Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center Oral History Program

Groups try to preserve oral histories of WWII vets before the generation vanishes. (Wisconsin State Journal, 7/3/2011)

Excerpt:  In Wisconsin, for example, the number of World War II veterans contributing their stories to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum oral history collection has dropped from 42 in 2003 to just one last year, said Gayle Martinson, archives collections manager.

"There are thousands out there who could still come in," Martinson said. "We still do get some, but it's rare, and the stories are shorter."

Middle-aged veterans may talk for hours about their experiences, while some of the oldest ones have forgotten things, or distilled what they've chosen to remember, Martinson said.

"A lot of times the stories have boiled down to a story that they've been telling themselves for years," Martinson said.

Telling their war stories

More than 16 million Americans served in the military from 1941 to 1945. More than 400,000 died.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs projects there will be 32,185 Wisconsin World War II veterans alive on Sept. 30, down from 37,257 a year earlier. The national estimate shows a drop from 1.98 million to 1.71 million over the same 12 months. Their average age is about 85.

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