The Augusta-Richmond County Historical Society will show its gratitude for World War II veterans this weekend by sharing with the public readings from the first six interviews it conducted with 800 local members of The Greatest Generation.
The oral history project, in the works for about five years, is known as “Augusta Goes to War” and will celebrate its debut from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Richmond County Public Library.
The event will be led by historians Jim Garvey and Hubert van Tuyll of Georgia Regents University and Doug Higbee of the University of South Carolina Aiken, and include excerpts from the historical society’s documentary War Stories: Augusta Area Veterans Remember WWII.
Garvey said the local veterans and residents are encouraged to attend to share their memories, possibly for inclusion in the project that shows the challenges and struggles veterans faced before, during and after World War II.
“We hope to show Augusta what its part was in what has become The Greatest Generation,” said Garvey, the project editor and professor emeritus of communications and English at GRU. “World War II is frequently romanticized, but it was really a terribly and horrifying event.”
Garvey said the project will put a voice and a face to those veterans who fought at the Battle of the Bulge, stormed the beaches of Normandy and raised the flag at Iwo Jima.
He said he, van Tuyll and Higbee will each read two of the project’s 800 interviews to give the public a flavor of the 200 stories they plan to start compiling into a book this summer.
Garvey said eventually the project will expand to include members of more recent wars.
He said the effort started with WWII, because a third to half of the 800 they interviewed have died and their memories need to be captured before it’s too late.
“There is a pricelessness to reliving their experiences in history,” he said.
This project is supported by the Georgia Humainities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and through appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly.