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Staff Favorites

A showcase of our most treasured collections selected by VHP staff members. The written descriptions of these veterans’ stories highlight the diversity and dramatic content of our holdings. View additional staff favorites.

Image of James WoolseyJames Woolsey

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At the tender age of seventeen, James Woolsey joined the Army to fight in the “Great War,” World War I. As Woolsey recalled in an interview conducted when he was 102 years old, “When you joined the Army, you weren’t handed a gun; you were thrown a gun. And if you couldn’t catch it, you were out.” During World War I the development and use of new technology dramatically affected his experience. In his narrative Woolsey relates the fascination with automatic weaponry and the gruesome results of the use of gas. “The Germans gassed us,” he recalled. “I saw soldiers whose clothes were burned right off their bodies and skin burned to a crisp from the gas attack.” These experiences on the battlefields of France were not Woolsey’s last experiences with the horrors of war. After the war, he began playing the piano and became a musician at the urging of his family. In December 1941 he was on vacation in Hawaii, where he witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the age of forty-one he reenlisted in the US Navy and became a radar decoder. During his service in the Pacific Theater, Woolsey was wounded during the battle to take Okinawa. He also performed with the USO and helped to compose the song “USO Boogie” for Glenn Miller and his band. Woolsey’s interview is noteworthy for his vivid accounts of battles that span two world wars.

Chosen by Elizabeth King, Processing Technician. Elizabeth received her A.A.S. degree as a Paralegal from Northern Virginia Community College. She joined the Veterans History Project in July 2007.

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  The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center
  March 15, 2007
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