The Veterans History Project: Making Veterans’ Stories Come to Life

Four women being inducted into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps

Many of your students may have a relative or friend who is serving in the armed forces. Though television and the Internet bring images of war into the home, many students might not be aware of the day-to-day experiences of those who have fought on the front lines.

A great way to help expose students to these stories is the Veterans History Project (VHP). The VHP, a project of the Library of Congress, makes available online hundreds oral history interviews and other materials from those who fought or were involved in World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and the wars in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the quickest access to veterans’ stories, pictures and correspondence, browse selected interviews by theme. In addition, students can search the collections by name, specific conflict, branch of service and where they served.

Looking for ways to ways to use the Veterans History Project in your class activities? Here are some suggestions:

  • Use the Library’s Veterans History Project primary source set as a starting point. Veterans’ Stories: The Veterans History Project and Veterans’ Stories: Struggles for Participation allows students to quickly access a large collection of Veterans History Project materials, The Library has teacher’s guides with teaching tips and an analysis tool that students can use to record their thinking when listening to an interview, reading a letter, or looking at a drawing or a photograph.
  • Ask students to compare the stories of two people who served in the same branch of service but in different wars. In what ways were their experiences similar?
  • Have students listen to a few of the interviews from the section on patriotism, identify different ways in which the veterans describe or express their views on patriotism, and compare their responses.
  • The VHP includes personal correspondence as well as the interviews. Some of the correspondence took the form of traditional letters, but some took a more creative form. For example, students might look at the way Marion Gurfein corresponded with her husband while he served in World War II. Have students think of creative ways to keep veterans informed of daily activities. Use those ideas to create correspondence for family and friends.
  • High school students may want to record an oral history of a veteran they know and submit it to the Veterans History Project. Information on how to record an interview and submit it to the Library can be found in a kit from the VHP.

Drawing of a yeoman on a Liberty ship off Utah Beach, 1944. By Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Tracy Sugarman.

If you’ve worked with the Veterans History Project in the past, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.



Remembering Armistice Day: “I Did My Bit for Democracy”

Ask your students, “What national holidays have Americans traditionally celebrated in November?” and most will likely respond, “Thanksgiving.” Some may also reply, “Veterans Day.” But I would venture to guess few students, if any, would answer, “Armistice Day.”