Once you find a World War Two veteran, ask them what branch and units they were apart of.
Example: 8th Air Force->322nd Bomb Group, USS Missouri, or 36th Infantry->143rd Infantry Regiment
Write down this information and search the units online and research what they did during the war so that when the time for the interview comes you know what you are talking about.
Set an Interview Time
Next, set a time to interview the veteran, do it on their time(it is usually best to start around 9:30 AM) and at their residence (that is where they will be most comfortable talking and where they will have memorabilia from the war days). Also make sure that when the interview is conducted, that it is just you and the veteran alone because when family members sit in or are even around it skews the interview and the veteran starts to censor what he says.
Equipment You Will Need
- a video camera ( I use a Canon 70D )
- a tripod
- an external audio mic ( RodeVideoMic )
- SD cards ( Sandisk 64 GBs are the best )
Preparing for the Interview
When you reach the veteran’s residence for the interview, first thank them for their willingness to participate,their time, and their service. Once in the residence, look around for a well lit area, near a window is probably best (opposite the window is the best). You may have to situate them near some lamps and you may have to move some floor lamps. To easily solve this problem though you could just purchase an inexpensive floor lamp (search online Deluxe Sun Floor Lamp).
Once the veteran is comfortable and the lighting is ideal, setup the camera and move it eye level with the veteran and zoom out so that his entire face is in frame plus some. As the interviewer you should sit in front of the veteran. Do not set the camera up right in front of the veteran, rather set it up either slightly to the right or left of you,close enough that you can see the camera screen to make sure it is recording and that the audio is in check but far enough so that the veteran can have eye contact with you. Tell the veteran that when he is making hand gestures to please put the hands up higher than usual in order for the expressions to make the video.
Have a “Conversation”
At this point, tell the veteran that you and he are just having a conversation and that the camera is there to merely record the conversation versus you having to write it all down and also so that people will know how good looking he is!
After this and right before you begin, have a personal moment with the veteran. One in which you tell them how thankful you are for all they had to do and all they had to see. It is only because of what he and the others like him did in the Second World War that made this country what is today and made the world what it is today. Tell him that you will never forget the his actions and the sacrifices he and so many others made so that you could have an opportunity at a good life.
You can also say at this point that you will be getting into some heavy material concerning his combat and that he needs to understand that current generations have no idea the kind of horrors he had to go through and in order for us to beware of war, we need to know first hand of war’s effects and the true cost of war. Tell him that this is an opportunity to speak for the men who did not come back home. At this point shake the veteran’s hand and get started on the interview.
Questions to Ask
Below are questions that will help you with the interview. It is a great base and you can ask every question on here but please do not treat it like a script.
Instead, let your natural curiosity flow and ask branch-off questions about the things the veteran said in the interview and treat it like a conversation! Have the veteran look at you and not the camera and just hold an in-depth conversation.
The point of this section is to get the veteran comfortable talking to you and so that you can jog his memory and also so that he can can relive some fonder times in his life. If this section drags on move on to the next section and come back to this at the end of the interview. This way the veteran will still have energy to talk about his combat days.
1. What is your full name Sir?
2. Where and when were you born?
3. How old are you currently?
4. What was your full rank and what part of armed services were you in, Sir?
5. What were the military units you were apart of? Ask the vet to name off as much as they remember.
- Army ->Corps->Division->Regiment/Brigade->Battalion->Company->Platoon ->Squad->Fireteam
- Navy->Fleet->Battle Fleet->Task Group->Task Unit->Flotilla->Task Element
- Air Corps->Air Division->Wing->Bomb Group ->Squadron->Flight
- Marine Corp->Divisions->Regiments->Battalions->Companies->Platoons->Squads->Fire teams
6. What was your role in that unit? (Example Rifleman, Machine Gunner,Pilot,Bombardier, Quartermaster, Tank Commander…)
7. Talk to me about your early childhood…Where did you grow up? What do you remember about your town/city during the time you were growing up? Who were the most memorable characters growing up?
8. What were the names of your parents and what were their occupations?
9. Did you have any siblings? If so what were their names and did any of them also serve in World War Two? If they did, what branches did they serve in?
10. Were you all close as a family?
11. What are some of the fond memories you hold of your early childhood?
12. Who were some of your childhood best friends?
13. What kind of things would you do for fun? What kind of games would you play?
14. Please talk to me about what was it was like to grow up during the Great Depression? What else do you remember from that time?
15. Did your family suffer during the Great Depression?
16. Do you remember any instances that made you realize how bad the Depression was?
17. Do you recall listening to FDR Fireside Chats? If so what do you remember about them? Did you listen to any other radio programs? If so what?
18. What high school did you go to and what year did you graduate?
19. Who were some of your best friends during those years? What would you all do for fun?
20. Could you please talk about some fond memories you have concerning your high school years?
21. Were you more of academic or athletic type? Any particular classes or teachers that you were fond of? Any particular sports?
22. Do you remember your first few jobs as a teenager?
23. What kind of hobbies did you have? What were you interested in growing up?
24. Did you go steady with anyone in your teenage years? If so who? What kind of things would you all do on date nights?
25. What kind of things would you do for fun with your buddies during your teenage years?
26. What kind of music was your favorite back then, any particularartists?
27. Tell me Sir, do you recall hearing about what was happening in Europe concerning the Nazi regime? What were your thoughts during the Battle of Britain? Do you recall hearing about what was happening with Japan and its invasion of China? Did all of this make mainstream news?
28. Can you please talk about what you remember concerning the isolationist sentiment that America held before Pearl Harbor?
29. Where were you when you found out about Pearl Harbor? What did you feel?
30. What do you recall about the surge of patriotism that the U.S. saw in the days following Pearl Harbor?
31. Did you listen to the FDR declaration of war address on December 8th ,1941? What do you recall about the sentiments people held towards the Germans and Japanese after Pearl Harbor?
32. What did you do in the time between the end of high school and entering the service?
Early Days of Service
The point if this is to get the veteran to start reminiscing about their military days in order to get the most material out of them when you talk about their combat experience. If this section drags on move on to the next section and come back to this at the end of the interview. This way the veteran will still have energy to talk about his combat days.
33. Tell me Sir,did you end up enlisting or were you drafted? Do you remember the date? (Month/Day/Year) How old were you? Did your friends also join the service?
34. If enlisted, why did you choose that specific branch of the military?
If drafted, what were your thoughts on the branch they assigned you to?
35. What do you remember about the day you went into the recruitment office? Were there many other people? What did they have you all do?
36. What was it like to know that you were apart of the armed forces?
37. What was it like saying goodbye to your folks before you shipped off?
38. Where were you sent for induction? What did you do there? What do you remember seeing?
39. From the point you were inducted, can you please tell me all the places they sent you for training and what you did at each place?
40. Could you please take me through a typical day in your basic training? How often would you march?
41. What weapon(s) did you qualify on during basic training? (For example: M1903 rifle? M1 rifle?
, Carbine rifle)
42. What qualification level did you achieve? (Marksman? Sharpshooter? Expert?)
43. Did you receive any specialized training? If so, what and where? Did you already have any specialized skills or training that helped you get your job?
44. Do you remember any of your fellow soldiers that you trained with at any of the bases? Did you get close with any of them?
