Library of Congress Veterans History Project – http://www.loc.gov/vets/
Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:
- What was it like to be female POW?
- What might have it been like to be an US Asian-American GI in World War II?
- What was it like to be a POW during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars?
Click on the “Search the Veterans Collection” to get started. This brings you to a page with three tabs: Search, Browse, and Help.
The database is searchable by keyword, either by all fields together or by a specific field. You can also limit by the following criteria:
- Conflict or Era (WWI through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars)
- Branch of the Service
- Prisoner of War y/n
- Digitized Collection y/n
- Transcript y/n
You can do a search with just the limiters and no keywords. This can be useful for finding POW accounts from women or other specific groups.
For an example search, choose Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, and click “yes” for transcripts. Six on the first page have online materials. If you need something now, say yes to “digitized collection”
Each entry contains: Name of Veteran/Civilian, Service Location: Service Unit/Ship, Highest Rank (in Service), Notes, Name of Interviewer/Donor, Contributor/Interviewer Affiliation and Collection IS Number. Some entries have considerably more information. When online materials are available, they may include a recording of the interview, a transcript or summary or a photo album. The interviews may cover prewar and postwar activities in addition to their lives during war.
On the browse tab, you can browse by last name, by war and military branch, by state of residence, and by race/ethnicity. Available races are Black or African American, White, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, Other, and Unspecified. Only 20% of the project participants indicated a race. So this browse draws from a smaller pool of veterans.
However you browse, there’s no immediately obvious way to limit your results to items with digital collections. But instant gratification is available. If you look in the upper left hand corner of your search results, you ought to see a small search box with some terms in it already, like +(war:”worldwari”) +(displayBranch:”army nurse corps”). Click at the end of those search terms and type in +(digitalCollection:”yes”). If you want to have a transcript as well, use +(transcript:”yes”) as well.
When browsing by war and service, the available services are:
- Air Force (Post WWII)
- Air Force Nurse Corps (Post WWII)
- Army Air Forces/Corps
- Army Nurse Corps
- Cadet Nurse Corps
- Coast Guard
- Marine Corps
- Merchant Marine
- Navy Nurse Corps
- SPAR (Women’s Coast Guard Reserve)
- WAAC (Women’s Army Auxillary Corps)
- WAC (Women’s Army Corps)
- WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots)
- Women Marines
- Civilian (includes Japanese-Americans interned during WWII.)
All in all, this is just an amazing resource of first person accounts in difficult times and places.