Heroes of the Second World War founder seeks local vets for interview project

Rishi Sharma once interviewed Len Mann, a British World War II veteran who fought in the Devonshire Regiment.

Agoura Hills native Rishi Sharma has been on a mission to get as many on-camera interviews with World War II veterans as he can, and he’s looking to connect with veterans in the Del Mar area.

Since high school, Sharma said he’s interviewed more than 1,100 veterans, including about 50 in the San Diego area. Each interview lasts for a few hours, and the footage is turned over to the veterans and their families. He added that he also gives copies to museums and universities so they’re made available as educational resources.

Sharma said he’s always been drawn to “how interesting it is that these men seem to have faced so many obstacles in their lives and they overcome them all.” He added that they’ve persevered through “the trauma of the war,” and lived through some of America’s greatest milestones, such as putting a man on the moon for the first time in world history.

Sharma started out riding his bicycle to retirement homes in his area while he was in high school, and eventually launched a nonprofit called Heroes of the Second World War. His initial efforts generated some media attention.

“I was very blessed to get a lot of funding after that,” said Sharma, who has been traveling all over the country on a full-time basis for the last few years to meet and interview World War II veterans.

Many World War II veterans are now in their 80s and 90s, adding a sense of urgency to his work. Of the 16 million Americans who served in the war, about 325,000 are alive as of 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Sharma said he has also interviewed World War II veterans in Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

“It gives you an idea of just how fortunate you are to be alive in this country, and really in the western world,” he said, referring to the many stories he’s heard.

In an interview with the Department of Veterans Affairs from four years ago, around the time he got started on this initiative, Sharma said that World War II combat veterans are his “biggest heroes.”

While Sharma is in Del Mar, he’s hoping to connect with as many local World War II veterans as possible. He said he’s interviewed 15 so far during this trip, and he wants veterans, or anyone who knows a veteran, to call him at 202-315-8743.

“I’m looking for more veterans to interview to preserve their stories,” he said.

For more information, visit heroesofthesecondworldwar.org.