Some years back, my father and I started a nonprofit group called the National Combat Tape Archive. The idea is that we would gather, digitize and store recordings made in combat areas by members of the United States Military, as well as people associated with the military. This began after I listened to a series of tapes my father had sent home to our family during the year he was stationed in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy.

We registered as a tax-exempt organization and struck an agreement with the Vietnam Project and Archive at Texas Tech University, to conserve and store the physical media.

Due to personal issues (jobs were in short supply at the time), we were unable to go forward with this project at that time. I’m currently involved with a non-profit undertaking, The Blogswana Project. But given the fact that the new social software and hosted web applications have boomed, it seems to me that the NCTA is viable again. We could use Odeo or Evoca to host the audio recordings and YouTube or one of its competitors to host any video. We could create a blog to act as the interface with the digital archive as well as a place to gather and publish the experiences of the recorders.

If anyone out there is interested in getting involved with this project, please let me know by writing to me at bobfolder [at] gmail [dot] com. I’m uncertain whether or not the original nonprofit still legally exists, though I doubt it (I’ve got an email in to ol’ Regular Navy about it), but it could be brought in under the auspices of the Committee to Protect Bloggers, an active 501(c)3 U.S. tax-exempt organization that I run.

National Combat Tape Archive Mission Statement

The objective of the Combat Tape Archive is to create a repository where audio and video/film recordings made by members of the U.S. Armed Forces or by those attached to them, either in combat or in-country during hostilities, can be safely held, given proper conservation and made available to students, scholars, and interested lay persons.

Our desire is to communicate the most human element of the most inhuman events, the voice of the men and women who strove and endured in war. Using The Vietnam Archive’s state-of-the-art institutional storage facilities, library technologies and methods, and audio software we will make these recordings available via listening stations, physical media, including audio cassette tape and compact disc, and online. Using social software and web-based software applications, we will make the digitized recordings available to the world.

We will raise funds from government, business, educational institutions and individuals to drive our mission forward. We will solicit sound recordings from Veterans, their friends, families and organizations. We will also raise awareness of both the individuals whose voices will grow this chorus of witness and of the Archive itself through media coverage, presentations, exhibits and personal appearances.

Gathering the Recordings

Service records and medals cannot capture the men and women who fought in a war. No book or essay, no matter how insightful, no matter how well researched, can express a war’s reality. No documents nor maps can show a war’s brutality or import. But a human voice, speaking out of time, from the place where the conflict played out, from the time and place where the violence, boredom, beauty, bravery and trauma of war were real, can open a window into the lives and experiences of the men and women who endured it.

The National Combat Tape Archive will be the only national repository we are aware of that is devoted to the voice of war.

The NCTA seeks to collect tapes by the men and women of the US Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, and civilians serving with them, made while in-country during hostilities, either in combat or behind the lines.

In other words, we want to hear voicesyour voice, the voices of friends, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandmothersand we want to preserve and share them both with those who were there, and those who weren’t, including those generations who have yet to even be born.

We have established a partnership with The Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech University. This institution has temperature-controlled vaults and other equipment, personnel and know-how to preserve and store the tapes. We at the National Combat Tape Archive will act as the gatekeepers to the collection, advertising, gathering and cataloguing the collection, promoting it in person and online and coordinating presentations, speakers and exhibits.

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