NHD’s Normandy Institute at the National Archives
Today’s post comes from students Nicholas Iacovelli and Raven Troyer, who participated in National History Day’s “Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom” Student & Teacher Institute. It was originally posted on “The Voice of NHD.” For the past four years, volunteers at the National Archives at College Park, MD, have conducted research on military records related to fallen service men. On June 25th, the Normandy Institute student/teacher teams spent the day researching in the materials identified by our volunteers.
On day five of the Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Student and Teacher Institute, all of the student and teacher pairs visited the National Archives in Maryland to conduct more research on their silent heroes. We were welcomed by hardworking volunteers and helpful staff that made our research immensely easier. We were split into two groups – one group conducting research in the textual archives and the other in the photographic archives. After a couple of hours of research, students and teachers were treated to a hearty meal and a copy of a news reel from the 1940’s provided to us by the generous staff at the National Archives. After lunch the groups switched and continued their research on their respective heroes. Students and teachers also had the option to view various maps of the invasion at Normandy and even search for their silent heroes’ temporary graves. The contents of the textual archives varied from mission records to medical records from when they first enlisted or were drafted. Meanwhile, the photographic archives contained various pictures of planes, pilot crews, vehicles, and soldiers relative to our silent heroes.
Once students and teachers arrived back at the [George Washington University] Mount Vernon campus they were split up; students would run through a simulation on a European invasion and teachers began prepping for the trip to France. The simulation consisted of the students breaking up into various groups, three planning and one judging. The students who were tasked with planning had 15 minutes to come up with a good invasion plan to assist in the liberation of Europe. The students left with judging had to determine who came up with the best invasion plan based on a list of criteria. In the end, it was the plan that consisted of an invasion of Southern France via North Africa that won the judge’s votes. At the end of the day we all came out with a better understanding of our silent heroes’ military careers (thanks to the hard work of those at the National Archives) and the stressful process of planning the invasion of Europe.