The places where America has fought its wars repeat as you scroll down the page of the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.
Click. William S. Allen: served in the Army from 1939 to 1946.
In a video interview, Allen shares his account of becoming a prisoner of war in the Pacific during World War II.
Click. John Kline: Vietnam veteran and now a Republican House Member from Minnesota.
Kline talks about how he swapped assignments with a friend, an enlisted Marine who had already been to Vietnam and wasn’t eager to return.
“I hadn’t been, so I figured it was my turn,” Kline said.
On and on the stories flow in the Veterans History Project, from video interviews to photographs that veterans took during their service.
The project aims to gather firsthand accounts of veterans from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) wrote the legislation funding the VHP in October 2000, after he informally interviewed his own family members and learned about their experiences. Congress unanimously passed the bill.
Nearly 11 years later, the project has become the largest oral history program in the world, with more than 73,000 individual collections, said Monica Mohindra, the project’s head of program coordination and communication.
“This creates a body of knowledge and an archive of wartime memories of America’s veterans,” Veterans History Project Director Bob Patrick said. “That’s why Congress set up the project. It tells of the human experience of war and serves as a resource for research and a source of inspiration for others.”
The project also benefits veterans’ family members and friends, who may not know the stories of their husbands or neighbors, Patrick said.
“I can’t begin to tell you how many times a veteran is telling a story with his wife sitting next to him and she says, ‘You never told me that,’” he said.
Over the years, several Members of Congress have contributed to the VHP. In the past year, more than 60 Congressional offices have found ways to participate in the project.
For instance, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) established an award to recognize and interview veterans in his district.
Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) accepted the donation of interviews from a group of 60 WWII vets from Elkhart, Ind.
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), Del. Gregorio Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands) and Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) hosted training workshops to encourage their constituents to record the stories of veterans in their communities.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.