Fort Hunt Park Oral History Project - PO Box 1142
Perhaps the largest undertaking of Friends of Fort Hunt Park has been our work with the National Park Service on its World War II Oral History Project.
In about 2006, the Park Service staff at George Washington Memorial Parkway interviewed someone living near Fort Hunt Park who had worked at what was known during the war as P.O. Box 1142, a secret military intelligence operation. That sparked a search by the Park Service for other veterans of that operation who might still be alive and a multi-year project to uncover what had happened at the park during the war. All who had served there had been sworn to secrecy, but the Park Service was able to get a letter from the Army saying that so much time had passed that the veterans were no longer bound by that oath.
As a result, Brandon Bies and Vince Santucci of the National Park Service interviewed on video and audio-tape around 70 people who had been associated with P.O. Box 1142. In addition, the veterans contributed photographs, a painting, artifacts and historic documents saved from that experience.
Unfortunately, with staff reassignments and funding shortages, the project was temporarily suspended without a finished product. The tapes had not been transcribed and were at risk of deterioration. Neither the interviews nor the other materials gathered were available or known to historians or the general public.
Since the Friends’ founding in 2012, we have urged the Park Service to digitize the interviews for preservation purposes and to get the interviews transcribed for ease of access. In 2015, the Park Service commenced the digitization and transcription process. Our group has devoted hundreds of hours in reviewing the transcripts against the original interview recordings and making needed edits for accuracy. In 2017, the Park Service began posting the completed transcripts on a Park Service museum website. Drawing on our substantive reviews of the transcripts, Friends of Fort Hunt Park compiled brief descriptions of the roles each interviewee played in connection with P.O. Box 1142, which the Park Service is using as a guide on its website.
Our reviews have also allowed us to marshal information from the interviews and help reveal the significant events that occurred at P.O. Box 1142.
The Park Service’s next phase of the project will be to catalog the objects provided by the veterans so that those too can be made available for historians and the general public. Friends of Fort Hunt Park will continue to assist the Park Service. In the meantime, we have begun to reach out to surviving veterans and their descendants, as well as interested historians, to keep them abreast of the efforts to elaborate this important history
Click on the button below for a link to the NPS PO Box 1142 oral history recordings and transcripts: