Share your story
Oral history projects for veterans, families
For the more than 8 million military personnel who were on active duty during the Vietnam era 50 years ago, it still may be fresh in their eyes and minds. The same is true for the families and friends who were left behind. They have stories to share, too.
Oral history projects bring back to life “stories and experiences that young people may not be familiar with,” said Edward Miller, associate professor of history and director of the Dartmouth Vietnam Project at Dartmouth College. Additionally, “many veterans came back from Vietnam and never talked about it,” he said.
Creating an oral history is more in-depth than “simply plonking down a recorder” and asking a veteran about their service, Miller said.
“It’s a collaborative process. A big part of it is just listening, but the best oral histories are also interactive. There’s a back-and-forth conversation. Striking the right balance is a skill,” Miller said.
The Veterans History Project is one of the most encompassing oral history projects in America. Created by an act of Congress in 2000 with AARP as the founding corporate sponsor, the project collects and preserves first-hand interviews of all war veterans. Veterans can speak about any part of their experience they want to share, from combat stories to funny anecdotes about how they spent their downtime. Civilians involved in war service such as medical volunteers, industry workers or USO members are also invited to participate.
Many local libraries and public television stations take part in the Veterans History Project, conducting video interviews that last about 30 minutes. People who do not want to participate on camera can share diaries, documents, photographs, journals or other materials. There is no charge to participate.
The collected oral history is available at the Library of Congress website, loc.gov/vets, and it is possible to search by branch of service, conflict era and gender as well as by rank or service location. Additionally, the website includes an “online field kit” that provides instructions, a list of interview questions and required forms plus a how-to video. You can also check out facebook.com/vetshistoryproject.
How to contribute
• The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Oral History Program preserves the stories of Illinois’ veterans and the civilians who stayed behind through its Veterans Remember project. Visit illinois.gov/alplm/library/collections/oralhistory/VeteransRemember/Pages/default.aspx
• Atlanta History Center’s Veterans History Project contains video and audio from veterans of all wars and civilians who supported them. For more information, email email@example.com.
• The Badger Veterans Oral History Project is collecting first-person memories and experiences of military veterans at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Visit library.wisc.edu/archives/exhibits/badger-veterans-oral-history-project/
• The Brooklyn College Vietnam Project is searching for Vietnam veterans and their families. Visit userhome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/pnapoli/vietnam/vn_frameset.html
• Central Connecticut State University is participating with the Veterans History Project. Visit web.ccsu.edu/vethistoryproject/
• The Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee Knoxville conducts oral histories with participants of America’s wars and their families. Visit csws.utk.edu/oral-history-project/
• The Cherry Hill Veterans Oral History Project is recruiting Cherry Hill, New Jersey, veterans to tell their stories of military life during war and peace times since 2013. Visit chplnj.org/vohp
• Dartmouth Vietnam Project is a collaboration between current Dartmouth students and older members of the community who have volunteered to share their stories and memories of the war and its impact on American society. For more information go to dartmouth.edu/~dvp
• The Edgecombe County Veterans’ Military Museum in Tarboro, North Carolina, is participating in the Veterans History Project. Visit edgecombevet.com/veterans-from-edgecombe-county/
• The Gloucester County (New Jersey) Library System Veterans Oral History Project collects first-person interviews from local veterans. Visit gcls.org/VeteransInterviewProject
• Michigan’s Grand Valley State University Veterans History Project is open to veterans, families and friends. Interviews can be conducted in studio to create public access cable television programming. Visit gvsu.edu/vethistory/
• The Hanford (California) Library is participating in the Veterans History Project. Visit kingscountylibrary.org/veterans-resources
• The Henderson (Nevada) Libraries are participating in the Veterans History Project. Visit hendersonlibraries.com/891
• The Honoring Our Marin (California) Veterans project is participating in the Veteran History Project. Visit honoringmarinveterans.org.
