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Stories from a Very Big Reunion

During the National World War II Reunion over Memorial Day weekend in 2004 the Veterans History Project collected veterans' stories of wartime service. To celebrate that historic reunion, selected stories are being presented in their entirety online. They capture memories of battle, heroic moments, stark realizations about the tragedies of war and much-needed comic relief as told by the men and women who were there.

Andy Melendrez Andy Melendrez

"Stories from the Reunion," draws from the nearly 3,000 stories collected that weekend.

The story of Andrew Melendrez tells of his experience in Normandy. He begins:

"We started in Normandy. We were surrounded by the Germans because they were trying to push us back to England. We were surrounded for seven days without food or water. They started dropping ammunition and food, but it kept dropping too far away into German territory. The glass bottles of medication would break when they dropped them from the air. Finally, the 32nd Division broke through and got us out. I wanted to get home for Christmas 1944, but we had to go down to the Bulge to help out. We didn't have any winter clothing, but we made do. A lot of the unit got frostbite, but luckily enough I didn't. In February of 1945 I was wounded and they sent me back to the hospital for three months. And then after I got out I was going back to Germany, but the war ended so I had to go back to my outfit. They pulled us out and brought us back to the States for 30 days, after which I was supposed to report to Jackson, South Carolina, (where my division is from) to go over to Japan. But they dropped the atom bomb so I was discharged."

Veterans from World War I through the current conflict, 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. To date, more than 25,000 individuals have submitted stories to the collection.

Authorized by legislation passed in 2000, the project is being carried out as Congress envisioned, with grandchildren interviewing grandparents, veterans interviewing each other, and students conducting interviews as part of classroom assignments.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming involved in the Veterans History Project, send an e-mail to request a project kit. The kit is also available on the Veterans History Project Web site or by calling the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848.

In May 2005, the Veterans History Project sponsored a symposium commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. This Webcast is now available.
Elsewhere, more than 20 multimedia collections of materials relating to war and the military are available in the American Memory Web site. To find these thematic collections, such as "After the Day of Infamy: Man-on-the-Street Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor," "The Stars and Stripes: The American Soldiers' Newspaper of World War I," or the "September 11, 2001 Documentary Project," go to the "Browse Collections by Topic" page and click on "War, Military."

A. Photographer unknown. Andy Melendrez CO. H. 120th INF. 30th INF. Div. 1945 [from back of photograph]. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.

B. Photographer unknown. Andy Melendrez CO. H. 120th INF. Dir. Rheems, [sic] France July 1945 [from back of photograph]. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.