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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, June 5, 2023
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Video About V.I. Veterans to Air on St. Thomas

A year-and-a-half-in-the-making documentary by St. Croix resident Joan Keenan and her team, “Proudly We Served: Virgin Islands Veterans of World War II,” will air at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Legislature on St. Thomas. The video runs about an hour.

The video explores the veterans’ motivations for serving in the armed forces, and documents their experiences with racial segregation in the United States and the armed services. It also examines their contributions to the war effort and the effects it had on their lives.

Keenan and her team — Roberta Knowles, Richard Schrader, Jean Picou and Stanley Sneed — in conjunction with American Legion posts across the territory, traveled around St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John to interview veterans born in the Virgin Islands, as well as those who moved to the territory from the mainland.

"And we had one veteran from St. John interviewed by the son of a friend of a friend in Silver Spring, Md.," Keenan said, referring to Sam Morch.

The team interviewed 16 veterans from St. Thomas, 16 from St. Croix and the one from St. John, as well as several veterans born on the mainland.

One of those mainland veterans was the late Emily Tranberg, who was a liberty ship welder in a Rhode Island shipyard. She died on St. Croix Oct. 28, 2008. The Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., native met her husband, St. Croix resident Otto Tranberg, while he was serving in the U.S. Navy on Nantucket, Mass.

Tranberg, 91, and U.S. Army veteran Olric Carrington, 85, both said they thought the video was excellent.

"It had everything right to a ‘T,’" Tranberg said.

Both spoke about the little-documented importance of the black people who served in the military during World War II.

"We need to have our history documented — especially people of color," said Carrington, a U.S. Army veteran. “There are only fleeting moments when we’re mentioned.”

Alas, two of the veterans from the Virgin Islands have died since Keenan interviewed them. They are Gaveston David and Lawrence Motta, both of St. Croix.

Only those veterans born in the Virgin Islands are featured in the video, but all the veterans’ stories are being sent in unedited form to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Supporters of this project include First Bank, Banco Popular, the V.I. Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the Office of Veterans Affairs.

This is the second screening of the video, with the first held June 27 at Government House on St. Croix.

Copies will be available at the territory’s high schools and libraries.

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