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The Greatest Generation!

by on January 3, 2011


I have a story I’d like to tell you about the Veterans History Project and the Greatest Generation. Seven years ago the Hoover Presidential Library started interviewing military veterans. I saw an article about how the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. I asked the Director of the Hoover Presidential Library if we could get involved and that launched our partnership with the Library of Congress.

We have driven thousands of miles across Iowa to interview individual men and women who served in World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam War.  I have driven through snow storms, used my car’s GPS system to locate hard to find addresses, and learned to carry Milk Bones when driving to an out of the way farmhouse-one never knows what will happen when  greeted by a large farm dog.


To date we have interviewed 244 military veterans.  We have heard personal accounts of witnessing the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki, enduring the freezing cold of the Korean Conflict, surviving prisoner of war camps, bailing out of  flaming airplanes, working on the Home Front, organizing supplies behind the lines for foot soldiers. Each and every story contained the hope for a better America.


Dr. William Pontarelli drove 978 miles in the past four months interviewing military veterans. Dr. Bill has been a docent at the Hoover Presidential Library since 2004. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a history buff.  Please go to the Photograph Gallery to see Dr. Bill doing a live broadcast on Iowa Public Radio and at a reception given by Summit Pointe Retirement Center in his honor.


Shortly after the Iowa Public Radio broadcast Lisa called my office asking if she could be involved in anyway. She is currently a PHD candidate at the University of Iowa in Communications. Within a few days she was at the Hoover Presidential Library indexing veterans’ interviews for the Library of Congress.  She is a Teaching Assistant for the UI in the morning, attends graduate school in the afternoon, and spends hours each week fulfilling the requirements for having the military interviews preserved by the Library of Congress.

My story doesn’t end here–click to read more!


Lisa January 18, 2011 at 8:11 pm

You are an expert blogger, Mary! I love reading all of these posts. It has been such a pleasure working on the Veterans History Project. It’s just one small thing I can do for their service. I’ll never forget to pay it forward!

Ben Franklin March 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Lisa is far too modest. It takes longer to index an interview than conduct one. To do it well as Lisa learned very quickly, every word has to be heard clearly, often replayed. She spent hours of I am sure precious time to help the team get the job done. Good luck to Lisa
Bill P

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