New Website to Offer View of Uncensored GI Opinion about World War 2Historians in the News
tags: military history, World War 2, primary sources
The good, the bad, the ugly, and the heroic.
Historian Edward Gitre believes every aspect of World War II matters.
Eleven years ago, he discovered a trove of firsthand reflections written by American soldiers through surveys conducted by the United States Army. The uncensored documents detail soldiers’ opinions on a range of topics, such as warfare, race and ethnicity, health care, and their own military service.
When Gitre first located the records, the National Archives and Records Administration held the sole copies. Quickly, Gitre realized the surveys deserved more sunlight.
An assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of History, Gitre began combing through the unclassified microfilm reels.
He moved forward to expand access to the records with the help of Virginia Tech students; the Crowd Intelligence Lab led by Kurt Luther, a Virginia Tech associate professor of computer science and history; and grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Virginia Tech.
In 2018, Gitre and colleagues launched The American Soldier in World War II project, an international initiative that uses crowdsourcing and natural-language-processing techniques to transcribe, mine, and increase access to the archives. Transcribers from several countries contributed to the project.
According to Gitre, their mission was “to quite literally write these tens of thousands of personal expressions of soldiers into the historical record.”
Now, the project is poised to reach an even wider audience.
The American Soldier in World War II website officially launches on Dec. 7, offering the general public a remarkably honest glimpse into the minds of military service members amid humanity’s deadliest war.
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