Best of WWII Public Programs: Veterans

A sampling of some of the Museum's most poignant programs featuring WWII veterans, civilians, and Holocaust survivors.

Above image courtesy of The American Legion, Jeff Stoffer

As you know, the Museum has built its foundation on the stories of those who were there, the veterans and civilian eyewitnesses to World War II. We have been blessed that we still have these remarkable individuals with us to impart their wisdom and share their experiences with our visitors and staff. Over the years, veterans have been featured prominently in our public programs. I’ve gone through our archive (available on our Livestream and YouTube channels) to select those that have stood out to me, and were highlights for the audience that got to experience these programs in person. Please share with any friends and family members you think would enjoy them as well!



The first selection I made has to do with the fact that this week marks the 78th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. We were fortunate enough to have four of the five surviving Raiders at our 2011 International Conference on World War II. It featured Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole (who served as Doolittle’s co-pilot on the raid), Major Thomas “Tom” Griffin, Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, and Staff Sergeant David Thatcher. The panel was moderated by Kevin Hudson, the grandson of author and Doolittle Raider historian C.V. Glines, who had to cancel his appearance at the last minute. The program lasts roughly 65 minutes.



BETTY REID SOSKIN, Home Front worker

Next up features Betty Reid Soskin from our 2012 International Conference. She was, and still is, the oldest serving Park Ranger in the National Park Service. Betty brought her unique perspective of what it was like to be a woman, and an African American woman, in the workforce during World War II.

She was instrumental in the forming of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Park in California, and in 2016 she received The National WWII Museum’s Silver Service Medallion at our American Spirit Awards gala. Her session on the panel was a bit short, but very sweet and memorable.



RICHARD GREER, United States Marine Corps

The next session is a special one, but aren’t they all?! This one was meaningful because it was a conversation with Richard Greer, who served with Company D, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division and was one of the founding members of the Museum, and author and historian Hugh Ambrose at our 2011 International Conference. Hugh interviewed Richard on his experiences fighting at Guadalcanal. For those of you who have visited the Museum, you will notice Richard’s accent and voice as he is featured prominently in our Road to Tokyo Gallery. Sadly, Richard passed away in 2018 at the age of 100, but we are honored and proud to keep his voice alive on this panel and with our exhibitions. The interview is just under one hour.




Next we have a powerful presentation that we hosted in 2018, featuring two remarkable women who survived the Holocaust. Ann Levy, a longtime volunteer at The National WWII Museum, shares her story about how she managed to survive as a Polish Jew during the Nazi Occupation, and Nicole Spangenberg speaks about how she served actively with the French Resistance as a teenage girl. The panel was moderated by Kimberly Guise, the Museum’s Assistant Director for Curatorial Services. These women’s stories need to be remembered and shared, so that the horrors of what they went through are not forgotten. The program begins at the 06:50 mark and lasts roughly 85 minutes.




The final selection is one of my favorite programs we hosted. For our 2014 International Conference we brought together a British and an American veteran of the D-Day Landings. Richard Sadler was a Stoker (Engineer) with the Royal Marines and was involved with the invasion of Juno Beach, and General John Raaen was a Captain with the 5th Ranger Battalion that landed at Omaha Beach. This program was special to me, not only because of the great firsthand accounts the two veterans give, but because I was able to spend an entire day at Omaha Beach with Gen. Raaen during the Museum’s 70th Anniversary of D-Day Cruise. What remarkable hours those were! The panel was moderated by noted historian and author Joe Balkoski, who has written countless books on D-Day and the Normandy campaign. The question and answer period is exceptionally rich! The program begins at the 13:22 mark and lasts roughly 70 minutes.

You can enjoy topics from our speakers, while supporting the educational mission of the Museum, by purchasing the books below:

Hugh Ambrose, The Pacific and Liberated Spirits

Agnes Grunwald-SpierWomen's Experiences in the Holocaust: In Their Own Words

Joe Balkoski, Various


This article is part of an ongoing series commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II made possible by Bank of America. 


Jeremy Collins

Jeremy Collins joined The National WWII Museum in 2001 as an intern, and now oversees the institution’s public programming initiatives.

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