Veterans Tell Their Stories and Why Historians and Others Listened

G. Kurt Piehler

in The United States and the Second World War

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231201
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240791 | DOI:

Series: World War II: The Global, Human, and Ethical Dimension

Veterans Tell Their Stories             and Why Historians and Others Listened

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This chapter examines how the support of influential Americans, including President Roosevelt and Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, combined with the pioneering work of combat historian S. L. A. Marshall to produce richly detailed histories that contributed to the U.S. Army's unprecedented drive to document the services wartime history—a practice that the Army had not followed either during or after other major conflicts. The chapter demonstrates that in addition to its use in official histories, others put oral history to use to serve the war effort. Samuel Stouffer and the U.S. Army's Research Branch often used oral histories to improve survey questions that went out to hundreds of thousands of soldiers. The Research Branch's work proved invaluable in many instances, and perhaps nowhere was it more worthwhile than in reshaping treatments for battle fatigue. The extensive use of oral histories during the war led to its widespread acceptance by the U.S. Army after 1945, and because of the active campaigning of wartime practitioners such as historian Forest Pogue, the wider community of academic historians, who often disparaged the value of oral history after the war, came increasingly to embrace the practice during the 1960s and the 1970s.

Keywords: oral history; wartime history; U.S. Army; Research Branch; war effort

Chapter.  8098 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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