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An idea to do a limited number of oral histories and/or questionnaires with veterans of World War II is now a major collection in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections. In 1999 Professors Robert Freeman and Dennis Wright of Brigham Young University’s Department of Religion embarked on what they thought would be a small set of interviews done with veterans who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their small project has blossomed into over 2000 interviews with more being collected.
On October 27, 2000 President William Jefferson Clinton signed Public Law 106-380 which mandated that the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress would collect and organize interviews with United States veterans. The American Folklife Center organized the Veteran’s History Project, and began looking both for partners that would contribute money and those that would contribute fieldworkers. Dr. Freeman and Dr. Wright’s Saints at War Project is one of the original fieldwork partners.
As the Saints at War Project grew, it became obvious that the materials needed to be archived and stored in a facility that could preserve the valuable historical materials that were being collected. The L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University was chosen as the repository. While the early interviews are done on cassette tapes, we have now begun using digital recording. All of the interviews are transcribed. For the purpose of this collection, the manuscript collections are used.
The project continues to grow as professors, students, and folklorists do interviews with veterans. Some of the interviews are also done with civilian support people. The College of Nursing at Brigham Young University regularly contributes war nurses’ narratives. Narratives, documents, and memorabilia are also donated regularly from various sources. We are currently compiling a finding aid which will provide make the materials more accessible.
In August of 2006, an exhibition Remembering World War II: Pearl Harbor and Beyond opened in L. Tom Perry Special Collections and ran until June 2007. An online exhibit based on this exhibit is available at wwii.byu.edu