WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Giving a Voice to Western Illinois' Military Veterans

Dec 6, 2016

John Moon of Macomb said he signed up for the military after hearing news about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

“I told my wife the newspaper and the news media are all showing that it’s going to be the last war. This will be the war to end all wars,” Moon said.

“Of course it wasn’t but I was gullible and I believed it.”

You can hear Moon tell that story and others from his military service – which included the Battle of Iwo Jima -- thanks to the Veterans Oral History Project, which remains on display at the Western Illinois Museum in Macomb through February 11, 2017. 

The project is organized by five groups:

John Moon flanked by Tim and Max Howe on October 5, 2011, after they recorded his oral history.
Credit Courtesy of the Western Illinois Museum

Joshua Spence, graduate student in the Department of History at Western Illinois University and an intern at the Western Illinois Museum, said more than 60 veterans have recorded their recollections.  13 of those recordings are currently available for listening at the museum as part of its exhibit.

“The veterans are from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and post-1990 conflicts,” Spence said. “This is our way of showing the community what they’ve done and what their contributions are to the U.S. military.”

He said the exhibit also includes artifacts, maps, and photos.

Spence said military veterans from west central Illinois are invited to contact the museum to set up an appointment for recording their stories. He said it’s important to hear about Americans’ military contributions, no matter how great or seemingly small.

Joshua Spence at the Veterans Oral History Project exhibit at the Western Illinois Museum. The exhibit remains on display through February 11, 2017.
Credit Rich Egger

“One of the (oral histories) I listened to, her job was to go and get the payroll from the bank. And the ordeal of that and traveling in armored vehicles and having to carry a gun for the first time,” Spence said.

“These are small little stories that you normally don’t hear in the bigger picture of conflicts. So this is our way to preserve them for future generations.”