Elm Staff Writer
This semester, National Home Front Project interns from the Starr Center for the American experience embarked on two road trips to interview individuals who lived through World War II.
The project was created to record and archive stories of Americans who have memories of World War II in order to preserve stories that might otherwise be lost. Many individuals who experienced the war have already passed away or are nearing 80 or 90 years old.
“The goal of the National Home Front Project is to give a voice to this group of people who acted as the backbone of the war happening overseas, as they contributed to the war efforts that supported our troops,” said sophomore Patricia Rana, who has worked with the project since last summer as an interviewer and community outreach intern.
The Starr Center has divided interviewers into two general “teams” within the project: Home Front National and Home Front Local.
Although the “Local” team has been interviewing individuals in Chestertown and the surrounding area, this semester they expanded their scope to conduct two interview trips.
The first trip took place at the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum in Middle River on April 7. Interviewers prepared for the trip by researching the history of aviation in World War II.
“A group of the interviewers went to the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum to gather interviews from people outside of our local community in Chestertown. The museum was a manufacturer of aircraft parts during the war and Martin hired women to work for him who became known as ‘Rosie the Riveters,’” sophomore Annie Javitt said.
The group had the opportunity to interview Idealia Johnston, a former Rosie the Riveter, at the museum about her experiences during the war.
“She had a very clear memory of the war and her personal stories at that time; she talked about her time in the Navy and her dedication to the service, she had the time of her life in the Navy and she felt proud for her contributions,” Rana said.
The importance of interviewing women about their contributions to the war effort was also part of the purpose of this trip.
“Her story sheds light into the important role of women workers during the war and shares a new kind of experience of someone on the Home Front,” Javitt said.
The April 7 trip concluded with another series of interviews at the Woodlands assisted living facility.
The second trip occurred this past Saturday. Interns travelled to the Fort Miles Historical Association in Lewes, Del., which operated as a defense fort in preparation of German submarine attacks during the war.
Interns junior Maria Betancur-Cardona and freshman Anna Garrow, along with Oral Historian and project supervisor Erica Fugger, visited the historical society in the fall, when they interviewed board member Cliff Geisler.
On Saturday, interviewers talked with local residents of Lewes who experienced the war on the home front. The trip was organized through a community partnership with the Fort Miles Historical Association, according to Fugger.
The trips not only add additional interviews to the Home Front Project archives, but help those involved gain insight into the war on the home front.
“My respect for our service members only grew more after meeting and interviewing with Idealia Johnston. I appreciate the service that they did for their people back then, and for what they do now as well,” Rana said.
These trips also benefit students by allowing them to develop skills useful to interviewing and interacting in professional environments.
“This experience was really cool because it showed me what it’s like to be a real interviewer. I gained social and professional skills from the interviewing process,” Javitt said.
While the goal for this project is to gather stories and archive them, the team encourages others to engage in more informal conversations in everyday settings to help preserve these stories in the collective memory of our nation.
“I definitely encourage everyone to ask their relatives who lived during the war to share their story,” Javitt said.
To learn more about donating an interview to the project, contact Erica Fugger at email@example.com.