Library of Congress Veterans History Project

May 23, 2004
Press Contacts:
Anneliesa Clump Behrend (202) 707-9822
Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

National World War II Reunion Gives All Who Served a Chance to Tell
Their Story

The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress will
participate in the National World War II Reunion on the National Mall
in Washington, DC during Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30. The four-day
event will include ceremonies and activities produced by the
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the American
Battle Monuments Commission. One of seven pavilions and two
performance stages on the Mall during the Memorial Day weekend, the
Veterans History Project Pavilion (located near the National Air and
Space Museum) will collect memoirs and stories onsite from those who
experienced the war overseas and on the home front.

The National Reunion coincides with the American Battle Monuments
Commissions dedication of the National World War II Memorial on
Saturday, May 29. The Veterans History Project invites all veterans
and civilians who served to visit the Veterans History Project
Pavilion on the Mall during the weekend and to contribute their
stories to the archives of veterans histories, which is part of the
Librarys American Folklife Center.

The National World War II Reunion will be the largest-ever gathering
of World War II veterans, said Diane Kresh, coordinator of the VHP
volunteers at the Library of Congress. Our aim is to collect as many
stories as possible over the four-day period. These stories will find
a permanent home in the archives of the Veterans History Project along
with the oral histories of veterans from other wars already in our

In an unprecedented effort, the Library of Congress will collect
on-the-spot interviews from World War II veterans and civilians who
served in support of them during the four-day weekend. In teams of
two, Library of Congress staff will roam the National Mall to record
the wartime experiences of World War II veterans and home front

Volunteers from high schools, universities, civic groups and other
organizations will also conduct interviews on the Mall. Participating
volunteers will be from schools throughout the region including
Connelly School of the Holy Child, Potomac, MD; Georgetown Day School,
Washington, DC; Rutgers University’s Oral History Archive, NJ;
St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Potomac, MD; U.S. Senate Page School,
Washington, DC; and West Virginia University, Perley Isaac Reed School
of Journalism, Morgantown, WV. These schools join the other 150 public
and private schools around the country already participating the

In addition, more than 30 hours of panel discussions will take place
at the VHP Pavilion during the four days. Topics, times and
participants are below. Check the Web site at for
complete details.

Former Prisoners of War: Richard Francies, Enso Bighinatti, Jimmie
Kanaya and Marty Higgins
1 p.m. on May 27 and 11 a.m. on May 28

Reunion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 1st Battalion
(Lost Battalion) of the 141st Regiment of the 36th (Texas) Division
2 p.m. on May 27

Hispanic-American Experience During World War II: Frank Medina, Miguel
Encinias and Evelio Grillo
1 p.m. on May 30

Japanese-American Experience During World War II: Warren Tsuneishi,
Jimmie Kanaya, Marty Higgins and Frank Sogi
4 p.m. on May 28

Navajo Code Talkers: Sam Billison, Sam Smith, Keith Little
3:15 p.m. on May 27 and noon on May 30

Tuskegee Airmen: Lee Archer, Charles McGee and Thomas Lowery
2 p.m. on May 28 and 2 p.m. on May 30

D-Day Veterans: Sam Gibbons 11 a.m. and Tracy Sugarman, Bob Powell and
Brig. Gen. Alvin Ungerleider
2:15 p.m. on May 27

Wartime Journalists: Paul Green, Barrett McGurn, Jack Pulwers and
Col. Peter Sweers
3 p.m. on May 30

Women in the Military: Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm, Miriam Ownby, Martha
Putney, CW04 Elizabeth Splaine, Cdr. Ruth Erno
3 p.m. on May 28

Red Cross in WWII: Ruth Belew, Helen Colony, Mary ODriscoll
4:15 p.m. on May 27

Women in Military Medicine: Maj. Jennifer Petersen, Anna Busby, Marian
Elcano, and Martha Leierer
11 a.m. on May 30

Memories From the Home Front: Marion Gurfein, Helen Sudyk, Elizabeth
Olson and Venus Ramey (Miss America 1944)
Noon on May 27

Other WWII Veterans: Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and Adm. J. L. Holloway;
noon on May 28 and Robert Bloxsom, Jerry Brenner, Joseph DeLuca, John
Sudyk and George Zavadil
5:15 p.m. on May 27 and 4 p.m. on May 29

