Veterans History Project

Veterans History Project

There is perhaps no better way to learn about history than through firsthand accounts. You get a better understanding of what really happened when you hear directly from those who lived through the events. That’s what the Veterans History Project (VHP)—an initiative that aims to preserve and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans—seeks to do. 

Since the VHP was approved by Congress in 2000, over 100,000 veterans have described their service in audio and video recordings that are now part of the collection. Submissions have been archived from veterans of World War I through Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. These men and women participated and witnessed some pivotal events in our nation’s history. 

Arkansans have a long and proud history of supporting our nation’s military. More than 250,000 veterans call Arkansas home, however only 1,200 Arkansas veterans’ stories are part of the VHP collection. I want to make sure this collection includes examples of courage, bravery and service of as many Arkansans who have worn our nation’s uniform as possible. 

Many of us have family members and friends who have served in the Armed Forces. Capturing and preserving their memories is a great way to honor their service and commitment to our country.

For more information on how you can participate in the Veterans History Project, visit http://www.loc.gov/vets


Celebrating 20 Years of the VHP

Featured VHP Submissions

Harry Hastings, Jr. is a World War II veteran and entrepreneur. As typical with young men of his age during the 1940s, Hastings served in the military. While a student at Catholic High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. “We had no choice. Either be drafted or join,” Hastings recalled. “I turned 18 on May 24th, I graduated on June 1st and I went to Camp Chaffee in Fort Smith on June 20th and off to service.” Hastings was stationed in Munich where he oversaw Army supplies stored at a BMW plant. He was able to put to use the skills he learned at the warehouse of his father’s liquor distribution business teaching fellow troops how to drive a forklift. Once he returned home to Arkansas, Hastings took over his father’s real estate portfolio. His hard work and ingenuity led to fruitful business ventures that continue to be successful. I'm pleased to help share the memories of service in this interview that will be submitted to the Veterans History Project.

World War II veteran Edith Mitchell was inspired to serve in the military after teaching music at a school near Camp Lejeune. "I was feeling very patriotic and so I decided to join after I taught there one year,” she said. She enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and was assigned to the Chaplain Corps at Camp Stoneman, California. One of her responsibilities was playing music at services, a role that took her to some unexpected places that she details in the clip below. Edith Mitchell now lives in Mountain Home and is proud to have served her country. As a member of the Greatest Generation, there is a lot we can learn from Americans like Edith whose selfless service helped support Allied efforts. I'm proud to recognize her service and submit her interview to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. 

During his senior year at the University of Chicago, Ray Randall enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, and deferred so he could finish his degree. “They called me up,” he said. It was around his birthday and he wore the present he received during his time in uniform – a Movado watch that he still owns. During his senior year of college at the University of Chicago, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, and deferred so he could finish his degree. “They called me up,” he said. It was around his birthday and he wore the present he received during his time in uniform – a Movado watch that he still owns. Randall was assigned to the South-East Asian Theater. He served as a pilot of C-47 and C-46 transport aircraft over “The Hump.” These dangerous transport missions over the Himalayas provided supplies to American and Chinese forces fighting Japan and were typically parachute dropped in. He flew 220 missions. In this interview Randall shares him memories of military service including the lessons he learned from flight instructors at Newport Army Air Field and Blytheville Army Air Field. 
The late Ralph C. “Chad” Colley, Jr. was a veteran of the Vietnam War. He was born in Fort Smith and called many locations around the world home due to his dad's service in the miltiary. He fondly recalled growing up in a military family with his dad, who loved the Army, and a mother who enjoyed being an Army wife. At an early age he was learning skills that would prepare him for service in his nation’s uniform as his dad passed along his passion for the Army “He brought everything from a Browning Automatic Rifle down to the house and I learned how to field strip them,” Colley said. “I could break them down with the best of ‘em when I was about ten.” Colley was commissioned as an Army officer in 1966. He was deployed to Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division the following year. In 1968, he sustained life-altering injuries after stepping on a landmine. Both of Colley’s legs were amputated above the knee and his left arm below the elbow, but he made an effort to focus on what he had instead of what he lost. He maintained this positive attitude for the rest of his life. In this interview he talks about how he continued to push himself to live his best life.