VHP WWII Collection Topics, Fall 2014 Internship
by Fall 2014 Interns, with Graduate Coordinators Jessica Taylor and Matthew Simmons
The goal of our semester’s work is to take you through the history of World War II through the eyes of the average American soldier. The more we rediscover about the everyday lives of young people stationed in Britain, Japan, Belgium, and all over the world, the more daunting this goal seems. Not all Americans who served were male and white, and not all who served returned alive and well. Listening to war experiences from a veteran’s perspective also alters our traditional thinking about the chronology of World War II, defined by major operations, titan generals, and the Axis and Allies.
Veterans across theaters and backgrounds recall major life events, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, their enlistment, coping with the loss of friends on the front, missing home, the joyful chaos of V-Day, and finally, readjusting to civilian life. While Patton planned and Roosevelt chatted, survivors adapted and coped inside the contexts that continued to traumatize them and threaten their lives. After the war, veterans took advantage of the GI Bill and the booming economy to build both their own lives and postwar America. These tens of millions of anonymous veterans constructed, invested, gave birth to, bought, and invented every facet of modern life; their values, both positive and damaging, remain potent and omnipresent in the twenty-first century.
-Jessica Taylor, Graduate Coordinator
The following spotlights on topics in the Veterans History World War II Collections were written by student interns in the Fall 2014 academic internship class, illuminating broad themes through specific interviews and experiences.