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The Army Combat Historian And Combat History Operations (Hardback)

World War I to the Vietnam War


Imprint: Casemate Publishers
Pages: 224
Illustrations: B/W and color illustrations
ISBN: 9781636243290
Published: 5th August 2023



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In World War I, Major General Pershing proposed the idea of establishing a historical office within the AEF headquarters. The War Department reorganised the General Staff to include a Historical Branch. Evidence shows that soldiers acting as historians went "down range," albeit not into combat. By World War II, the situation had changed – whether S.L.A. Marshall's popping out of a billet in Sibret as a shells exploded on the road; Forrest Pogue's typing "on a little camp desk under an apple tree;" Chester Starr's terrain reconnaissance in the Mediterranean theater, or Ken Hechler's command of a four-man historical team interviewing soldiers at the Remagen Bridge and searching through secret documents – the World War II combat historians were there behind and on the front lines with a notebook in one hand and their carbine in the other hand, ever ready to collect battlefield information.


Eight historical service detachments were deployed to Korea. The youngest commander, 1st Lieutenant Bevin Alexander, noted "We were on the front lines the whole time… We would interview the people afterwards and create a battle study." After the Korean War, the duties of the combat historian further evolved as what became the Center of Military History published doctrine about military history detachments (MHDs). As America’s immersion in Vietnam escalated, there was concern regarding historical coverage. Chief of Military History Brigadier General Hal Pattison established a network of historical teams to collect information on the U.S Army in the war. A major development in the history program and in deploying MHDs came with the establishment of Headquarters, U.S. Army Vietnam (USARV) under General William C. Westmoreland’s command. In 1965, the history office was organised at Headquarters, U.S. Army Vietnam (USARV). MHDs were deployed across Vietnam, conducting combat after action interviews, and collecting documents. This study focuses on U.S. Army historical programs during combat operations from World War I to the Vietnam War with particular attention on the combat historians, those individuals deployed to a theater of war with the mission of documenting the actions of that theater for current and future historical use.

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