Interview your Veteran before it's too late!
World War II
(Article compiled by Flora L VerStraten)
When our grandchildren are grown, and all of the men and women of the Great Generation are gone, what will genealogists have as resources for the study of this group of people?
There seems to be an awareness of the importance of the stories that the Greatest Generation has to tell. There also seems to be a great deal of material preserved-from books written by soldiers and civilians-to web sites by units, bomb groups and POW organizations- to newsletters that link descendants of those who served in various units.
What we as researchers need to remember about this information is that it is primarily subjective- it is often based on memories that are 50-some years old. However, since a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973 destroyed a great number of military records from the twentieth century, secondary and subjective material and oral history will be quite important in painting the picture of the lives of the young men and women on the home front.
During the holiday season, take advantage of the opportunity to interview the soldiers in your family. Take down notes, write a paragraph or a book, make an audio or videotape. In some way, preserve what you or your relative remembers from the turbulent time of WWII and the period after. By recording in some way the personal stories of the individuals of the time, we can give the genealogists and historians of the future a fighting chance to know what things were really like. Don’t you wish more Civil War soldiers and their women contemporaries had written their memoirs?
The following are some questions and topics about the WWII time period to jog the memory and provide topics of reflection. Some of them have been adapted from a list distributed by the U.S. Army Military History Institute at the time of the 50th anniversary of WWII. (You can also use some of the following for other military interviews such as; The Korean War, Vietnam War, and Dessert Storm, etc.) Don’t let your soldiers’ experiences fade with their memories!
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