Badger Veterans Oral History Project

From WWII to the War on Terror

S05450 – ROTC students train on the obstacle course along Lakeshore Path, ca. 1942-1945

Since its inception in 1848, the University of Wisconsin in Madison has been home to current and former members of the US military, from the Civil War training facility at Camp Randall to the US Navy training program during WWII. Though UW-Madison has been a site of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) since 1917, our Department of Military Science began as early as the 1860s, and the Red Gym was constructed in 1896 as both an armory and military training gymnasium.

In honor of the long history of US service members on campus, the Badger Veterans project was launched by the UW-Madison Archives Oral History Program in 2011, in collaboration with Dr. John Hall, Ambrose-Hesseltine Professor of U.S. Military History, in an effort to capture the first-person memories and experiences of military veterans at UW-Madison.

The Badger Veterans project has interviewed current and former UW faculty, staff, and students who have served in many branches of the United States Armed Forces. Their stories touch on active duty and reserve training from WWII to the present time, and their experiences range from intelligence-gathering and combat to medicine and international diplomacy. Some narrators were enlisted and trained for war as students at UW-Madison, while others reflect on the process of enrolling as returning veterans on the GI bill. We hope that the Badger Veterans project continues to grow, to represent the vast and varied experiences of UW alumni and the US military in the 20th and 21st centuries.

S05437 – The Flying Badgers Unit I at Glenview for premilitary training, ca. 1942-1945

Some examples of Badger Veterans interviews include: John M. Hall’s recollection of invading Southern France near the end of WWII, Robert Townsend’s depiction of UW Vietnam protests from the perspective of a dedicated Air Force recruit, John Bechtol’s description of the post-9/11 GI Bill and services for veterans on UW’s campus, and Nicholas Clements’ reflection on the tense and complex relationships among US Marines in Afghanistan, Afghan security forces, and Afghan civilians.

The interviews were conducted primarily by students in Dr. Hall’s military history class. This is an ongoing project. If you know someone who would like to be interviewed, fill out the UWOHP Narrator Nomination Form 2015 [pdf] and return it to the Archives by mail or email attachment.

For more information on veteran students, see the UW-Archives page on Badger Village, a housing community for returning G.I.s and their families from 1946 to 1951.

Interviews

The following list includes processed interviews. Click on the link to access an interview’s audio, summary, and—if available—transcript. Non-linked interviews and additional material are available by visiting the University Archives or by contacting Oral History Program director Troy Reeves for more information.

S05260  – Ensign hoisted by Navy and Marine cadets during commencement ceremony, 1960

* Access restricted without written permission of narrator

Note to Researchers

S00884 – A member of Vets for Vets sells military surplus clothes as a fundraiser

The interviews in this collection include representatives from four factions of the US Armed Forces, and they span the period from WWII to the present day. We suggest the following interviews for research into particular periods and subject areas:

Additionally, John Bechtol (#1125) was the Dean of Veterans Affairs at UW-Madison at the time of his interview. William Henderson (#1510) was a professor of military intelligence, in charge of ROTC recruitment on campus.

For more information about the Badger Veterans project or the UW-Madison Oral History Program – or to nominate a UW alum for the Badger Veteran project – visit Oral History Program or email Oral History Program head, Troy Reeves (troy.reeves@wisc.edu).