The Library of Congress Veterans History Project, a program of the American Folklife Center, will feature a special series of narratives from World War II’s China-Burma-India Theater via the project’s Web site www.loc.gov/vets/
The series launches on November 9, just before to Veterans Day. “We’re encouraging Americans to take a fresh look at history this Veterans Day by viewing narratives from World War II that they’ve never seen or heard before,” said James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress. “What better way to honor those who preserved our freedom than to learn about their experience?”
The presentation gives voice to daring pilots who “flew the hump” of the Himalayas, freewheeling guerrilla fighters who came to be known as Merrill’s Marauders, dedicated nurses who fended off amorous advances and crafty intelligence agents who cut deals with natives.
Narratives include the story of Charles Evans, a newly graduated air cadet who flew a P-40 in a pursuit group that monitored the skies over New England. Evans served with legendary pilot Philip Cochran, the model for Milton Caniff’s comic strip character Flip Corkin. Said Evans, “It was a time for me of urgent effort, sometimes terror, at other times utter boredom, and occasionally unmatched exhilaration.”
Also chronicled is the story of Geraldine “Gerry” Boock, a 1944 nursing school graduate who volunteered for overseas duty, landing in Calcutta after six weeks at sea. “When you work in an Army hospital,” said Boock, “you feel like the whole world is wounded, because that’s all you see all day.”
The presentation also recounts the experience of David Quaid, a news cameraman who documented the war on film for the Signal Corps. Quaid sought out the front lines, first working with the legendary general Vinegar Joe Stilwell and then connecting with Merrill’s Marauders. His collection includes a lengthy audio interview and his own video history of the Marauders, complete with some of his own footage and interviews with surviving comrades.
Bob Patrick, director of the Veterans History Project, hopes the program will inspire people to interview veterans in their family or community. “It’s particularly imperative that we preserve the recollections of our World War II generation.”
More than a dozen sets of individual collections—comprising interviews, letters, photographs and written memoirs—have been featured on the Veterans History Project Web site. Past themes include Asian-Pacific Americans, D-Day, prisoners of war, female veterans, military medicine, spies and African-American veterans. Companion sites to the project’s two books, “Forever a Soldier” and “Voices of War,” can be viewed on the “Experiencing War” section of www.loc.gov/vets/
Wartime veterans and the civilians who supported them are encouraged to come forward to record their experiences for the growing archive within the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Those interested can download a VHP Field Kit from the Veterans History Project Web site at www.loc.gov/vets/
, request a kit via email at [email protected]
or call the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848.