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veterans day and iron mountain

Preserving transformative veteran accounts for future generations
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We stand on the shoulders that come before us. The men and women who serve and fight for our freedom do so with great purpose, and a sense of duty to our country and our world at large. They are serving for the present and future generations. At Iron Mountain, we consider it our duty to support the men and women that serve in the military, bring attention to their sacrifice and chronicle their accounts. Iron Mountain’s Living Legacy Initiative is our  charitable commitment to help preserve and make accessible cultural and historical information and artifacts. On this Veterans Day, we are proud to share how we honor veterans by supporting The National WWII Museum; The Ohio University; and The Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation. We support each of these initiatives by offering financial and inkind services to help share veteran accounts of some of the most transformative moments in world history for current and future generations to come. 

The National WWII Museum

The National World War II Museum’s mission is to ensure that the values and lessons of that era will never be forgotten. The Museum tells the story of the American Experience – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today – so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Iron Mountain has supported the WWII Museum since the Living Legacy Initiative began in 2015.

Iron Mountain first supported the museum by helping preserve the oral histories of the men fought in the Pacific Theatre. These voices are part of the “The Road to Tokyo” exhibition that opened in 2016. Seventy-three oral histories have been added to the museum’s digital collection. Viewers and visitors will gain a better understanding of the personal war experiences of everyone from servicemen and nurses, to airmen and code-breakers.

In 2017, Iron Mountain supported the opening of the oral histories associated with the exhibition, “The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George Brown Salute to the Home Front Galleries.”. There are 59 oral histories: 43 at war stations and 16 online. The theme of the exhibit and their accounts focus on why World War II began after years of international strife and uncertainty, and how it evolved into a truly “total” war which affected every man, woman and child across America.

Most recently, Iron Mountain granted funds for the museum’s last permanent exhibit, “The Liberation Pavilion: The Fight for Freedom” gallery, the final of the six major pavilions at the museum. “Our Liberation Pavilion explores the end of World War II, the post-war era, and what the war continues to mean today,” said Stephen Watson, CEO of the National WWII Museum. “Thanks to Iron Mountain’s generosity, we will be able to tell this critical part of the WWII story through the words of WWII veterans, Holocaust survivors, Monuments Men and Women, Gold Star Families and countless others.”

The museum holds a variety of oral histories such as Polish Civilian Benjamin Lesser who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp and the death train to Dachau, and now travels the world speaking about his experience. It also includes Wanda Damberg, a Dutch civilian who was held in the Santo Thomas prison camp in Manila where she helped smuggle in medicine and was transferred to the prison camp at Los Banos, until the 11th Airborne Division liberated it. Finally, the museum features stories from George Will, an American Civilian who discusses his contact with WWII veterans and the importance of the leadership and communication from Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman as well as Prime Minister Winston Churchill. These stories show the depth and impact that WWII had, and continue to have, on today’s world.

“One of the greatest ways to honor and pay tribute to our nation’s veterans, is to ensure that their legacy lives on,” said Kevin Dice, senior vice president, global operations and Ret. US Army Lt. Colonel. “As a veteran myself, I am proud that we have helped support the voices of the men and women who fought before us to safeguard our freedom. The digital preservation and continued accessibility of veteran accounts ensures that all of us can learn more about these heroes’ valor, courage and patriotism - no matter where we are - by clicking on the museum’s website.”

Iron Mountain’s support of their efforts to preserve and share veteran voices ensure a significant piece of our nation’s cultural heritage for future generations is discoverable for continued learning and that the stories of our World War II veterans are not lost with their passing. These first-hand reports offer rare insights into the experiences of those soldiers, airmen and sailors who overwhelmed Hitler’s forces at the Normandy coast.

You can hear voices such as Leonard Lomell of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, tasked with scaling the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and disabling a battery of 155mm guns on D-Day. Strategically placed, these guns had the ability to decimate American forces on both Omaha and Utah Beaches while wreaking havoc with Allied ships at sea. Despite delays in landing and the discovery that the guns believed to be on the Pointe had been relocated, the elite Ranger force located the battery inland, and successfully neutralized the lethal threat.