45. Do you remember any of your drill sergeants? If so, what were they like?
46. Do you recall any of your instructors? If so, what were they like?
47. Do you remember any of the propaganda you all the soldiers would be shown to boost morale?
48. Do you remember any memorable instances at any of your training camps that you would care to divulge?
49. While at training camps, what would you all do for recreation in your free time?
50. How did you adapt to military life, including the physical regimen, barracks, food and social life?
51. What do you remember about the sacrifices the country made for the war effort? (like rationing,buying bonds, recycling of rubber, grease, or other commodities etc…)
52. Did you encounter segregation? What do you recall about it? (Only if the veteran is from the South or was trained there)
53. Did you ever encounter Anti-Semitism? (only if veteran is Jewish)
54. What happened in the time between finishing your training and being shipped overseas?
War Time Service
*This section is the most important by far. It is the material in this section that that defines these men as heroes. We need to get as much of their experiences in combat so that people will understand all the bloodshed and sacrifices that took place in order for us to live in the world will live in today. When talking about combat, you have to go through their missions,battles,ask them which conflicts they were in. From your research you should know this.*
55. What theater of operations were you in? (ETO? PTO? MTO? CBI?)
56. When did you get shipped overseas? What was your port of embarkation for deployment?
57. How did you travel to the war zone? Tell me about that experience please. (They most likely took a liberty ship or flew)
58. When and where did you arrive overseas?
59. What type of equipment and uniform were you issued before you were deployed into the combat zone?
60. How long did it take for you to reach your theater of operations? What did you do in the time from arriving overseas and reaching your combat zone?
61. Please describe to me what happened when you reached your combat zone destination. What kind of things do you recall seeing?
62. What were your orders?
63. Did you receive any training after you were deployed overseas?
64. Before you went into combat for the first time were you nervous or scared?
You should have your research done on the veteran’s Bomb Group/Infantry Regiment/Ship, etc. You should have a solid understanding of where they went and where they saw combat and what happened at each battle. So retrace their steps and along the way talk to them about what they saw,what they had to do,ask them to describe the scenes,the noises, and the smells. You should discuss their key battles/missions and talk to them about their role and their observations. You will need to talk to them about the horrors they had to endure.
You have access to someone who was actually there, so go through each to them about each part and ask what they remember and ask them the describe the scenes. There will be some parts that will be hard to talk about for the vet but you need to assure them that it is these parts that are the most important for people to hear and how war is truly hell. Their experiences need to be known so that all that bloodshed and sacrifice was worth it. As you are doing this, keep the below questions in mind as well.
65. Please talk to me about the the first time you experienced combat? Can you please tell me about some other combat experiences? Please describe the scenes and what the objectives were. Can you tell me some more about your experiences?
66. Can you talk to me about your role in your unit and the duties that the job included?
67. Did you ever have to change jobs or do a job that you weren’t trained for?
68. What different responsibilities did you have to take on during the war?
69. What were the names of some of the guys you served overseas with that you became close to? What do you remember about them? Did they survive the war?
70. What was that like to lose good friends and yet still have to continue on?
71. Who were your commanding officers, and what were your thoughts of them?
72. Was there any part of your job that you were especially good at? Was there any part of your job that you especially enjoyed? What part of your job were you not especially good at? What part of your job did you least enjoy?
73. Talk at to me about some of the things you enjoyed doing and some of the things you did not enjoy doing during your time overseas.
74. Did you ever see or hear the enemy? Tell me about those experiences.
75. Can you please talk to me about the times in which you engaged the enemy? What did you see and what did you have to do? What was going through your mind?
76. Can you please talk to me about your experiences under fire? What were the sights you saw and the noises you heard?
77. Was there something special you would do or have for good luck before you went into combat?
78. What were your most frightening experiences?
79. What were your most interesting experiences?
80. What were your most exhausting experiences?
81. What were some of your most harrowing experiences?
82. What were some of your experiences when you felt very alone or detached?
83. What were some of your experiences where you felt a lot of pressure or stress?
84. What were some of your most exciting experiences?
85. What were some of your most unusual experiences?
86. What were some of your most humorous experiences?
87. What were some of your most memorable experiences? Who were some of your most memorable characters?
88. Did you know anyone who was killed or wounded in the war? Did you see it happen? Can you describe that experience for those of us who have never gone through something like that.
