We’ve had some emails and calls recently, wondering what we’re working on and what our vision is, and I’m happy to oblige with an update.
Our goal has always been to record the combat and human stories of World War II participants in the US and around the world, so they wouldn’t die with them, and to write them as books, develop them into multi-media projects, and engage young people by using them in high school and college curriculum.
That’s why our interviews are often not just 15 or 20 minutes long, or even 60 minutes long. Some are as short as 90 minutes. More are in-depth, and can consist of 20-30 hours of footage or more, conducted over days, months, and sometimes years. The conversations often become intensely personal, and so can be the photos, journals, letters, documentation, and first-hand accounts we scan in.
Trust is part and parcel of our work. We have developed a reputation for being scrupulously honest. Our intent has always been record the truth and present it fairly, without bias. Without this trust, we could never have gained access to the inner thoughts and lives of these veterans.
The goal has never been to post in their entirety these raw videos, photos, journals or first-hand accounts on our website, although as we process them, some of the documents and video clips will pop up over time, like bon-bons.
Trust is one of the most important reasons we’re discriminating with our posts. We are the custodians of the personal details these videos and documents often contain, and have promised to handle them sensitively and correctly.
Another is that once transcribed (a very time-consuming process in and of itself for hundreds of hours of footage), oral histories must be verified and bolstered with archival data. Memory changes over time, and exaggeration is an all-too-human failing. Even worse, we’ve discovered to our dismay that a surprising number of veterans have told us flat-out whopper fibs. Only diving deep into archival records has separated the truth from fiction.
And we refuse to publish fiction. It may be entertaining, but it does irreparable harm to those who really are honest, and whose experiences are genuinely deserving of our respect.
After months of transcribing, researching at the archives, and pouring through documents, we have had to reject four of the first five stories we wanted to publish, because archival records have proven them untrue. One is wending its way through the design process in pre-publication, and we are moving on to others.
Good, thorough research and writing is never lightning fast. It takes both time and money – in the gathering of information, the processing of it, and then in the telling of the story.
There are no shortcuts to quality and truth.
We could use your help. If you would like to assist us by donating your time or supporting us with the funds we need to continue our work, please donate here or email us at info (at) ww2historyproject.org.
Some of you have been wondering what has been happening with our project to bring Dr. Edgar Klugman back to Nuremberg to meet his childhood friend Hansi. Unfortunately, Ed’s health will no longer allow an overseas trip. GoFundMe donors have been refunded their money in full. We appreciate your support, and hope that Ed and Hans will be able to use technology to deepen their friendship from afar.
Sadly, we’ve lost another of our 389th Bomb Group veterans: James McGahee flew as navigator on Sack Time Sally and was shot down by ME109’s on November 26, 1943. With the help of brave Dutch Resistance helpers he was able to evade capture before being betrayed to the Gestapo. He was then made a POW until the end of the war. To find out more about his story and return to the Netherlands after the war, please read the article written in 2011 by Johan Kuiper