Veterans' memories being stored as treasures

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Last summer, the Augusta Richmond County Historical Society (ARCHS) agreed to begin participation in the nationwide Veterans History Project, specifically to interview veterans of the Second World War who reside in the greater Augusta area.

Signed into law in October 2000 by Congress, the project will collect and preserve stories from men and women from all branches of service, the purpose being to learn from the past through first-hand accounts from those who lived through an extraordinary time in our history.

To date, over 250 CSRA veterans have agreed to participate in the interview process, which will involve an individual video or audio recorded interview conducted by one of approximately 40 volunteers.

IN ADDITION to announcement of the project sent last year to veteran's organizations in the area, brief radio and television news segments and print media -- the Chronicle and other papers -- as well as area magazines agreed to inform public and veterans of our upcoming activity.

Additional sources of veterans include those who have participated on the Vets to Washington bus tour, members of the Military Officers Association (MOAA) and African-American veterans supplied by the Lucy Laney Museum of Black History.

So far, initial interviews of approximately 20 veterans have been held at two principal sites: Augusta Technical College and Augusta State University. Other locations will include Augusta Prep, Grovetown Museum, three local churches and one or more high schools.

For those veterans who will be unable to travel to an interview site, arrangements will be made for camera operators from Augusta Tech to travel to the residence for the recording.

PRIOR TO SETTING a time and location suitable for the interview, the veteran will be contacted for required background data relating to his or her service. The veteran will also be encouraged to bring photos, documents and memorabilia to the meeting which will be copied or recorded for inclusion to complete the process.

After the interviews, three duplicate DVDs will be produced from the video: one will be given to the veteran, a second sent to the Library of Congress in Washington, and a final copy to the ARCHS library at Augusta State University.

ALL PARTICIPANTS in the project are non-paid volunteers, including several veterans of other wars; college students, as well as two from local high schools; current and retired educators; and others with strong interest in history.

Of those veterans already identified, many have recollections that cover a vast array of unique experiences:

- landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day;

- a number who were POWs, two of the Japanese, several who were shot down while on B-17 bombing missions;

- many who were involved in the Battle of the Bulge.

Since this project may well take a year to complete, we welcome responses from WWII veterans who have not yet been informed about the Veterans History Project. We also would like to hear from those who wish to volunteer as interviewers or support personnel.

We anticipate a full year of activity ahead on a project to collect recollections from those who many agree were members of "the greatest generation."

Interested readers should contact Fred Gehle, ARCHS Project Coordinator, Veterans History Project. 706-738-8242.


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