It began with an interest in a three-day battle in the Pacific during World War II. It has grown into a project to preserve the stories of World War II veterans, as well as veterans from other wars.
Librarian Brian O’Grady with University Libraries on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus began his project to record the recollections of veterans with a 3-hour plus talk to a veteran from Halsey who fought at Tarawa, that battle in the Pacific.
O’Grady had done some research on the battle and had thought about adding the recollections of the veterans who fought it in an article, possibly even a book. His focused changed. He began talking to veterans from other battles in World War II, what.
O’Grady says many Americans perceive as our last noble war.
“And, you get that sense when you interview them that they’re very proud of what they did and they knew; I think, there was just a feeling that what they did was worth something and it mattered,” O’Grady tells Nebraska Radio Network.
O’Grady has interview more than 30 veterans, mostly World War II vets, but also vets from Korea, Vietnam even the Middle East. Often the families haven’t even heard the stories of how they served their country.
O’Grady says he has no clear goal, except to capture the stories before they were lost.
Some have been lost.
Families often work with O’Grady to schedule interviews. A few kept getting postponed due to illness. Interviews were re-scheduled, only to be scrapped as the illness grew worse. At times the veterans never recovered. O’Grady says each time he felt a profound loss.
The interviews O’Grady likes best are those that provide anecdotes, not just of battles but of military life in general; stories that come alive as opposed to bland generalities.
O’Grady says this might be something he does for the rest of his life. A book might yet grow out of his research, but his primary goal is simply to save these stories for future generations.
“If I can capture these stories, I’m really just helping preserve their memory so we won’t forget them.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:55]