Making History Project
"Preserving Veterans' Stories"
501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

Veterans Oral History Interviews

War and Trauma Discussion

War and Trauma: Dialogues on the Experience of War

On November 6, 2017, I am honored to help lead a class discussion on war and trauma at Governor’s State University in Chicago. This coursework is the result of winning a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant topic is for the Dialogues on the Experience of War.

Veteran Oral History

Veterans oral history projects are a natural fit for such topics as they necessarily develop and encourage discussion concerning war experiences. Outside of preservation and access, one mission of the Making History Project is to compare and contrast combat veteran trauma across the generations and conflicts. Of special interest are the similarities and differences, if any, amongst combat veterans from different conflicts. The goal is to better understand combat trauma and hopefully contribute in some way to the research of this under-developed topic.

Combat Trauma Studies

The course itself at Governor’s State University is completely unique to this genre. Students will be learning about combat trauma across the generations from World War I to the present through literature, poetry, film, and oral history. Best of all, there are five Veterans participating in the class as team leaders to help stimulate additional thought and discussion by sharing their own insights and experiences.

The course yearns to be an immersive experience in which all participants are sure to grow and develop a greater appreciation for what military veterans go through in the service of their country. In the end, the course will culminate with a veteran town hall in which students, team leaders, and members of the public will discuss what they learned and what it means to them.

I am looking forward to meeting the class and sharing what I have gleaned from the oral histories that I have taken. I imagine we will have a very interesting and stimulating discussion. Perhaps this passion will rub off and some students will decide to engage in their own oral history projects to preserve our past for future generations.

17-11 NEH War and Trauma Poster for Governor's State

 

Good Times at Fort Bragg

508 PIR Jump

I have just returned from the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment reunion at Fort Bragg. What a fantastic trip! We had such a great turnout with Veterans from all the conflicts including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, and Panama. Since this is the home of the 82nd Airborne, the participation from active duty soldiers was off the charts as well. The Family & Friends of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment outdid themselves with this fantastic event. Special thanks go out to Lou, Rock, Donna, Troy, Ellen, and Gene for all their help putting this together and making sure it ran smoothly.

Reunion Events

CSM Donaldson and DunnThe reunion lasted four days and there were some notable events. First, we started off by visiting the General Lee Museum in Dunn, North Carolina. General Lee was the “father” of the airborne and his home was converted into a very nice museum. Next, we were able to watch active-duty soldiers do a parachute jump in Fort Bragg on the anniversary of the 82nd Airborne’s birth. We had lunch on base with the active-duty soldiers and then toured the 82nd Airborne Museum. That night we had a social and happy hour honoring all active duty soldiers which was well attended. The following day we visited the Special Forces Museum, which detailed the campaigns of the special forces from World War II through the present. All were delighted to have Rock Merritt lead us on a personal tour. The reunion ended with a formal banquet honoring all members, past and present, of the 508 P.I.R. and the family and friends of the 508 P.I.R.

New and Old Friends

MHP ProjectAs for me personally, I met some new great friends including Don McCallister, CSM Ret., a recently retired member of the 508 P.I.R. who is now dedicated to helping wounded warriors through the Independence Fund (more about that later). Likewise, there was Jim Strickland (Vietnam), Robert Cheeseman (Panama), Claud Dunn (Vietnam), Phil Cronin (Vietnam), Carl Porter (WWII), John Coates (WWII), and all those active-duty guys including Aaron, Alexander, Hank, Brandyn, Jarvis, and Brandon. Likewise, seeing old friends like Gene, Rock, George, Ernie, Burt, and Tino was awesome as well. Thankfully, in the limited free time that I had, there was still a way to work in three oral history interviews for World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

Neat Stuff

One of the coolest gifts that I have ever received was a small piece of the last ISIS flag flying over Mosul before it was liberated. CSM Donaldson from the 508 P.I.R., 82nd Airborne gave that to me in my hand as he was there in July during that historic moment. I was also lucky enough to win a silent auction for the 508 P.I.R. flag that Lt. Col. Browning carried with him as he jumped on the anniversary of the birth of the 82nd Airborne. All paratroopers that jumped that day signed the flag (see below), how cool is that?

508 Flag from October 20 Jump

 

Veteran Oral History Interview: Vietnam War Veteran Norman Gaddis

US Army Air Force/USAF Pilot and POW

Veteran Oral History Interview of Norman Gaddis

Veteran oral history interview for Vietnam War Veteran Norman Gaddis is now available.

Patrick Russell conducted this interview on June 5, 2014, at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France during the celebrations for the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. This was a challenging interview to handle in that it was conducted in the public spaces of the Visitor Center at Omaha Beach. Since it was not a controlled environment, you will hear background noises of other visitors. However, when given the opportunity to conduct an interview, you do what you can do.

Norman Gaddis is an American pilot who was born in Tennessee. Norman served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II from 1942-1945. Norman received his final pilot training just before the end of World War II and as a result, he flew no combat missions during the war. After World War II, Norman was recalled as a pilot for the U.S. Air Force in 1949 and he ended up providing fighter escort for the supplies being delivered during the Berlin airlift. In 1967, Norman was shot down over Hanoi and became a POW for the entire duration of the Vietnam War. Norman Gaddis was released as a POW in 1973 and eventually retired from the Air Force in 1976 as a Brigadier General.

During this short interview, Norman discusses the details for how he was shot down in Vietnam and the cruel treatment and torture he received as a POW. Altogether, Norman spent 1004 days in solitary confinement and a total of 2,124 days as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.