Tag Archives: oral histories

New Veterans Oral History Collection Online

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

1st Lt. Bennis M. Blue (third from right) pictured during parachute jump training for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1978. Blue was the first female officer of the 82nd Airborne. From the Bennis M. Blue Papers, Cold War Papers, Military Collection.

1st Lt. Bennis M. Blue (third from right) pictured during parachute jump training for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1978. Blue was the first female officer of the 82nd Airborne. From the Bennis M. Blue Papers, Cold War Papers, Military Collection.

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina is excited to announce the launch of the digital Veterans Oral History Collection through the North Carolina Digital Collections. The interviews, conducted since 2015 as audio interviews, are part of the Military Collection’s North Carolina Veterans Oral History Program, whose goal is to capture and provide access to the memories and experiences of the military servicemen and servicewomen from North Carolina, preserving them for the future scholarship. The collection is comprised of more than 1,100 oral history interviews, the majority of which are in analog formats and scheduled for future digitization. These initial 25 interviews—all conducted with state-of-the-art digital audio recorders used by the State Archives—document veterans from World War II to the Iraq War, as well as individuals serving during peacetime.

The interviews include: a U.S. Army helicopter crew chief who flew missions in Cambodia during the Vietnam War; women who served during the integration of the Women’s Army Corps into the regular Army in 1978; a U.S. Air Force Russian language specialist conducting radio communications surveillance by aircraft of Soviet Union radio communications from the northern Arctic coast of Russia during the 1970s; and a woman whose family farm was taken under eminent domain for the creation of Camp Butner in 1942. There are also interviews with Vietnam War intelligence officers, U.S. Air Force communications specialists during the era around the September 11th attacks and the early days of the Iraq War, and a U.S. Army Air Force as a tail gunner with the 14th Air Force in China during WWII.

Additional interviews will be added as they are conducted in the coming years. The audio is available for streaming only through the Internet Archive, linked through pages on the North Carolina Digital Collections. In the future, interview summaries with subjects and time dates will be uploaded, to increase access to the interviews. Digital copies of the interviews can be ordered through the State Archives’ Reference Unit under the duplication services for audiovisual materials.

 

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25th Anniversary of the Persian Gulf War

[This blog post comes from Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Oil fields and refineries still burning in Kuwait, Frederick E. Stoehr Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

Frederick E. Stoehr of Carolina Shores, North Carolina, worked in Kuwait in 1992 as an engineer with a task force from Foster Wheeler, an international engineering and construction company, to rebuild three heavily damaged oil refineries in the kingdom after they had been set on fire during the Persian Gulf War by Iraqi military forces. Stoehr took photographs, such as this one, of the oil fields and refineries still burning in Kuwait. Frederick E. Stoehr Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

January 16-17, 2016, marks the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, part of what we now call the Persian Gulf War. The Persian Gulf War began on August 2, 1990, when the nation of Iraq invaded the kingdom of Kuwait. Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein initiated the invasion and occupation of Kuwait with the hopes of acquiring the nation’s large oil reserves, canceling a large debt Iraq owed Kuwait, and expanding Iraqi power in the region. On August 3, 1990, the United Nations Security Council issued a call for the invading Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. After Iraq annexed Kuwait as part of its country on August 8, 1990, Iraq’s threat to the world’s largest oil producer—Saudi Arabia—led ultimately to the United Nations authorizing on November 29, 1990, use of force by “all means necessary” after January 15, 1991, to expel Iraq from Kuwait. The military buildup for a potential armed conflict by a coalition of 700,000 troops from 39 countries became known as Operation Desert Shield (though there are variations in the total number of troops involved). About 540,000 of these troops were from the United States, and it is reported around 75,000 service members from North Carolina military installations served during the war period. Iraq grew its occupying army in Kuwait to about 300,000 troops.

After the January 15, 1991, deadline for Iraqi troop withdrawals from Kuwait passed without any compliance, United States President George H. W. Bush announced on January 16, 1991, the start of Operation Desert Storm, intended to expel occupying Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Kuwait was liberated on February 27, 1991. When Iraqi troops withdrew from Kuwait at the end of the war, they set fire in Kuwait to more than 600 oil wells and pools of spilled oil through explosive charges and other means. The sky throughout the country was filled with thick black smoke that blocked out visibility all around as coalition troops moved in. The war ended officially on February 28, 1991, when President Bush declared a cease-fire. Iraq accepted the terms of the United Nations cease-fire agreement on April 6, 1991. There were 383 U.S. fatalities in the Persian Gulf War, of which there were 17 who were from North Carolina.

