Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Massachusetts, unveiled a new computer app on Friday by interviewing a 92-year-old Navy veteran from Easton.
Arnold Marcus recounted his service during World War II, including how he survived a kamikaze attack on the USS Columbia by having a cigar on deck.
“If I had been at my battle quarters, five decks below, I wouldn’t be here,” Marcus told Kennedy.
Since 2000, the Library of Congress has been collecting veterans’ memories through its Veterans History Project.
But until now, veterans had to make a physical recording on a CD and mail it to Washington, DC.
The new app allows veterans to make a 30-minute recording, tag key words and phrases and then upload it to the internet within seconds.
“The app provides you with questions, if you want to use what they give you, or you can come up with your own and plug them in,” said Nicole Caravella, district coordinator for Kennedy.
Jean Rhodes, a professor of psychology, at UMass Boston spent a year and her money to develop the app with her son.
She said the Veterans History Project has collected about 100,000 stories so far, but this represents only a fraction of the 22 million surviving U.S. veterans.
Rhodes said the app is available to veterans of all ages and is being tested in Kennedy’s district before being promoted nationwide.
On October 3, Rhodes is scheduled to attend an event at the White House to discuss the app.
“The idea is to try to be able to spread the word of it and enable people to conduct their own interviews with family members (and) with friends to make sure that these stories aren’t lost to time,” Kennedy told WCVB.
During the recording of the interview, Marcus’ children stood by and listened intently.
“I had not heard any of this before,” said daughter Harriett Ykasala.
She said for decades her father refused to discuss the war.
She said she hopes the app will help other veterans open up.
“I know he said he wouldn’t be around. But I guess that’s the point, that for generations to come, they can hear his stories,” she said.