Legacy Lecture

The American Soldier in World War II

April 25, 20245:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Marshall Foundation Building
340 VMI Parade
Lexington, Virginia

The American Soldier in World War II

The day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army administered the first “attitude survey” to members of the Ninth Infantry Division, then stationed at Fort Bragg. Soldiers were asked 118 questions about myriad facets of their military service and prior civilian experience.

Over the course of the war the army administered surveys to over half a million American soldiers across the globe. Survey topics covered leave policies, food preferences, radio listening habits, combat experiences, racial views, mental and physical health, postwar plans, and many others. A great many service members, promised absolute anonymity, took advantage of the final open-ended prompt that encouraged them to elaborate on their answers, or to write about anything else that might be on their minds. Eager to share their views, some filled every square inch of space on the page.

Survey records, including some 65,000 pages of open-ended “free comments,” languished in the National Archives until the launch of The American Soldier in World War II on the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Project director Ed Gitre will talk about the program and what the army learned when it surveyed America’s citizen-soldiers, highlighting the European Theater of Operations leading up to and after the D-Day landings.

How can I attend?

The event is free to the public, but reservations are required. To reserve a seat, or for more information about the event, contact [email protected] or call 540.463.7103, ext. 138.

How can I watch from home?

The presentation will also be livestreamed on the Marshall Foundation YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/2Or0E8D) simultaneously. Viewers of the stream are encouraged to write questions using the live video chat (to the lower right of the video) or via email at [email protected]. Chat will be monitored for abusive comments.

Who is Dr. Ed Gitre?

Ed Gitre is an associate professor of history at Virginia Tech. He is director of The American Soldier in World War II, a digital history project underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities that has made tens of thousands of uncensored firsthand accounts of U.S. military personnel accessible to scholars, students, and the wider public. His scholarship has appeared in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Current Research in Digital History, other academic journals and edited volumes, as well as in Business Insider, The Conversation, and Washington Post. He is currently writing a book on the battle over Jim Crow in World War II.