Voices of Freedom, a new mobile recording studio designed to collect wartime oral histories, is ready to roll.
The mobile studio was unveiled at the annual open house of the Americans in Wartime Museum near Nokesville last weekend. Billed as a preview of the future museum, which is under construction in Dale City, the open house also featured living history displays and demonstrations of military vehicles, equipment and tactics.
Museum officials said the mobile studio, which records both video and audio, will make it much easier to give veterans the opportunity to share their experiences in wartime.
“The beauty of this is, we can go anywhere with it,” said project manager Greg Pass. “This helps us out tremendously.”
Pass said that the museum’s Wartime Oral History Project has recorded about 50 interviews over the past four years. He expects that number to grow quickly with the addition of the mobile studio. There are plans to take it to VFW Post 1503 in Dale City, he said, and the studio will be used to record interviews anywhere veterans can be found to tell their stories.
“We do everything from World War II all the way to Afghanistan,” Pass said, adding that “World War II is our priority.” The studio also will be used to record interviews with anyone directly affected by war, he said, such as Gold Star Mothers — women whose sons or daughters have been killed in wars — and USO dancers.
Pass said the mobile studio’s first interview was recorded at the open house on Saturday. “Today a gentleman came up who served with the 5th Ranger Battalion in World War II. He was first one we did an interview with [in the mobile studio], and it went fantastic.”
The Museum of Americans in Wartime will provide uncut footage of the oral histories to the Library of Congress, where researchers will be able to view them, said Bob Patrick, director of the library’s Veterans History Project.
Voices of Freedom is a key addition to the museum, said Allan D. Cors, founder and chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. “What this museum’s all about is to share the stories of those that served for generations to come,” he said.
Cors is also the owner of the property popularly known as “the Tank Farm,” southeast of Nokesville, where the museum holds its annual open house. About 100 operational military vehicles, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and jeeps, are kept on the property and many were displayed at the open house.
Watching and hearing the veterans recount their experiences can be extremely moving, Cors said. He related one such experience that occurred in 2004, when some of his tanks were displayed at the National Mall for the dedication of the National World War II Memorial.
“I just happened to be there at the Sherman tank when this fellow in a wheelchair was being rolled up, pushed by his son, followed by his wife and their grandchildren,” Cors said. The man in the wheelchair had served with the 3rd Armored Division in World War II, Cors said, and his son asked if his father could touch the tank.
“So we dropped the rope and he rolled the wheelchair over and sat there for about five minutes with his hand on the front of the tank. And he started crying,” Cors said. “He said nothing, but just [had] tears running down his cheeks. And then he started to talk — and talk and talk and talk. And he told the family things that they had never heard before. This was kind of a catalyst for him, bringing back the memories of what he did.”
The museum is under construction at a 70-acre site in Dale City, next to Interstate 95 at the Dale Boulevard exit. Cors said that the first phase of the project, which includes land acquisition and site preparation, is complete. He declined to give a target date for the museum opening, saying it depends on fundraising efforts.
Cors plans to donate many of his vehicles to the museum when it is complete. “Whatever the museum needs to tell the story,” he said. “It’s not a vehicle museum. It’s not about tanks and guns. . .it’s about those that served. This is here to be a background to help tell the story of those that served.”