November 21, 2017  

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Alumnus Takes Position with National World War II Museum

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Jason Dawsey

Determining the ultimate fate of the thousands of American military personnel unaccounted for in World War II is central to Jason Dawsey’s work with The National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Dawsey, a University of Southern Mississippi alumnus, recently joined the museum as special projects historian in residence with its Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. He is also involved in the museum’s new Institute for the Study of War and Democracy. 

There are approximately 73,000 World War II MIA (missing in action) cases that have gone unsolved for more than 70 years, Dawsey said. He uses multiple source materials in examining these cases, including personnel files of the deceased, interviews with veterans, unit histories, diaries, memoirs, photographs, maps, and combat reports.

“One tries to avoid the old clichés about doing work that ‘makes a difference.’ But in this case, the clichés capture perfectly the appeal of this position to me,” he said. “If my work makes a difference in resolving any of them and bringing some comfort to the families, I will be very grateful. 

“The National World War II Museum has had a remarkable team of researchers for many years, so I benefit so much from being a part of this incredible team. There is really a collaborative model of inquiry and research here that many other institutions could learn from.”

The museum’s primary mission is to convey the American experience during World War II, Dawsey said. “Touring the Museum should give visitors a very good sense of why World War II was fought, how the war was won, and what its legacy is for today,” he said. “Plus, seeing the museum is an amazing experience in itself.”

Dawsey’s early interest in history was inspired in part by his father, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and enjoyed reading books about military history. “Reading his books sparked my interest in history,” he said. “In a strange way, I really have come full circle.”

At USM, Dawsey’s love of and pursuit of history as a career was further developed and cemented through faculty mentors and study abroad opportunities.

“I will always cherish my time as a history student at Southern Miss,” he said. “Although we disagreed about so much politically, Dr. Terry Harper, then dean of the USM College of Liberal Arts, was one of my favorite professors. I took his Nazi Germany course and, two years later, went to Europe with him as part of the Austrian Studies Program. We spent time in Vienna, Budapest, Prague, and Istanbul.

“I still have my notes from his classes, formed lasting friendships in those courses, and acquired a love for travel that is still with me.”

A native of Columbia, Miss. and 1990 graduate of Columbia High School, Dawsey earned his bachelor of arts in history and philosophy from USM, and later a master of arts and a doctorate from the University of Chicago, for which he completed a dissertation on the German-Jewish writer Günther Anders, who fled Germany right after Adolf Hitler took power.

His teaching experience includes as a graduate student at The University of Chicago; at USM in Hattiesburg and its Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach; and most recently at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

“Jason’s appointment is proof positive a history degree from Southern Miss can be a key component to obtaining a public history position at one of the country’s finest museums,” said Dr. Kyle Zelner, chair of the department and co-director of its Dale Center for the Study of War and Society. “We’re very proud of Jason, and excited to work with him to strengthen the already close relationship between the museum, the USM Department of History and Dale Center.”

For information about The National World War II Museum, visit https://www.nationalww2museum.org/. For information about the USM Department of History, visit www.usm.edu/history.