NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) —Gov. Bill Haslam has declared this Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Week in Tennessee.
The governor notes that more than 200 Tennesseans are still missing in action since World War II. No one is sure just how many Tennesseans are former Prisoners of War.
The U.S. Veteran's Administration says that World War II era vets are now dying at the rate of more than 700 a day. To ensure that their stories are preserved, researchers at Middle Tennessee State University have been conducting oral history interviews with vets for several years.
Jim Havron is the archivist at MTSU’s Albert Gore Research Center.
“Listening to the story in their own words is an extremely powerful way to experience history. So we try to record the stories through their viewpoints and their personal stories; their personal feelings, their personal emotions, and their memories."
Havron recently interviewed mid-state resident and WWII veteran William Gabriel, who was captured late in the war. Gabriel says he and his fellow prisoners could tell Allied forces were advancing steadily, because German forces kept moving them deeper into Germany by train.
“We knew that they were closing in all the time, because that’s why they kept moving us. We could see the bombs. We could see where they kept dropping the bombs. We didn’t know who it was, whether England or America or who it was. But they were dropping bombs, so they kept moving us, see.”
The Gore Center is interested in speaking to vets of any age and from any branch of the service. The Center hopes to find the funding soon to make the entire collection available online.