To help celebrate and honor our veterans, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History (ALH) rounded up five interesting veteran oral histories from our collection. This was not an easy task, given that we currently have 283 oral histories available online in our digital collections; 119 of those are specifically part of the Veterans History Project (more on that below).
We felt that these five veterans’ stories are a good representation of the many other stories and histories in our collections.
Edmund Bennett, a Chicago native, attended Morgan Park Military Academy, a high school military academy in Chicago, from 1942 to 1948. At 18, Bennett joined the Illinois National Guard, and in 1949, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Shortly after he attended boot camp in South Carolina, the Korean War broke out in 1950 and Bennett was sent to Korea to fight in the war.
After learning of his father’s severe illness in 1951, Bennett was reassigned to San Diego, California, for the remainder of his three-year enlistment. However, as Bennett neared the end of his service, he learned about Embassy Duty, and in 1952 he signed up for a transfer to Rome, Italy, where he enveloped himself in the local culture and made friends with locals, including actor Sebastian Cabot, Italian director Vittorio De Sica, and American actor Don Adams. After choosing not to reenlist in 1955, Bennett attended the Don Martin School of Radio and Television, which led to his lifelong career in the television industry and working with Metropolitan Life. Listen.
Shirley Curtis, a fourth-generation Colorado native, enlisted in the United States Army when she was 18. She traveled to Virginia for basic training at Fort Lee, and in her oral history interview she discusses her first encounters with southern segregation.
After attending leadership school in Virginia, Curtis transferred to Fort Mason outside of San Francisco, where she spent time doing ship maintenance. In December 1952, Curtis was discharged from her duties, only to reenlist in the Army one month later. In March 1953, Curtis was transferred to Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy, where she was stationed for four years. After returning to the U.S. for some time, Curtis was stationed again in Europe, this time in Frankfurt, Germany, before returning again to the U.S. to lead personnel teams at various bases until her retirement in 1972. Curtis then had a 22-year career as a federal police officer. Listen.
Joseph Pearlman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Brooklyn College for four years in the Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program from 1957-1961. In October 1961, Pearlman was stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, to a security police unit for three years before leaving active duty in 1964.
In 1968, Pearlman joined the active reserves as a human intelligence officer through the 1970s. At the time, Pearlman also pursued his Ph.D. in higher education administration and history at the University of Colorado-Denver. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1981, Pearlman began working with the Pentagon; in 1982 he accepted a position there in intelligence and moved to Washington, D.C., until 1986. After retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force in 1986, Pearlman took a brief three-year civil service tour in Japan before retiring to Denver, Colorado, in 2005. Listen.
Kathryn Haines joined the United States Navy after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Washington in 1943, after which she worked for some time in design for Boeing Aircraft. In late 1944, Haines joined the U.S. Navy via the last Officers Training Class (OTC) for women offered during WWII at Northampton, Massachusetts. After completing training, Haines was assigned to the Naval Communications Annex in Washington D.C., where she did electrical design work. After the war ended in 1945, Haines left the military and moved to Michigan, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree. She later moved to Denver with her husband and family where she received her master’s degree and embarked on a career in special education. Listen.
LeRoy Dies attended the University of Nebraska until the spring of 1969. In fall of that year, he received his draft notice to join the United States Army. After reporting for duty in Omaha, Dies was sent to Fort Polk in Louisiana for eight weeks of basic training. Dies was then accepted to the Non-Commissioned Officer School at Fort Benning in Georgia. There he continued his infantry training alongside leadership classes for 12 weeks. Upon completion of the program, Dies was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry in Vietnam in March 1970.
In his interview, Dies discusses the conflict of being drafted into the U.S. military during wartime and his experience with reconciling his perception of war when at home in the U.S. with the experience of being on the front lines. In Vietnam, Dies’ main objective was to identify enemy threats around base at Quan Loi. Dies also discusses his experience with locating booby traps, learning the combat style of the Vietnamese, and his personal experience during the invasion of Cambodia. After nine months in Vietnam, Dies was injured in combat and reassigned to finance at the Long Binh base, where he spent the remaining four months of his active duty. After his experience in the military, Dies focused on helping Vietnam veterans as a substance abuse therapist. Listen.
About the Veterans History Project
The Veterans History Project is coordinated by the American Folklife Center, which is part of the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress coordinates with libraries, archives and similar organizations throughout the entire U.S., including DCL Archives & Local History, in order to collect, preserve and make available veteran oral histories that cover many different military experiences.
The project seeks to enable others, now and in the future, to hear the stories of U.S. veterans and to learn from their firsthand accounts of war and military life. ALH works with the Library of Congress on the Veterans History Project to ensure that the veteran histories of Douglas County, Colorado, are told, preserved and accessible by the public.
To access all of our oral histories, including those that are part of the Veterans History Project, browse the Oral Histories collection on the ALH website, or search by topic. If you are interested in being interviewed for an oral history or as part of the Veterans History Project, please contact the ALH department either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (303) 688-7730.
If you’d like to volunteer with ALH to conduct oral history interviews or be part of the oral history process (transcription or copy editing), please visit volunteerconnectdc.org to check availability of volunteer opportunities.