The Villages were an untapped interviewing grounds for our Veteran’s History Project, but since its start, SPOHP volunteer team, the Villages Squad, has collected many invaluable interviews. For the past several months, the team has been tirelessly collecting the stories of World War II veterans living in the Central Florida region. Members Mike Parker, Bruce Hansen, and Ed Webb started when VHP coordinator Ann Smith received an email of inquiry from Mike Parker. Parker had been working with his wife to organize Honor Flights out of Orlando, Florida. Mike approached SPOHP to collect the stories of honor flight veterans.

Mike Parker soon was trained to do oral histories, and he started doing interviews from the list of Honor Flight veterans. Soon after, he brought other volunteers to the Veteran’s History Project. He conducted a two and a half hour oral history workshop at a local library and brought a lot of interest, but after a few months, only two volunteers remained: Bruce Hansen and Ed Webb. Bruce Hansen is a retired law enforcement agent. He is a quiet, soft spoken man who is comfortable with listening to the harrowing stories that sometimes come along with World War II interviews. Hansen conducts many of the interviews. He excels at contacting and interviewing veterans. Ed Webb works behind the scenes and attends interviews. He is very good at asking backup questions and organizing interviews. Hansen and Webb are a team. They work to prioritize and collect interviews. They even visited the largest post in the American Legion, and they worked with them to collect the experiences of veterans in their local branch.

We thank the Villages Squad for their time volunteering to collect interviews! Their interviews help tell nuanced stories that complicate our national memory of war.



In this second installment of SPOHP volunteer John Paul Lorie’s three-part podcast on the Gainesville Eight, we hear Scott Camil and other members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) describing the founding of the organization and the recruitment of new members. One of the VVAW’s first major actions concluded with a march on the gates of the Capitol in which decorated veterans made short statements into a microphone and then threw their medals over the fence and toward the Capitol building. We also hear about the U.S. government’s harassment of Scott Camil in response to the effectiveness of his activism, preparing us for next week’s final installment which will describe the indictment of the Gainesville Eight on charges of conspiracy to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention.







Just on the heels of Veteran’s Day, SPOHP volunteer John Paul Lorie has assembled a three-part special feature on the Gainesville Eight. Members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the Gainesville Eight were indicted on charges of conspiracy to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. This first podcast follows one member of the Gainesville Eight, Scott Camil, through his military experiences in Vietnam and then the events that led him to join the VVAW.




The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program had the privilege of getting to know Frank Towers as one of our narrators in our valuable Veterans History Project. Over the years we came to know him as a leader for his fellow veterans, especially WWII veterans. We always had a deep respect for his heroism in WWII, and we came to regard him as a valuable friend to the program. We have three interviews housed in the SPOHP archives from Frank Towers, and have filmed him in the community speaking at events.
This 25-minute video is an oral history tribute to our own Frank Towers using segments of the two interviews that were filmed. To Frank we say this: we know we join countless others whose lives you have touched, as well as lives you have literally saved, to say you will be sorely missed.

Volunteers from the “Village Squad” of the Veterans History Project recently attended the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall exhibit at The Villages in November 2015. Tabling to represent the VHP collection, volunteers spoke with veterans and their families to encourage interviewees to become involved in the oral history project, including Michael Garrity, pictured below.

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial wall is a scaled copy of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. From the official website: “This Traveling Memorial stands as a reminder of the great sacrifices made during the Vietnam War. It was made for the purpose of helping heal and rekindle friendships and to allow people the opportunity to visit loved ones in their home town who otherwise may not be able to make the trip to Washington.”

Thank you to all the SPOHP volunteers who helped spread the word! Photos by Michael Parker.

The Veterans History Project (VHP) and Alachua County African-American History Project (AAHP) were high up in the sky this week with Mr. Daniel Keel, who served as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II! Check out photos of the interview and 1942 Vultee BT-13 Valiant flight, piloted by Chris Hoefli, a B-52 pilot and Iraq War veteran.

