The future of war may be autonomous, but the history is full of real people. And those real people have real stories to tell. From the First World War to more recent battles like Iraq, veterans have documented their tales in several formats: articles, videos, and even audio.
Through a few websites, you can relive all of their stories for free. In case you forgot about the hardships they faced, here’s a refresher.
1. Eyewitness to History (Web): Text Stories, Drawing From History Books
Some sites make history come alive in new and different ways. Eyewitness to History doesn’t rely on new media. Instead, it uses the tried-and-tested format of first-person stories from those who were actually there.
There are plenty of non-war stories, but the site is especially detailed when dealing with stories from the two World Wars. Take, for example, the story of the famous Christmas truce. By drawing from multiple books that talked to people who were there, Eyewitness to History stitches together a single, cohesive tale of everything that happened that day.
There are also several stories from other wars and battles, like the American Civil War, so check the site’s index as well.
2. Voices of the First World War (Podcast): From the BBC Sound Archives
The BBC was formed just after the First World War, so it obviously reported on it and its aftermath extensively. The Imperial War Museum is another repository of interviews with veterans as well as other military personnel from the time. Host Dan Snow brings it all together to tell World War stories that you’ve never heard before.
Even among the best educational history podcasts, this one stands out for Snow’s meticulous research and brilliant narration. Each episode focuses on one incident or story, sometimes told from multiple perspectives.
There are 28 total episodes and you can download them all as MP3 for free. No strings attached, so you don’t even need a special podcast app.
3. /r/MilitaryStories (Web): More Modern, But Just as Fun
The Reddit community at /r/MilitaryStories has contributors from different parts of the American military, as well as others around the world. Given that it’s only a little over a year old, the tales told here are often more recent than the world wars or even Vietnam or Korea.
You won’t get a new submission every day, but the forum usually sees about five or more stories a week. Since its focus is purely on stories and nothing else, it’s also a lot more entertaining and light-hearted. The commenters too tend to be more respectful, than getting into arguments like you would see in other sub-reddits.
There is no way to verify each of these stories, but they mostly seem legitimate. Chalk up another great place to read true stories from real people.
4. Soldiers’ Stories (Web): Letters From Soldiers Fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq
America’s National Endowment for the Arts led an initiative during the 2000s war in Iraq and Afghanistan called Operating Homecoming. This project put soldiers through writing workshops, where they were asked to write home about their war experiences. Under the tutelage of respected writers, the soldiers penned some of the best “from-the-frontlines” letters you’ll ever read.
The New Yorker magazine published several of these, which are now available to read online for free. Each letter starts with its author, what they did, and where they were writing from.
It’s a single page with a long list of letters, so you might want to add it to your Pocket collection. In fact, given its length, you might need some of our favorite Pocket tips and tricks to get through this one.
5. The Telling Project (Web): Veterans Tell Their Story on Stage
The Telling Project is a new initiative that brings together military veterans and family members to tell their stories on stage. By employing the basics of theater, the stories are made much better too.
It’s a travelling show, but several of them have now been recorded and available online. You can watch over 40 shows of The Telling Project on their site. The project’s makers help the veterans script their story perfectly, teach them the basics of performing it, and rehearse with them too.
The Telling Project only has American veterans, so you will learn about American war history only. But it’s better than any history class you sat through.
What’s Your Favorite War Story?
You must have come across an amazing war story at some point, whether while reading something on the internet or watching something on TV. Heck, you might even have heard it first-hand from a veteran.
Share a link or write the story in the comments below.