For the children, grandchildren, nieces,
and nephews of 80th Division veterans: your mission is to conduct an Oral History of
your father, grandfather, or uncle who served in the 80th
Division. This is NOT limited to WWII veterans; we want
to gather as much history as we can from all 80th Division veterans. You may be surprised - the conversation may change your life.
||Here’s a Step-by-Step Procedure for Conducting
an Oral History
||1. Develop a list of initial questions. Focus on the basics, such as:
- What branch of the service did he serve? Most of the
80th Division veterans served with the U.S. Army, but I would not be surprised if several veterans served with another branch such as the Marines or the Navy.
- What was his rank? In most cases, an enlisted man
joins the Army as a private and works his way up through promotions. Officers start as 2d Lieutenants and work their way up through promotions.
- Did he join the 80th as a replacement soldier? The 80th entered the ETO (European Theatre of Operation)
in July 1944 when they arrived in Scotland. They
hit the beaches of Normandy the first week of August 1944. Anyone joining the 80th Division after that time would be considered a replacement.
- In what unit did he serve? In the 80th Division during WWII , there were three rifle regiments (317th, 318th,
319th), four Field Artillery Battalions (313th, 314th,
905th, 315th), and a number of other support units
(80th Reconnaissance Troop, 305th Engineer Combat
Battalion, 305th Medical Battalion, 780th Ordnance
Light Maintenance Company, 80th Quartermaster
Company, 80th Signal Company, Military Police Platoon,
Headquarters Company, and the Band). He
may have served in more than one unit. Also, note the
company he was in: for every rifle regiment, there are three battalions, each with three rifle companies and one heavy weapons company.
- Was he awarded any medals? If so, what medals and does he have the official citations that came with the
award? While the citation would be “official,” ask him about the circumstances. This may be a tough one (see below), but it would help explain the story.
- In what campaigns did he participate? During WWII,
the 80th Division participated in four campaigns: Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe.
2. Keep in mind there are typically three “phases” of
your veteran’s history:
- Before action: This is where he learned to become a
soldier. Initial training, then training for his particular
MOS (Military Occupational Specialty), though not
everyone had specific training, then training with the
- Action: The 80th Division spent 277 days in continuous
combat. Many veterans fought with the 80th Division
from the time the division landed on Utah Beach
in early August until the end of the war on May 7,
1945. This will be the toughest part of the interview.
- After the war: Many veterans came home in one
piece; others, not so lucky. But all veterans came
home a different person than when they went over.
It’s also important to try to understand how the war
shaped their lives and what they did after the war.
3. Conduct the interview - this is where you get to talk to
your veteran and ask specific questions. You’ve got your
initial set of questions (see examples below), but you
may find you want to ask more questions that take you
into a different direction during the interview—be flexible.
That’s fine and you should go with the flow. You’ve got to
be interested in your veteran’s story and learn to adapt to
the conversation. There is no book to read on how to do
this, thought there are lots of resources; you just learn by
experience. If you’re interviewing your father or grandfather,
be patient (both of you). These men grew up without
computers, some without telephones—a proud generation
that grew up not showing their emotions.
||A Few Tips for You
- Before the Interview, do a little research:
Does your veteran have any papers or documents from
the Army? The discharge papers will provide a lot of
information. Some veterans filed their papers with the
local clerk of the court, many of which are online.
Does he have a scrapbook, or any photos from the time?
Does he have the letters he wrote home?
- When you conduct the interview, try to avoid background
noises, such as phones, TVs, radios, noisy pets.
- Write your initial set of questions down and share
them with your 80th Division veteran. If you don’t have
a script, your conversation may go all over the place.
Also, letting your veteran know what you’ll be asking will
give him a chance to think about and reflect what he’s
going to say; he may also have several other questions
to suggest you ask.
- If you can get one, use an audio recorder, preferably
digital. You can try to record using a video recorder, but
the veteran may be self-conscious about what he looks
like rather that what he’s saying. Many older people don’t
want pictures or videos of themselves, so using audio is
less intrusive and makes the person more comfortable.
It’s also easier, less expensive, and less time-consuming.
