who served with the Merchant Marine during World War II, pulled the most dangerous duty during that war.
  • The WASP: First in Flight The story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) is a chapter from World War II nearly forgotten for over 30 years. The WASP logged over 60 million miles from 1942-1944 ferrying planes, towing targets, testing planes and training pilots. But they were civil servants--never fully incorporated into the armed forces until Congress passed legislation in 1977 granting them veteran status.
  • Women of Five Wars The five major wars in which American women served after WWII can be split into two pairs. For women, the wars in Korea and Vietnam signaled few advances in their roles in military service, but in the three recent wars (Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan), the areas of women’s participation expanded immensely, with potentially more dire consequences.
  • Women at War The diverse womens' stories in this presentation include a code breaker (Ann Caracristi), a welder (Meda Brendall), and a flight surgeon (Rhonda Cornum), plus two women who rose through the ranks to secure places in the military history books: Jeanne Holm, the first woman general in the Air Force; and, Darlene Iskra, the first woman to command a U.S. Navy ship.