I've been watching Ken Burns Special The War this week and it brings to mind all the times I talked with my dad about what he did during the War. I'm glad I took the opportunity to talk to my dad many, many times about his role in World War II before he died. I wrote down his stories, but when I see the Ken Burns Special, I wish I had done an Oral History and videotaped the all the stories he told me. What a treasure that would have been.
My dad was in Germany just after the war assigned as an agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). No matter how much he told me his role in the war was no different than all the other soldiers, I secretly knew different. He learned to pick locks, do dead drops, follow people without being noticed, and other stuff that seemed to me to be right out of spy novels. He told me of his work with informants - many of whom just disappeared without a trace. He told me the story of his driver - a German soldier who just a few months before had been a bomber pilot who told my dad that he dropped all his bombs in the Channel before he got to his London target. My dad told me of stories of displaced persons and how he helped to reunite them with their families or get them back home. And he told me how Nazis tried to pretend to be displaced persons to try to escape. I never tired of listening to his stories.
Every soldier in World War II has a story to tell. If your father or grandfather is a World War II veteran, ask your questions today before it is too late. Here are some suggested interview questions. These questions are very general so they should be tailored to the soldier's war experience.
To preserve an Oral History, record the interview on videotape. Then make a backup and store in a different location.
Ancestry.com has an interesting FREE service where oral histories can be recorded with its new audio story telling service. You can record by telephone or record with your computer microphone, and then invite family members to record their stories. It is a free, easy, and private method to create and preserve family oral histories. You can also record and archive video to Ancestry's story telling service by using a webcam. Ancestry's free audio story telling service make it easy to share the oral history with your family.
You could use your own video as well as the webcam or telephone to record the same interview in multiple media. I am always very mindful of preserving precious family history in many different ways for backup purposes.