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Telecom students interview author for German city's anniversary

on the interview set
Telecom students interview Longacre in the studio.
Ray Price photos

Telecom students recently were able to work on an international project, video-recording a historian and author as part of a German city's 800th anniversary commemoration, which will be held in 2020.

The city is Heilbronn, located in southwest Germany, and Edward G. Longacre, a Newport News resident, wrote a book about a battle that took place there at the end of War World II.

Longacre is a historian and writer. He served as a historian for the Department of Defense for 30 years, and specializes in American Civil War historiography, the study of historical writing.

Almost all of his 27 books - written over the past 45 years - pertain to the Civil War, particularly generals and cavalry operations. All but one - the one set in Heilbronn, called War in the Ruins: The American Army's Final Battle Against Nazi Germany.

"War in the Ruins is the only non-Civil War book I've written," Longacre wrote in an email.

"I wrote it as a tribute to my father, who served in the Century Division," he said. The Century Division is a nickname for the 100th Training Division, an infantry division of the U.S. Army.


Longacre

Because of his expertise in the history of the battle and the town, Longacre was invited to speak as part of the anniversary celebration that is being planned now. But since he may not be able to travel to Germany at that time, it was decided that a video interview would be the next-best thing.

Back in August, Longacre got in touch with Telecom Supervisor Ray Price to see if his students would be interested in the project. Once students were back in school in September, two students were selected and agreed to move forward with it. The plan was to do the recording in December.

Professor Christhard Schrenk, one of the Heilbronn anniversary organizers, visited Washington, D.C. at the end of December, and while there, met and discussed the project with Longacre. They worked with Price to come up with a plan, which was to interview Longacre on video at the Telecom studio.

The video shoot took place on January 3. Two senior Telecom students, Tyson Odette of Woodside High, and Treyon Mobley of Warwick High, participated in the shoot. Odette was the camera operator and Mobley was the interviewer.

"It was done in documentary style," said Price, indicating a simple format where the focus is on the subject and what he is saying and not the production or anything else.

In the video, Mobley asks the questions off-camera. Schrenk sent over 60 questions, which had to be pared down for the video. The video also would have to be edited to add German in place of the English spoken by the interviewer.

"For my commemorative event," wrote Schrenk in an email, "we will edit the material for the German listeners. This means that we will ... insert video sequences of me asking the questions in German and add German subtitles during [the] answers."

Most of the interview questions were heavy and sobering, as they dealt with a bloody battle in a city that was already more than 60% destroyed by bombing. Also, there were many questions about the American versus German perspective of the history of the battle, trying to clear up rumors or compare information and understand strategies.

Once the interview was recorded and the file ready to send to Germany, instead of mailing a DVD or flash drive, the Telecom team used WeTransfer, a free online tool for sharing large files. Everyone was thrilled by how well it worked and how quickly and easily they got the file.

Telecom students often work on projects with the local community in order to develop their skills and add to their résumés. Working on a local project with an international angle makes the project a little more exciting and reminds the students of the global nature of their art. They can see first-hand how video and story-telling can bring people together, even if they are 4,000 miles apart.

Author interview:

students videotaping interview   Longacre and Price
Odette and Mobley conduct the interview.   Longacre and Price with the book on the set