October 20 Program – Loyal Forces:
The American Animals of World War II

The Brevard College History Program and the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas are pleased to host Brevard College alumna Toni McCourt Kiser for a discussion of her book, Loyal Forces: The American Animals of World War II on October 20 at 2:00 p.m. in Ingram Auditorium on the Brevard College campus. Kiser, pictured here, works for the National WWII Museum in New Orleans and was a history major at the college.

“Toni had a passion for history that made her an excellent student,” says Dr. Margaret L. Brown, Coordinator of the History Program. “She wrote an outstanding senior project on the iconography of Catherine of Sienna.” Brown also recalls that she served as an organized and effective president of Pastimes, the History Club.

toni kiser photo

Toni McCourt Kiser

After Brevard College, Kiser earned a Master’s Degree in Museum Studies in Washington D.C. She served as an intern one summer at the Biltmore Estate, working with their rare book collection, cataloging and reporting on the condition of rare 19th century works. She also worked for the Freemasons at their headquarters and official archives in Washington D.C.

Working at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans has turned into a dream job for Kiser. “At first I really wanted to work at a historic house like the Biltmore or Allison Deaver. When the U.S. Navy stationed my husband in New Orleans, I applied for museum jobs there,” Kiser recounted. “I had an interest in World War II since my grandfather was a marine veteran of Guadalcanal.” Because of her wealth of internship experience, she got the job.

Kiser worked first as a registrar at the National WWII Museum, and today she is Senior Registrar & Director of Collections Management. “On the physical side, I am responsible for proper housing, tracking, and prepping for an exhibit, also noting what needs conservation. On the intellectual side, I make sure that donations and purchases meet all legal and ethical standards, proper cataloguing and standardized nomenclature, and setting the standards for our cataloguing manual and database.”

The idea for Loyal Forces came out of her work as a curator of exhibits. Her colleague and co-author, Lindsey Barnes, and Kiser convinced the Director to let them put together an exhibit on the service animals. Dogs served as mascots for many individual units; horses took part in the last mounted cavalry charge in U.S. Army history; and 36,000 homing pigeons helped deliver messages. The exhibit was a huge hit with visitors, and Louisiana State University press contacted Barnes and Kiser to turn their project into a book.

This free program is provided jointly by Brevard College and the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas. It will be livestreamed on Facebook starting at 2:00 p.m. on October 20 and will be posted subsequently on YouTube. Copies of the book Loyal Forces will be available for purchase and signing by the author at the event. Students, alumni, and anyone in the community interested in the history of World War II or the important role of service animals are invited to attend. “In the frightening and uncharted world of war, servicemen and women could count on the transport given by horses and mules, the protection offered by dogs, the communication delivered by pigeons, and the solace provided by mascots and pets,” write Kiser and Barnes.

Watch the presentation by Toni McCourt