Less than 10 days apart the nation lost a pair of men who were more than fathers and sons. They were World War II veterans, one an original Montford Point Marine.
With the loss of local veteran advocate George Barrows and Angus Hardie “Jay” Jamerson, the urgency to preserve such precious pieces of American history rises; and local organizations are doing their part to capture those stories and mementos.
Onslow County Museum
Onslow County Museum has made an effort to help tell the story of World War II not only as a whole point in America’s history, but also how the conflict shaped the local area specifically.
World War II and those who walked through those years have been focal points of not only changing galleries within the museum, but also as part of the permanent exhibit, Water and the Wood, Director of the Museum Lisa Whitman-Grice said.
The portion of the Water and the Wood exhibit helping preserve World War II history locally includes how the war shaped current Onslow County, as well as pays tribute to Montford Point Marines.
“It is an important story to tell because not only because of the sacrifices and the service our World War II veterans gave, but also this area was such an important location because of Montford Point Marines,” she said. “It was also the first place where woman Marines trained. For Onslow County, World War II was such a dramatic turning point for us as community. That story is vital to our story.”
Telling the story through photographs and exhibits is only part of the preservation of history.
It must be shared, and Onslow County Museum’s changing galleries frequently leave the museum in an effort to reach as many people as possible.
Three years ago a changing gallery was dedicated to the history of World War II, Camp Lejeune, Camp Johnson and Montford Point Marines, Whitman-Grice said.
“We loaned that exhibit to City Hall for quite a while,” she said.
Whitman-Grice explained that preserving local World War II history relies heavily on efforts of recording oral histories of those who experienced it firsthand.
The Veterans Memorial Project is a national endeavor that strives to find veterans and those who can speak to conflicts in a knowledgeable way and will share their stories and record them for future generations.
The Museum of the Marine, while still deep in the early phase, is planning on collecting these stories.
Museum of the Marine
For decades the Museum of the Marine board has worked to construct a place that would honor Carolina Marines.
A large part of the museum’s efforts to keep history alive will be with Memory Zones, essentially recording booths where veterans and those connected to American wars can record their stories.
Saving these personal stories is important for the younger generations, retired Sgt. Maj. Joe Houle said.
Houle is one of the museum’s organizers.
“We, as a society, do not teach history in our schools anymore,” he said. “The American people and our future generations need to know about those men and women who actually made America great in the ’40s, and why we don’t speak a different langue. They fought to preserve our history and our democracy. It is important to capture those stories to let future generations know what the sacrifice of those service members in all conflicts has done to keep America free.”
Historian for the Museum of the Marine Kim Kimble has been working to record the oral histories of Onslow County veterans for several years, as part of the national Veterans History Project.
The oral histories recorded are not only important for museums and eventually the Library of Congress, which will later receive a copy of the recordings, but also those who visit the museums.
“It is hard to capture the human side of war,” he said. “These recordings will provide when museum visitors want to hear firsthand experiences of what it was like being in fox hole.”
Although Kimble has done roughly 100 oral histories with veterans across the board, finding those veterans and knowledgeable people to tell their stories can be a struggle, he said.
There is such a small group of World War II veterans in the area and then those may not want to share, or be able to share their story, Kimble said.
Kimble relies on retired Marines like Houle to remain connected to the older Marines in the area, because there is no active database storing local World War II veteran information.
The museum’s efforts to collect oral histories is important and needs to become even more so, he said.
“My uncle and father were World War II veterans,” Kimble said. “You don’t really appreciate it (their history) until it is too late. And you don’t really realize how important this is until they are all gone. The last World War I veteran died in the last few years. The rate at which World War II veterans are dying, by 2020, there won’t be any left.”
Those wanting to share their story should call the musuem at 910-937-0033 .
Montford Point Marine Museum
The museum dedicated to the first African Americans allowed to train for combat within the Marine Corps relies on word of mouth and both the local and national recognition Montford Pointers receive in order to preserve the history of their original members, National Monument Director and former museum director Houston Shinal said.
The museum has a system established that already contains 2,500 verified Montford Point Marines, Shinal said, but that is only a drop in the bucket considering there were 25,000 who went through training at the segregated camp.
Using the database the museum can reach out to family members to ask for contributions, whether temporary or permanent, to the museum such as mementos or even paperwork.
“We try to scan and photocopy any documents we are lucky enough to get our hands on,” Shinal said.
With 44 chapters of the Montford Point Association across the nation and internationally, the network for finding Montford Pointers to reach out to in an effort to tell their story is immense, Shinal said.
“If there are Marines in the area, that chapter tries to engage them as much as possible,” he said. “There is a lot of effort to assist in identifying these guys and trying to capture as much of that history now while they are still living.”
Shinal estimates that there are only six or seven local original Montford Point Marines.
He hopes with continued headlines, family members will continue to come forward with their family member’s information.
“When families see the stories, it never dawned on them to share that their dad was a Montford Point Marine and didn’t know there was a legacy attached to their service,” Shinal said. “We want people to contact us and we can work that out.”
To share a story contact Shinal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-499-6727.