Veterans Oral History Program

Parachute jump training for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1978. 1st Lt. Bennis M. Blue, third from right, is pictured.

Mission

The purpose of the State Archives of North Carolina’s Military Collection Veterans Oral History Program is to capture and provide access to the memories and experiences of the military servicemen and servicewomen from the state of North Carolina, preserving them for the benefit of the public and scholars. The Military Collection’s Veterans Oral History Program will record in primarily audio format interviews with military veterans who were born and raised in the state of North Carolina, and who served in the U.S. Armed Forces for any military service, engagement, or war.

Interviews will also be conducted with veterans who have spent more than twenty-five years living in the state of North Carolina, but initially were from another state at the time they served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Younger military veterans of recent conflicts who have spent several years living in the state will also be considered for interviews. Consideration for conducting interviews will be given on a case-by-case basis to veterans who spent considerable time training at North Carolina military camps, forts, and air bases, but who did not live or serve from the state of North Carolina. Interviews on the role and experiences of civilians on the home front during defined military periods, including women who worked for the USO or local wartime recreation committees, are also conducted.

Particular emphasis will be given to interviewing those aging veterans who served in the Korean War, the Cold War (including members of the intelligence community), and the Vietnam War—due to the necessity to record those veterans before time and illness cause the recollection of military service to become lost. We are also extremely interested in interviewing veterans of the wars in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War.

However, all veterans who have served up to recent engagements or conflicts will be included in the oral history program. A veteran does not have to have seen active military combat service to be interviewed for the program. Service is valued for its historical context—not its physical engagement. If a veteran has served the United States in any capacity in the U.S. Armed Forces and matches the collection’s criteria, their story is considered important to the historical memory of North Carolina and its citizens.

The Military Collection is particularly interested in documenting the military service of minorities, women in service, POWs, special operations personnel, intelligence officials, Marines, Navy and Air Force aviators, and those serving in non-combat positions in the Cold War (such as soldiers serving in posts along Communist-occupied areas in Europe and Southeast Asia).

Veterans Oral History Transcription Project

The State Archives and State Library of North Carolina invite volunteers to help us make our materials more accessible to researchers by transcribing audio files of oral history interviews. Visit the project website to learn more about the interviews and how you can help.

 

History of the Oral History Program

History of the Oral History Program

The State Archives of North Carolina Military Collection’s Veterans Oral History Interview Collection contains more than 1,100 oral history interviews of military veterans living in or from North Carolina. The Veterans Oral History Project began in 1996 in order to record the personal military service accounts of the remaining North Carolinians who served in World War I. The project would expand from 1996 to 2003 to focus on interviewing veterans of World War II, while the Military Collection attempted to build its holdings of primary historical materials. The interviews were conducted largely by volunteers from across the state, as well as by the Military Collection Archivist. The majority of these interviews are on analog recordings, but a database of the interviews is available with descriptive information from the Military Collection Archivist.

The interviews eventually grew in terms of their historical scope, and the collection now contains interviews with veterans from World War I up to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as with peacetime service individuals and non-combatants. The interviews of many of the veterans correspond with original and copied archival materials donated to the Military Collection from 1996 to 2014. The interviews include the last living World War I soldiers in North Carolina; an interview with a German POW at Camp Bunter in WWII; interviews with female members of the U.S. Armed Forces; and WWII American POWs of the Japanese and Germans.

Starting in 2016, the Veterans Oral History Program began a re-initiated, state-wide oral history program, utilizing regional partner organizations and institutions to host training programs using loaned interview recording equipment. As the program grows and more volunteers and locations are added, the Military Collection hopes to work with North Carolina communities and veterans’ organizations to record for posterity the stories of those men and women who have sacrificed for our nation.

Conducting a Veteran Oral History Interview with the Military Collection

Conducting a Veteran Oral History Interview with the Military Collection

If you are a military veteran, or civilian who worked in connection with the military and would be interested in participating in the Veterans Oral History Program by conducting an oral history interview, or if you are a family member of a military veteran and are interested in having your relative interviewed, you can contact the Military Collection Archivist, Matthew Peek, by calling his office at (919) 814-6854, or emailing him at matthew.peek@ncdcr.gov with the subject line “Veteran Interview Request.”

Determinations regarding who will be interviewed are governed by the Military Collection Oral History Program guidelines. All decisions on conducting interviews are made by the Military Collection Archivist.

Online Form

Online Form

You can also contact the Military Collection through a “Request a Veterans Oral History Interview” form in the navigation panel of this page, which is emailed directly to the Military Collection Archivist. Please describe the veteran willing to be interviewed, noting any contact information for the veteran, the city/state in which they currently live, and what military engagements or wars the veteran was involved in. If you are the veteran, please identify yourself as the potential interviewee. The Military Collection Archivist will be in touch with you or the veteran as soon as possible.

Veterans Oral History Collection Database

Veterans Oral History Collection Database

The Military Collection’s North Carolina Veterans Oral History Collection Database consists of the details of the more than 1,100 oral history interviews in the collection. The database is fully searchable as an Excel spreadsheet. The database includes: interview collection number, interview title, interviewer and interviewee names, interview date, short biographies of the veterans, and a description of the formats of the interview recordings. The biographies are based on available public records, personal papers of the interviewees, obituaries, and other available information. The biographies are not always 100% accurate, as they were often without listen to the entire interview (as a number of interviews are in an analog, non-accessible format at present).

The majority of the interviews are on analog recordings (such as audiocassette tapes and VHS tapes) or formatted discs, for which there are no high-quality digital transfers available. A number of interviews have low-quality audio files available, which can be accessed onsite at the State Archives of North Carolina through the Military Collection Archivist’s office. A number of discs have reference copies available for use onsite at the State Archives. Some transcripts are available for a number of interviews as well. If an access copy of the interview is not available, a patron can order a digital copy of the interview recordings through the State Archives’ outsourced digitization policy.

Veterans Oral History Collection Database

Interviews conducted since 2015 are available online through the Veterans Oral History Collection in the North Carolina Digital Collections.