County History Center
to honor area veterans in exhibit
Helen E. McKinney
LA GRANGE, Ky. (November 2002) Out of the 19 million
war veterans living in the United States, 1,500 die every day. The underlying
theme of the Veterans History Project is that if we dont
preserve our oral history, it will die with the men and women who lived
The Oldham County History Center is participating in this effort to
preserve the past by partnering with the Library of Congress, which
is the organization behind this project created in October 2000.
In a national campaign to keep these stories from disappearing before
future generations have a chance to hear them, the American Folklife
Center at the Library of Congress has issued a plea for help in collecting
and preserving audio and video taped oral histories, along with documents
such as letters, diaries, maps, photographs, home movies of Americas
war veterans and those who served in support of them during World War
I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War.
former USO performer
Oldham County History Center executive director Anita
Fritz said the center would have on display an exhibit through mid-January
to compliment this national project. In honor of Veterans Day,
the center will have an opening reception from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov.
10, a day when most businesses will be closed.
The exhibit targets World War II veterans and their lives. The center
is focusing on preserving World War II memories presently because these
are the oldest age group of veterans.
Fritz urges any World War II veterans or their spouses and civilians
who worked in factories that began during the war effort, to schedule
an interview at the center to record their oral histories. Veterans
from surrounding counties are also invited to participate.
She said these tapes are for chronicling the day-to-day living experiences
during war time and to educate us about World War II and what
it was really like.
So far, 25 tapes have been made, said Fritz. Robert W. Morgan of Smithfield,
Ky., was among them.
Born Dec. 8, 1921, Morgan began his narrative by describing in detail
the beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon he spent leisurely washing his
car, until he heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp on Oct. 31, 1942, and began a
journey that would take him from Nebraska to England on board a B-17.
He was one of many bombers stationed to fly into Germany to get rid
of German fighter planes.
Morgans tape is descriptive, relating how cold it was at 30,000
feet 15, 20, 30 degrees below zero. He remembers how his
plane was shot down on its fifth mission over Berlin and his subsequent
experiences in a prison camp near Poland.
He suffered multiple wounds and was hospitalized for two months. He
said the Germans took fairly good care of him, wrapping
his wounds with paper bandages, due to a shortage of cloth bandages.
Morgans tape, along with others, tells of prison camp conditions,
daily life, German guards, interrogation and life after the war. Its
important to let the vet tell his own story, and have the flexibility
to go where the interview takes you, said Fritz.
But not all of the tapes recount only the horrors of war. If there can
be a positive side to war, Ada Lee Grawemeyer Kane presents it in her
Like Morgan, Kane remembers very well when the war hit.
Born in 1929, she was at a picture show when news of Pearl Harbor spread.
But Kane had a different experience with the war era. She said in 1942
her parents answered an ad for entertainment people in Louisville. That
was the beginning of her family-run USO troupe, the Barrack-Ades.
Kane reminisced about performing in War Bond rallies, hospitals, firemen
shows, for sailors and three to five nights a week at Fort Knox, Ky.
It was a lot of memories, a lot of work, she said.
Things were good, even though they were bad. Everybody pitched
in, she said.
The American Association of Retired People is one of the founding corporate
sponsors for this project. The association's state director Patrice
Blanchard said, We think this really touches the hearts of our
The AARP arranged two group-training sessions in Louisville during the
AARP National Day of Service, she said. Fritz and volunteers Shirley
and Earl Orr took part in these training sessions.
Orr said the reason they became involved was because my wifes
dad, Carl Klingenfus, was in the war. She always wished she could have
Orr said some of these veterans have never talked about their
stories. This affords them the chance to make a permanent record
for family members, scholars, and any interest individual to view.
We have chapters all across the states, Blanchard said.
Many chapters host interview training sessions. Plans have
been made to include stories from veterans in nursing homes as well.
The History Center is an official repository for the Veterans
History Project, Blanchard said. The taped information can be sent to
Washington, D.C., or kept in a local location, such as at the History
Center. All tapes are logged (a brief statement of what the tape contains),
and this information must be sent to Congress for a permanent record.
Kane summed up the project saying, When our generation is gone,
the history is gone.
For more information about the project, visit: www.loc.gov/folklife/vets
or call the History Center at: (502) 222-0826.
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