89. When was the first time you saw a dead body in combat? What were your thoughts?
90. Seeing all these wounded and dead, how did it make you feel? What do you remember seeing, what sounds do you recall hearing from the soldiers?
91. Were there many casualties in your unit/crew/ship? Do you know the percentage of the casualties? Talk to me about them please.
92. What effect did the war have on your physical and mental health or on that of others you knew? Did you see anyone with shell shock?
93. Were there instances that you thought that you might not survive the war? If so please describe.
94. Can you please talk to me about some atrocities that you saw? (such as concentration camps or heavy combat areas)
95. Were you ever wounded? If so please describe how it happened and where you were injured on your body.
96. Can you talk to me about you felt seeing all the destruction done to cities and urban areas? Could you describe the scenes please?
97. Would you write often home? To whom? What kind of things would you write about? Talk to me about the excitement the troops felt getting letters.
98. Did you ever meet any POWs? Please describe that experience.
99. Were you ever a POW? How did you get captured? Please tell me about your experiences in captivity and when freed.
100. Did you ever hear any news about the war? How would you get your news?
101. Did you ever listen to Axis Sally or Tokyo Rose? What kind of things would they say? What were your thoughts on their broadcasts?
102. At any point during the war, did you ever worry that the Allies
might not win?
103. What was the most impressive allied weapon of any sort that you saw?
104. What was the most impressive enemy weapon of any sort that you saw?
105. What was the most impressive place that you saw while overseas?
106. While overseas, did you have any contact with civilians; how did they treat you? What do you remember about your interactions with them?
107. Can you please discuss with me your living conditions while overseas? Did you have plenty of supplies? What would you live and sleep in? How was one able to sleep in a combat zone?
108. What was the weather like where you served? What was the terrain like where you served?
109. Talk to me about the food the military would serve while overseas? What consisted of a typical meal?
110. Did you ever attend a USO show? Tell me about that experience. Otherwise, how did you and your fellow soldiers entertain themselves?
111. Please talk to me about your interaction with Kilroy Was Here.
112. How did you feel when your tour ended?
113. What was the highest rank you received? Tell me about you promotions.
114. Did you receive any medals or citations? If so what were they for?
115. Do you have photographs? ( ask them to hold the photos up to the camera and to describe the photos)
End of War and Coming Home
The point of this section is the wind down the interview after the in depth conversations about combat with the veteran to get them talking about the beginning of their postwar life and readjustments to society.
116. What were your thoughts when you heard about President Roosevelt’s
117. Where were you when the war ended in Europe? Where were you when the war ended in Japan? What were your thoughts?
118. What were your thoughts on the use of the atomic bombs?
120. How and when did you return home? What was the first thing you ended up doing?
121. How were you received by your family and community?
122. When did you get married? To Whom?
123. How were you able to readjust to civilian life? Did you have nightmares or ticks after the war?
124. Have you kept in touch with fellow veterans since returning?
125. What have you done since separating from the military?
The point of this section is to allow the veteran to reflect on their life and share whatever they would like to with the world. In a sense these are their last words. At this point ask them to look at the camera lens directly so that it will look like they are speaking directly to the viewers even after they pass.
126. How have your wartime experiences affected your life Sir?
127. What are some life lessons you learned from your time in the military?
130. What was your happiest day in your life?
131. What was your worst day in your life?
132. What would you like to say to all those who died in the Second World War?
133. How has your military service impacted your feelings about war?
134. What message and life advice would you like to leave for future generations who will see this interview? What wisdom would you like to impart onto me?
135. How do you want to be remembered Sir?
136. Is there anything else people should know about you?
137. Is there anything you would like to say to anyone like your children or friends?
138. Is there anything you feel like we haven’t discussed, or should be added to this interview? If so, what?
139. At this point, shake the veteran’s hand and truly thank the vet’s for his time and his service.