‘Voices of War’ Sound Off in Book

Posted November 5, 2004 at 3:22pm

“In many cases, war is an abstraction, a policy,” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) muses. “A lot of people are killed, a lot of people are maimed … and we don’t pay enough attention to that.”

The “human dynamic” of war is the focus of the Library of Congress’ new book, “Voices of War.” This tome, to be released on Veterans Day, is the first book to come out of the Veterans History Project, a Congressionally mandated collection of oral histories from people who served in every war America has fought in the 20th century.

Hagel, who wrote the afterword of the book and also contributed some of his own stories, believes it is important to hear these stories from the people who lived them.

“Rather than hearing an analysis through the eyes of historians or journalists, our young people need to learn about war from the perspective of those who fought” in them, he says.

Preserving the memories of passing heroes is the same reason that Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) introduced the legislation in the House to create the Veterans History Project and wrote the foreword of the book. He recalls that the first time he began talking to his father and uncle, who served in World War II and the Korean War, respectively, about their service in the military, he realized his children should know about their sacrifices as well.

“I grabbed our family video camera and set it up, mainly for the benefit of my kids,” who the Congressman says were far too young to really appreciate what their elders were saying. After they were done talking, Kind came to the conclusion that “we should be doing this nationwide.”

The project has expanded nationally; all manner of citizens now are participating in the program. “It has expanded to high school students, college students; they’re going out and interviewing people at the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion halls,” Kind says.

Taking part in the program helps “bring history alive” for students, Kind says. Hagel also believes in the power these testimonials have to teach. “It’s always a matter of learning something, and the stories in that book are reflective of getting a comprehensive and real sense of the feeling of the humanity of the people.

“That’s the real, gut sense of what war is about.”

“Voices of War: Stories of Service From the Home Front and the Front Lines” will be available Thursday.

Those interested in becoming involved with the Veterans History Project should contact the Library of Congress via e-mail at vohp@loc.gov or on their toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848.