Special Appearances: Fayard Nicholas; 1 p.m. on May 28; Venus Ramey
(Miss America 1944); 5 p.m. on May 28. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Rep. Amo
Houghton (R-NY), Everett Alvarez, Jr., Gail Buckley, Lt. Gen. Julius
W. Becton, Francisco Ivarra

Each of the participants tells the American story through his or her
unique story and memories. Riki (Ruth) Belew from Laguna Woods,
California, worked with the American Red Cross in clubs for the troops
in North Africa: near Algiers, in Oran, and at the Casablanca Officers
Club. After crossing the Mediterranean in the nose of a B-17 bomber
during a terrific storm, she began service at a series of Red Cross
clubs in Italy. She remembers being stationed near a staging area on
the outskirts of Naples and dancing with hundreds of men a night.

Navajo Code Talker Sam Billison of Window Rock, Arizona, enlisted in
the Marines in 1943 and was sent to signal school at Camp Pendleton,
California, immediately after boot camp. He landed on Iwo Jima on the
second day of the battle to take the island, and with other Code
Talkers transmitted more than 800 error-free messages during 26 days
of fighting. Following the war, Billison served as a school principal
for many years and was elected to the Navajo Tribal Council.

Francis X. (Frank) Medina from Kansas City, Missouri, was a 20-year
old tail gunner in the 459th Bomb Group of the 756th Bomb Squadron,
when he was shot down over northern Italy in July 1944. Hit by
anti-aircraft fire, the crew of nine bailed out; all but Medina were
captured, and he was believed to be missing in action. On his own in
unknown territory, he was befriended by Italians who helped him link
up with the partisans with whom he was active for eight months. In
1945, Medina was rescued by the British. In the Library of Congress
Whittall Pavilion (Jefferson Building) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May
27-29, the Veterans History Project will be providing special
hospitality, information about the Project, and a tour of the Library
of Congress to invited Congressional constitutents while they are
visiting Washington, DC, for the World War II Reunion.

Prior to the World War II Reunion, on May 23, volunteers will
videotape members of Rolling Thunder Virginia Chapter 3 as they wash
the walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in preparation for the
Memorial Day weekend. The roving interviewers will also be collecting
oral histories at the Pentagon parking lot from 7 a.m. – noon on
Sunday, May 30, where Rolling Thunder motorcyclists assemble for
Rolling Thunder Inc. XVII/Ride for Freedom.

Visitors to Washington are invited to view the Library of Congress
American Treasures exhibit that is featuring special objects from the
Veterans History Project collection, From the Home Front to the Front
Lines. The exhibit highlights experiences of World War I, World War
II, Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf veterans with first-hand accounts
of war through letters, photographs, diaries, albums, maps, flags and
newspaper clippings. The American Treasures exhibit is located in the
Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street, S.E., and is open Monday
through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

In addition to the American Treasures exhibit and through July 10, the
Library of Congress hosts the first comprehensive exhibit of Winston
Churchill material in the United States. More than 200 items ranging
from the 9-year-old Churchills report card to handwritten notes passed
between Churchill and Averell Harriman as they rode to the 1942
Churchill-Stalin conference will be on display. Presented in
conjunction with the Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, England,
the exhibit is located in the Thomas Jefferson Building and is open
Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Authorized by legislation passed in 2000, the Veterans History Project
is being carried out in the way that Congress envisioned: with
grandchildren interviewing grandparents, veterans interviewing each
other, and students conducting interviews as part of classroom
assignments. The success of the program relies on volunteers rather
than professional oral historians to collect stories and
artifacts. AARP is the founding sponsor of the project, with more than
1,000 other organizations also participating.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to
making life better for people 50 and over. It provides information and
resources; engages in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy;
assists members in serving their communities; and offers a wide range
of benefits, special products and services for its members.

To learn more about the Veterans History Project, to submit your story
online, or to view a schedule of panel presentations and other reunion
activities scheduled over the four-day weekend, visit

Note: For biographical information on the veterans speaking in the
Veterans History Project Pavilion and to speak with veterans from the
Veterans History Project, contact (202) 707-9822 or (703) 470-4275.

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