Introducing the WWII ShoeBox Project

  • By Rudy Adler
  • November 8, 2011

My grandfather was a navigator in World War II. His outfit, nicknamed The Dirty Deuce, fought as a part of the 8th Air Force in the 486th Bomb Group that dropped bombs over Nazi targets inside of Germany during 1944. He kept quite an extensive journal of every mission he flew, right down the exact weight of the bomb load. About 10 years ago, my late Uncle Richard was so fascinated by all of this content that he decided to organize it and repackage it for our family.

At this point, our family now had two journals, both in print—a beautiful scrapbook made by my grandfather and a more modern, better-organized version from my Uncle. Earlier this year, I decided to iterate on this journal once more. After dinner with my grandparents, I realized how crazy it was that I could only see these photos and stories at their apartment in Phoenix, AZ; a place I visit only a few times each year. And this is amazing stuff—my grandfather as a young man riding a horse on leave in England, bombs mid-air dropping over Berlin, planes to his left getting hit with anti-aircraft fire.

My goal was to make my grandfather’s memories much more accessible to my wider family, i.e. removing the restrictions of print. I used an early prototype of our iPhone App, ShoeBox, to digitize his old photos and put them online for my family to access anywhere, at any time. The results were astonishing—not only did my family start commenting on photos, it was like we were seeing the photos for the first time. We could digest the photos at our own pace and leisure, instead of at the end of a big, sweat-inducing plate of meatloaf. My grandfather even began going to his 1000memories page to add captions and more back story to his photos.

It was such a special experience for me and my family that we hope to inspire more families to do the same. Today we are announcing the WWII ShoeBox Project. Our goal is to put the photos and stories of every WWII veteran online in a shareable space so they can be preserved and celebrated, together. With our partnership with the Internet Archive, we ensure that these memories will be preserved forever for generations to come.

Our intro video below was made created from bits and pieces of the oral histories we have been collecting from veterans at the Yountville Veterans Home of California for the Library of Congress.

Just pick up a copy of ShoeBox, or use the scanner in your house to start putting the memories of a WWII veteran online. I can tell you from personal experience, that it will be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

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