What opened in 2000 as a D-Day museum now contains over 100,000 artifacts and archival items and more than 7,000 oral histories. It is also the second most visited museum in the United States.

Ohio University: Honoring the 75th Anniversary of D-Day 

The invasion of Normandy is widely known as the turning point of World War II and 2019 celebrated the 75th anniversary of that battle. Iron Mountain partnered with Ohio University (OU) in a three-part digitization project of documents from famous world-renowned war correspondent Cornelius Ryan, author of “The Longest Day.” OU’s Vernon R. Alden Library is home to the Cornelius Ryan Collection, one of the largest primary source collections regarding World War II in the United States.

Ryan interviewed and collected personal files for both military and civilian participants of the battles, covering all nationalities. His collection includes questionnaires, letters, diaries, accounts and observations. He also amassed military documents of all types: combat interviews and after action reports, war diaries, message files and logs, strategic and tactical analyses, maps and unit histories from all national forces involved.

Iron Mountain is digitizing 4,900 items from Ryan’s D-Day records, which contain first-hand accounts from military personal and civilians from the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany.

This subset of the collection includes eyewitness accounts such as Private First Class Richard Cator of the 101st Airborne division:

“We had stopped and were digging in. A shell from an artillery barrage landed in a foxhole approximately 50 feet from me and blew a man out of the hole into some bushes. I was surprised, and later amused, when he came running around the bushes, hopping mad at the Germans for ruining his foxhole. He didn’t have a scratch on him. It wasn’t until later that he realized how close he had come to being blown to bits.”

After the imaging is complete, Ohio University will make the documents accessible to other higher education institutions, researchers, historians, family members of those in the materials, students and the general public. Ryan’s collection was donated to the Ohio University Library in 1981 after he was established as an honorary Doctor of Literature at Ohio University.

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation 

The Women In Military Service For American Foundation (WIMSA) is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America since the American Revolution. It serves as a research repository for organizations, individuals, media, book authors and students. Moreover, the Foundation maintains the vast collection that continues to grow as today’s servicewomen participate in new events and fill new roles.

The Foundation’s research library includes nearly 1,000 books by, and about military women, photograph and document archives, personal and military-issue artifacts, memoirs and oral histories. Additionally, the Women’s Memorial hosts the world’s largest repository of Women Service stories registered by those who served, or their families.

Iron Mountain is proud to partner with WIMSA and digitize their unique Spanish-American War collection. The Women’s Memorial Collection houses more than 4,000 donations, including those from the Spanish-American War. The items in the collection are currently in storage and not on view for the public. The digitization of these items will be used on the Women’s Memorial’s revitalized website and in exhibits.

The collection documents the superior service of more than 1,500 contract nurses who served in the Army and Navy general hospitals; aboard the hospital ship Relief; in stateside camps; the Philippine Islands; Puerto Rico; and Hawaii. Women nurses were contracted by the U.S. military to work when U.S. military medical departments were overwhelmed by outbreaks of infectious diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and typhoid that fell upon more troops than battlefield injuries.

“As a veteran and employee, I’m proud that Iron Mountain is calling attention to the exceptional service of the dedicated women who served in the Spanish-American War,” said Kathy Wehking, Senior Business Development Executive and Ret. US Navy Lt. Commander. “It’s important to bring attention to their sacrifice and make their papers accessible to future researchers and the general public. My fellow colleagues and I are committed to helping honor all women's contributions to the defense of our nation and inspire the next generation of leaders through the example of our great women patriots.”

The collection also includes hundreds of photographs, service documents, letters, news clippings and irreplaceable artifacts from 1898. The digitized artifacts will be used in future permanent exhibits at the Women’s Memorial as well as for a digital, public, online archive.

The Memorial, situated at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, was dedicated in 1997. It is the foremost memorial and education center honoring women in all branches of military service to our Nation throughout history. Nearly 3 million women have served in the military since the American Revolution, yet the stories, of these courageous patriots are largely untold.

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