Virginia Tech is asking for your help by participating in a “transcribe-a-thon.”
They need people to help them type out handwritten notes from soldiers during World War 2.
Words on a screen. Something we’ve become all too familiar with these days, but some of these words haven’t been seen for more than 70 years.
“This collection contains about 65,000 pages of handwritten reflections from soldiers written during World War II,” said Professor of History Ed Gitre.
Ed Gitre is leading the event. He started this project about six months ago and has learned a lot about our average soldiers through these survey documents.
“Many of them felt like this was there one opportunity to speak their minds. So you’ll see responses like ‘no one can tell me to shut up. This is my moment, and I’m going to tell you what my experience has been like,” said Gitre.
Gitre explained the U.S. Army started these surveys asking soldiers about their experiences very close to the Pearl Harbor attack.
“They had plans before, but it was just coincidence they got authorization and they started to conduct these surveys the day after, and the soldiers didn’t really know what they were doing when they were called to go to the first location to take the surveys.”
He says he’s seen a few documents from all time periods of the war, but he hasn’t quite reached the time of the D-day Invasion.
“I think there are going to be some gems in there from that period, but we don’t know yet. That’s why it’s so important to get these transcribed so we have a wide portrait beyond what we already know about D-Day which is quite a lot.”
Gitre said although these surveys were done anonymously, they really bring a whole new angle to the stories we already know, especially those stories we share on Veteran’s Day.
“They might have filled all the margins talking about their experience. So for me, there’s a very poignant, direct connection between the average GI and the Veteran that we honor today.”
Once the handwritten documents have been transcribed, which is estimated to take two years, and reunited with the rest of the Army’s surviving survey data, the entire reconstituted collection will be made available through a free, open-access website.
If you would like to volunteer to transcribe, find more info here.