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Local Library of Congress video project proves larger than expected

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By Penny Fletcher

penny@observernews.net

SUN CITY CENTER — It all started when Dr. Kenneth Barringer talked about wanting to record his World War II experiences at a meeting of the Military Order of the Military Wars, commonly known as MOWW.

Others, especially MOWW Commander Gordon Bassett and Vice Commander Richard Wallace said they wanted to do the same and they felt sure others would want to do so too.

But why stop there? “Why, we have Korean and Vietnam veterans and Gulf War vets too,” Bassett told me in an interview last month.

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Gordon Bassett, Dr. Kenneth Barringer, and Richard Wallace, seated; and Bob Swing, all of Sun City Center; prepare for the video taping of local war stories for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. As Barringer shows his old photographs, Swing (who will tape along with the assistance of Rex Hall, owner and creative director of 1-to-1 Media Inc. of Apollo Beach) goes over the different ways they can capture the images and edit them into the interview tape.
Penny Fletcher Photos

So they found out about an ongoing government project to record stories such as theirs and became a part of it.

Following the story about the project that ran in The Observer News Feb. 4 (and is still available on line at www.observernews.net) other veterans came forward so that now Bassett says the project will go on through April.

The dress rehearsal for the first taping Feb. 27 at Community Hall in Sun City Center was held Feb. 26, with Robert Held and Ed Mahoney telling their stories to see how the process will work.

Bob Swing, volunteer videographer from Sun City Center was on hand recording but said because of the magnitude of the project he has called a professional for help; Rex Hall, owner and creative director of 1-to-1 Media in Apollo Beach.

The Veterans History Project is part of the Library of Congress’s record of personal stories in its Folk Life section.

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Donna Borden, who heads up some of the projects at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., says that preservation of Americana from music to crafts to ways of life in various areas of the country are all part of a larger project called Folk Life. The Veterans History Project is a huge part of this, covering every war since World War I.

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Ed Mahoney, a former Marine, and Robert Held, formerly of the Army, prepare to tell the stories of their World War II experiences in an informal interview format.

I didn’t want to go to the actual taping Feb. 27 because I feared disturbing the process, so I decided to attend the dress rehearsal.

As it turned out, it was a great experience because I got to hear former Army Sgt. Robert Held tell the story of how all the Battalion Commanders of his outfit were called to a meeting one day while his platoon was at rest in the woods in the European Theater. “I was just a dogface private then,” Held said. “But somehow, all the officers were killed but one while they were at that meeting. One escaped by climbing into the attic of the building and hiding three days and then he came back and told us what happened.”

The Platoon Sergeant took over the company, he said. Held was later promoted several times until he was a sergeant himself.

“Then when we got to Paris, we found a boxcar filled with rations,” he said. “We’d been living on K rations- you know what they are- and so we took everything we could. Then whenever we’d see a friendly face, we’d give them a can of peaches or something.”

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Bassett jokingly referred to that as “the midnight requisition” so often used both for survival and goodwill in the occupied countries.

Held’s platoon dwindled to 74 and finally to 46. And then, while he was in Austria, the war ended and he personally took three Nazi soldiers captive.

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Bob Swing, volunteer videographer, checks the lighting and sound before dress rehearsal begins.

After all these years, Held still remembers the names of the places he saw and the men he was with. “Some things you never forget,” he said.

Bassett explained the format for the tapings.

“They will each be divided into four parts, very informal, and each should last from 90 minutes to an hour.”

Each veteran will be introduced and tell a little about what he or she was doing before the war they fought in and why (or how) they joined. Most of the taping time will be spent on their stories, told in whatever manner they wish, and then the fourth part of the interview will be questions asked by Bassett, who will do the interviewing.

Anyone interested in becoming part of this project may call Barringer at (813) 633-8490; Bassett, (813) 642-0691 or Wallace, (813) 642-0212.

 

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