Tips on Conducting Interviews with WWII Veterans – iHistory WW2 Student Video Contest

By: Heather Van Allen & Jeffrey Worthington

Claude Hobbs - Veteran of Omaha Beach landing
Claude Hobbs – WWII Veteran of Omaha Beach landing, 1944.

It’s time for your interview with a WWII veteran, and you’re just about ready to film. Following a few tips may help you create a video that looks professional without appearing stiff or overly rehearsed.

Take a deep breath, relax. Rather than approaching your interview like a scripted list of questions you just have to get through, talk to the person like you would anyone else. Try not to focus so much on being recorded, that you get nervous and forget that you’re just having a dialogue with another human being.

Practice your interview introduction enough so that it feels natural. Get to know the veteran, finding out all the pertinent details, before your interview time. Introduce him or her like you would a good friend you highly admire. Consider beginning with something like, “This is _________. It’s October ____, 2013, and today I’m in Anytown, USA, talking to __________ …” and go from there.

When opening your interview, be sure to include all of the following information for the veteran: full name, birth date, war and branch of service and highest rank achieved. Also state the date and location (city, state) of the interview; your full name and relationship to the veteran (if applicable); the name of anyone present who is assisting with the interview; and that the interview is being conducted for the iHistory WW2 Contest and Veterans History Project for the Library of Congress.

Before asking your first question, thank your interviewee for agreeing to be there and talk to you (Example: “Thank you, ________, for taking time to talk to me today.”)

Ask open-ended questions. Encourage the subject to open up about their past.

Keep your comments to a minimum. Be willing to listen and let the veteran tell his or her story.  For example, here is an interview filmed for the Library on Congress a few years ago.

Keep the interview going. Gently prod to keep the story going by asking, “Then what happened?”

Interview Requirements

Before conducting your interview, be sure you have completed the following steps:

Ensure that your recording media complies with the Library of Congress’ Acceptable Media and Formats.

Use an external microphone for conducting the video interview.

Properly fill out the release and biography forms with the WWII veteran. Submitting an incomplete form may lead to the disqualification of your entry.

Submissions due November 20th, 2013.  To learn how to enter the contest and view the Official Rules, please visit:

Visit the iHistory WW2 website for additional tips and resources for your mini-documentary. To stay up to date be sure to LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Find Your Angle to Interview WWII Veterans – iHistory WW2 Student Video Contest

By: Heather Van Allen & Jeffrey Worthington

Oscar C. Fitzhenry - Army Air Corps WWII Veteran
Oscar C. Fitzhenry – Army Air Corps WWII Veteran

Before you do your interview for your WW2 veteran project, it’s a good idea to decide on an angle so you can ask focused questions. Remember, with your mini-documentary, you have to tell the story within a limited amount of time–3 to 5 minutes. Determining your focus in advance will help you gather the most important points during your interview

Here are some strategies for finding your angle.

1) Talk with the veteran to get some background details before the video interview. Find out where and in what capacity he served. Ask the veteran to share highlights of his or her service during WWII.

2) In forming your angle, think about the story you want to tell and form your video interview around that idea. One of the judging criteria for the mini-documentaries is “Content & Story.” Your video should provide a cohesive and compelling story of personal sacrifice; have a unique and innovative approach to covering the specified topic guidelines; be accurate, informative and of superior quality; and demonstrates any of the following virtues: courage, loyalty, integrity, respect, overcoming prejudice, honor, self-sacrifice, perseverance, leadership, humility, forgiveness and service to the country. (See the iHistory WW2 Contest Official Rules)

3) Bounce some ideas off of family and friends. When brainstorming for an angle, you may find it helpful to let a few other people in on what you’re working on and ask them what they think of your ideas and/or if they have any thoughts to contribute. Share some of the pre-interview details you gathered, and find out what highlights your family and friends think would make the mini-documentary the most interesting. By getting the input of others, you might find yourself with a great angle you may not have come up with otherwise.

For more tips on putting together your WW2 project, visit the iHistory WW2 website:  To stay up to date be sure to LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Prepping to Interview a WWII Veteran – iHistory WW2 Student Video Contest

By: Heather Van Allen & Jeffrey Worthington iHistoryWW2contest-TuskegeeAirmen-CharlesMcGee

Doing some homework prior to your WWII interview will help the process go smoothly. Here are some pre-interview tasks to check of your list before you roll camera.

Find your angle. Before you begin the interview, determine what focus you want your mini-documentary to have. Tackle an intriguing subject that will be feasible to make into a 3- to 5-minute film.

