Oral History Interviews
This is a suggested structure, but each interview should reflect the style and approach of the veteran being questioned. We would prefer that Gift of Remembrance submissions be no more than one hour in length, though we will accept longer submissions in the future.
To prepare: Give your veteran interviewee a little advance notice on the interview. Ask him or her to jot down some specific stories he/she would like to share. Perhaps give the veteran a list of questions in advance so he/she can be prepared to answer thoroughly. Conduct the interview somewhere comfortable. Keep it natural – laugh, listen, and enjoy the process.
Possible questions for your interview.
Name, age, branch of service, relationship to the interviewer, birth place, current residence, chosen career, years of service in military. Also include name of veteran’s parents, spouse, and children, where applicable.
Why did you join the military? Were you drafted or did you enlist?
Why did you pick the service branch you joined?
How did your service impact your life?
Did you serve in peacetime or war time? If wartime, were you overseas?
Where are some of the places you lived while in the service?
Can you name three lessons that military service taught you? How have you applied those lessons in your civilian life?
What skills did the military give you that you carried into your civilian life (or, if you were career military, that you applied throughout your career)
What combat situation/era did you serve in WWII, Korea, Cold War, Vietnam, Somalia, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf)? Where exactly did you serve?
Are there important people in your life that you met through military service?
Do you recall your first days in service? What were they like?
How did you train for the military? Do you remember specific instructors (good or bad) or friends you made while in training?
What and where were some of your assignments? Do you remember beginning them and what it was like?
Tell me about some of your most memorable experiences.
Would you change anything about your military service?
Combat (if applicable – some of these questions may apply to non-combat situations as well)
Did you know you would likely end up in combat when you joined the military?
How did you prepare for combat mentally?
Was it what you expected?
Were there many casualties in your unit?
Were you a prisoner of war? If so, tell me about your experiences in captivity and when freed.
Tell me about the men you served with and where you lived while in combat?
Tell me about some of the funny or stupid things that happened to you in combat (or in the military)?
Tell me about the hardest part of serving in a combat situation?
How did your family keep tabs on your while you were fighting?
Awards and decorations – what did you receive? How did you earn them?
Were you injured in combat? How has that impacted your life since then?
Ask questions about life in the service and/or at the front or under fire.
Were you able to go on leave?
Did the USO or other entertainers visit your unit/camp?
Did you keep a diary, journal or letters?
What was the political and social atmosphere on the home front when you were serving? Were you aware of it? How did you and your buddies respond to the attitudes and support (or lack of it) on the home front?
Do the actions of Americans at home have an impact on GIs in combat? How so?
General questions combat or non-combat:
What did you like about being in the military?
What did you dislike?
What was the food like?
Did you have the supplies and materials you needed to do your job? If not, why not?
How did you keep your spirits up?
What organizations helped you – i.e. USO, Red Cross, etc.?
Do you have photographs?
Post Service (for those who were not career military):
Do you remember the day you got out of the military? How did you feel? Where were you?
Did you go back to school or straight to work?
What kind of work did you do?
Do you keep in touch with people you met in the military?
How has your military career influenced your work? Your social life? Your perspective on the world and/or life in general?
Are you active in any veterans organizations?
Do you feel your service is understood and appreciated by most civilians?
What is the greatest misconception that civilians have about military service and GIs?
Would you serve again, given the chance?
Why did you stay in?
Are you glad you did?
What jobs and impact did you have?
Is your branch of the military the same today as it was when you joined?
What is different?
What is the same?
What kind of service projects did you participate in during your military career?
What would you tell a young person about joining the military today?
Is there anything else you want to share about your service?
NOTE: All submissions to The Gift of Remembrance project should contain basic details about the veteran being profiled: name, address, place of birth, date of birth, branch of service, e-mail address (if any), names of spouse and children, name of interviewer and interviewer’s contact information.
ALL submissions must be accompanied by a signed release. If the veteran is living, please have him or her sign the release. If the materials are being submitted by family members on behalf of a deceased veteran, please have a family member sign the form. Click here for a release.