West Point Launches Oral History Center

By Steele, Dennis | Army, January 2009 | Go to article overview

West Point Launches Oral History Center


Steele, Dennis, Army


The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N. Y., has launched an ambitious project to docu- ment military history from the soldier's viewpoint, planning and developing an online resource for students, soldiers, historians, journalists and the public that will eventually offer first-person accounts of war from thousands of soldiers.

The West Point Center for Oral History will begin operating a web site this month with the objective of assembling an unrivaled video, audio and text record of military life. Its address is www.westpointcoh.org. The center's core mission is to capture the personal narratives of those who have "been there and done it." As the home page states: "Every soldier has a story. Here is where the story is told."

Plans for the collection also include interviews with senior Pentagon strategists, former Secretaries of Defense and State and elected leaders who have helped shape military and foreign policy. Along with contemporary presentations, plans include reaching back to the wars of the past through retrospectives on World War I, the Civil War and other major American conflicts with presentations by visiting historians and West Point faculty members.

The center's initial offerings will be interviews with members of the Academy's class of 1967, who were sent almost immediately into combat in Vietnam, and interviews with soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will be added continually to present a comprehensive anecdotal account of the current campaigns. Researchers also are gathering material from other Vietnam veterans and World War ? and Korean War veterans. The center will be a perpetual work in progress, continuously updated and expanded.

The Center for Oral History is one of several "centers of excellence" at West Point that have been established to add to the academic opportunities of cadets without adding to the curricular budget. …

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