Marines painting verbal pictures of their service

By Rick Blackwell email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

To get a first-hand account of the Civil War or World War I, in most cases, you have to read the letters soldiers sent home.

However, beginning in World War II, the military began shooting interviews of its soldiers and is now beginning to archive many of those stories online, so that generations down the line can see them.

Rob Taglianetti was once a Marine himself. Now, he's interviewing other Marines for the U.S. Marine Corps' Oral History Program.

Today, Taglianetti is asking Corporal Chuck Barbee how many days he spent in combat at Iwo Jima.  "All 36 days," says Barbee.

Taglianetti is now something of a surrogate artist helping other Marines paint the verbal pictures of their service.

Taglianetti asks Barbee, "Why the Marine Corps?"

Barbee says, "That's where the action is."

Chuck Barbee's action came at the horrendously bloody battle of Iwo Jima. "Our objective was to capture Mt. Siribachi. We took in guys who raised the flag," says Barbee.

Some of the Marines' stories come directly from the action. Staff Sergeant Vince Lonergan's radio broadcasts from Iwo Jima are some of the stories the Marine Corps has online, in the form of podcasts.

They are the remarkably vivid stories from each war since World War II. Stories like those of Jefferson DeBlanc, a fighter pilot who had to take out a gunner on a Japanese aircraft carrier who says "I took the guy out, right away.  When I pulled back up, that's when the action started."

Wesley Fox tells the story of the battle in which he won the medal of honor, in 1965: "As I moved along my front, I thought that I had more casualties than I really did at that stage, because every Marine was down."

As the interviewer, Taglianetti says, the stories are more than just military journalism. "These oral histories fill in the blanks about who, what, where, when and how that gives the human element to the record," says Taglianetti.

And, now, that human element is available to anyone, anytime in cyberspace.