In a file photo U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment of the Fifth Division raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945. American Indian Ira Hayes was among the soldiers raising the flag in the famous photo.

Veterans History Project Preserves First-Hand War Stories



The Veterans History Project has for 13 years collected, preserved and made accessible first-hand accounts of United States military veterans for future generations. With almost 89,000 stories collected, VHP has become the largest collection of oral history in the U.S. according to the North American Precis Syndicate.

Among those numbers are 250 first-hand accounts from American Indians and Alaska Natives – a small figure compared to the 150,00 Natives that have served according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The original inhabitants of Turtle Island have served in the U.S. military at the highest rate per capita of ethnicity based on population throughout all American wars. Many of the Native veterans have celebrated stories like the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers and the last surviving member of that historical group Chester Nez. There are also stories like that of Joseph Medicine Crow, who just turned 100 years old and is known as “the last Plains Indian War Chief.”

RELATED: At 90, Chester Nez Keeps Alive the Story of Navajo Code Talkers

RELATED: Joseph Medicine Crow, ‘The Last Plains Indian War Chief’ Turns 100

Throughout the history of the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the U.S. Armed Services, 27 recipients have been American Indian – adding to the legacy of service that has continued throughout history.

RELATED: American Indian Medal of Honor Recipients

But dispersed within those names of legends are many others that have served valiantly whose stories should be shared, like Joseph Allen Christ; Daniel P. Gooch; and Gabriel Anthony Schritter.

Cpt. Christ who served in the U.S. Army from 1941-1945, was stationed in Saipan and Tinian; Iwo Jima; and Makin Island, he was never a prisoner of war.

Gooch was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967 and served through 1969 during the Vietnam War. He was stationed in the Iron Triangle, Vietnam and was a part of Operation Junction City, and the 1968 Tet Offensive. Gooch’s highest ranking was Specialist Five.

Cpl. Schritter served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Persian Gulf War from 1990 – 1994, and was stationed in Somalia.

These stories are three among the 250 that can be accessed through the VHP. According to NAPS, the project is seeking to increase the number of veteran interviews from all minorities.

Visit the VHP website, to read stories of veterans, or to learn how to share first-hand stories for future generations to read and better understand the realities of war. The VHP was legislation sponsored by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Amo Houghton (R-NY), and Steny Hoyer (D-MD); and Sens. Max Cleland (D-GA) and Chuch Hagel (R-NE) that received unanimous support and was signed into law October 27, 2000 by President Bill Clinton.

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smarmonk's picture
Submitted by smarmonk on
My father was a WWII veteran...a Navy pilot in the Pacific. He did tell is some of his stories, and many to my mother who related them to me. He was unwilling to discuss this war service with strangers. To him, what he experienced was private and what mattered most were not his stories but those of the "boys" who were left behind. Every day, even when he could barely walk, he raised the flag and saluted the boy s buried in foreign lands. On Veteran's Day, Pearl Harbor day, etc., he would lower the flag to half mast. Each time he dedicated it to the boys who did not come home. I don't think he was the only WWII veteran with this perspective. These men saw so many of their comrades, friends, and even family die during that war. They also died in training. The stories he told were sometimes funny but mostly horrific and he never painted himself as the hero. One of the things I came to understand is that he went in at 17 (his rather signed for him... he had been a pilot since he was 15 or 16). The war robbed him of his youth. He came back an adult, and in many ways an elder...his wisdom was extraordinary. He had what we would now call PTSD. Like most WWII veterans he received no treatment for that, for malaria, or injuries he sustained during a plane crash. I also think the nature of WWII...huge battles with thousands of a way I cannot articulate silenced his stories and those of many other WWII vets.