Guidelines for interviewing veterans in your family are available from the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.

  • Personal narratives, including audio- and video-taped interviews and written memoirs
  • Correspondence, including letters, postcards, v-mail, and personal diaries
  • Visual materials, including photographs, drawings, and scrapbooks

The Project collects first-hand accounts of U.S. Veterans from the following wars:

  • World War I (1914-1920)
  • World War II (1939-1946)
  • Korean War (1950-1955)
  • Vietnam War (1961-1975)
  • Persian Gulf War (1990-1995)
  • Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present)

In addition, those U.S. citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.) are also invited to share their valuable stories.

Preparing For and Interviewing Veterans in Your Family:

  1. Complete forms.

  2. Prepare questions before the interview; write them down.

    • Review the completed Biographical Data Form [PDF, 127KB] and conduct a pre-interview with the veteran, if possible.
    • Use the interview outline [PDF, 2.31MB] for ideas (found on page 2 of the complete Field Kit).
  3. Use the highest quality recording equipment and microphone available to you.

  4. Become familiar with your recording equipment and test it before you begin the interview.

    • Check both sound and lighting before each interview.
    • Check battery or power levels, or alternatively, connect the recorder to an external power source.
  5. Interview in a quiet, well-lit room using a stationary chair. Avoid noise from:

    • fluorescent lights
    • chiming clocks
    • heating and cooling systems
    • ringing telephones
    • televisions, radios and computers
    • other conversations
    • pets
    • outside, such as traffic, wind or rain
  6. Be sure the questions and answers are recorded.

    • It is not necessary for the interviewer to be seen on camera, but it is important that each question can be heard clearly on the recording.
  7. For video interviews:

    • Use an external microphone pointed toward the interviewee.
    • Mount the camera on a tripod.
    • Position the camera a few feet from your interviewee.
    • Focus the camera on the interviewee’s face, upper body and hands.
    • Avoid using the zoom feature while recording.
  8. For audio interviews:

    • Use an external microphone pointed toward the interviewee.
    • Position the microphone nine inches from the interviewee.
    • Use a microphone stand.

Be sure the tape has started recording before you start speaking!

I’d add just two more things: first, be sensitive to and respectful of your subject and his or her experiences, and second, do the interviews now, even if you haven’t the time to cooperate with the Library of Congress project. You can always submit later to have your relative become part of the military historical record.

To learn more, visit this link at the Library of Congress.