The dedicated war archivist....

David O’Shea Meyer doesn’t go anywhere without his recording equipment.

For the last decade he has interviewed more than 300 war veterans and meticulously recorded and documented their harrowing and inspiring battlefield stories.

It’s a labour of love that began after his father, Earl D. Meyer, died in 2003 and has continued since he arrived in Bermuda two years ago.

Mr Meyer told the Bermuda Sun: “There is something much more present about hearing these guys recount their experiences.

“The words they use and the way they say things makes it seem more real. Hearing the voice adds a whole new level to it.”

He added: “My father served in the 95th Infantry Division and fought on the front line in the Second World War under General Patton.

“I grew up listening to his stories and one day I just decided put the recorder in front of him and let him talk on his 90th birthday.

“He died on September 18, 2003, and a few months later I came across the tape.

“At first I did not want to listen to his voice, but when I turned the machine on it bought him alive in the room.

“The recording was full of words we don’t hear any more, and it was not just what he said but how he said it.

“My father had attended a number of infantry reunions, and he had planned to go to one in Baton Rouge before he died. I decided I should go and I set myself up outside the ballroom with this old Samsung CD recorder and a microphone and asked these guys if they would talk to me.

 “It all kind of spiraled from there.”

Since 2003 Mr Meyer has interviewed more than 320 war veterans from the Second World War, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Afghanistan.

He has attended dozens of military reunions and was even assigned a room at the Los Angeles Central Library from January 2006 through to September 2011 to conduct his interviews.

Many of the men he has made recordings of over the years have since died, but his incredible archive of recordings means their stories of courage and sacrifice will live on.

He said: “Over the years I have learned how to ask the right questions.

“Some people say that war veterans don’t want to talk about their experiences and there is some credence in that.

“But I have found that if you are interested and listen, they will talk.

‘Guys open up’

“It’s incredibly rewarding work and I think of it as a privilege that these guys open up to me and talk about what they went through for everyone else. Some are reticent because they don’t want to be made out as a hero.

“But I tell them it is not about that, it’s about what you saw, smelt, heard and tasted.”

Since coming to Bermuda with his wife, Cynthia, in November 2011 Mr Meyer has interviewed a handful of the island’s Second World War veterans including George Fisher, Art and Herbert Tatem, Jack Lightbourne, Len Doers, Fred Clipper and Kenneth Dunkley.

Now he is now trying to make contact with other veterans who would be prepared to share their wartime memories with him.

He added: “I have given some of my recordings to the D-Day Museum and the Los Angeles library has some too.

“When someone dies people often say ‘I wish I could heard his voice’, this is a way of ensuring that the voices of our veterans can always be heard.”

To contact Mr Meyer call 599-4826 or email osheadavid@sbcglobal.net


 

...and the ex-soldier, aged 102, who led him to incredible footage of Bermuda after WWII

Fred Clipper was 32 when he came to Bermuda at the beginning of the Second World War.

A captain in the US Army artillery division he was posted to the island to protect the shipping supply convoys as well as the island from enemy submarines lurking in the Atlantic.

Although he never saw front line action the 102-year-old made an incredible videography of the war years in Bermuda that has only recently come to light. The footage came to light again when Capt Clipper was interviewed by American archivist David Meyer as part of his audio anthology of war veterans.

Mr Meyer offered to take the nine short camera reels back to his home in Los Angeles where they were digitalized and transferred onto a 27 minute DVD.

The result footage is a rare glimpse into military life in Bermuda during World War II. And it captures a bygone era when cedar trees were plentiful, the island’s roads were just dirt tracks and there were just a handful of motor vehicles.

Captain Clipper said: “I arrived in Bermuda on May 7 1942. When we were sent away we did not know where we would end up. When we came down the channel I remember my first Captain saying, ‘I hope we get off here, this is Bermuda. I spent my honeymoon here.”

Although his battery was only in Bermuda for 16 months Captain Clipper ended up marrying local girl, Rosemary Champness, and started a new life on the island.

He was one of the few officers that owned a video camera and he used it to maximum effect recording military parades, sporting fixtures as well as family occasions in the 1940s.

He said: “I think I got the camera in around 1943 or ’44. A lot of the footage is of our family and our home in Bailey’s Bay. 

“But it also shows an era before the days of cars and modernization and a time in Bermuda that few can now remember.

Capt Clipper added: “I really appreciate what David has done with my films. We have given one copy to the museum as a permanent record and kept the rest for ourselves.

“I found it a lot of fun to watch all the footage again.

“It’s around 70 years old now and I’m very pleased that we have been able to get it updated. “It’s fun to watch and stirs up lots of old memories. I’m quite proud of it.”