Get to know your interviewee. Contact the veteran to collect some biographical information, using the Sample Questionnaire as a guide. Take notes over the phone or plan to meet at a public place, such as a nearby coffee shop. Help your veteran fill out the required Biographical Data Form at this time, if possible.

Gather some research. Learn all you can about the key battles and places associated with the veteran’s service. Also, ask the veteran to bring medals, letters, materials and photographs to the video interview.

Arrange your interview-day details. Select a location for your interview that will be comfortable for the veteran while being a quiet, properly-lit environment, suitable for filming. Set a date and time that works well for your interviewee, allowing plenty of time to capture at least 30 minutes of usable footage. Check your audio and video equipment, verifying that it is all in working order.

For more tips, and to download some important forms, for your WW2 project, visit the iHistory WW2 website:  To stay up to date be sure to LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Educators Help Your Student Win the iHistory WW2 Video Contest Grand Prize Prize – A Blackmagic Cinema Camera

By: Heather Van Allen & Jeffrey Worthington

Wind Talker - Jack Jones

For teachers looking for new ways to motivate students to want to learn about the important events in history, the iHistory WW2 contest may be just the thing. You can help bring history to life by encouraging your students to interview WW2 veterans and create their own mini-film documentaries—possibly even for extra credit. Your students can learn and, at the same time, get involved in the teaching process by presenting their projects to the class. Plus, those who participate will not only have their video interviews archived at the Library of Congress, they will also have the chance enter to win prizes for themselves and their schools.

Educators, you can help make the iHistory WW2 contest a success. Besides working the contest into your lesson plans and offering the project as an extra credit assignment, here are some suggestions for spreading the word and guiding your students through the project.

  • Print our flyer to handout: Click Here
  • Hang the poster on your classroom bulletin board and in the teachers’ lounge.
  • Arrange for the contest to be announced via your school’s public-address system.
  • Announce the contest during the next assembly at your school.
  • If available, provide resources from the school to help your students complete the project (eg. video cameras, lighting equipment, computers for editing).
  • Encourage your students to Register on the iHistory WW2 website to access the step-by-step guide, release forms and resources.
  • Remind students to vote for their favorite videos on YouTube, starting January 6th, 2014.

To stay up to date be sure to LIKE us on  Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

How to Find and Interview WWII Veterans – Win Prizes – iHistory WW2 Student Video Contest

Ready to learn about history & win prizes?
Check out the iHistory WW2 Contest & Help Record WWII Veterans’ Stories!

By: Heather Van Allen & Jeffrey Worthington

You know you want to interview a WW2 veteran for the iHistory WW2 video contest; now you have to find one.

Start your search by asking a WW2 veteran that you know if they would be willing to be interviewed. If you do not know a veteran, maybe someone you know does. Ask your teachers, friends, and family to help put you in contact with a veteran.

Also, consider visiting or contacting your nearest Veterans Affairs (VA) facility. Staff members may be able to direct you to other opportunities to meet veterans. You might also be able to connect with a veteran through your local American Legion Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post, the National Association of American Veterans, senior citizens centers and even Nursing Homes.

Part of finding a veteran for your project is securing that interview. Write a letter to introduce yourself and to explain the project and the interview process. Include your contact phone number and close with a promise to follow-up with a phone call by a specific date. When you call, repeat who you are and why you want to do the interview. Try to confirm an interview by setting a date, time and place, making it as convenient on your interviewee as possible. If he or she declines the interview, ask for a referral to another veteran who might be willing.

Looking for more tips, tricks and ideas for your WW2 History video? Visit the iHistory WW2 website and Register to read our Finding a Veteran Guide.


Submissions Open for iHistory WW2 Video Contest – Win Prizes for You and Your School – by Jeffrey Worthington

By: Jeffrey Worthington & iHistory WW2


Submissions for the iHistory WW2 Contest is now up!

Are you a young aspiring filmmaker, or an educator looking for an interactive World War II history project?

The iHistory WW2 contest is a nationwide contest that connects teens (ages 13-18) with American World War II veterans in an effort to help teens gain a greater understanding and appreciation for history while expanding their skills in journalism and video technologies.

The iHistory WW2 contest is an excellent history project for teachers looking for creative and interactive methods to teach history.  The contest gives students the opportunity to film interviews with veterans and submit them to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

Then the students will create a mini-documentary from the veterans’ interviews and submit them to the competition and have the chance to win coveted prizes for themselves and their school.  The Grand Prize winner and the winner’s school will each receive a package which includes a Blackmagic Cinema Camera with a Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine Lens!   The total value of combined prizes is over $11,000.

Submission dates for the contest are October 1 to November 20, 2013.  For more details about the contest visit: or visit our Press page for additional materials.