Engineers and construction workers attempting to repair refineries in Kuwait amidst burning oil fields and refineries in 1992

Another image of engineers and construction workers attempting to repair refineries in Kuwait amidst burning oil fields and refineries in 1992. Frederick E. Stoehr Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina would like to honor those North Carolinian military service personnel who served in the Persian Gulf War and those 17 North Carolinians who gave their lives in the conflict. We work to preserve the memory and service history of the state’s recent veterans through conducting oral history interviews with Persian Gulf veterans and collecting records from the war period. In order to commemorate our veterans’ service, we use original materials to demonstrate the different ways in which military service and conflict has impacted the service member, North Carolina, the United States, and the world. In order to help us have enough materials to develop educational materials and support historical research, we ask that if you are a Persian Gulf War-era veteran and have any original Persian Gulf War photographs, documents, maps, training manuals, or other archival materials, or would like to conduct an oral history interview about your service in the war, please contact the Military Collection at 919-807-7314, email at matthew.peek@ncdcr.gov, or visit our webpage at http://archives.ncdcr.gov/Public/Collections/Non-Government/Military-Collections to learn more about the Military Collection. We thank you again for your service.

New Military Collection and Veterans Oral History Webpages

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Class graduation photograph of the U.S. Marine Corps all-African American Food Service School Company, Class #68, at Camp Lejeune, August 1, 1953.

Class graduation photograph of the U.S. Marine Corps all-African American Food Service School Company, Class #68, at Camp Lejeune, August 1, 1953.

The Military Collection of the State Archives of North Carolina has an updated and expanded webpage on the State Archives’ website, to better serve the needs of the public. The main collection page provides the mission of the Military Collection; the scope of materials the Military Collection preserves and collects; and an updated history of the collection going back to the North Carolina Historical Commission’s inception in 1903. A new feature of the webpage is an online form for those interested in possibly donating original North Carolina military service materials to the Military Collection. The form provides a “Comments” field to easily describe what materials you have, the name(s) of the service individual from whom the materials come, and to also ask questions of the Military Collection Archivist about the donation process. The form sends an automatic email with a set email subject line to alert the Military Collection Archivist to an individual’s interest, and offer a quicker way to serve the public.

 

Handmade poster display for a war savings stamp drive during WWI by schoolchildren of the Uncle Sam War Savings Stamps Society at Murphey School, Raleigh Public Schools

Handmade poster display for a war savings stamp drive during WWI by schoolchildren of the Uncle Sam War Savings Stamps Society at Murphey School, Raleigh Public Schools

Another new feature of the Military Collection webpage is an online page dedicated to the North Carolina Military Veterans Oral History Program. Since 1996, this oral history program has been one of the largest active oral history programs for veterans in the South. The new page highlights the oral history program’s mission and its history. The page also offers an online form (similar to the one on the main Military Collection page) by which veterans interested in doing an oral history interview, or families or other individuals who know of a veteran that would be willing to conduct an oral history interview about their service, can easily contact the Military Collection Archivist. The form provides a “Comments” field to provide information on the veteran, the wars in which they were involved, and any other pertinent information. The form sends an automatic email with a set email subject line to alert the Military Collection Archivist, who will contact the person completing the form regarding conducting an oral history interview. This is the first time the State Archives’ Veterans Oral History Program has had its own website, and is intended to promote the use of and access to the oral history interviews of North Carolina veterans held by the Military Collection.

 

Digitized Oral Histories at the Outer Banks History Center

[This blog post comes from Stuart Parks of the Outer Banks History Center]
Archival organizations exist to preserve the past for the future.  To accomplish this, we have to ensure that records of the past remain accessible to all, in years to come.   This is especially challenging with audiovisual materials.  While recording technologies of the past allowed us to preserve the unique sights and sounds of our community, this benefit came with a limited shelf life.  Magnetic reels and tapes, popular recording devices throughout the 20th century, can only retain information as long as their magnetic charge holds true.  Even with ideal archival conditions, this limited shelf life can be anywhere from a few decades to only a few years.  The older this fragile source material gets, the greater the risk that it’s irreplaceable information will be lost forever.  Through digitization, these recordings can be copied and preserved into digital formats, extending the life cycle dramatically and making them adaptable to future media formats.

