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March 12, 2010
The PacificstsBy Greyhawk
"I received my commission when I graduated Tufts in 1937," recalled Bill Hawkins, years later. "Shortly after this I went to work teaching Latin and English at the Milford Academy, located between Bridgeport and New Haven in Connecticut."
Not very exciting - but I get the impression he didn't think the job would last: "This was the period when Hitler was trying to grab everything that wasn't nailed down. By the time he reached Poland, Great Britain and France said no more and, bang, we had World War II. I knew it was just a matter of time before they'd start calling up the reserves and I was right. My turn came in December, 1940, one year before the Pearl Harbor attack."
I'm quoting Captain Hawkins from a book I pulled off the shelf here at home this morning. It's a paperback I've had long enough to have forgotten how long I've had it or where I got it, but in all that time I've never forgotten it. It's an oral history built on interviews with Marines who served in the Pacific during World War II - Bill Hawkins is but one of many.
He thought he knew what he was in for, but as his next words will reveal, his vision was flawed.
"The funny thing about the period was that none of us thought about fighting the Japanese. Nazi Germany - that was the big menace. We'd been told all about Belleau Wood, Soissons, Mont Blanc, all those big fights from World War I. Most of us just didn't think about Japan."
Let's jump forward to today. The event that prompted me to grab a yellowing and well-creased paperback from my shelf was the arrival of an email containing a link to this online Time magazine story - an oral history of Tom Hanks, as related by the subject to historian Douglas Brinkley and published with the title "How Tom Hanks Became America's Historian in Chief."
The Pacific, Hanks' 10-hour HBO miniseries about the Pacific theater in World War II begins on March 14th. I'm looking forward to it.
So it's history connected to now. But the Time story is about Tom Hanks - and how he became America's Historian in Chief.
For most folks history is best consumed in small doses, which is why the miniseries is an effective manner of presentation.
And you've arrived at the end of part one of this one. Next entry in the series here.
More Mudville entries on The Pacific here.
Posted by Greyhawk / March 12, 2010 1:15 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
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