65,000 American WWII Soldiers, Uncensored: Contribute to an NEH-funded Digital History Project

Edward J. K. Gitre's picture

Earlier this month, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced the latest round of grant awards, and among them is a Virginia Tech-based digital project, The American Soldier in World War II


The goal of this interdisciplinary project is to digitize and make available to scholars and to the wider public a massive collection of uncensored documents: approximately 65,000 handwritten commentaries composed by active-duty personnel related to myriad facets of their wartime service. The US Army Research Branch collected these documents while surveying half a million servicemembers between 1941 and 1945.


Our research team is currently using the crowdsourcing platform Zooniverse.org to get every one of these documents transcribed.  We are a year into the project, and, to date, nearly half of the collection has been transcribed.  The job is not over, and we could use your assistance.  


Professors at Virginia Tech and elsewhere have incorporated the transcription project into their undergraduate courses. The response has been phenomena. Students feel like they are helping to make history while also being provided a unique perspective on the war—from the unvarnished vantage point of individual soldiers, in their own uncensored words. 


One student at the end of the assignment wrote, “It was fascinating to read about the lives of WWII GI's in their own handwriting. … The forms we transcribed are a soldier's unfiltered answers to a point blank question, not a story being told that he knew would be written and read as history.”


Check out the site. Also, consider incorporating a transcription exercise in a course you teach.