During Memorial Day weekend, 2004, the National Mall in Washington, D.C. played host to a unique and awe-inspiring event: the National World War II Reunion. Held May 27-30, 2004, almost sixty years after the end of the war, World War II veterans and their families came to the Mall to reunite, reminisce, and witness the dedication of the National World War II Memorial.
The Veterans History Project was privileged to be part of this tribute to a generation, arguably the largest reunion of World War II veterans since the end of the war. Each day the Veterans History Project tent hosted special programs presenting compelling accounts about a variety of topics, including POWs, Tuskegee Airmen, Code Talkers, Women in Wartime, and D-Day veterans. These panels were preserved and are now available as webcasts. In addition, photographs taken during the festivities give an additional glimpse of the momentous occasion.
Throughout the reunion, Veterans History Project volunteers collected hundreds of interviews on the National Mall. Using hand-held tape recorders, these roving reporters spoke briefly with individual veterans about their wartime experiences. While quite different in scope and length from standard VHP interviews, these “Man on the Mall” interviews provide a snapshot of individual veterans’ service as well as the atmosphere of the World War II Reunion.
The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.