Uncovering Wartime Stories, 1918-1945
An Online Conversation Course Featuring Genealogist David Allen Lambert, Historian Matthew F. Delmont, and Writer Adam Hochschild
Moderated by Brooke Blower, Boston University
Many of us have not-so-distant ancestors who served in World War I and World War II—on battlefields, behind-the-scenes, or at home. Some sacrificed their lives for our country or served abroad, while family tended victory gardens and raised war bonds at home. Others conscientiously objected or protested. Uncovering these stories, however, is not without challenges. Fifty years ago, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis destroyed nearly 80% of official military personnel files for those who served in the Army during World War I and World War II. Through a combination of videos, online resources, and an hour-long panel discussion, this conversation course will provide insight to help you research war-related family stories and gain a clearer picture of your family’s experience of the World Wars.
Our panelists and moderator will share how best to piece together an individual’s story using such documents as service records and unit histories, letters, draft cards, memoirs, and oral histories. This unique course offers a primer in military research for the first half of the 20th century and will shine light in little-known areas including the experience of Black Americans at home and abroad and the influence of the FBI as seen in just-released files.
Bring your in-depth questions to gain the greatest benefit from these experts’ discussion and begin to tell your family’s full story of their participation in World War I and World War II.
David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist at American Ancestors/NEHGS, is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of genealogy and history. His work has been published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, the New Hampshire Genealogical Record, Rhode Island Roots, Mayflower Descendant, and American Ancestors magazine. As co-host of the Extreme Genes podcast, David collects and shares the stories of listeners’ ancestors, including many veteran stories, and helps patrons uncover their own family history.
Matthew F. Delmont is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of History at Dartmouth College. A Guggenheim Fellow and expert on African American history and the history of civil rights, his most recent book is Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and several academic journals, and on NPR. He earned his BA from Harvard University and his MA and PhD from Brown University.
Adam Hochschild is renowned as a master of narrative nonfiction. The most recent of his 11 books is American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis. His contemporary classics King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa and To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion,1914-1918 were National Book Critics Circle Award finalists, and Bury the Chains was a National Book Award finalist; he has won many other prestigious awards including the PEN USA Literary Award.
Brooke L. Blower is Associate Professor of History at Boston University. Americans in a World at War: Intimate Histories from the Crash of Pan Am's Yankee Clipper, her latest book, was published in August 2023. Her previous work was the award-winning Becoming Americans in Paris: Transatlantic Politics and Culture between the World Wars. She co-edited The Familiar Made Strange: American Icons and Artifacts after the Transnational Turn and volume 3 of the Cambridge History of America and the World. She is a founding editor of the journal Modern American History.
Images courtesy of Library of Congress and National Archives.