Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The truth about war, recorded for posterity

An online audio library has been established to record and maintain the reminiscences of war veterans. Fox News reports:

Tom Beaty launched Witness to War in 2002. It is an online library that archives hundreds of short video interviews with veterans.

“They can hear the veterans themselves, what it was like to be there, why it was so cold," Beaty said. “How frightening it was to hear the rumble of the German tanks."

Beaty has completed more than 400 interviews and his goal is to finish 1,000 before the end of the year.

“A WWII veteran is dying every 90 seconds and anecdotally, it feels like it is really accelerating. By 2014, according to the Veterans Association there will only be about a million WWII vets left,” Beaty said.

He says the site has caught on and teachers are using it along with traditional text books. He is also starting to capture veteran's stories from other wars and conflicts such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf Wars, and perhaps the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s critically important that younger folks really understand the price that was paid to get all the things that we have today,” he said.

There's more at the link.

I believe this project is really important. Those of us who've seen combat find it very difficult, if not impossible, to talk about it with non-veterans, simply because the reality of combat is so removed from anything a 'normal civilian' would experience. That's why I try, very occasionally, to write about the reality of combat (for example, see my post for Veterans Day last week). It's not easy, and I'm never sure whether non-combatants reading it can truly understand what I'm trying to convey.

I think the Witness To War project will help all of us who experienced such things to record them in such a way that it's easier for us, and also accessible for those genuinely interested in the truth of such situations. We'll understand the stories of fellow veterans at an instinctive level, of course, as only comrades in arms can do; but hopefully the sheer quantity of the stories, and the common themes they convey, will help others to understand. (For example, listen to the horribly tragic tale of an aircrew member who was burning to death in his aircraft - until his Commanding Officer intervened.)

Congratulations and sincere thanks to Mr. Beaty for getting this project off the ground.


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