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Experience World War I in 'real time'

Letters from a British soldier posted as a blog have gained a huge following.

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Mr. Teboe, inspired by Lamin's site, intends to post a relative's World War II diary entries beginning in January. He inherited the 140-page diary of 1st Lt. William R. Perkins, a P-51 fighter plane pilot who was part of the 354th Fighter Group.

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While Teboe never met Lt. Perkins, he says that when reading the diary, it "seems like you're there ... and you're transported in time." Reading the diary has also sparked Teboe's desire to film a documentary on the 354th Fighter Group and connect with some of the survivors who might have known Perkins.

Lamin's blog has inspired others besides Teboe. One blogger posts his grandfather's letters from France while he served in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during World War I. Another posts his great-grandfather's journal entries from his service in the AEF in Siberia, and one posts scans of his father's letters from World War II as a prisoner of war in Singapore.

In the future, Lamin hopes to publish a book of his grandfather's letters and create a World War I textbook for British schoolchildren. He's already read the letters to children in a primary school classroom. "I think most of the [World War I] books are dire," Lamin says. "Either they are very, very sensational or dry." So he sees his grandfather's letters as a gateway for education.

The blog has now become so well known that his grandfather will be featured on a postage stamp this November to commemorate the end of the war, and Lamin notes that a book deal is in the works.

"There comes a point when you start wondering about your family; where you came from and what sort of people your antecedents [were]," Lamin says. "I want the world to know about my grandfather." Blogs have transformed war-zone correspondence, says Jill Walker Rettberg, an associate professor at the University of Bergen in Norway and author of the book "Blogging."

Professor Rettberg has researched the increase of soldiers posting blog entries from Iraq and notes that this electronic medium has helped soldiers stay in touch with family and friends with a simple click of a mouse. "What's unusual or new," she says, "[is that] the world gets immediate access to this."

Rettberg also says there are benefits to posting family letters and information on the Web, such as Bill Lamin has done. "Because it's online, it's searchable," she notes. "So, say some other relative or someone who has a connection to this person's grandfather [or] maybe someone's grandfather who was serving in the same group, they may be able to find that, and it might be useful to them, too." When Rettberg wrote about her grandmother online, she received comments from family members she never knew she had. Blogs are "making it much easier for people to share what they've found about their own family," she says.

[Editor's note: The original version misstated which fighter group 1st Lt. William R. Perkins belonged to and what type of plane he flew.]

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