April 29, 2004 Library of Congress Veterans History Project to Collect Veterans' Stories on the Mall, May 27-30

National World War II Reunion Gives All Who Served a Chance to Tell Their Story

Press Contact: Anneliesa Clump Behrend (202) 707-9822; Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress will participate in the National World War II Reunion on the National Mall in Washington during Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30. The four-day event will include ceremonies and activities coordinated by the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

One of seven pavilions and two performance stages on the Mall during the Memorial Day weekend, the Veterans History Project Pavilion (located near the National Air and Space Museum) will collect memoirs and stories on-site from those who experienced the war overseas and on the home front.

The National Reunion coincides with the American Battle Monuments Commission's dedication of the National World War II Memorial on Saturday, May 29. The dedication ceremony and reunion honor the 16 million soldiers and sailors who served in the U.S. armed forces during the war, the more than 400,000 who died and the millions who supported the war effort from home.

The Veterans History Project invites all veterans and civilians who served to visit the Veterans History Project Pavilion on the Mall during the weekend and contribute their stories to the archives of veterans' histories, which is part of the Library's American Folklife Center.

"Every veteran has a story to tell," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "And the Library of Congress wants your wartime memories to be part of this ever-growing national collection of oral histories, written memoirs, letters and photographs."

To participate, veterans, civilians who served in support of them and families of veterans are asked to:

  • Bring written memoirs, photos and letters from World War II to the Veterans History Project Pavilion on the National Mall during the Reunion.
  • Contribute wartime stories online, at www.loc.gov/vets, or in person during the reunion to a Library of Congress/Veterans History Project volunteer or at the VHP Pavilion.
  • Visit the Veterans History Project Pavilion during the reunion and learn how to interview a veteran or to share wartime memories.

In an unprecedented effort, the Library of Congress will collect on-the-spot interviews from World War II veterans and civilians who served in support of them during the four-day weekend. In teams of two, Library of Congress staff will roam the National Mall and record the wartime experiences of World War II veterans and home front workers.

"The National World War II Reunion will be the largest-ever gathering of World War II veterans," said Diane Kresh, coordinator of the VHP volunteers at the Library of Congress. "Our aim is to collect as many stories as possible over the four-day period. These stories will find a permanent home in the archives of the Veterans History Project along with the oral histories of veterans from other wars already in our collection."

In addition, more than 30 hours of panel discussions will take place at the VHP Pavilion during the four days. Topics, times and participants are below. Check the Web site at www.loc.gov/vets for complete details.

Former Prisoners of War: Richard Francies, Enso Bighinatti, Jimmie Kanaya and Marty Higgins; 1 p.m. on May 27 and 11 a.m. on May 28

Reunion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 1st Battalion ("Lost Battalion") of the 141st Regiment of the 36th (Texas) Division; 2 p.m. on May 27

Hispanic-American Experience During World War II: Frank Medina, Miguel Encinias and Evelio Grillo; 1 p.m. on May 30

Japanese-American Experience During World War II: Warren Tsuneishi, Jimmie Kanaya, Marty Higgins and Frank Sogi; 4 p.m. on May 28

Navajo Code Talkers: Sam Billison, Sam Smith, Keith Little; 3:15 p.m. on May 27 and noon on May 30

Tuskegee Airmen: Lee Archer, Charles McGee and Thomas Lowery; 2 p.m. on May 28 and 2 p.m. on May 30

D-Day Veterans: Sam Gibbons, Tracy Sugarman, Bob Powell; 11 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on May 27

Women in the Military: Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm, Miriam Ownby, Martha Putney, Elizabeth Splaine, Ruth Erno; 1 p.m. on May 28

Red Cross in WWII: Ruth Belew, Helen Colony, Mary O'Driscoll; 4:15 p.m. on May 27

Women in Military Medicine: Maj. Jennifer Petersen, Anna Busby, Marian Elcano, and Martha Leierer; 11 a.m. on May 30

Memories From the Home Front: Marion Gurfein, Helen Sudyk, Venus Ramey (Miss America 1944); noon on May 27

Other WWII Veterans: Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), Adm. J. L. Holloway, Robert Bloxsom, Jerry Brenner, Joseph DeLuca; 5:15 p.m. on May 27, 3 p.m. on May 28, and 4 p.m. on May 29

In October 2000, the U.S. Congress signed legislation sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to create the Veterans History Project to collect and preserve the wartime memories of veterans and those who served in support of them during World War I, World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.

In three years the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has collected more than 70,000 items from some 15,000 individual submissions. The Veterans History Project- through the volunteer efforts of hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals around the country-has become one of the largest national repositories of firsthand accounts of war. The project is one of the few nationwide oral history efforts that relies on volunteers rather than professional oral historians to collect stories and artifacts. AARP is the national corporate founding partner.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. It provides information and resources; engages in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assists members in serving their communities; and offers a wide range of benefits, special products and services for its members.

To learn more about the Veterans History Project, to submit your story online, or to view a schedule of panel presentations and other reunion activities scheduled over the four-day weekend, visit www.loc.gov/vets.

Additional information about the National Reunion weekend can be found on the Web at www.folklife.si.edu, www.wwiimemorial.com, www.abmc.gov and www.washington.org/americacelebrates.

Note: For biographical information on the veterans speaking in the Veterans History Project Pavilion and to speak with veterans from the Veterans History Project, contact (202) 707-9822.


PR 04-087
ISSN 0731-3527