Writing for history.orbat.com
v.1.0, August 7, 2002
If you’d like to write for history.orbat.com, one way to start is simply to pick something that interests you. Almost all of us develop one or a few historical periods or armies that hold out attention. Some wander widely and others find that they tend to hone in ever more specifically on one army or conflict. My own interests have roamed over the years among the American Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, American Civil War, Franco-Prussian War, both World Wars, and Vietnam, along with the US and British Armies in general. And very now and then some other army or period will prove interesting. In the too many years since I first became interested in military history back in high school, I have gathered (and often lost) orbat material from all of this. But the principal part of my personal library, and surviving folders of notes and documents, relate to the US and British armies in the Twentieth Century, along with World War II in Europe.
At one time, purchasing books and magazines—or viewing them in a library—was the only means for getting at lists of units and lineages and organization charts and all of the other material that OOB enthusiasts can find so enthralling and everyone else just sees as boring numbers and names. Now, with the internet it is possible to find quantities of primary and secondary material online. (I was a history major in college: primary material is usually a document or something official, secondary material is just about anything else.) The internet also makes it possible to find others who share your interests. However, just like any other resource, you do need the historian’s penchant for asking what the sources are. Anybody can post on the internet, and information posted is not accurate just because it is there. When you find new information, consider how it fits in with what you already know. If there are conflicts, can you resolve them, or evaluate the sources. Sometimes you can’t, and you have to make your best guess or note the discrepancies. One advantage of the internet is that you can put out what research you have and then hear from others who might be able to fill in the gaps or help resolve conflicts in your other sources.
The US Constabulary article provides an example—albeit a little embarrassing—of the process. I first knew of the Constabulary long ago from an illustration of their uniform in a series put out by The Company of Military Historians. Well after that, as I was gathering material on lineages, I would run across units that were converted to Constabulary in 1946. I began to gather these notes, and eventually had identified most of the units involved, although I lacked various details. Documents on the web from The Center of Military History and The US Army Military History Institute provided more information. With the start of this electronic magazine, it seemed a good opportunity to write up what I had. And, of course, just after I did so, the Center of Military History, which provided the last of the unit numbers and details of assignments, as well as geographic deployment information, placed another document on the web. The result is a revision to the US Constabulary document. Someday a source may provide a few more details; however complete the document looks, there is yet more that could be learned about the Constabulary. Whether the information is worth knowing is another question. That goes back to the early point: write about what you find interesting; it is almost impossible that nobody else would share that interest, and many of us enjoy reading about armies or events outside of our more common pursuits.
If you’d like to add your own suggestion to this guidance, my orbat.com email account should be active by next week and on the masthead.
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