Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Operation Desert Storm, 1991

On 21 February 1991 I was the Commander of the 326th Military History Detachment (USAR) attached to VII Corps and assigned for operational purposes to 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), 1st Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor configured for the operation as TASK FORCE 2-34.

The ground war would begin in three days.

My mission was to support the Department of Army’s combat oral history program (in accordance with AR 870-5; FM 101-10-2, Ch 15; DA PAM 870-5; and FONCON, 7 Dec 90, William Stacy, FORSCOM historian).

In other words I was to design and execute rigorous oral history collection projects, supplemented by photographs, documents and personal notes as possible, that would capture the individual recollections, and unit histories of supporting and engaged Army units.

Over the next several days I will share with you some of my personal and professional experiences as an Army field historian commanding a Military History Detachment during Operation DESERT STORM (ODS).

The work-a-day world of most practicing historians consists of finding and studying documents and various historical artifacts that others have collected and deposited in libraries, museums, or private collections.

Military History Detachment historians, however, collect documents, artifacts, and oral histories in real time that will be deposited in archives for others to study.

As a classically trained historian, whose graduate major was the European Middle Ages (the ninth century polyptyques to be precise), I asked myself how does one go out on the battlefield and collect “stuff”?

What historical methodology applies? What differentiates an historian collecting “stuff” on the battlefield from a journalist collecting “stuff” on the battlefield? What distinguishes things that should be saved from things that are just stories?

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