Veteran Voices: The Oral History Podcast – Episode 35
Florent Plana | World War II Veterans Memories
On Episode 35 of Veteran Voices: The Oral History Podcast, we talk with French historian Florent Plana as he travels the US recording the stories of WWII veterans.
After finishing graduate school, French historian Florent Plana knew he wanted to do something different for awhile—something personally meaningful, of value and use. Unlike many of his fellow graduates, he didn’t want to take a year off to celebrate, recreate, loaf around, or jump straight into a dull professional job.
Instead, he ventured to the United States, bought an old RV camper, and set off to meet and record the stories of WWII veterans—one chance encounter at a time.
His passion for WWII and respect for those who landed upon the shores of France began when he was a child, “the day I saw the Normandy beaches for the first time,” he says, “where thousands of Allied soldiers landed and paid the ultimate sacrifice during the summer of 1944.”
When Florent saw the National Cemetery of Colleville-Sur-Mer, where too many soldiers, sailors, and airmen were laid to rest after the war, he was deeply moved and honored by their sacrifice. Because of their service, Florent reminds all who listen, he and his country are free today.
Florent holds more than a quiet debt of gratitude; he feels obligated to use his historical training to ensure that the experiences and stories of surviving WWII veterans—especially those who liberated France—do not vanish with time.
Thus began World War II Veterans Memories, a cross-country oral history project recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of WWII veterans, wherever Florent finds them—the aisles of Walmart, a barbershop, an email from a soldier’s granddaughter, a posted to his Facebook page, or referral by a friend of a friend who knows a quiet old man down the street who, rumor has it, landed in the first wave at Normandy.
These precious, first-hand stories, Florent knows, will soon be lost. So, he urgently schedules his next oral history interview, plots a course to some American city he’s never heard of, and drops his old RV into gear.
This episode was recorded December 2, 2017 in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. It is a production of The Social Voice Podcast Network. Host: Kevin Farkas. Audiography: Kevin Farkas. Music (available on Soundcloud.com): _aa_ (“Audit Columbia”), “Trance,” Pipe Choir Records (“Reach Out Return”), Zippo for Wisdom (“Japanese Gal Riddim”). ©2017. All Rights Reserved