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April 17, 2007

Library of Congress and PBS Collect and Preserve Oral Histories of U.S. Wartime Veterans

Veterans History Project and Filmmaker Ken Burns Launch Educational Outreach Program to Coincide with Broadcast of "The War"

The Library of Congress Veterans History Project and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) today announced a joint community engagement initiative designed to gather first-hand recollections of the diverse men and women who served our nation during wartime. The public outreach campaign begins this spring and will continue beyond the broadcast of Ken Burns’ new film, "The War," which is scheduled to air on PBS beginning on September 23, 2007.

"The staff of the Library of Congress and I are excited to launch this comprehensive community awareness campaign with PBS and Ken Burns. We stand at the ready to continue our tradition of honoring America’s war veterans by preserving their stories for future generations," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "The Veterans History Project collects and archives the one-of-a-kind stories that represent the diversity of the veterans who served our country—veterans from all conflicts, all branches of the military, all ranks, all races and ethnicities."

"The War," a seven-part series directed and produced by Burns and Lynn Novick, provides a partial snapshot of the World War II experience through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four geographically distributed American towns: Waterbury, Conn.; Mobile, Ala.; Sacramento, Calif.; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minn. The series explores the most intimate human dimensions of one of the greatest cataclysms in history—a worldwide catastrophe that touched the lives of people throughout the country—and demonstrates that in extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives.

"PBS is proud to partner with the Library of Congress on this extraordinary effort to involve the entire country in a national discussion about World War II and the contributions of this generation. ‘The War’ is a magnificent piece of filmmaking that looks at the Second World War in the most intimate of ways, allowing a handful of individuals to tell their stories. We hope that the film will build interest in the broader, important work of the Veterans History Project and encourage thousands of people from coast to coast to share their stories with friends, loved ones and, ultimately, the country through the collection at the Library of Congress," said Paula Kerger, president and chief executive officer of PBS.

"There have been countless books and films about the Second World War," Ken Burns said. "In ‘The War,’ we try to allow a small group of individuals to tell their bottom-up story. This film is as much about storytelling, about sharing unique experiences, as it is about World War II, and as such we hope that it touches on the universal human experience of battle. Of course, the film only provides a small window into the much larger experience of the hundreds of thousands who have served during times of war. We hope that by providing the tools to people around the country, especially young people, we can work together to capture many more of these stories before the generation that fought in World War II has passed."

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is also funding an enormous community engagement campaign for "The War," involving more than 100 public television stations nationwide that will reach out to a broad range of veterans and their families to capture the stories that make up the rich mosaic of America. Public television stations will target thousands of individual stories to be shared locally on-air, online and through community events and activities. For more information, visit

WETA, Washington, D.C., and the Veterans History Project have developed a field guide with a "how-to" on conducting oral history interviews, which includes pointers from Burns on lighting and shooting the video. Additional information provides instructions on how to send recorded interviews to the Veterans History Project.

The Veterans History Project, a major program of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center, is an oral history program created by Congress in 2000. Legislation for the Project was introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) in the U.S. House of Representatives and sponsored by Rep. Amo Houghton (R-NY) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). In the U.S. Senate, principal sponsors were Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE). The Project unites diverse communities around a common purpose: collect and preserve the personal recollections of U.S. wartime veterans, as well as homefront civilians who worked in support of the armed forces, to honor their service and share their stories with current and future generations. These one-of-a-kind interviews are housed in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress. To date, the Veterans History Project has collected more than 45,000 individual stories. For more information, visit

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is a private, nonprofit media enterprise that serves the nation’s 355 public noncommercial television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week through on-air and online content. WETA is the third-largest producing station in the public television system and the flagship public broadcaster in the nation’s capital. For more information on WETA and its programs, visit For more information on PBS, visit

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PR 07-070
ISSN 0731-3527

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