Aaron Elson began recording the stories of World War II veterans in 1987 when he attended a reunion of the 712th Tank Battalion, with which his father served.
He launched World War II Oral History @ tankbooks.com in 1997 to promote "Tanks for the Memories," a book about the battalion. Soon, the site took on a life of its own. It now makes veterans' firsthand accounts available to thousands of readers.
Since that first reunion, Aaron has conducted more than 600 hours of interviews with veterans. It is the goal of tankbooks.com to keep the stories of these veterans alive and available to the public. You can help support this project by purchasing Aaron's book, or any of his remarkable series of oral history audio books available at audiomurphy.com.
This is important work, but while he is preserving a small portion of the history of a very large event, the real reason he began recording these stories, Aaron says, is not because they were historic, but because they were great stories, plain and simple, historic and entertaining stories of ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things under the most adverse circumstances.
Since the launch of tankbooks.com in 1997, the site has been used by many authors and documentarians, as well as high school and middle school students. And because the veterans whose stories appear on the site are real people, Aaron has brought dozens of people together. When then-15-year-old Lisa Keithley of Vancouver, Wash., for example, inherited her great-grandfather's uniform and war memorabilia, she discovered two of his stories on tankbooks.com. Elson was able to put her in touch with her great-grandfather's lieutenant, Dale Albee, and the two of them got together (see photo).
Aaron can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (888) 711-8265.