Gitre said the project team made sense in opening the website to public access on Pearl Harbor Day.
“We found it particularly appropriate to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor,” he said, “as the World War II research branch administered its first large-scale investigation. ladder to the soldiers the day after the attack “.
With a user-friendly interface, americansoldierww2.org provides easy access to documents once difficult to access or navigate. Historians, journalists, students, educators and the general public can all benefit from exploring the range of documents.
The website contains 65,000 pages of responses to open and unfiltered surveys by approximately 500,000 service members. Users can view and download original survey data and analysis, and access learning resources and essays on topics written by leading historians.
In total, the website offers users the following options:
- browse 86 unique studies administered in the United States and around the world;
- filter responses to the soldier survey by rank, education and other demographic variables;
- download 139 complete datasets;
- read and download 65,093 pages of the handwritten remarks of the soldiers transcribed;
- search the entire collection and filter results by date, theater of war, and characteristics of the soldiers interviewed, such as race, rank and combat experience;
- download lesson plans that help students explore the collection and learn about warfare from a soldier’s perspective;
- read 15 topical feature essays by prominent WWII historians; and
- Check out glossaries of WWII slang and lingo as well as other helpful guides to the military survey program and datasets.
University libraries have been a key partner in the project thanks to their publishing and data expertise. The library’s data services team connected qualitative and quantitative data, organized the data into downloadable files, consulted on data management, and provided feedback on website content design. Virginia Tech Publishing, housed in University Libraries, organized and hosted transcribathons and hosted website content review. Across the library, many contributed to website content, standards and metadata development and contributed to the overall planning of the early phases of the project.
Gitre, who serves as the project manager, said he was proud of the work of his transdisciplinary team and contributors from around the world who dedicated their time to building the strong online database.
When the United States Army conducted the investigations in the 1940s, the Army Command closely monitored the results. The troops received only carefully vetted summaries, and the general public even less.
Uncensored access to the authentic opinions of the military is important from a historical and societal perspective, Gitre said.
“Much of what we know about the day-to-day experiences of Americans who served in the war comes from sources such as censored letters, later recorded memories or movies,” he said. “What struck me when I encountered the comments of these soldiers was not only the volume, which numbered in the tens of thousands, but also the raw and unfiltered nature of their words.
Written by Andrew Adkins