After Action: Oral History and War

Megan Hutching

in The Oxford Handbook of Oral History

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780195339550
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199940578 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 After Action: Oral History and War

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This article focuses on the importance of oral history in recording wars. The article draws on personal experiences of interviewing veterans of the Second World War. Oral history interviews illuminate the often-ignored experiences of ordinary people caught up in war and the range of reactions that different aspects of war evoked from them, while reminding us that combat—”the quintessential war experience”—is not the sole defining experience of war. Interviews that concentrate on combat experiences reflect a very narrow concept of war. Most of the time in uniform is actually spent out of action. Most servicemen and women are not in front-line units. This article also reminds us that one of the joys of oral history is that you always get so much more than you ask for. This article emphasizes that commemorating war is often a collective experience. By contextualizing the individual experience in the narrative of war, oral history adds texture to those collective narratives.

Keywords: oral history; interview; war veterans; collective experiences; collective narratives

Article.  5211 words. 

Subjects: Military History

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