- A digital recorder allows you to store the voice file onto
the computer and playback using the computer. This is
especially important when you transcribe (or have someone
else transcribe) the interview. On the other hand, a
video of the oral history interview would be a treasure
for you and your family. Set the microphone six to twelve
inches from the veteran. Test the audio (or video if you’re
videotaping) before you start.
- Conduct the interview in a safe, comfortable environment.
Try to interview the veteran at his home, where
he’s more comfortable. Before you start the interview,
spend a few minutes talking about the interview in general,
how it will proceed, and what you’re going to ask.
You don’t necessarily want to just jump in there and start
- Don’t rush the interview. Most veterans like to talk
about themselves, but not about everything. Begin the
interview by asking some of the basic questions outlined
below, then transition into more specific questions. To
do this right, expect to conduct the oral history interview over a period of time. It will probably take more than an
hour or two and you may want to break it into several different
- Don’t interrupt. It’s not your job to comment on what
the veteran is saying, but to record the memories.
Remember, you’re asking someone to bring back memories
(some may be difficult and emotional) that happened
65+ years ago. If you get stuck on a question, or in an
awkward moment, ask him what the weather was like or
were there any particular sights or smells he remembers.
- Ask the veteran’s permission to send this Oral History
to the 80th Division Veterans Association.
- Be sensitive. There are some taboo subjects that your
veteran may not want to talk about—at least not up front.
The subject of killing is difficult, but what probably hurts
more is the subject of lost buddies. If your veteran gets
upset or emotional as they tell their story, you should
react and show concern. Give him time to recuperate.
You may even suggest taking a break after acknowledging
this tough moment.
||Sample Oral History Interview Questions [click HERE to download a PDF of sample questions]
What to Do When You're Done with the Interview
First of all, you will probably be
exhausted as will the veteran—it’s
natural, especially if any of the interview
was emotional. Thank the veteran
for his time and his service to this
great country of ours. The next steps
are to review the interview. If you’ve
done an audio or video interview, you
want to take some time to digest the
information; it’s ok, there’s no rush.
Once you’ve had time to rest and
digest, you’ll want to transcribe the
interview. In other words, you’ll listen
to the recording and type out the
interview. Usually, the transcription
takes the form of:
Question (or your name as the
interviewer): Here’s the question I asked (verbatim).
Answer (or the veteran’s name):
Here’s the answer by the veteran.
This is an important step, since this
becomes the recorded Oral History.
It will take time, especially if you’ve
done a quality job. You want to make
sure that you type the questions
and answers in the order in which
you conducted the interview. After
you’ve typed it all out, review for
spelling and grammar errors. Then,
you’d probably like to share it with
the veteran. He may have remembered
something else, or after reading
the interview, may need to make
a change or two. This is very common
and it is courteous.
Once you are comfortable with the
interview and the Oral History, you’ll
want to send it (either e-mail or postal
80th Division Veterans Association
Andrew Z. Adkins III ,
2121 N.W. 54th Terrace
Gainesville, FL 32605-3392
||80th Division Oral Histories
Wojtkowiak 305th Engr Regt, Private, US Army (WW1)
Killed in action Nov 1, 1918 during the construction of a bridge in
Buzancy and buried at Meuse-Argonne Cemetery - Romagne France. His death
is recorded in History of 305th Engineers, Pg 12, although mispelled
in the original document. His family has created a page on Delaware
Valley pages with his life history and photo including the ABMC reference
to his burial location.
Infantry Regiment - WWI Re-enactment
Excellent web site providing tons of information about the 318th Infantry
Regiment during WWI.
AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES MEMORIAL PROJECT
The Online Museum and Research Center on the History of the US in the
First World War. B. Clark Byrnes is the founder of the American Expeditionary
Forces Memorial Project. Clark is a collector and researcher of WWI
photographs, diaries, letters, and individual level records.
of William A. Livergood - A Tale of a Soldier who Served
the World War in France.
- Letters from
Guyowen H. Howard, 317th/B - Letter
Two letters Guyowen wrote home to his wife in June 1945.
To Be Alive - Barbara Laughlin Adler's father was in the 318th