This Veterans Day, we’re remembering the thousands of people who have served in the U.S. armed forces throughout American history by exploring the various military and veterans collections at libraries across the U.S. They’re fascinating—and sobering—histories that reveal incredible stories of bravery, patriotism, and sacrifice.
The Veterans History Project: The Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress collects, preserves, and makes accessible the firsthand recollections of U.S. military veterans who served from World War I through more recent conflicts and peacekeeping missions, allowing future generations to hear directly from veterans to better understand what they saw, did and felt during their service.
The archive includes 115,000 personal narratives from individual veterans, taking the form of oral history interviews as well as original manuscript materials, such as memoirs, letters, diaries, and artwork, as well as original photographs.
Individual libraries across the U.S. are helping the Library of Congress collect these narratives, inviting local veterans to their facilities to video record their stories which will then be submitted to the Veterans History Project. Some libraries, like Nashville (Tenn.) Public Library and Westchester (Ill.) Public Library have even posted the testimonies they’re collected from WWII, Vietnam War, and Korean War vets to their website for all to hear.
The Pritzker Military Museum and Library: The online collection from the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago is staggering. More than 13,000 digitized items, including a selection of prints, posters, original artwork, artifacts, manuscripts and documents, maps, photographs, and negatives from the Pritzker Military Museum & Library’s collection, are available online for browsing and research purposes.
For those able to visit the museum in person, the museum offers more than 250 archival collections that detail the personal stories of service members in nearly every U.S. war, with a focus on World War I, World War II, and U.S. Army service members. Of particular note is the Hershel “Woody” Williams Collection, which includes a citation and authentic Navy Medal of Honor issued to former Marine Woody Williams, a veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima. The museum’s library is made up of titles spanning all periods of history, countries, cultures, peoples, and branches of the U.S. military.
Elgin Area Memories: Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, Illinois, has collected video testimonies from local veterans, who share their first-hand experiences serving their country—from basic training to overseas tours. It’s fascinating viewing.
Texas Military Veteran Video Oral Histories: The digital collection of Texas military veteran video oral histories available online from Newton Gresham Library at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, includes more than 65 recordings of military veterans recounting their lives and memories including their childhood, military service, and post-military lives. The project was developed in partnership with the Library of Congress Veteran's History Project and the H.E.A.R.T.S. Veterans Museum of Texas with support from a TexTreasures grant provided by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Photo: Sailor and girl at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Washington, D.C., May 1943. By John Collier. From the Library of Congress.