Stacks of 100-year-old letters, a fading document detailing an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army in 1919 and local family stories connected to World War I and II will now last forever.
On Thursday, the Lynchburg Public Library hosted a mini- museum and scanning event, where Lynchburg residents were invited to bring in any documents, letters and photos from World War I and II to have them scanned into the archives of the Library of Virginia using a high- resolution scanner.
The event, put on by the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission, has traveled around the commonwealth for the past three years.
The commission displayed a collection of newspapers declaring the end of World War II, a gas mask and helmets. Profiles of 20 Virginians who served in World War I or II — two of which were dogs — were also on display.
Lynchburg-native Harry White brought in a box of memorabilia from his great uncles Emmett and Frank Brosch, who served in World War I in France. Emmett was part of the infantry and Frank was a first lieutenant in the cavalry.
White said his uncles were born, raised and died in Lynchburg. Their family owned a flower shop and greenhouses in the early 1900s in Lynchburg.
Over 50 letters, some dating back to 1903, detailed Frank and Emmett’s time fighting in France, but many details were censored before being sent to family members in Lynchburg, White said.
Rusty Nix, the communications manager with the commission, said the group has held about 130 scanning and museum events around Virginia, resulting in about 6,000 collections of documents and photos being added to state library archives.
“We’re doing a big focus on the scanning project in partnership with the Library of Virginia,” Nix said. “Paper tears, photos fade, but once it’s digitized and it’s in the state’s archives, it’ll last forever.”
The group publishes highlights after each event on the commission’s website, and every scanned document can be viewed by the public.
Nix said the commission wanted to promote their scanning service as two major historical milestones approach — 100 years since World War I and 75 years since World War II.
Lynchburg residents Amy and John Carter brought in letters written by Maj. Charles Richard Brandt, an Army doctor who arrived on the beaches of Normandy, France, in the second wave of the D-Day invasion in 1944.
“Dear father and mother: guess you will be glad to know that I am safe and well in France,” Brandt wrote in a letter dated June 12, 1944.
John Carter said “great uncle Richard” never discussed his service in World War II or his role in the D-Day invasion with his nephew. “He never said one word.”
Nix said only about 2% of those who served in World War II are still alive today.
“While they’re here, and while they’re around, we think it’s really imperative to try to, not only honor their stories … but we want to take that opportunity to get out there while the awareness is here,” Nix said.
Nix said he might scan in anywhere from 24 to 200 documents each scanning event, and most people bring in photographs of soldiers.
“I’ve had [the documents] for many years in a box. … I thought I’d record what I could,” White said. “That way somebody will look at it one day and say, ‘Hey, that’s cool.’”
Olivia Johnson covers the city of Lynchburg for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5537.