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May 28, 2003

Veterans' Stories Go Online on Library of Congress Web Site
This past Memorial Day, May 26, 21 fully digitized collections of materials submitted by veterans and civilians became available for the first time on the Library of Congress Web site at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.

http://www.loc.gov/vets/The Library of Congress' Veterans History Project at the American Folklife Center collects and preserves oral histories and documentary materials about America's war veterans from World War I, World War II and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, as well as from the civilians who served on the home front.

"The Veterans History Project gives all veterans the opportunity to speak openly and freely about their wartime experiences. We think it a fitting tribute on this Memorial Day, that Americans across the nation can go to the Library's Web site and experience firsthand such an important piece of our national memory. Every veteran has his or her own war, and each is custodian of a unique story and memories," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

The digitized materials are part of a larger effort by the Library to make its collections accessible online so that more people can take advantage of the rich materials at the Library. This initial presentation of personal narratives will be followed by many more culled from the 7,000 submissions the Veterans History Project has received to date.

These poignant stories cover the themes of "courage, patriotism and community" and include the story of Violet Hill Gordon, who enlisted during World War II with her best friend, Mildred Osby, to join the Women's Auxiliary Army. Gordon, an African American, entered the segregated Army and was eventually promoted to commanding officer in the 6888th Central Postal Directory.

John W. Earle served four years as Special Services Officer in the 14th Infantry, 71st Division of the Army. Earle kept up a lengthy correspondence with his mother, grandmother and other members of his family. His letters-readable online-regale us with his extraordinary efforts to provide entertainment and treats for the troops in service.

Other veterans featured on the site include: Corbin B. Willis, Jr.; Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.); William Valentine Loncaric; Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.); William Jennings Arnett; Bruce Donald Fenchel; Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.); Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.); James Walsh; Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.); Isabelle Cook; Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.); Ben M. Snyder; Patricia Seawalt; Patricia Lala; Sally Hitchcock Pullman; John Casper Wister; and Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.).

Since the program began, the Veterans History Project has attracted more than 670 national and local partners representing the military community, veterans, civic groups, cultural and historic organizations and educational institutions. The principal private sector sponsor is AARP.

Congress created the project through legislation sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Houghton and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on the House side, and Cleland and Hagel in the Senate. The project is one of the few nationwide oral history efforts that relies on volunteers rather than professional oral historians to collect stories and artifacts.

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress was created by Congress in 1976 to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established by the Library in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic materials from the United States and around the world.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. It provides information and resources; engages in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assists members in serving their communities; and offers a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for its members. 

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