Digital Story Title: “I’ll Be Seeing You”: A Snapshot Look at World War II Life
The main focus of my digital story is on the personal experiences of one man – my grandfather, Roland Quinn – who was in the Army for two and a half years during the Second World War. During the first year and a half of that time, he was shuffled between multiple Army training schools, rarely completing any of them because of general disorganization and the Army constantly changing their programs. The story follows his life through the pictures he took and the letters and postcards he sent home on a regular basis the entire time he was in the service. Interwoven into this narrative is the story of his college roommate – Kenneth Rabb – who was a Marine during the war, and who I identify at the end of the story as my step-grandfather, who married my grandmother after Roland’s death. I tell Kenneth’s story through his photographs and the things Roland wrote about him in the letters, with overarching narration tying everything together. Through it all, particularly using Roland’s Army experiences, I am arguing that the typical view Americans have of the US Army during the World War II years as a vast, invincible, and efficient force is actually not as clear when the experiences of individual soldiers are examined. Instead, a picture of average men called upon to face difficult circumstances while dealing with the normal problems associated with any large, bureaucratic organization is seen. I then close the story by showing how the experiences of both Roland and Kenneth have affected my life and the life of my family.
I have two main goals with creating this digital story. The first is to tell the story of my grandfathers in an accurate, interesting manner. Roland died when my mother was four years old. She and her younger siblings have very little to no memory of him, and her older siblings have never gotten the chance to learn much about his Army experiences. My cousins and I grew up hearing a little bit about who he was, but knowing essentially nothing about his life. When I found the collection of his letters and photographs at my great-aunt’s house a few years ago, I realized that I had discovered a gold mine of information, first about World War II, but also as a window into the personality and character of the grandfather I had never met. I am really hoping that this story will help my family learn more about Roland’s life and to get to know him as a person in a way most of us have never had the chance to do before. I am also hoping to honor his and Kenneth’s time in military service and the difficult situations they faced and sacrifices they made during the war.
My second main goal is to show how the dominant historical narrative concerning the military during World War II, particularly the Army, is a little too triumphant and doesn’t take many of the problems and issues that the men dealt with into account. I am not trying to denigrate the military or the things the servicemen accomplished, or to in any way reduce their status as World War II victors. I am just trying to show that, when individual experiences are examined, the story becomes a little more complex than that portrayed in most popular histories or social studies textbooks.
Who is your intended audience?
I have two main groups that this story is focused toward. The first is, as I said, my family, particularly those of us who were not born when Roland died. The second intended audience is middle to high school age students. I feel that this story can both introduce them to everyday life (both on the home front and abroad) in World War II and the experiences of average soldiers, as well as help them learn how to critically analyze commonly-held views of historic events. Also, I am hoping that the story will be of value to anyone who has an interest in history or World War II, regardless of age or academic level.