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This amazing project captures the realities of war throughout US history

2-3 minute read

By Jen Baldwin

20 November 2020
Old photos of United States Army Nurse Corps

Spanning from World War 1 to today, the American Folklife Center's Veteran’s History Project is preserving incredible war stories for generations to come.

Today, we regularly hear about war through headlines across our screens. But most of us will never experience the reality of that environment. As a result, a concentrated effort to preserve the experiences of active duty becomes essential to the story of American history. One such initiative, the Veteran’s History Project, is attempting to do just that.

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The Veteran's History Project began in 2000 when President Clinton signed Public Law 106-380 into being after unanimous support from Congress. The project is supported by the AARP and there are now numerous state chapters involved. The project's website indicates that first-hand accounts from the following conflicts are included:

  • World War 1, 1914-1918
  • World War 2, 1939-1945
  • Cold War
  • Korean War, 1950-1953
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975
  • Grenada – American Invasion, 1983
  • Panama – American Invasion, 1989
  • Operation Restore Hope, 1992-1993
  • Persian Gulf War, 1991
  • United Nations Operation in Somalia
  • Haiti – American Intervention, 1994-1995
  • Operation Allied Force, 1999
  • Peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Hercegovina
  • Operation Joint Guardian, 1999-
  • War on Terrorism, 2001-2009
  • Afghan War, 2001
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011

At Findmypast, we've made the index to this incredible project available for family history enthusiasts to explore.

One Veteran's story

Just one of the incredible stories you'll find is that of Charles Daniel Turner, who served in both World Wars. He enlisted in the Navy in 1916 and acted as an Electrician, First Class. During this time, he maintained a diary while aboard UB-88, a German submarine that was surrendered at the end of the war.

Charles Daniel Turner, Veteran's History Project.

A portrait photo of Charles Daniel Turner included in the Veteran's History Project. View more.

As part of the Ex-German Submarine Expeditionary Force, he detailed provisions, rations, menus, and photographed the engine room, diving control station, and his shipmates.

USS Bittern with UB88 captured German U-Boat at Pedro Miguel Panama Canal August 1919

USS Bittern with UB88 captured German U-Boat at Pedro Miguel, Panama Canal in August 1919.

When it arrived in New York, the vessel and the other four boats in the unit attracted tourists, reporters, photographers, and of course, technicians from the Navy, submarine builders, and equipment suppliers. The sub was eventually destroyed off the coast of California on March 1, 1921.

Charles' diary and his interview with his daughter have been digitized and are available on the Veteran's History Project website. He was discharged from the Navy in June 1920.

In August 1942, Turner was discharged again, but this time from the Enlisted Reserve Corps of the Army of the United States at the age of 55 years. He received the World War 2 Victory Medal in January 1948, at the conclusion of the war.

Memories like these are invaluable, not just to genealogists, but to our global culture. This amazing project remains active and Veterans and their families are encouraged to participate. Do you have a story to share? Find out more here.