Digitizing Oral HistoriesBeginning in 2009, the Outer Banks History Center has taken steps to preserve our audiovisual collections.  Based on a conservation assessment by Steven Weiss (UNC Chapel Hill), we identified tapes with oral history interviews, some of which dated back to the 1960s, that were the highest priority for reformatting.  By tapping several funding sources and partnering with the National Park Service, 13 oral history collections, 7 of which were NPS, were transferred to digital format for a total of 395 audio cassettes digitized into over 132 GB of information.

Thanks to this new accessibility, OBHC staff members will no longer have to hunt for the lone functioning tape player since files are available on disc.  Should disc players go the way of 8-tracks, a digital file of the recording will be retained in a separate hard drive, ready to be transferred to whatever audiovisual format becomes vogue.

More recently, the Outer Banks History Center has digitized 3 more oral history collections through the company MediaPreserve.  The original master tapes, recorded in the 1980s, “Oral Histories Collected by Dave Poyer,” “Oral Histories Collected for the Book Ocracoke,” and “Oral Histories Collected by Virginia Ross,” were in fair-to-good condition.  Although these were in our 2nd tier of priorities, we selected them to reformat next, since it is better to preserve these materials while they are still functional than risk losing the data to degradation.   With this latest round of reformatting, we are now past the halfway point of digitizing all of our audio cassettes. The remaining ones were recorded within the past two decades and are stable.  With a few more batches planned for outsourcing, it is only a matter of time before all of our audio cassettes, and the priceless heritage encapsulated on them, are preserved for the future, and we can stop hunting for that elusive functioning tape player.

Oral Histories in the Military Collection

[This blog post comes from Military Collection Archivist, Kenrick N. Simpson.]

Among several ongoing programs of the North Carolina State Archives Military Collection is the acquisition and preservation of oral histories of the state’s veterans of military service. The Archives currently possesses more than nine hundred veterans’ interviews, ranging in date from pre-World War I to Iraq and encompassing all branches of service. Some of the more notable oral histories on file include the memoirs of Conley Cook of Durham, who served in Mexico with General Pershing before World War I; Ed Rector, one of the original “Flying Tigers”; Damon C. Alberty of Mayodan, a survivor of the Bataan Death March; Robert Morgan of Asheville, pilot of the Memphis Belle; Jack Lucas, the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor during the twentieth century; Stewart Fulbright of Durham, a Tuskegee airman; C. Weldon Fields of Greensboro, who flew for the Civil Air Patrol during World War II; Mary F. Cannon of Pinehurst, a MASH nurse in Korea; and Steve Ritchie of Reidsville, the “last ace,” who downed at least five enemy planes in Vietnam.

All the veterans of World War I have since passed away, but the State Archives was able to capture the memories of thirty-eight North Carolinians who served in the Great War. Veterans of World War II, now in their eighties and nineties, are leaving us at an alarming rate, and the Military Collection is determined to identify and interview as many of them as possible to augment the more than six hundred such memoirs already in the custody of the Archives. The fiftieth anniversary of the war in Vietnam approaches, and the oral reminiscences of the veterans of that conflict, as well as those of the Korean War, demand our immediate attention. Memories of more recent service – in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan – will also be invaluable primary sources for future historians and need to be recorded and preserved while the recollections are fresh.

Since the inception of the oral history program in 1996, the Military Collection has been fortunate to benefit from the energy and generosity of time and expense of several volunteers who have been active in seeking out veterans and conducting interviews, including Ken Samuelson of Pittsboro, who has donated nearly ninety oral histories, and Rusty Edmister of Cary, who has interviewed more than seventy-five veterans. On Veterans’ Day 2012, the Military Collection is eager to identify veterans who would be willing to share their memories of service and additional volunteers to conduct such interviews. The Archives has sets of questions applicable to each conflict and branch of service, as well as policies and procedures to guide the interviewer. Anyone interested in participating in the veterans’ oral history program, either as an interviewee or an interviewer, is encouraged to contact Kenrick N. Simpson, Military Collection Archivist, at (919) 807-7314, or by e-mail at kenny.simpson@nc.dcr.gov. The State Archives Military Collection also solicits the donation of letters, diaries, memoirs, photographs, and other mementos of military service from veterans with ties to North Carolina.

Listen to an interview with Colonel Robert K. Morgan, Asheville, N.C. U. S. Air Force Reserve (November 22, 1999) or view the clip’s entry in the Internet Archive.

http://archive.org/embed/MilColl221ColonelRobertKMorganWWIITape1Side1