By Eric Dehm
It started early for Andy Fancher. At 18 years old, he’s now been fascinated by World War II for half of his life and for the last two years the high school senior from the Dallas suburb of Duncanville, Texas has made it his mission to find every WWII vet he can and record interviews with them. To date, he has interviewed 52 vets of the war and posted videos to his YouTube channel. It all began with one moment, a moment Fancher recalls as bringing the familial connection to the war that allowed this interest to take hold when he was just 9 years old.
“I was sifting through old photographs and I found one of my great-grandfather who served over in Italy,” Fancher told ConnectingVets. “He passed on at an early age, he was 56, never really shared his story with anyone. The fascination just grew from there. He really opened the door to the injustice we’ve done to these veterans by not capturing their stories on the massive scale that we should be and he inspired me to start this project at age 16.”
That project has allowed the well-spoken young man to sit face to face with men who fought in a war that ended over 50 years before he was born. Fancher says that each interview has made a lasting impression on him.
No matter how many veterans he sits down with, he’s filled with a sense of shock and awe at what these men accomplished some while they were as young, or even younger than he is now.
“There will be certain points during the interview that your hair will stand up on your neck,” Fancher says. “Because the stories are just so chilling and still so vivid 70 years later, as far as seeing their buddy die right beside them.”
Fancher says that he’s been somewhat surprised at the media reaction to his project. He’s certainly noticed that none of his contemporaries have much interest, passing or otherwise, in the history of WWII which is something he hopes his work might have an effect on.
“It’s actually kind of discouraging because of my high school contemporaries. They don’t necessarily look into the significance of WWII as a whole and what the 49 nations of allied power did for our freedom,” Fancher says.
“Hopefully one day they can take a look at my series and understand just what these guys did.”
While that’s something he hopes, it’s not his main focus at the moment. For now, Fancher is singularly focused on completing as many of these interviews because, as he’s already seen, time is running out.
“I have had five interviewees pass on since I spoke with them,” Fancher says. “I was the last person to capture their story, I was the last person to take their photograph. I think in 2011 the average age [of a WWII veteran] was 92 and for right now, the life clock for these guys does not have much longer. In five to 10 years from now? A large majority, if not all, will be gone. So now is the time to capture their service for future generations.”
And so, Andy Fancher’s mission will continue until there are no more WWII veterans to talk to. Until that day comes, he says he will remain thankful for every opportunity he has to sit down with them and record their stories so that those future generations will know more about the men that gave so much to defend our nation.
Below, is Fancher’s video with Marine Corps WWII veteran and Purple Heart recipient Carl Matthews, who saw action on both the Marshall Islands and Saipan.
Matthews passed away in January of 2017.