High school student working to preserve stories of World War II veterans

d day world war ii

D-Day veterans listen during the Utah Beach Memorial Ceremony in Normandy, France, June 4, 2016. More than 380 service members from Europe and affiliated D-Day historical units are participating in the 72nd anniversary as part of Joint Task Force D-Day 72. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Spratt)

RICHLAND, Wash. — While many high school juniors spend their free time watching television or playing video games, Hannah Doyle is collecting history.

The Hanford High junior is in the middle of a year-long endeavor to record the stories of World War II veterans, merchant sailors, nurses, Manhattan Project workers and home front supporters.

“It’s just amazing to listen to their stories. I could listen to them all day,” she said. “I’m trying to get as many perspectives as I can.”

Hannah is one of eight student ambassadors selected from across the nation by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. As part of the project she is filming people talking about their experiences during the war.

Hostilities ended 72 years ago, and the U.S. Department Of Veterans Affairs reports 372 veterans die each day.

“With this in mind, it is imperative that the legacy and lessons of World War II are preserved for future generations,” Hannah said.

To accomplish the mission, Hannah is equipped with a camera, tripod and microphone and ready to travel to anyone’s home who is willing to talk with her. Once she captures their story, she ships the video off to the museum, where it will be transcribed and added to the public oral history database.

Once the videos are edited and footage from the period added, they become part of the museum’s exhibits.

Hannah became involved in the project after participating in the Normandy Sacrifice Project last year. She traced the story of Pfc. Lavern Allard, a Washington native who died during the Normandy invasion.

She collected information about Allard’s history and stories from his relatives, and delivered a eulogy for him at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France, overlooking Omaha Beach.

“It’s important to remember the ultimate sacrifice that these veterans gave for our freedom,” she said. “I just wanted to be part of remembering his story and honoring him.”

After spending the time learning about Allard, she wanted to collect the stories of living veterans so they wouldn’t be lost.

“Since Lavern never had the chance to tell his story, I knew I wanted to be part of preserving those stories for future generations,” she said.

She started her work for the National World War II Museum in January, and after training started looking for people to interview. For the first two months of her search, she didn’t have much luck.

Then, through a contact at church, she was connected with a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, who spoke about driving his halftrack and the harsh winter in Germany.

She was also connected with a member of the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), who served as a reporter during the war.

Hannah is looking for more people willing to talk about their experience, including those who worked at the Hanford site during the Manhattan Project, she said. Her proximity to the campus was one of the selling points for the museum.

Usually it helps if a relative or friend helps introduce her to the person.

“I think it’s important to remember these veterans and talk to them,” she said. “They love talking to young people. … I think it’s just important to give them an outlet to talk about their experiences if they want to. I think it’s really important to preserve them for future generations.”

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