The citizens of our extended community should be both thankful and proud that a number of patriotic residents have committed themselves to highlighting the stories of our local members of “The Greatest Generation.”
This effort is a part of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress.
Led by the local project coordinator, Fred Gehle, this team, representing the Augusta Richmond County Historical Society (ARCHS), has produced three significant products.
This team has also planned and set up an upcoming event – a book signing from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Augusta Museum of History.
One product was the result of on-camera video interviews with more than 800 area World War II veterans. These substantive interviews took place over the course of the past 10 years.
Each veteran was asked to tell his or her life story with special emphasis on experiences during the war period. Each individual video was produced in three copies. One video went to the veteran or, in the case of a recent death, to a family member. A copy was sent to the Library of Congress in Washington. A third copy went into the files of the ARCHS.
Another major product honoring our World War II veterans was the creation of a composite DVD that was produced by local videographer and producer Mark Albertin.
Having had a great deal of experience in producing documentaries of high quality and interest, Mark was chosen by the ARCHS to produce this video. Entitled War Stories: Augusta Area Veterans Remember World War II, this video includes short clips from 23 veterans including: Jack Berlin, who fought with the OSS behind enemy lines in France and China; Lou Brissie, who overcame grievous leg wounds to become an all-star Major League Baseball pitcher; and Gordon Farmer, Esther Plankey and Herman Parker.
Each time I watch this 75-minute DVD I get a lump in my throat.
A final major effort on behalf of local World War II veterans was the book project.
This was a four-year effort by the three editors: Jim Garvey, Doug Higbee and Hubert van Tuyll. Their task provided a real challenge. First, pick the very best stories. Second, make sure all of the military services were well-represented. Third, carefully highlight the most noteworthy experiences within each selected story. Fourth, develop a marketing strategy so that the 600,000 citizens in our area would become aware of this book and where they might be able to obtain a copy.
The Augusta Richmond County Historical Society’s web site, thearchs.org, explains the book quite well:
“What was it like to come across Omaha Beach on D-Day, to fight in the Battle of the Bulge in the bitter winter of 1944, to enter a German concentration camp just after its liberation, or to watch two kamikaze aircraft crash into your ship?
“In Their Own Words: Augusta and Aiken Area Veterans Remember World War II is an oral history in which 147 veterans from the Central Savannah River Area recount their experiences of the war years: from their upbringing, training, and time in combat theater, to their return home and postwar careers.
“These men and women, all in their 80s and 90s when they shared their memories with ARCHS volunteers for the national Veterans History Project, pull no punches as they tell what they saw, felt, and did during the war.”
To remind, the book signings will take place in the rotunda of the Augusta Museum of History from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12. All three of the editors will be in attendance. Each editor will sign – and, if asked, will personalize – every book. This event may be the only chance for you to get books which are signed by all three editors.
In addition to the book, Mark Albertin’s DVD, War Stories, will be on sale. All proceeds from the book and video go directly to the Augusta Richmond County Historical Society. The book and DVD both make for great gifts.
Fred Gehle, Jim Garvey, Doug Higbee, Hubert van Tuyll, Mark Albertin and I all look forward to welcoming you this coming Saturday afternoon. There is plenty of free parking in the museum parking lot at the corner of Sixth and Broad streets in downtown Augusta.
For those who cannot attend the Saturday event, the book is on sale at the Morris Museum of Art and the Sacred Heart Cultural Center. It is also available for purchase on the historical society’s website, thearchs.org, or by calling 706-737-1532 on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. It is also available on Amazon.com.
Perry M Smith is the co-author, with Jeff Foley, of Rules and Tools for Leaders and the author of Courage, Compassion, Marine: The Unique Story of Jimmie Dyess. Smith’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org; web site: genpsmith.com.