Tribute to Dr. Thomas Banit
for His Oral
History Service Aboard the Battleship New Jersey
Ron Gottardi, Director,
Battleship New Jersey Oral History Program
Professor Emeritus Dr.
Thomas Banit was honored for his founding and direction of the Oral
History Program of the Battleship New Jersey (BB-62) by the Board
of Trustees of the ship during Veterans Day ceremonies aboard the ship
on November 11, 2014. Dr. Banit is also a veteran, having served as a U.S.
Marine Corps officer in Vietnam.
The oral history program
was started in 2000 by Dr. Banit, while he was professor of history and
education at Kean University in New Jersey. Dr. Banit has retired from
the position of Director of the program and reduced his volunteer hours
in preparation for a move to New Hampshire.
A certificate of appreciation for his
service as founder and Director of the Oral History Program of the
Battleship New Jersey was presented to Dr. Banit by several
members of the Board of Trustees of the Battleship New Jersey, including
John Ryan, Chairman, Captain Walter Urban, USN (Ret.), Vice-Chairman.
Dennis Levitt, the Honorable Patricia Egan Jones, and Philip Rowan, CEO
and Executive Director of the Battleship New Jersey.
text on the Certificate of Appreciation from the Board of Trustees of
the Battleship New Jersey presented to Dr. Thomas Banit reads:
“Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial, Certificate of
Appreciation, presented Nov. 11, 2014 to Dr. Thomas Banit, with deep
respect and appreciation for the professional direction and financial
support he has so generously contributed to the Battleship New Jersey
Oral History Department, signed by Phil Rowan, CEO and Executive
Director of the Battleship New Jersey, and John Ryan, Chairman, Board of
legislative commendation was also presented to Dr. Thomas Banit by State
Senator and U.S. Congressman-elect Donald Norcross, “for his many
contributions to the battleship New Jersey Museum’s oral history
program…” This commendation was signed by Senator Norcross, and Angel
Fuentes and Gilbert Wilson, members of the General Assembly of the State
of New Jersey.
Oral History Program is comprised of volunteers on the Battleship New
Jersey Museum and Memorial who interview former servicemen and women
and preserve their narratives. The program has completed over 300
recordings of interviews with U.S. military veterans since it started in
History is a recorded interview of an eyewitness to history, told in the
witness’ own words. The program specializes in military veterans. Most
of the veterans’ stories are video recorded (some are audio only). Many
of the interview subjects are U.S. Navy veterans, but also includes
members of other U.S. armed forces, civilian workers and museum
volunteers. The program specializes in veterans of the Battleship New
Jersey, but crew members of other vessels tell their stories as well.
Interviewees include veterans from World War II, the Korean conflict,
the Vietnam War, conflict in the Middle East, the recent wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan, and the intervening years.
collection,” says Dr. Banit, “was built over 14 years with all-volunteer
interviewers, videographers, transcribers, abstractors, indexers, and
historians. We will continue to interview veterans and add to the
collection, which is now considered the largest oral history archive of
over 200 historic ship museums in the world.”
Gottardi will succeed Dr. Banit as director of the program. He has been
assistant director of the program since 2010. He has also served as a
docent aboard BB-62 and has developed educational programs and exhibits
for the Battleship since joining its volunteer crew in 2008. “Dr.
Banit’s Marine Corps boots,” says Gottardi, “are impossible to fill, but
his exemplary dedication, generosity, and integrity will be well
remembered and inspiring to us all.”
how he feels about leaving the program, Dr. Banit replied, “I am
particularly pleased that my last official act as Director was to turn
over a copy of our collection to The New Jersey State Library in
Trenton. This will make these historical documents and recordings much
more accessible to historians, researchers, teachers, students, and the
Researchers will be able to search an on-line database for specific
topics and then view or listen to interviews on DVD or CD players at the
State Library. Some of the videos may be available on-line later
depending on permissions granted in the releases signed by the
the recordings are in a searchable on-line database of the Veterans
History Project of the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
Included with the battleship collection are transcripts and audio tapes
of interviews by CDR Paul Stillwell, USNR (ret.), noted naval historian,
generated during research on his book, Battleship New Jersey: An
Illustrated History, Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986.
Stillwell served as an officer aboard BB-62 in 1969. These items are
also searchable in the BB-62 Oral History database. Stillwell was a
featured speaker in the recent Veterans Day ceremonies on the Battleship
why oral history is important, Dr. Banit replied, “For the same reason
history is important. As William H. McNeill put it in Why Study
History (1985), ‘Historical knowledge is no more and no less than
carefully and critically constructed collective memory. As such it can
both make us wiser in our public choices and more richly human in our
private lives.’ And oral history is the true record of history, as told
by the witnesses to the events.”
more information, to volunteer to be interviewed, to help, or to
contribute to the Oral History Program of the Battleship New Jersey,
contact: Ron Gottardi, Director, email address:
tel: (866) 877-6262 (toll free) x222. For more information on their
(New Jersey State Library) or
(Veterans History Project, Library of Congress).