War journals help historians accurately document history
August 9, 2008
Everyone has a story to tell. This is especially true for deployed servicemembers. Pictures, letters, blogs and journals give fellow troops, those at home and future generations a real picture of what it was like serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"We know how it was supposed to happen, how it was planned, but what we're looking for is personal reactions, how people felt. Maybe it went down a little differently than it was reported," said Navy Cdr. Doreen J. Fussman, historian, Multi-National Corps - Iraq.
"History relies more than anything on first person accounts," said Lt. Col. William S. Story, historian, Multi-National Forces - Iraq. "It's much better than what is processed through public affairs, the media and the command."
The most valuable source for telling the story of the war is in the words of servicemembers on the ground, Story said. "The best histories of past wars are Soldiers' journals."
Many troops feel as though their day-to-day lives aren't important or exciting enough to merit documenting them, but this isn't the case, Fussman said. "They may not feel their story is important, but it really is. It may not feel as important as the guy who got the Silver Star, but someone will want to read it."
"Whether your experience of war is great or awful, write it down today when you're feeling it," Story said. Historians advise recording thoughts and feelings as often as possible to capture a more detailed, complete picture of varying war experiences. Both military and civilian historians are interested in hearing the stories of both boredom and excitement. These opposing viewpoints are part of what makes the full deployment experience clearer to those who aren't here, Story said. "This war is complicated and it could go many different directions. It's a hard war to understand. It's hard to understand encountering IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and IDF (indirect fire) everyday and it's hard to understand the boredom," Story said.
Servicemembers interested in documenting their time in Iraq for posterity have numerous ways to do so, Fussman said. They can keep written journals, electronic journals or blogs, record a spoken journal or use photographs or video to tell their story. Troops should always keep operational security in mind when shooting pictures or video, Fussman said.
Those interested in submitting their journals can send them in hard copy or electronically to Story at firstname.lastname@example.org or LTC Wm. Shane Story, MNFI-SCJS Historian, Unit 91400, APO AE 09342. Writers' names can be kept anonymous on request and journals do not have to be reviewed by the individual's chain of command. Historians also aren't concerned with spelling or grammar used in compositions, Fussman said. The important part is the content.
"No one will ever understand what it's like here unless people who are experiencing it can put it in to words now," Story said.