A joint venture with
University of Missouri - St. Louis
Veterans Studies Program
SAMPLE ORAL HISTORY QUESTIONS
*NOTE- There is no magic list of questions that covers all types of interviews. This list should only be used as a guide and/or starting point. You should personalize and add to these questions taking into account a veteran’s branch of service, training, type of work, where they were stationed, the battles they fought in, etc. The best questions come from researching and learning more about the person before going into the interview. Make sure to listen to the interviewee and ask appropriate follow up questions.
Every oral history interview should begin with an introductory statement. Make sure you introduce yourself, the veteran, and anybody else who is present in the room (even if they aren’t speaking). Make sure you state where you are, what the date is, and that you are interviewing them for the Veterans History Project.
Demographic and Background:
---Can you start by telling me when and where you were born? ---Did you have any siblings?
---What did your father do? ---What did your mother do? ---Were you raised in _______?
---What did you do for fun as a child?
---Do you have any memorable stories that stick out?
---Did you work while you went to school?
---If yes, for whom? What did you do? Did it pay well? What did you spend your money on at the time?
---Did you have regular chores as a child?
---Where did you attend elementary and high school?
---Were these public or private schools that you attended?
---What was your favorite subject?
---Can you tell me where you were when Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) was attacked? ---Can you tell me what you thought when you first found out? ---Did you think you would go off to war at the time?
---How did it come about that you went into the service?
---Where you drafted or did you enlist?
---If enlisted, why did you pick the branch of service you did, and what did your family think when you told them you were joining?
---When and where were you sworn in?
--- What were your friends doing at that time?
---Where did you train?
---How was that experience?
---What are your recollections of your training? ---How was it adapting to military life?
---The physical regimen? The Barracks? The food? The social aspect?
---Where there any restrictions or rules that you found hard to deal with? --- What was a typical day like for you?
---What were you trained as?
---I imagine that some recruits didn’t make it through training, is that right? ---Do you think your training was adequate?
---Could you tell me about some of the work you did during the war? ---Where were you located or stationed?
---How did you get there?
---Did you have any close calls?
---Did you witness a lot of action or were your duties away from the front line?
---How was your morale & the morale of other servicemen/servicewomen? ---Were you under a lot of stress?
---Did you form a lot of friendships and camaraderie with the other servicemen/servicewomen?
---How did you stay in touch with family back home?
---Did you have much communication from home?
---Did you write home a lot?
---What did you and the others do for R&R or with any downtime that you may have had?
---Do you have any interesting or memorable experiences or stories that stick out in your mind regarding your experiences that haven’t come up yet that you would like to share?
War’s End & Coming Home:
---Where were you when war ended? ---Was there a celebration?
---How did you actually get home?
---Where did you come into the U.S.?
---What was the reunion like when you finally got home and saw your family?
---How was the readjustment back to civilian life? ---Was it difficult to find work?
---What line of work did you get into?
---Did you keep in contact with any of the men/women you served with after the war? ---Did you participate in any reunions?
---Are you active in or a member of any veterans’ organizations?
---Have you ever gone back to visit any of the places you trained or were stationed? ---If so, what was that like?
---Do you think your wartime experiences have affected your life, and if so, how? ---What are some of the life lessons you learned from your military service? Closing:
---How do you spend your time these days?
---Do you have any hobbies or activities that you like to do?
---Before we conclude, is there anything else that you would like to add or stories you would like to share that we didn’t get to?
---I would like to thank you for your service and taking the time today to share your experiences with me/us.
Copyright © 2018 Missouri Veterans History Project
Missouri Veterans History Project, c/o UMSL Veterans Studies Program, 574 Clark Hall, 1 University Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63121 I Phone: 314-516-6037 I E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org