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 Submissions have been archived from veterans of World War I through Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.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

The late Thurlow Fernandez is a WWII veteran who served in the European and Pacific Theaters. Fernandez enlisted in the Navy when he was 18-years-old and completed basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. He still had a lot to learn when he boarded his first ship. “I had to go to the bathroom. Some sailor said ‘We don’t have bathrooms on this ship, you have to ask for the head.’ I found out where the head was at. That was the toilet,” Fernandez said. Fernandez witnessed the Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay. He also helped decommission the USS Delta. During the interview at his Sherwood home, he proudly pointed out the clock sitting on his mantle that he saved from the ship as a memento. Hear more about Fernandez's military service in this interview. 
Michael Smith was drafted into the Army during his second year of college. While he had the opportunity to attend Officer Candidate School, Smith declined because he wanted to pursue a career in art following military service. He courageously served in dangerous conditions. He was able to use his skills as an artist to help with security of the camp in Vietnam. “I sketched the perimeter in front of me and put that on the wall of the bunker and then whoever came in there could see if anything had changed from the drawing,” Smith said. His commander learned of his work and assigned him to do the same for every bunker as well as draw a 360-degree panorama of the site. Hear from Smith about his time in uniform in this interview.
Col. (retired) Thomas Williams, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, began his decorated military career in 1951 when he enlisted in the Air Force. He was following in the footsteps of his older brother who was a fighter pilot. While he had aspiriation to fly fighter planes, the Air Force had other plans for him. He learned to fly the B-26 which he flew in support of the Korean War. During the Vietnam War he flew C-130s. While he was stationed all over the world, his job at Little Rock Air Force Base, his final miliary, is a highlight because of his different role. “I did things here that I never had the opportunity to do before,” Williams said. He supervised the transportation, supply, comptroller, contracting and logistics plans and learned “more from the people with whom I worked than they learned from me.” Listen to the memories of his more than 30-year Air Force career in this video.