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 Submissions have been archived from veterans of World War I through Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.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

Featured VHP Submissions

World War II veteran Perry Harness was well aware of the worries his parents had about their children serving in uniform since three of his older brothers were also in the military at the time he was drafted. When asked why his father picke up a raincoat and went to the orchard every evening, Harness’ mother replied that the “raincoat is to kneel on and the prayer [is] for all of the boys that were in service.” Upon graduating from Marshall High School, Harness began his service in the Army. If you were “breathing and warm, they’d take you because they needed ‘em,” he said. Harness landed in Scotland, but soon found himself in France for the Battle of the Bulge. After weeks of intensive fighting in the cold and snowy battlefield, Harness was shot in the knee. Despite being under enemy fire and having limited immediate medical attention, he was able to find help, and get a ride to a treatment facility. The injury he sustained prevented Harness from continuing to serve in the Army. He was honorably discharged with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He shared his memories of military service in this interview.
Fulton Walker was born in Emerson, Arkansas in 1923. He was raised on the family farm with his 10 brothers and sisters. After graduating high school, Walker was drafted into the Army when he was 19-years-old and began his military service on July 29, 1943. During his training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Walker learned how to drive a truck, a skill that would be key to his success overseas. “I didn’t know how to drive anything. I hadn’t even learned to drive a car,” Walker remarked. Walker was part of the famous Red Ball Express, an operation primarily manned by African American soldiers that convoyed much-needed supplies to Allied forces for 82 days. The Red Ball Express played a vital role in helping bring an end to the war in Europe. He shared is memories of public service from serving in uniform to educating his fellow citizens as teacher, coach and principal in this interview.

The late Colonel James (Jim) Elmer was a Vietnam veteran who also served as commander of the Little Rock Air Force Base during his 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force. He had several assignments during his military career, one of which was serving as a navigator on C-130s during the Vietnam War. “Our job was to fly and take off when the sun went down and land when the sun came up,” Elmer said. “We were making this place light up like daylight.” These operations became known as “Blind Bat.” The C-130 crews would drop flares to detect the enemy’s movements so bombers would know where to strike. He was a member of the Military Order of the World Wars and served one term as National Commander. He also shared his patriotism with Arkansas fifth graders as a teacher of flag education and etiquette.