Starting today, we have a whole new database on life in the American military in WWII! And a very new way to honor fallen service members on Pearl Harbor Day.
The National Archives and Virginia Tech, along with a number of transcription volunteers, have compiled soldier surveys collected by the military during WWII. This new amazing resource is called simply The American Soldier in World War II.
So you didn’t know there were WWII soldier surveys? Neither did I! I stumbled on an article this morning discussing troop attitudes toward the Japanese immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor and during the war. It was interesting in its own right, but the thing that caught my eye was the mention of this new database!
The American Soldier in WWII
The database is an incredible addition to our public resources. But first, the bad news: the surveys were anonymous. So unfortunately you won’t be able to locate your ancestor’s specific surveys.
But the good news? This is a treasure trove for those of us interested in what an everyday soldier’s life was like at the time!
A word of warning: the responses are unedited and unfiltered. The language and topics discussed may be uncomfortable for some.
They’ve given us categories to explore, including Race & Ethnicity, Women & Gender, and Medical Care & Mental Health. There are also more mainstream interests such as Entertainment and Ground Combat. You can see a full list of topics here.
You can also browse the surveys, learn more about the data’s history, how this project came about, and so much more!
All in all, this is an amazing collection. If you have ancestors who served in the war or you’re interested in the social history of WWII, check it out!
Pearl Harbor Anniversary
We do need to take a moment and remember those lost in the Pearl Harbor attack 80 years ago, on December 7, 1941.
Did you have any family members at Pearl Harbor? We had a great-great uncle stationed there, but thankfully he survived!
More About The Attack
To stay with the theme of WWII historical research, I’ve collected a few videos about the attack on Pearl Harbor:
First, a historic newsreel about the attack. Caveat: It’s a bit long and includes language we no longer find acceptable. But it is an interesting glimpse into the news reporting and patriotic message that was spread immediately after the event. It reminds me of the early response after 9/11. How do you feel about the video and its message?
If you are interested in the logistics of the bombing, the very dedicated YouTuber Montemayor has put together an amazing video on the lead up to the attack and the chronology of the day that lives in infamy:
The History Vlogger has also done an extended reaction video that dives further in the full context, if you would like to go even deeper.
Lastly, for the enthusiast, here is some video that claims to be a copy of original footage. The quality is quite poor, but gives an interesting perspective. It is also made more eerie by the lack of sound:
If you are interested in traveling to Pearl Harbor now, check out the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites page for more information.
If you have an ancestor who was in WWII, Ancestry, Fold3, and the National Archives have more information about service records. Unfortunately, a fire in 1973 destroyed a large number of personnel records, though some information has been reconstructed from other sources.
The National Archives also has a page dedicated to Pearl Harbor, including audio recordings, videos, blog entries, and more! The Library of Congress Digital Collections are not well organized, but some digging will bring up treasures like “man on the street” interviews conducted by Alan Lomax after Pearl Harbor.
And, another new one for me, the National World War II Museum–located in New Orleans–has a lot of articles and information available online (and is also open currently!).
I’m very excited by the new resources available through The American Soldier In WWII Project! What do you hope to find among the surveys and essays?
I personally want to know more about what life was like for my great-great Uncle Walter in Hawaii at the time and more broadly learn more about WWII. 20th Century history isn’t my forte and I would love to broaden my horizons!
Let me know your thoughts about Pearl Harbor, our WWII servicemen, and your ancestors below! 🙂
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USS Arizona after Pearl Harbor Attack: The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Original National Archives Item 195617. This edit from Wikimedia Commons, edited/enhanced by user Mmxx. Cropped by author.
The American Soldier in WWII Logo: Shared by The American Soldier in WWII Media Resources, using a CC by 4.0 license.
Survey Response: Respondent 01-1549. Attitudes in One Division: Final Field Form (Rev.), Dec. 1941. Directed by Samuel A. Stouffer for the Research Branch, Information and Education Division, War Department [producer]. Edward J.K. Gitre et al. The American Soldier in World War II, Virginia Tech [distributor], 2021. https://americansoldierww2.org/surveys/a/PS1.Q118.F.20723897. Accessed 7 Dec 2021.
USS Arizona Memorial Wall: The memorial wall at the USS Arizona Memorial, from Wikimedia Commons. Uploaded by Ereisch, 2010. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported