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"...Marine Corps History Is Dominated by Marines and Former Marines"?

October 22 2002 at 7:04 PM
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Dick G  (Login Dick Gaines)
Owner
from IP address 209.130.218.237

 
From: "Gregory J. W. Urwin" <gurwin@astro.ocis.temple.edu>
List Editor: H-War Editor Mark Parillo <war@ksu.edu>
Editor's Subject: REPLY: USMC History [was "Military History by Journalists"]
Author's Subject: REPLY: USMC History [was "Military History by Journalists"]
Date Written: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 14:41:21 -0500
Date Posted: Tue, 4 Dec 2001 10:31:12 -0600

http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-war&month=0112&week=a&msg=yLQfv/HiikMQ6sV7qeXexg&user=&pw


From: "Gregory J. W. Urwin" <gurwin@astro.ocis.temple.edu>
List Editor: H-War Editor Mark Parillo <war@ksu.edu>
Editor's Subject: REPLY: USMC History [was "Military History by Journalists"]
Author's Subject: REPLY: USMC History [was "Military History by Journalists"]
Date Written: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 14:41:21 -0500
Date Posted: Tue, 4 Dec 2001 10:31:12 -0600

I can disagree with nothing Mr. Hoffman has written [on Mon, 12 Nov
2001 21:18:23 -0500] except for the assertion that I have launched "a
broadside attack on Marines who write history." Picking out the flaws in
works written by some Marines is not a broadside attack.

I must accept partial blame for this misperception, because my
previous comments in this dialogue have accentuated the negative. Those
scholars that I consider to stand at the cutting edge in Marine Corps
history include Allan R. Millett, Jack Shulimson, Merrill L. Bartlett,
Kenneth E. Estes, Hans Schmidt, Keith B. Bickel, and Craig M. Cameron.
Joseph Alexander has also turned out some excellent work. A good number of
these folks are former Marines, but they have risen above the norm in
Marine Corps history, which Graham A. Cosmas characterizes as "polemical,
sensational, autobiographal, or some combination thereof."

John Grider Miller's _The CO-Vans: U.S. Marine Advisors in Vietnam_
(Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000), is a sterling example of a former
Marine combining the insights gained from personal experience with good
research and scholarly detachment in a truly thoughtful book. It can be
done. It just is not done often enough.

I do not mean to disparage those who write drum and bugle
operational history. That requires certain hard-earned skills and a lot of
work, and it certainly fills the needs of the armed forces, but I have
always felt that military history had a higher purpose than simply
schooling future generations of officers in how to kill more efficiently.
The Marine Corps is important enough to warrant more first-rate scholarship
than it has attracted. Go into almost any research university library, and
you will find that the number of serious studies on the U.S. Army and the
U.S. Navy dwarf similar volumes on the USMC.

This should not be the case. The USMC has been around almost as
long as the U.S. Army and just as long as the U.S. Navy. True, it is
smaller than the other two services, but that very smallness should
facilitate more serious research -- not less -- especially when one
considers the glamourous mystique that surrounds the USMC. The survival of
a such a conspicuous organization whose values run counter to what passes
for popular culture in this country is a fascinating phenomenon, especially
when that organization is so highly prized by millions of Americans who
would never have the guts to join it.

The fact remains that Marine Corps history is dominated by Marines
and former Marines, a situation that has been long fostered by the Marine
Corps History and Museums Division, which is the nearest thing to a "closed
shop" that we have among the historical programs affiliated with America's
armed forces. So perhaps the notion of collective guilt is not
inappropriate in this case. I wish the Marine Corps History and Museums
Division would sponsor a true program of glasnost to encourage more
professional historians and doctoral students to subject the Corps, its
history, and the writing of Marine Corps history to closer scrutiny. The
gatekeepers need to fling open the gates. That would involve putting more
money into research and dissertation grants, but I am afraid that is not
going to happen until the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation raises the $25
million required to build the new Marine Corps Heritage Center at Quantico.

A military background can supply certain insights, or it can be a
source of presentism, chauvinism, and partisanship. What matters is the
quality of the historical works in question, and top quality usually rests
on solid research, a broad perspective, and an ability to deal with the
past on its own terms, and not the standards, traditions, and current
interests of a modern military organization.

And for the record, I would like to state that I wrote my review of
Mr. Hoffman's Chesty for the Journal of Military History at least a
month before we crossed pens on this listserve. I would not like anyone to
assume that an honest and politely conducted disagreement would affect the
way I evaluate a fellow historian's work.

Gregory J. W. Urwin


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**************************************





I can disagree with nothing Mr. Hoffman has written [on Mon, 12 Nov
2001 21:18:23 -0500] except for the assertion that I have launched "a
broadside attack on Marines who write history." Picking out the flaws in
works written by some Marines is not a broadside attack.

I must accept partial blame for this misperception, because my
previous comments in this dialogue have accentuated the negative. Those
scholars that I consider to stand at the cutting edge in Marine Corps
history include Allan R. Millett, Jack Shulimson, Merrill L. Bartlett,
Kenneth E. Estes, Hans Schmidt, Keith B. Bickel, and Craig M. Cameron.
Joseph Alexander has also turned out some excellent work. A good number of
these folks are former Marines, but they have risen above the norm in
Marine Corps history, which Graham A. Cosmas characterizes as "polemical,
sensational, autobiographal, or some combination thereof."

John Grider Miller's _The CO-Vans: U.S. Marine Advisors in Vietnam_
(Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000), is a sterling example of a former
Marine combining the insights gained from personal experience with good
research and scholarly detachment in a truly thoughtful book. It can be
done. It just is not done often enough.

I do not mean to disparage those who write drum and bugle
operational history. That requires certain hard-earned skills and a lot of
work, and it certainly fills the needs of the armed forces, but I have
always felt that military history had a higher purpose than simply
schooling future generations of officers in how to kill more efficiently.
The Marine Corps is important enough to warrant more first-rate scholarship
than it has attracted. Go into almost any research university library, and
you will find that the number of serious studies on the U.S. Army and the
U.S. Navy dwarf similar volumes on the USMC.

This should not be the case. The USMC has been around almost as
long as the U.S. Army and just as long as the U.S. Navy. True, it is
smaller than the other two services, but that very smallness should
facilitate more serious research -- not less -- especially when one
considers the glamourous mystique that surrounds the USMC. The survival of
a such a conspicuous organization whose values run counter to what passes
for popular culture in this country is a fascinating phenomenon, especially
when that organization is so highly prized by millions of Americans who
would never have the guts to join it.

The fact remains that Marine Corps history is dominated by Marines
and former Marines, a situation that has been long fostered by the Marine
Corps History and Museums Division, which is the nearest thing to a "closed
shop" that we have among the historical programs affiliated with America's
armed forces. So perhaps the notion of collective guilt is not
inappropriate in this case. I wish the Marine Corps History and Museums
Division would sponsor a true program of glasnost to encourage more
professional historians and doctoral students to subject the Corps, its
history, and the writing of Marine Corps history to closer scrutiny. The
gatekeepers need to fling open the gates. That would involve putting more
money into research and dissertation grants, but I am afraid that is not
going to happen until the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation raises the $25
million required to build the new Marine Corps Heritage Center at Quantico.

A military background can supply certain insights, or it can be a
source of presentism, chauvinism, and partisanship. What matters is the
quality of the historical works in question, and top quality usually rests
on solid research, a broad perspective, and an ability to deal with the
past on its own terms, and not the standards, traditions, and current
interests of a modern military organization.

And for the record, I would like to state that I wrote my review of
Mr. Hoffman's Chesty for the Journal of Military History at least a
month before we crossed pens on this listserve. I would not like anyone to
assume that an honest and politely conducted disagreement would affect the
way I evaluate a fellow historian's work.

Gregory J. W. Urwin

From: "Gregory J. W. Urwin" <gurwin@astro.ocis.temple.edu>
List Editor: H-War Editor Mark Parillo <war@ksu.edu>
Editor's Subject: REPLY: USMC History [was "Military History by Journalists"]
Author's Subject: REPLY: USMC History [was "Military History by Journalists"]
Date Written: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 14:41:21 -0500
Date Posted: Tue, 4 Dec 2001 10:31:12 -0600

I can disagree with nothing Mr. Hoffman has written [on Mon, 12 Nov
2001 21:18:23 -0500] except for the assertion that I have launched "a
broadside attack on Marines who write history." Picking out the flaws in
works written by some Marines is not a broadside attack.

I must accept partial blame for this misperception, because my
previous comments in this dialogue have accentuated the negative. Those
scholars that I consider to stand at the cutting edge in Marine Corps
history include Allan R. Millett, Jack Shulimson, Merrill L. Bartlett,
Kenneth E. Estes, Hans Schmidt, Keith B. Bickel, and Craig M. Cameron.
Joseph Alexander has also turned out some excellent work. A good number of
these folks are former Marines, but they have risen above the norm in
Marine Corps history, which Graham A. Cosmas characterizes as "polemical,
sensational, autobiographal, or some combination thereof."

John Grider Miller's _The CO-Vans: U.S. Marine Advisors in Vietnam_
(Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000), is a sterling example of a former
Marine combining the insights gained from personal experience with good
research and scholarly detachment in a truly thoughtful book. It can be
done. It just is not done often enough.

