Concordia University, St. Paul

The Oral History Project of the World War Two Years was an oral history project created in 2001 to collect, evaluate, and publish stories of Minnesotans with memories of the Second World War years (1941-1946). “Minnesotan” was used as a broadly defined and inclusive term to include those who were born in the state, have resided there at some time, or just in some way identify themselves with the state.

Lasting until 2005, the completed interviews—more than 100—formed the basis for two books published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press: Remembering the Good War: Minnesota’s Greatest Generation (2005) and Long Hard Road: American POWs During World War II (2007). This project enjoyed the financial support of the Minnesota Historical Society, which in 2002 provided a research and writing grant; Concordia University, St. Paul, whose Faculty Development Committee in 2001 gave generous start-up funding and whose Library and Archive preserves the interviews today; and several foundations and private donors.

The specific goals of the Oral History Project of the World War Two Years were two-fold, and thus unique: first, to record the experiences of veterans in all service branches and theatres of operation. Second, to record the experiences of those women and men who spent the war years outside the military—farmers, teachers, workers, students, those who worked at home, military spouses, and many others. Additionally, the project emphasized the contributions made by women, those on the home front as well as those in uniform, and add their voices to existing document collections. Every person’s testimony was valued.

The Oral History Project of the World War Two Years is partnering with the National Home Front Project in order to reach a wider audience. These transcribed individual interviews will become available for researchers, teachers, students, and anyone who desires a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of the early 1940s in the USA.

For more information about this World War II interview project, please contact saylor@csp.edu or visit the collection’s landing page on Concordia University, St. Paul’s Library and Archives website.

  • Thomas Saylor, Ph.D. is Professor of History at Concordia University, St Paul (Minnesota). He has an M.A. from the University of Akron (OH), a doctoral degree from the University of Rochester (NY), and has had fellowships at universities in Oslo, Berlin, Munich and Oxford. He has authored or co-authored four books, including three oral history volumes; written numerous reviews and articles; worked on two public television documentaries; supplied oral history content for Minnesota’s World War II memorial; and presented several times at the OHA Annual Meeting. 

    Thomas has worked in the field of oral history for more than fifteen years. He has founded and directed oral history projects on World War II American POWs, the World War II home front, postwar suburbanization in the St Paul-Minneapolis area, and Minnesota in the 1970s. From 2012-2016, he completed an extensive oral history biography with General John W. Vessey, Jr., who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States from 1982-1985.  Subsequently, Thomas worked with units of the Minnesota Army National Guard to print and distribute this oral history as a training manual, and archive digital audio and transcripts of all 87 hours of interviews. He also has worked with university students and given workshops on oral history to various groups.