WWII Experiences and Communication Technology

The overarching topic for my video will be the individual experience in World War II and the power of communication technology. I’m going to approach this by telling the connected stories of my grandfather and step-grandfather, interweaving their time in childhood, college, World War II, and after the war. The main focus of the video will be their World War II experiences but will end in current time.

Most of the story will be told with my grandfather, Roland, as the primary character. I will start with his childhood in rural upstate South Carolina during the Depression, going off to college in Indiana, and meeting his roommate, Kenneth, who he identified with because they were both from the South. I will then flash back to Kenneth’s childhood in rural western North Carolina and what brought him to Indiana. I’ll then show the beginning of World War II and how each was drafted and dropped out of college, Roland to join the Army and Kenneth to join the Marine Corps. I’ll then follow Roland through his Army career, interweaving what Kenneth was doing at the same time. This will take Roland through several training schools (including one in Manhattan), to Italy, and finally to Japan, and will take Kenneth through basic training, into the Battle of Okinawa, and finally to China. During this section, I’m going to highlight how they kept in communication with each other the entire time and were even able to visit each other right before Kenneth was shipped off to the South Pacific. Even though they never saw each other again, they stayed in contact after the war, as well. Roland is still going to be the main character, and I’m going to briefly show how he moved back home to South Carolina, finished school to become an engineer, got married, and had five children.

I’m then going to switch the story to Kenneth’s perspective. I’m going to put in that he went back home, got a job working as a civil engineer for the NC Highway Dept, got married, and had one daughter. His wife died in the early 1960s, and in May 1963 he got a letter from Selma, Roland’s wife. She had found his address in Roland’s papers and wanted to let him know that Roland had died of cancer that spring. He wrote back, and they soon began corresponding. They got married 12 months later and had a daughter together in 1965. I’m then going to have a brief montage of snapshots of my family from 1964 until now, ending with the most current images of the entire family taken at Kenneth’s 84th birthday. Then, I’m going to jump back to the two men as college roommates, and pointing out how they never could have guessed that one day their children would share a sister and their grandchildren would be related.

My historical arguments are going to be related to the evolution of communication technology and its power to bring people and families together, both figuratively and literally. I’m going to highlight the ongoing written communication between Roland and Kenneth, and between Kenneth and Selma, pointing out that had they not stayed in touch, my family would not be around. During the photo montage at the end, I’m going to show how my mom and her sisters, who are spread across two states, keep in touch through many hours on the phone, and how my cousins and I, who are spread around the world, keep in touch using modern communication technology: texting, email, facebook, and blogs. I’m going to show how, using the three generations of my family, that technology is only enabling communication, not creating it and how there has always been a human desire to connect with each other across distances, regardless of the means available.

I’m planning on using a number of different elements to tell this story. The main one will be through photographs, including personal family snapshots, official military photography, and other World War II images. I’m going to get the images not owned by my family from the Marine Corps History Division and the U.S. Army Signal Corps photographic collection held at the National Archives and Library of Congress. For the World War II section, I’m going to tell Roland’s story using excerpts from letters he wrote to his father chronicling his time in the Army and I’m going to tell Kenneth’s story using excerpts from the official USMC command chronologies in the US Marine Corps Archives. For the section which takes place after the war, I’m going use interviews with Kenneth, my mother, and her siblings. Throughout the entire piece, I’m going to have period music playing in the background. Right now, I don’t think I want to have voice-over narration, relying instead on text to tell the story, but I might change my mind.

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One Response
  1. jlapple says:

    I think this is an excellent “use” of digital storytelling, in that you are using primary characters to tell a very vivid story, as well as the use of the secondary interviews later in the piece. The idea of weaving in and out of their different perspectives adds life and depth to the story. Perhaps a voice-over narration might help to tie everyone’s thoughts together and to draw important parallels for the viewer. Sounds like a very engaging idea.