The Army Combat Historian And Combat History Operations

World War I to the Vietnam War

Dr Kathryn Roe Coker, Jason Wetzel

How the US Army developed historical programs since World War I—sending combat historians into the fray to interview soldiers and collect documents for the benefit of history.
Date Published :
May 2023
Publisher :
Illustration :
B/W and color illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781636243290
Pages : 224
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order


In World War I, Major General Pershing proposed the idea of establishing a historical office within the AEF headquarters. The War Department reorganized 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 organized 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.

About The Author

Dr. Kathryn Roe Coker received a doctorate in history from the University of South Carolina. For nine years, she was the appraisal archivist at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Dr. Coker then served for thirty years as an historian for the Department of the Army (DA). She has published numerous articles in professional journals and book chapters from her dissertation on Revolutionary War loyalists. While a DA historian, she published books and pamphlets including World War II Prisoners of War In Georgia: Camp Gordon's POWs; A History of Fort Gordon; Mobilization of the U.S. Army Reserve for the Korean War; and The Indispensable Force: The U.S. Army Reserve (1990-2010). For eleven years as a DA historian, she particpated in training Military History Detachments. Dr Coker retired in 2015 from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. For two years she was a part time associate librarian at the Richmond Public Library. In 2019, Dr. Coker and Mr. Wetzel published Georgia POW Camps In World War II. Their book on Virginia POW Camps In World War II will be published in November 2022. Dr. Coker resides in Richmond, Virginia.

Jason Wetzel has an MA in education and history from Georgia State University. The bulk of his working life was in telecommunications, with side forays as a high school teacher and a Department of the Army historian. His interest is World War II history. His mother was an Australian war bride, and he is an Australian war baby. Dahlonega, Georgia, is his home.



Chapter 1: World War I and the Beginning of Army Wartime History Operations
Chapter II: Post-World War I Army Military History Operations
Chapter III: Establishing the World War II Army Historical Program
Chapter IV: Training the World War II Combat Historian
Chapter V: Historical Program in the European Theater of Operations
Chapter VI: Army Combat Historians in the Pacific Theater
Chapter VII: Army Combat History Operations in the Mediterranean Theater
Chapter VIII: Post-World War II Army Military History Doctrine
Chapter IX: Korean War and Army Combat History Operations
Chapter X: Post Korean War Army Military History Doctrine
Chapter XI: The Vietnam War and Army Combat History Operations

Appendix A: Marshall's How To Do It for Historical Officers

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