Thursday, November 19, 2009


Missouri State Genealogical Association
World War II Interviews Project
Interviewer’s Workbook

Preserving the experiences of average Americans in WWII

To many older Americans, "The Good War" represents a defining moment of shared purpose and sacrifice. Many older Americans are happy to tell their individual stories as part of a conscious effort to connect the events of their lives to those of the generations that follow.

We would like to help to preserve the experiences of men and women who served our country during WWII. Following is a list of possible questions that interviewers can ask WWII veterans (or that you can use as guidelines in creating an autobiographical essay if you are a WWII veteran). They are provided as a reference-- feel free to tailor questions asked to the experiences of the veteran to be interviewed. These questions can also be used to interview veterans of other 20th century conflicts if minor modifications are made to the list.

We welcome the submission of transcripts of interviews with Missouri WWII veterans of the armed forces or the Merchant Marine, and would be pleased to publish some of them in our Journal. Send transcripts of interviews to

Entry into the Armed Forces:

What was your situation just before you joined the armed forces?
Student? Working?
Single? Married? Children?
How old were you?
Were you drafted or did you enlist?

Questions for draftees:

What was your initial reaction upon learning that you had been drafted?
What was the reaction of your immediate family members?
What was the reaction of your friends?
Where did you go for your induction physical?
Which armed service were you drafted into?

Questions for enlistees:

Why did you join the armed forces?
What branch of the service were you in?
Why did you choose that branch?
What was the reaction of your immediate family to your decision to enlist?
What was the reaction of your friends to your decision to enlist?

Questions for all veterans:

Where did you go for basic training?
What kind of training did you receive? What was the most helpful part of your training? The least helpful part?
What was the specific unit that you were assigned to after basic?
What was the mission of your unit?
What was your rank and your job?
What are some of the things about your military unit that stand out in your memory?
What was a typical day like in your life as a soldier? How much money did a soldier make, and how did you spend it?
Did you ever run afoul of your commanding officers? How were you punished?
Did you serve overseas during the war? Where? How did the locals react to the presence of GIs in their community?

Home Front:

How did you feel about leaving home?
How did you communicate with loved ones on the home front?
What was different when you got back?

Questions for Frontline Soldiers:

Describe your living conditions while on the frontlines.
Can you describe your feelings during a battle?
How did you cope with the fear of battle?
What was your division/platoon’s job during battle?
What was your job during a battle?
Were you ever wounded?
Were you ever held prisoner by the enemy?

Impact of the War on the Rest of Your Life:

What is your happiest memory of the war?
What is your saddest memory of the war?
What was your biggest fear during the war?
What do you think your biggest accomplishment was during the war?
What were you most proud of during your military service?
Did you do anything you regret while in the military service?
What impact did your unit have on the outcome of the war?
How did your experiences in WWII affect the rest of your life?

Pearl Harbor:

How did you hear about Pearl Harbor?
Where were you when it happened?
What was your reaction?
What was the reaction of your immediate family members?
What happened in the days that followed?

D-Day Invasion Only:

How were you trained for the invasion?
How did you get to the Normandy beaches?
What was your job on D-Day?
What were your experiences in the first hours of the invasion?
Did your unit achieve its objectives? How?
What is your most vivid memory about the invasion?

Hiroshima & Nagasaki:

How did you hear about the bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki?
How did you react to the news?
How did your buddies react to the news?


How did you find out about the surrender of Germany?
What did you do on V-E Day?
How did you find out about the surrender of Japan?
What did you do on V-J Day?
What happened on the day you came home?
What were Thanksgiving and Christmas like for you in 1945?
What were your hopes for the future when you got out of the service?
Tell me about any enduring friendships you made during the war.

Personal Opinion Questions:

Did you ever doubt that the Allies would win the war?
At what point did you become certain that the Allies would win?
What mistakes do you think the US military made, if any, during the war?
What’s the most important thing you want people to know about this time in history?
What would you change about your war experience if you could change one thing?
What happened during the war that has affected you for the rest of your life?
What important question have I forgotten to ask you?

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