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Vol State World War II Memorabilia Presentation

By Madelyne VanHemert

Vol State held a WWII memorabilia event on March 19 in the Rochelle Center. 

The WWII event was made possible by Pete Johnson who is the son of a WWII veteran. Johnson obtains collectibles and is in possession of military items that are German, and Japanese, as well as American homefront items. 

Students got the opportunity to see the physical items from WWII but also got a chance to hear Johnson speak on the topic. He shared the stories that he had gathered from interviewing WWII veterans.

World War II ended worldwide in 1945, meaning it has been 79 years since the war’s final year. As of Nov. 2023, there were 119,00 WWII veterans still alive. If you would like to read more about the statistics of WWII veterans click here

“Most WWII veterans are no longer with us. Being able to see these artifacts may be the closest we will ever get to hearing from someone who lived through this war. Letters and diaries are obvious ways we can hear a person’s experience, but I think even other items can also tell a story,” said History Professor Zachary McCullough. 

Getting the opportunity to hear from people directly connected to World War II gets slimmer as the years go on. Johnson allowing students to see his memorabilia collection has the potential to make WWII feel less distant and more real for students who otherwise might not have a personal connection to the war. 

 “I would argue that being able to see physical objects from the past makes an impact on us much more than seeing a picture in a book or on a PowerPoint presentation in class. Our culture is one that experiences history in movies, YouTube clips, and video games. We see so much CGI and special effects, that I think we forget that events like WWII were real events that people just like us experienced. For me personally, viewing these items reminds me that the people sent off to war in the 1930s and 1940s were just that, ‘people,’ not unlike you and me,” said History Professor McCullough.

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