Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Classy Classroom Tribute

It's not always family who build WWII sites. Students sometimes do, too, as part of learning about the Second World War. The 9th, 10th and 11th graders at Hershey High School in Hershey, Penn., created this unique site. Jeff Mummert's American Cultures and World Cultures Honors classes fashioned a vivid, professional and colorful online experience from artifacts belonging to Mummert's grandfather, stationed with the 10th Mountain Command in Italy whose book of Bill Maudlin cartoons became a yearbook filled with notes and names of his comrades-in-arms. Intrigued by the signatures, Mummert's students began finding out what happened to the individuals, creating an Excel spreadsheet documenting who received medals (Mummert's grandfather was awarded a Bronze Star) and the home towns of the soldiers. The students discovered WWII soldiers could be just as impatient with rules and regulations as any high schooler.

"The artifacts and documents describe the experiences of a person just like themselves, and not too far from their age," Mummert says. "The Maudlin book and medal lists, in particular, reflect the heroism of American soldiers, but more importantly in the historical context they show the challenging conditions, fear, comradeship and the healthy disrespect for authority evident among the common solider."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Oral History Tips

The mission of The National World War II Museum in New Orleans is to tell the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world -- why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today -- so that all generations will understand the price of peace and be inspired by what they learn.

What better way to accomplish that than through the words of the men and women who were there?

The museum's oral history project seeks to preserve the memories of the Greatest Generation. We've given you some helpful questions to ask. Here are some other helpful tips:

* Don't feel you need high-tech equipment to record an oral history.

* Before you start, make sure you're in a quiet location where you won't be distracted. Don't forget to turn off the telephone.

* Remember to note your subject's name, the recording date and location on the tape. It's a good idea to say it at the start of the recording.

* Keep an eye on your equipment. The worst thing is to lose valuable components of a story because of a malfunction.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More Ice Breakers

A lot of people found the Nine Ice Breakers -- how to start your interview with a veteran -- very helpful. We thought we'd return to the historians at The National World War II Museum and ask them to add to their list. Here are eight new questions to ask your WWII vet that should guarantee some thoughtful answers:

* What did you think you were fighting for and how did you feel about the enemy?
* What did letters from home mean to you?
* How did WWII change you and your life?
* Did it change your values, or influence your career?
* What is your impression of WWII for America?
* Did WWII change the world? How?
* What were the positives and negatives for the US as a result of WWII?
* What is the significance of having The National WWII Museum for future generations?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Map it!

Google Maps is an interesting way to plot your veteran's journey from hometown to theater of war. Relatives of Lt. Robert M. Cohan, a US Army Air Corps navigator, traced his journey after he was shot down on Dec. 28, 1944 to his return to the good old US of A on June 21, 1945. Discover Lt. Cohan's journey.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dad's WWII & Vimeo

We like Vimeo. As you can see, it can offer users the opportunity to display higher quality video of their wartime memories than You Tube traditionally offers. But judge for yourself with this video entitled "Dad's WWII."

Dad's WWII from RWHenry on Vimeo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tribute Pages: Templated, Fast & Easy

There are many free tools by which you can create a good-looking website devoted to your veteran without being a programming wiz or graphic designer. Tools like Blogger, which this site uses, and Squidoo, can get you up and going quickly and produce great results. Here are two examples:

Tammy Creech's Squidoo tribute to her grandfather Claud W. Creech, a hero of the Bastogne from Harlan, KY.

Craig Hullinger's Blogger site about his father Clifford's WWII unit, the 109th Engineers 34th Division. He's easily embedded video to the site.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Recording Vets

This is a video interview with Howard Simon of a B-17 bombing crew. Notice how the camera focuses only on Mr. Simon, and not on the interviewer and how the screen dissolves to an occasional close-up of a medal or other detail, as the veteran keeps talking. Such shifts help keep the viewer's attention, even though Simon's story is unusual. His bomber, damaged, landed in neutral Sweden where he was interred until the War's end.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Nine Ice Breakers

Interviewing WWII veterans can sometimes feel awkward. Potential interviewers often balk, thinking: "What should I ask?" or "How do I start?" The National World War II Museum's historians offer a list of good questions designed to get a conversation going. Here are nine starting points:

* What were you doing before the War? Were you married or single?
* Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?
* Did you enlist or were you drafted?
* When and where did you enter service? What branch?
* Where was your basic training? Describe what it was like.
* How did you feel knowing you were preparing to go off to war?
* When did you deploy overseas?
* What theater of operations were you in?
* What were your initial thoughts after landing on foreign soil for the first time?

Check back soon. We'll be posting more interview tips and guidelines from the National WWII Museum soon.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hollywood Can Help

Tom Hanks has thrown his weight behind a new WWII production on the story of the Greatest Generation's fight in WWII to be shown at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Efforts by high-profile celebrities like Hanks can help in the Museum's oral history project. Check them out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Keen on Teen Historians

To extend the reach of any oral history project enlist the help of local teenagers. Young people have little knowledge of the War, but can be trained to ask questions to veterans and get them talking. The town of Littleton, Colorado, paired its teenagers with its WWII vets, including a Pearl Harbor survivor, for their community web page Memories of WWII. Take a look at what they did. Your town can do it, too.