Reflection from Deborah Hendrix, SPOHP Digital Humanities Coordinator

This week, Bruce Hansen of the Veterans History Project Villages Squad interviewed Tuskegee Airman Daniel Keel at the Villages Public Safety Building on Morse Blvd (a fire station). The guys at the station were absolutely in awe of the whole thing. They provided the space, kept saying they never had anything like this happen at the station, they felt like they were part of history (they were). One sat in on the interview, after it was over they pulled the big fire engine out to take photos of everyone by the fire engine!

After the interview, then on to the airfield in Bellview, dodging rainstorms that I felt sure would be the deal breaker for taking Mr. Keel up in a WWII 1942 Vultee BT-13 Valiant trainer.

It poured, but not at the airfield! We skipped lunch so we would beat the storms, and we did. They hauled the plane out of the hangar pronto, scooted Mr. Keel up in the plane, and I had to race around because they were not waiting for the photo ops. But I got it. So did Mike’s GoPro.

Mr. Keel saw action protecting bombers, a highly qualified pilot that just refused to be washed out. He was almost the last one standing during training because the white officers tried their best to fail them all, or failing that, court-martial everyone. You cannot make this stuff up.

After the plane ride that Mr. Keel absolutely loved, they all sat around trading stories in the hangar. I also filmed that. They did the low pass, and it almost swept me off my feet, never got that close to a plane going full tilt less than 20 feet from me! Filmed that, but barely, my ears got a tremendous whoosh. I did better on other passes, so very fast! The pilot is wonderful, he flies with Delta.

For more information about this and other projects, contact SPOHP, call the offices at (352) 392-7168, and connect with us online today. 

by Ann Smith, Veterans History Project Coordinator
In early 2014, SPOHP Veteran’s Coordinator Ann Smith gathered the volunteers for the Veterans History Project group for a fact-to-face meeting. Ms. Smith’s talk at this meeting inspired Mike Parker to become interested in conducting interviews for the Veteran’s History Project of the Library of Congress, where SPOHP regularly submits interviews.

Mike Parker had recently asked to join the group, since he knew of many of the WWII veterans who live at The Villages, the retirement hometown south of Gainesville. Mr. Parker toured the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program’s offices to get an overview of the program and later purchased his own Marantz audio recorder. He received some instruction on its use and began to conduct oral history interviews, which he remotely sent to SPOHP.

As he continued interviewing, Mr. Parker realized how many veterans lived at The Villages–more than he could reach. He called Ann and strategized ways he might recruit some help from interested volunteers.  After conducting an interview for a local newspaper, he had a group of seven interested volunteers.

The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program is invested not only in collecting oral histories, but also in creating the best content at the same time. To this end, the program conducts oral history workshops. We suggested that before the Village Squad started they allow us to better serve the whole process by conducting a workshop for the new interviewers. Mike Parker reserved a space at the Senior Services building located in Wildwood, Florida, where Veterans Project Coordinator Ann Smith and Technology coordinator Deborah Hendrix spent an afternoon with five new volunteers.

The end result of this arrangement will be not only veterans’ interviews for both the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and the Library of Congress, but also other themed interviews including Home Front Project interviews of those who were family members of those that served, or remained at home, just to name one. There are many other types of interview topics, including African American history, immigrant history, history of Florida, and on it goes. The Villages area is comprised of a cross section of the country that has retired to Florida, increasing opportunities to collect interviews relatively nearby of those from other parts of the country.

We hope to expand the Village Squad collaboration by organizing transcription teams and as a future goal, video interviews. The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program is contributing educational instruction, equipment instruction, two Marantz PMD 660 recorders graciously provided on loan from Judy Shoaff’s language lab, archiving, and all processing of interviews for both accessioning into the SPOHP collections and to the Library of Congress.

The result of this opportunity will be an influx of unique interviews to add to the collection that could not be available otherwise, and a chance for a retired population to recognize the valuable contributions they are providing for future generations.

For additional information about the Veterans History Project and other collections, contact SPOHP, call the offices at (352) 392-7168, and connect with us online today.