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Assistant professor of history hosts WWII display

By: Michaela Marcellino
Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 24 and 25, Vol State students had an opportunity to see a large display of items from World War Two. Peter Johnson, assistant professor of History, brought in his personal collection, and set them up in the Rochelle Center in Thigpen Library. There were four tables worth of items, as well as music from the 1940’s being played, and a slideshow of WWII photos.
His collection covers a wide range of items, and includes everything from uniforms, to weaponry, to ration boxes, to instruments, to patches, to flags, to newspapers and more. There were also multiple photographs, and even a yellow star that would have marked a Jewish person in that time.
“These are all World War II items that I have collected for a number of years, since I was probably ten. I bring [the collection] into my American history classes every semester to show, and to give some visual background. [The students] can actually see what we are learning in history. These are all artifacts from the war, and the items are about 70 to 75 years’ old. It gives you a first-hand view of what actually took place in the war, instead of just telling everybody. I have American, German, and Japanese items,” said Johnson.
As the Rochelle Center was filled with these artifacts, Students were able to peruse the tables and take it all in. “[The display] is amazing. We are probably the last generation to be able to know someone who actually fought in World War Two, so it becomes really personal. I think it is better to see [World War Two] like this, first-hand, as opposed to seeing it in a textbook. You feel much more connected to it. We are very fortunate to have someone is as passionate about history as Professor Johnson is,” said Kelly Sleeper, a Vol State student.
“I would hope students would be able to connect what they are seeing [here at the display] with what they are learning in class. I think that the more you connect visual aids, with auditory and all those other kinds [of aids], it helps you realize what is going on around you. The one part of history that I love, is that in order not to repeat it, you must learn from it.
Without these men and women who fought during World War Two, we would not be where we are now. We would not have the society or the freedoms that we so enjoy. They really paved the way,” said Jennifer Wooden, who does supplementary instruction for Professor Johnsons’ class.
“World War Two was a pivotal point in American History. Number one, it brought us out of the greatest economic depression that we have ever faced as a nation. When the bombs dropped at Pearl Harbor, unemployment virtually disappeared in six months. These men and women who volunteered and were drafted, answered the nations’ call. When they got victory, they literally came home and changed the face of America. Tom Brokaw, who was an NBC reporter, gave them the title ‘the Greatest Generation,’ and I wholeheartedly agree…[by seeing this display] I hope the students will gain a new appreciation of what it took for our nation to fight this war, and to succeed,” said Johnson.

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