• The Kern (California) Veterans Oral History Project is a coordinated project between the Kern County Historical Society, Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 604, Bakersfield High School’s CEO Academy students and KGET TV 17. Visit kernhistoricalsociety.org/oral-history-project/
• The Laguna Woods (California) History Center is an official partner of the Veterans History Project. Visit lagunawoodshistory.org/oralhistories/veterans
• The Massasoit (Massachusetts) Veterans History Project is open to all Massasoit men and women who have served in the armed forces, past and present. All Massasoit Community College students, alumni and staff veterans are encouraged to participate. Visit massasoitoralhistory.org/veterans-history-project
• Middle Georgia State University’s Vietnam Veterans Oral History Project is open to any Vietnam veteran from Georgia. Visit mga.edu/library/archives/oral-history.php
• The Military Voices Initiative conducted by StoryCorps provides a platform for veterans, service members and military families to share their stories. This year, StoryCorps will partner with local public radio stations in selected cities to record stories of veterans and their families, including April 30 to May 11, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and June 4 to 15, 2018, in Omaha, Nebraska. Not in a selected city? Recordings can also be made via a StoryCorps app. Visit storycorps.org/discover/military-voices/
• The Missouri Veterans History Project collects first-hand recollections of Missouri veterans. Visit mvhp.net/home.html
• The Natick Veterans Oral History Project at the Morse Institute Library collects and preserves the personal recollections of veterans as well as Massachusetts residents who are war industry workers, medical volunteers, members of foreign armed services and other civilians. Visit natickvets.org/page.php?page=about
• The National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey is the home of the Center for U.S. War Veterans’ Oral History Project. Visit nj.gov/military/museum/oralhistory.html
• New York State Veteran Oral History Program involves professional military historians collecting the stories of both veterans and civilians. The first step is to fill out a questionnaire followed by video or audio interviews Visit dmna.ny.gov/historic/veterans/vindex.htm
• The Northwest Ohio Veterans’ Oral History Project is gathering the personal recollections of America’s war veterans. Visit rbhayes.org/research/northwestohio-veterans-oral-history-project/
• The North Dakota Veterans History Project is accepting the stories of wartime veterans who live in or served from North Dakota. Visit history.nd.gov/archives/whatvethist.html
• The Ohio Veterans Oral History Project is an ongoing initiative of the Ohio History Connection to collect and preserve the stories of Ohio’s veterans. Visit ohiohistoryhost.org/ohiomemory/oral-history/ovohp
• The Online Veterans Tribute posts the personal stories of America’s veterans and their families. It is a sample of the larger, written archives based at the headquarters of the American Veterans Center, World War II Veterans Committee and National Vietnam Veterans Committee in Arlington, Virginia. Visit americanveteranscenter.org/home-of-the-brave/sharingyourstories/
• The Orland Park (Illinois) Public Library is participating in the Veterans’ History Project. Visit orlandparklibrary.org/veterans_historyPrjct.html
• The Rutgers Oral History Archives seeks to record the narratives of alumni and/or New Jersey residents who served during times of conflict. Visit oralhistory.rutgers.edu
• The State Archives of North Carolina’s Military Collection Veterans Oral History Program is collecting the histories of military servicemen and -women from North Carolina primarily in audio format. Veterans are also included who have spent more than 25 years living in North Carolina but initially were from another state at the time they served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Younger military veterans of recent conflicts will also be considered for interviews. Visit archives.ncdcr.gov/researchers/collections/military-collections/ veterans-oral-history-program
• The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida is participating in the Veterans’ History Project. Visit oral.history.ufl.edu/projects/vhp/
• Pennsylvania State University Lehigh Valley is participating in the Veterans’ History Project. Visit lehighvalley.psu.edu/tags/vietnamveteran-oral-history-project
• The Senior Officer Oral History Program was established in 1970 to record the management and leadership techniques of senior Army officers and Department of the Army civilians. Visit ahec.armywarcollege.edu/oralHistory.cfm
• The Southern Minnesota Historical Center is participating with the Veterans History Project. Visit lib.mnsu.edu/archives/oralh/scmvhp.html
• Texas Tech University Vietnam Center and Archive Oral History Project is creating a more complete record of the wars in Southeast Asia by preserving the recollections and experiences of all who were involved in those wars. Anyone can participate, whether an American veteran, a former ally or enemy, an anti-war protester, a government employee or a family member of a veteran. For more information, call 806-742-9010 or visit vietnam.ttu.edu/oralhistory/participation
• The U.S. Naval Institute’s Oral History Program was launched in 1969 and is one of the oldest in the country. It includes hundreds of significant leaders in 20th-century U.S. naval history as well as interviews of noteworthy leaders from contemporary history. Visit usni.org/heritage/oral-history
• The University of Central Florida is participating in the Veterans History Project and is accepting oral histories from veterans in Central Florida. Visit history.cah.ucf.edu/phvhp/
• The University of Georgia partnered with the Student Veteran Resource Center and the Student Veterans Association to initiate a Student Veteran Oral History Program. Visit svrc.uga.edu/content_page/oral-history-project
• The University of Oregon Veterans Oral History Project documents the military experiences of men and women associated with the University of Oregon and the wider Oregon community. Visit uovetsoralhistory.uoregon.edu
• The Vietnam Era Oral History Project at Utah Valley University preserves oral histories of veterans and civilians for academic purposes. Visit uvu.edu/library/archives/vietnam/index.html
• Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Project captures, preserves and shares the voices, images and experiences of veterans with a western Pennsylvania connection. Visit veteranvoicesofpittsburgh.com
• The Voces Oral History Project documents and creates a better awareness of the contributions of U.S. Latinos and Latinas of the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War generations. Visit legacy.lib.utexas.edu/voces/
• The Voices of the Past Speak to the Future Veterans Oral History Project trains high school students to conduct and record oral histories with veterans in collaboration with the Army Heritage Center Foundation. Visit armyheritage.org/2-site-content/194-veterans-oral-history-program
• The Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Project commemorates the achievements of Wisconsin veterans. Visit wisvetsmuseum.com