Profile: Megan Harris

Senior Reference Specialist

Megan Harris is Senior Reference Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP) of the American Folklife Center. Working with researchers and the general public, she coordinates access to VHP's archive of oral histories and other materials pertaining to American veterans. She holds an MA in History from the University of Maryland, College Park, and has worked at the Library of Congress since 2007.

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NoteStreams By Megan Harris

Stand Down: Recording Homeless Veterans’ Stories

The services VTC provides to this vulnerable population are commendable and much needed, as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that more than 39,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.
Library of Congress

Category: Social Awareness

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Beyond ‘I Regret to Inform You’

During World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, the military employed Western Union to communicate official notifications to the families of servicemembers. This included letting loved ones know that their relative was missing in action, or had been taken prisoner, wounded, or killed in action.

Category: Military History

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‘Wish I Was Back Painting–Was Never As Bad As This’

Like the soldiers discussed in the 1980s song about the Vietnam War, “19,” Corporal Robert Geisler was just 19 years old when he was flown to Vietnam in 1966. Over the span of 90 letters written in 1966 and ’67, he wrote of hardships and horrors that would later be reflected in other songs and films about the war. These letters are remarkable for their honesty and emotional resonance.
The following is a guest post by VHP Digital Conversion Specialist Matt McCrady, and is the fourth in a five-part series of blog posts related to correspondence in Veterans History Project collections.
VHP is the Veterans History Project, A project of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

Category: Military History

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Please Write Often: Wartime Correspondence

In the diary that he kept while serving in France during World War I, Private First Class James Rudolph Sorenson made short entries describing each day’s most notable events. On August 11, 1918, he wrote, “Fired [gun barrages]. Valley was shelled heavily twice by the enemy. Our battery lost some horses and had one man wounded.” The entry for the following day, August 12, 1918, was just four words: “Fired. Mail from home.”

Category: Military History

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“Moments with You”: Correspondence in VHP Collections

For servicemembers coping with loneliness, harsh conditions, and the stark realities of combat, letters provided critical sustenance. Receiving news from home–or the lack of it–could drastically affect morale.
VHP is the Veterans History Project, A project of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

Category: Military History

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Today Was Tough – But I Took It

Many of the young men drafted into service in World War II arrived at boot camp at the height of physical fitness, fresh from a school sports career, or from years of labor on a farm. One such Army Airman was even a former Olympic athlete.
The following is a guest post by Digital Conversion Specialist Matt McCrady.

Category: Military History

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Happy Birthday, Navy!

The United States Navy turns a whopping 240 years old on October 13th. On this day in 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy, thus establishing what would eventually become the United States Navy.

Category: Military History

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Navy Veterans of the Pacific Theater, Part II

The following is the second of a two-part guest post by Joseph Patton, a Library of Congress Junior Fellow working with the Veterans History Project this summer.

Category: Military History

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War in Paradise: Navy Veterans of the Pacific Theater, Part I

The following is the first of a two-part guest post by Joseph Patton, a Library of Congress Junior Fellow working with the Veterans History Project this summer.
Last month, I found myself walking the National Mall in Washington, DC, after the sun had set and the lights blazed on the monuments. The way they are lit and the warm night air create something very sacred for me, especially around the National World War II Memorial, where I often end up. As I admired how peaceful it was, I overheard a tour guide behind me commenting on the importance of the memorial’s position between “Washington, the father of the country, and Lincoln, the great savior of the nation.” That deification bothered me, but it wasn’t until I read the inscription on the monument by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz that I understood why.
“They fought together as brothers-in-arms. They died together and now they sleep side by side. To them we have a solemn obligation.”

Category: Military History

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Inquiring Minds: Anna Coleman Ladd & WWI Vets

Last month, eighth-graders Benjamin King, Maria Ellsworth and Cristina Escajadillo – all students at the Singapore American School – performed an original 10-minute play at the Library of Congress inspired by the institution’s collections and connections.
Contemplating a distinctly somber topic — the mental and physical wounds wrought by World War I — the students highlighted the life and accomplishments of Anna Coleman Ladd, an artist and sculptor who created facial masks to help wounded soldiers cope with their injuries and reintegrate into civilian life after World War I.

Category: Military History

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Aleutian Islands: WWII's Forgotten Campaign

As I write this blog post on March 13, it is 29 degrees here in Washington, DC, and it seems impossible to believe that spring will arrive in just over a week. Emerging from one of the snowiest and coldest winters that many regions of the country have seen in decades, in which the phrase “polar vortex” became a routine part of our vocabulary, it feels like an appropriate time to recognize those who faced Arctic temperatures on the battlefield.
While some of the war’s most gripping stories came out of this campaign, it has not received the same popular historical attention as other theaters and battles, leading to its nickname as the “lost campaign” of the war.

Category: Military History

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“…Faithful And True Even To Death.”

The following is a guest post by Matt McCrady, VHP Digital Conversion Specialist.
Of the thousands of veterans’ stories archived with the Veterans History Project, the story of a Marine PFC known simply as Lucky stands out as truly unique. Lucky didn’t tell his own story for the project. Lucky left no letters or diaries, and no photo exists of him. In fact, the only remaining physical reminder of his service is an Honorable Discharge certificate. Yet after hearing Lucky’s story, it’s difficult to forget this quiet soldier who did his duty and was rewarded with nothing more than three pounds of food a day.
The thing about Lucky was that he wasn’t even human. Lucky was one of the many dogs that have served in the military alongside human handlers.

Category: Military History

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The End Of Two Wars

May 8, 1945: The Allies accept Germany’s unconditional surrender, thus marking the end of the war in Europe. Despite the fact that the war is not yet over, the world celebrates; there is dancing in the streets of cities from London to Los Angeles. The date becomes known as V-E Day, or “Victory in Europe Day.”
Fast forward almost exactly thirty years, to April 30, 1975: North Vietnamese forces capture Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam.
Unlike V-E Day, there are no newspaper headlines declaring victory, let alone global jubilation.

Category: Military History

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World War I Remembered

In a letter sent to his parents on November 10th, 1918, Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Lucius B. Nash wrote, “I expect as I set here writing tonight history is being made as it never was before, and people all over the whole world are thinking of just one thing–”Will Germany accept the Armistice?”
As Nash correctly predicted, history was indeed made that night.
Americans commemorate the World War I Armistice, and the sacrifice of all American veterans, by recognizing Veteran’s Day every November 11th.

Category: Military History

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