May 21, 2004 Library of Congress Veterans History Project Highlights D-Day Experiences
"D-Day Stories" Goes Online May 20 to Honor 60th Anniversary
Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940, Anneliesa Clump Behrend (202) 707-9822
A new installment of 21 digitized collections of materials submitted by veterans and civilians who were involved with D-Day will be available on the Library of Congress Web site on May 20 at www.loc.gov/vets. A total of 348 individual wartime memories are now available online.
This fourth set of personal stories comprising interviews, letters, photographs and written memoirs is part of a Web presentation titled "Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project." They join the growing online collections from the American Folklife Center's Veterans History Project on themes that include "Courage," "Life-Altering Experiences," "Family Ties" and "Patriotism."
The personal narratives focus on three topics: experiences during the June 6, 1944, D-Day landing of American and British troops in Normandy, France, called "On the Beach"; efforts in support of the battle, "Beyond the Beach"; and struggles in the days that followed, "D-Day Plus 1, D-Day Plus 2...." The digitized materials are part of the continuing effort by the Library to make its collections accessible online. Additional materials will be made available online in the future.
"We encourage everyone to visit the Veterans History Project online to learn more about D-Day and, in honor of the 60th anniversary, to ask a veteran or civilian supporter, 'What did you do during the war?'" said Diane Nester Kresh, director of the Library's Public Service Collections Directorate.
One of the veterans featured on the new section of the "Experiencing War" online presentation, Claud Woodring, was supposed to be among the first soldiers to land on the beach on D-Day to demolish barbed wire so that the troops could advance unimpeded. But he found himself swimming to the beach when his boat hit a mine several hundred yards from shore. Despite horrific casualty rates, Woodring and his men achieved their objective, only to face a new challenge: fighting the Germans amid the hedgerows of Normandy. His vivid descriptions of the horrors on the beach that day are a prelude to his account of chasing the retreating German army through France.
At the age of 7, Robert Powell, now of Metamora, Ohio, was taken for a ride up into the clouds by a barnstorming pilot, and he was hooked on flying from then on. In wartime Europe, he flew escort missions for bombers, but his favorite job was the most dangerous one: strafing ground positions. He was in his element on D-Day and during the first weeks of the invasion, helping to distract the enemy and provide cover for Allied troops. Powell walked away from one plane crash so horrible that his buddies were sure he had died. Since his retirement, Powell has been documenting the history of his squadron.
Arriving on Omaha Beach on June 8, D-Day Plus 2, had its own dangers for John Sudyk of Huntsburg, Ohio. For starters, the water was thick with jellyfish, and the boat nearly hit a mine. "We were the most forward element in that sector of Normandy," recalls Sudyk. That also meant that he and his men offered a more inviting target as they disembarked. His battalion soon found itself working with General Patton's Third Army, which saw action in nearly every major engagement in the last 11 months of the war in Europe. In the final portion of his interview tape, Sudyk's wife, Helen, contributes her home front memories of working in a defense plant.
The Library's Veterans History Project will participate in the National World War II Reunion on the National Mall in Washington during Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30. The National World War II Reunion is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the American Battle Monuments Commission. 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.
During the National WWII Reunion, former Rep. Sam Gibbons of Tampa, Fla., will share his experience from D-Day in the Veterans History Project Pavilion at 11 a.m. on May 27. Bob Powell of Atlanta, Tracy Sugarman of Westport, Conn., and Brig. Gen. Alvin D. Ungerleider of Burke, Va., will participate in a panel discussion on D-Day in the Veterans History Project Pavilion, at 2:15 p.m. on May 27.
Veterans from World War I, World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, and the civilians who supported them, are coming forward to record their personal stories and contribute personal documents for a growing archives at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The goal is to collect, preserve and share with future generations the stories of all American war veterans.
Authorized by legislation passed in 2000, the project is being carried out in the way that Congress envisioned: with grandchildren interviewing grandparents, veterans interviewing each other, and students conducting interviews as part of classroom assignments. This program is a nationwide oral history and documentation effort that relies on volunteers rather than professional oral historians to collect stories and artifacts. AARP is the founding sponsor of the project, with more than 1,000 other organizations also participating.
The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress was created in 1976 to document, preserve and present all aspects of traditional culture and life in America. With more than 2 million items, it maintains the largest repository of traditional cultural documentation in the United States.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for older Americans.
Those who are interested in becoming involved in the Veterans History Project are encouraged to e-mail the office at [email protected] to request a project information kit. The kit is also available online at www.loc.gov/vets or by calling the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848.