Whose stories? What voices?

When you think of World War II, what do you think of first? If you’re a product of the American school system, you might think of Pearl Harbor, D Day, Rosie the Riveter, and the liberation of the Nazi death camps.  There are certain stories that ground our cultural narrative of WWII, that reflect our cultural anxieties and values and reinforce our collective American identity. Those stories need to be told, but they are not the only stories. World War II was a vast and complicated enterprise; like any historical event, its story is made of many stories.  I’m always curious: whose stories become “the story”? Whose stories are marginalized? Whose voices have power and whose are silenced?

In my teaching and research, I look at lesser-known stories of World War II such as Japanese-American incarceration, Aleutian internment, and Pacific internment of Allied citizens by the Japanese. This site grew out of my interest in stories of childhood in World War II, particularly childhood under occupation, internment, or incarceration.  As you browse the site, you’ll see that some resources specifically address children’s experiences–my transcriptions of oral history recordings of former child internees, for example–while other resources are more general. I continue to search for child-specific resources, but in the meantime I strive to provide context and information about these events.

Some material here is original, and I will continue to add my own work; to my knowledge, however, there is no existing  site to combine childhood studies in these areas and that is one of the purposes of this site.  If you see material that is inaccurate or needs additional context, please let me know! And if you suggestions for new materials for me to add, including your own original work, I’d love to hear those as well.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the contributions of West Chester University students to this site. Graduate Assistants Samantha Jagernauths and Andrea B. helped with early iterations of War Stories. From August 2018 to December 2018, Graduate Assistant Megan Barnett added significant content, particularly visual content. In Summer 2020, undergraduate student Alix Duncan worked with me to re-format and align the site with best practices in digital humanities scholarship.

Gabrielle Halko, ghalko@wcupa.edu

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