Video Teleconference Program - "Witness-to-History"

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Date: June 9, 2005
Contact: Bradford Baker, Public Afairs Officer, (808) 422-2771 ext.123
Contact: Julie Cox, Video Conferencing Coordinator, (808) 753-4428

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I remember sitting in high school history class trying to put into perspective the events of World War II. History was a large timeline – American Independence, Industrial Revolution, Civil War, World War I and World War II. There were other inventions, discoveries, battles and court cases, but these were the defining periods. For our class, history existed as an exercise in memory. We remembered dates, names and times. Though I knew the when and where of World War II, I had no idea about the: whom, what and how. “Imagine being able to speak with a revolutionary era citizen, a Civil War veteran, an Underground Railroad participant, or a Sioux Indian warrior from Little Bighorn,” says Chief Ranger Bernard Doyle, who oversees the Witness-to-History program.

Today, schools have an opportunity to bring history to life for their students. The USS Arizona Memorial through generous funding and support of the Arizona Memorial Museum Association, National Park Service and the United States Navy provide free video teleconference programs. If anything can revive the history classroom, it is the untold stories of World War II veterans.

The program based on the example from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, links students, sometimes from remote locations, with Pearl Harbor survivors. “It is an opportunity for students to travel to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,” stated Julie Cox, the video teleconference coordinator. “They gain an experience that otherwise may have been impossible due to distance and expense.”

Pearl Harbor survivors Robert Kinzler, Everett Hyland, Tom Unger and Herb Weatherwax are just a few of the program participants. Bob Kinzler enjoys participating in the programs because he feels the students are getting information from reliable sources. “The students are given an opportunity to have their questions answered,” stated Kinzler. “By adding our stories to their readings, students make a connection, and they have great questions. On several occasions the students don’t want to leave when the bell rings.”

The Pearl Harbor survivor stories are as diverse as the men and women themselves. One received the Purple Heart, another witnessed the destruction of three military installations on December 7, 1941, and another was a high school ROTC student called to action. The survivors explain the attack and show photos from an era long passed.

The program is designed to last an hour and can be adjusted to meet age-appropriate lessons plans. Upon program completion, students see history as the story of people. “Dates, numbers and times are humanized – Unknown names become brothers, fathers, and sons,” stated Education Coordinator Kendall McCreary. “As teleconference moderator I always remind high school students to look around the classroom. The sailors and Marines stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 were only a couple of years older than you.” By linking classrooms to these first-hand historical accounts, students are capable of making a personal, tangible connection to historical events. In turn, the American experience transcends generations.

The program compliments national standards of learning, and supplements teacher lesson plans rather than replace them. Since its inception in October 2003, nearly 3,000 students from 12 states, the territory Puerto Rico and as far away as Italy have participated. The series utilizes the special resources of our national park system and makes them classroom accessible. The artifacts, historic footage and personal passages bring history to life for students.

Taking part in the interactive program is easy. Participating schools must complete a HUB certification form and schedule a system compatibility test with the U.S. Navy system at Pearl Harbor. A Navy information technology representative walks the school through the process. Once compatibility is determined a date is set for the video teleconference. Selected readings and supplemental information are pre-packaged and sent to schools in preparation for the conference. For schools unequipped with the technology to participate, they can seek an outside facility such as a local library, university or community center to host the conference. In this case, the Witness-to-History program will connect to the remote site and pay the hourly connection fee.

In the last couple years the program has grown to include two new presentations. The “Submerged” program, which explains the preservation of the USS Arizona, is narrated by a NPS diver. The program provides an historical account of the battleship Arizona on December 7, 1941 and covers how preservation efforts can protect the legacy of Pearl Harbor. Another program available to classrooms is the Curator Series: Inside the Vault. In this program a curatorial staff member shows students how artifacts are used to tell stories and unlock historical mysteries.

The program’s personal touch gives the Pearl Harbor story a face. This is the story that led America into a worldwide conflict resulting in the loss of over 55 million lives and changed the face of the world for decades to come. Finally, it assists the USS Arizona Memorial in its mission to: understand the tragedy, honor the memory, remember the battle and mourn the dead.

To find out more about the Witness-to-History program visit: or e-mail

Photo Caption (Left to Right)

Members of the local Pearl Harbor Survivor Association – Aloha Chapter participate in a video-teleconference. Robert Kinzler, Tom Unger, Everett Hyland and Herb Weatherwax are pictured.

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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