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Juniata Video Project Helps Veterans Preserve Memories of World War II

(Posted May 11, 2006)

World War II veterans, from left, Rose Bud Fenstermacher, Paul Heberling and Robert Barnoff pose in front of the Pennsylvania section of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Three Huntingdon-area residents who participated in a World War II oral history project at Juniata College, accompanied faculty and students from the college to present filmed interviews with veterans and home-front citizens to the Veterans History Archives at the Library of Congress.

The contingent presented 14 DVDs of individual interviews with Armed Forces and home-front veterans of World War II to Col. Robert Patrick, director of The Veteran's Project at the Library of Congress. The three veterans, Paul Heberling, of Huntingdon, Pa., an Army Air Corps veteran, Robert Barnoff, of State College, Pa., a Navy veteran, and Rose Bud Fenstermacher, of State College, Pa., a veteran of the U.S. Army WACs, were presented with pins.

"The oral history project was interesting for me because the students interviewing me were fascinated by some of my personal experiences, not only in the war, but also going to college on the GI Bill," says Barnoff, professor emeritus of civil engineering who in 1944 enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 17 right out of Punxatawney High School. He served on the tanker U.S.S. Trinity in the South Pacific, mustering out as an electricians mate.

"We were given a private tour of the new World War II memorial," says Donna Weimer, Thornbury Professor of Communication. "It was a beautiful and incredible day."

"It was exciting to be able to go to Washington, says Fenstermacher, who served from 1944 to 1945 in the Women's Army Corps, stationed at Newport News, Va. "The idea that I would be donating a tape of my experiences to the Library of Congress was something I couldn't have imagined. It was an honor."

Fenstermacher, who maintains a career in State College as an artist and interior designer, worked as a clerk, but also spent evenings at a hospital at Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia, helping wounded soldiers do art projects, such as soap carving, leatherwork and painting.

"When I think of all the soldiers who served in World War II, I was thrilled to be a part of it," she adds. "All service people did important things, no matter what it was. We were all kids willing to join an effort to win the war. To now have my experiences be a part of the Library of Congress, I never expected it to happen to me."

The recorded interviews with each veteran range in length from 30 to 90 minutes. According to Nathan Wagoner, director of Juniata's digital media program, the college will send three more DVDs to the veteran's archive as soon as editing is completed on the remaining films.

"It was a really moving experience for me as the veterans told us these fascinating stories as they went through the tour," says Ryan Wetzel, a senior from Butler, Pa. studying digital video and media production. Wetzel and Sarah Worley, an instructor in communication at the college, did all of the editing and post-production for the oral history project. "What struck me about the experience is how profoundly anti-war all the veterans are, but not in a political sense. They believe that no one should have to go through what they had to."

The World War II oral history project emerged from a program at the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Information technology at Penn State University. Weimer, who teaches at the IT governor's school every summer, organized a series of interviews with Huntingdon-area veterans at Juniata College.

"The project is a way of appreciating living people while also creating a record for generations to come," says Wagoner

The interviews with more than a dozen veterans began in 2003. Many of the interviews were filmed at the governor's school by high school students from across Pennsylvania.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.