I do not mean to disparage those who write drum and bugle
operational history. That requires certain hard-earned skills and a lot of
work, and it certainly fills the needs of the armed forces, but I have
always felt that military history had a higher purpose than simply
schooling future generations of officers in how to kill more efficiently.
The Marine Corps is important enough to warrant more first-rate scholarship
than it has attracted. Go into almost any research university library, and
you will find that the number of serious studies on the U.S. Army and the
U.S. Navy dwarf similar volumes on the USMC.

This should not be the case. The USMC has been around almost as
long as the U.S. Army and just as long as the U.S. Navy. True, it is
smaller than the other two services, but that very smallness should
facilitate more serious research -- not less -- especially when one
considers the glamourous mystique that surrounds the USMC. The survival of
a such a conspicuous organization whose values run counter to what passes
for popular culture in this country is a fascinating phenomenon, especially
when that organization is so highly prized by millions of Americans who
would never have the guts to join it.

The fact remains that Marine Corps history is dominated by Marines
and former Marines, a situation that has been long fostered by the Marine
Corps History and Museums Division, which is the nearest thing to a "closed
shop" that we have among the historical programs affiliated with America's
armed forces. So perhaps the notion of collective guilt is not
inappropriate in this case. I wish the Marine Corps History and Museums
Division would sponsor a true program of glasnost to encourage more
professional historians and doctoral students to subject the Corps, its
history, and the writing of Marine Corps history to closer scrutiny. The
gatekeepers need to fling open the gates. That would involve putting more
money into research and dissertation grants, but I am afraid that is not
going to happen until the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation raises the $25
million required to build the new Marine Corps Heritage Center at Quantico.

A military background can supply certain insights, or it can be a
source of presentism, chauvinism, and partisanship. What matters is the
quality of the historical works in question, and top quality usually rests
on solid research, a broad perspective, and an ability to deal with the
past on its own terms, and not the standards, traditions, and current
interests of a modern military organization.

And for the record, I would like to state that I wrote my review of
Mr. Hoffman's Chesty for the Journal of Military History at least a
month before we crossed pens on this listserve. I would not like anyone to
assume that an honest and politely conducted disagreement would affect the
way I evaluate a fellow historian's work.

Gregory J. W. Urwin

http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-war&month=0112&week=a&msg=yLQfv/HiikMQ6sV7qeXexg&user=&pw



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**************************************





    
This message has been edited by Dick Gaines from IP address 209.130.218.237 on Oct 22, 2002 7:09 PM


 
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Dick G
(Login Dick Gaines)
Owner
209.130.221.205

Re USMC Monographs, Col Robert D. Heinl, etc.

No score for this post
October 31 2002, 8:27 AM 

From: "Gregory J. W. Urwin" <gurwin@astro.ocis.temple.edu>
List Editor: H-War Editor Mark Parillo <war@ksu.edu>
Editor's Subject: REPLY: USMC Monographs
Author's Subject: REPLY: USMC Monographs
Date Written: Thu, 06 Dec 2001 13:22:34 -0500
Date Posted: Mon, 17 Dec 2001 13:10:24 -0600

I don't know about microfilm, but the U.S. Marine Corps Monographs
were republished about a decade ago in hardback editions (more durable than
the original paperbacks) by Battery Press in Nashville, TN. I saw almost
all the titles from the series for sale in their reprint incarnation when I
visited the Marine Corps Association bookstore at Quantico last August.

Readers should keep in mind that many of these monographs were
written and published during the "Unification Crisis" right after World War
II, when Marines feared that their service might be absorbed into a larger
entity and lose its distinctive character. Thus, there is a good amount of
distortion (glory-grabbing) -- some of it subtle, some of it not -- in
these volumes. Their real purpose was not to accurately record USMC
operations in World War II, but to convince Congress and John Q. Public
that the USMC was indispensable to American security. Since I admire the
USMC, I am glad this effort succeeded, but I do not consider a lot of what
is contained in the monographs to be good history.

I would especially caution against anything written by Lt. Col.
Robert Debs Heinl, Jr., who was more a propagandist than a historian. I've
gone through Heinl's personal papers, as well as his research files, and
this was a guy who practiced character assassination and the deliberate
omission of inconvenient data. Civilians who subscribe to this list would
find reading what Heinl had to say about permitting non-Marines to work for
the Marine Corps historical program to be most illuminating.

Fortunately, a lot of the flaws in the monographs were cleaned up
in _U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II_. 5 vols. Washington,
D.C.: Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps,
1958-68. These volumes were based on careful scholarship, and their authors
included real historians who were much more honest than Heinl, such as
Benis M. Frank, Bernard C. Nalty, and the late Henry I. Shaw. One can
still discern the influence of the monograph series in _U.S. Marine Corps
Operations in World War II_, but the latter is a superior product. It has
also been reprinted by Battery Press and is easily available for purchase.

Gregory J. W. Urwin


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Dick G
(Login Dick Gaines)
Owner
209.130.221.205

Re USMC History -Jon Hoffman

No score for this post
October 31 2002, 2:28 PM 

From: "Jon Hoffman" <jonthoff@mindspring.com>
List Editor: H-War Editor Mark Parillo <war@ksu.edu>
Editor's Subject: REPLY: Military History by Journalists
Author's Subject: REPLY: Military History by Journalists
Date Written: Mon, 12 Nov 2001 21:18:23 -0500
Date Posted: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 12:35:28 -0600

I am a Marine and a historian of the Marine Corps. While the former may
not make me a better historian, I don't think it has made me a worse one.
Mr. Urwin's recent note [written on Mon, 22 Oct 2001 13:50:18 -0400] in
this thread has indicated that he has had experiences that helped him
better understand the carnage and fear of the battlefield. I would not
disagree with this assessment, but I find it strange that the same note
denigrates actual experience in the service as useful training for the
study of military history. The difficulty an infantryman faces in carrying
heavy loads over rough terrain, and even an appreciation of terrain from
the military perspective, are just a few of the experiences of service that
help someone understand military history. Does that automatically qualify
them to be good historians? Of course not, any more than a degree in
history or an understanding of fear will make someone a good historian.
Many things can contribute in a positive way, but that doesn't guarantee
those rites of passage or periods of education will be used properly.

If Marine Corps history seems to be in a "state of arrested
development," as Mr. Urwin's note contends, it seems to me that most of the
worst writing and analysis is emanating from non-Marines who also happen to
be poor historians doing little or no research. And there are surely some
Marines who are not producing good history, either.

While I don't think a broadside attack on Marines who write history is
warranted, I believe there is ample room for those who see shortcomings in
the literature to write more on Marine Corps history and to write reviews
on those works seen as unworthy of the field. We will all be better off as
a result.

LtCol Jon T. Hoffman, USMCR
Deputy Director
Marine Corps History and Museums Division


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Dick G
(Login Dick Gaines)
Owner
66.133.135.197

Is Military History Taboo?

Score 5.0 (1 person)
November 8 2002, 4:09 PM 

Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2002 10:33:10 -0600
From: "Mark Parillo" <war@ksu.edu> | This is Spam | Add to Address Book
Subject: REPLY: Military History and the AHA
To: H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU

Date: Tue, 5 Nov 2002 23:08:48 -0800 (PST) From: Karlye Shilts <spaintoparis@yahoo.com>

In response to Mr. Grimsley's post of 11.4.02, I would like to suggest a panel that would indeed serve military historians as well as anyone teaching history at the college level.

Not only have military history courses fallen out of favor in university catalogs, the discussion of military history in any form has become almost taboo. Many courses on Western Civ or Modern Europe have dropped most mention of warfare.

I myself remember taking a course at my undergratuate school, the Modern World from 1815. We discussed in detail the causes and aftermath of the World Wars, but never spoke a word about the wars themselves. Though I realize this is an extreme case, I do not believe it is anomalous.

I find myself speaking to undergraduates and graduate students from various schools about the interwar years and the rise of fascism finding that they know almost nothing about the Great War other than the death of Ferdinand and the Treaty of Versailles. This excludes, of course, students of military history.

I find this most disturbing, for of the four schools I have been at in the last seven years, only the British university had students that understood anything about warfare. American students seem to realize that war has an impact on society and politics, and therefore must be studied in order to understand these aspects of history a bit better, but their lack of knowledge about warfare in general is appalling.
I do not suggest that we must demand that students become well versed in military history before they receive a B.A., but I do think that there is an unfortunate void in their education that must at least be partially filled. How can one explain to a student about France during the interwar years without describing the Great War? To simply tell them that France suffered millions of casualties and had most of the north destroyed is not enough, though that is what most of them are getting. It is insufficient.
I do not know of any studies that compare how military history is taught in the U.S. and abroad, but from my own experience, we are shortchanging our students. Perhaps a panel that examines how military history is taught, should be taught, and the benefits and drawbacks of each. Of course, we should not attack the organizations that would welcome our panel or any scholars or group of scholars, but we should remain firm in what we believe to be true.
I would be interested to hear any comments on this post, either in this forum or privately.
R.L. Shilts
University of Northern Colorado
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