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Topics I've Started
02 October 2015 - 07:41 PMI have posted an OOB for the Hellenic Army under OBs on the main page. If you have any new information to share and and/or spot some errors, please post yoiur comments here. As always, please provide a cite for your information.
I am working on similar document for the Italian Army as well as OBs for April 1941.
19 September 2015 - 05:37 PMA request was made for information on the Greek Army's retreat on the Epirus and Western Macedonian Fronts. Attached are two maps from the Greek official history: An Abridged History of the Greek-Italian and Greek-German War 1940-1941 (Land Operations) published by the Hellenic Army General Staff in 1997.
Sketch Map 24 covers the WMFAS. Sketch map 26 covers the EFAS. The dates the positions marked are indicated.
16 September 2015 - 01:14 PMThe use of wartime sources recently became a central issue in a discussion of an article poster here on Comando Supremo (CS). I have opened this thread to discuss the use of sources in historical articles/posts as part of CS discussions.
Note that my discussion mainly focuses on Italian wartime sources. While my comments can be applied to other nations, the degree to which the use of those sources are valid can/do vary. Other nations’ wartime sources can be discussed here as well.
Main point: wartime communiqués, wartime newspaper articles, and personal diaries and memoirs are part of the historical record. The question is not whether they should be used but more a question of when and how they are used. They can be of great value to the historian or they can lead the historian down the wrong path.
The writing and discussion of an historical event requires the individual to shift through the historical record to discover those sources that are both germane and accurate to the event being examined. One must establish the what, when, where, and who. The why is usually examined after these first four factors are fully known.
Establishing the first four Ws normally requires the historian to compare numerous bits of the historical record. How often in our discussions and research have we found seemly contradictory but apparently valid information about an event? Here is where the historian considers the sources themselves. Are the records uncovered by the historian valid/accurate?
Official records tend to offer the most accurate accounts of the four Ws. Any organization, regardless whether the military, banks, private businesses, etc., must create and maintain accurate accounts and records. Accurate records are a must for organizations to efficiently operate. Without accurate records, these organizations will fail. Decisions made and transmitted, funding received and spent, individuals hired and fired and their job assignments are critical data that is created, stored, and distributed.
This is not to say that all official records are accurate, just that, on the whole, they tend to be quite accurate. Usually the problem is gaps rather than incorrect information. Records lost/destroyed in combat, intentionally destroyed as part of a cover-up, etc. Reporting systems can generate inaccurate information, but over time the systems self-corrects itself. Again accuracy is a prime requirement for the organization to function and identifying/correcting the records is usually built into the systems.
I won’t go through all the other types of historical records. The point is all sources must be verified, but that there are records that always tend to be the bedrock for any exploration of an event. The official record usually is that bedrock.
Wartime records, in this case official communiqués, newspaper articles, personal diaries and journals.
I would state that in most cases these records are used to understand the why of the five Ws. These types of records are normally vetted against other sources (such as the official records) to determine their degree of validly (truthiness). On occasion such records illuminate a new line research when they bring to light a fact not seen before, but then one must research other sources to determine whether this line of inquiry is valid.
Official communiqués serve a purpose other than historical accuracy. They are used to mobilize and sustain public support for a nation’s effort towards a set goal. In war, they are a propaganda tool that can be reasonably accurate when one’s side is successful, but can be grossly inaccurate when events are not positive. I shouldn’t need to mention examples of such false claims of sinking ships (the HMS Ark Royal was famous for being sunk multiple times in official communiqués), the exaggeration of success or minimizing of a defeat that appear regularly in the official communiqués of the nations involved in WW2. Medals have been awarded for feats that never happened because wartime reporting lacks the ability to verify (the Colin Kelly award is one such example). Another example is the ongoing verification of wartime aircraft losses due to aerial combat. The point is that such communiqués must be treated as suspect and rigorously checked against other verified sources.
The limitations of wartime newspaper reporting fall into two main areas: 1) Access to information only through military sources (i.e. communiqués, see above); 2) if reporters are present, the problem of being allowed to the front and censorship. Again a valuable source when rigorously checked against other sources but lack reliability when used alone.
Personal writings again have strengths and weaknesses. In the case of information about Greek Campaign, Cavallero wasn’t present on the front lines and relied on reports from subordinates. So while what he wrote is likely what he truly knew at the time, it doesn’t mean the information was accurate. The issue of faulty reporting has been documented in all armies, and it can be stated that the Italian military in WW2 had a significant issue in this area. Then there is the issue of postwar revision. Too often personal diaries are ‘corrected’ by the author prior to publication. Wartime diaries that are demonstratively unaltered are of great value and fairly rare. Memoirs tend to be ‘self-serving’ more than adding/correcting the record.
My main point on these types of historical records is that they rarely establish the what, when, where, and how, but focus mainly on the why. Why did the German people follow Hitler? His speeches, communiques, and newspaper articles all greatly assist the historian in answering this type of question. The truthiness of these sources isn’t at issue, in fact the level of false information contained within these sources helps to answer the question.
This is just a brief discussion of sources. All sources are good, just that some and significantly ‘gooder’ than others. The question being answered plays a significant part in which sources are used and how they are used. Writing an account of a historical event with only wartime communiqués and newspaper articles as the main sources likely create a false picture of that event.
02 September 2015 - 04:41 PMThe 2GM Weekend at Rockford is fast approaching (okay, lame use of an old cliché)
The Monte Cervino will participate at our usual campsite. Given our success in discovering sources for unique MC uniforms/equipment, we will have two impressions at the event. The first will be a fully correct Cervino impression, the second is of alpini of the btg. alpini Edolo. This allows members that haven't completed their Cervino gear to provide the public a correct impression and provide a contrast between the regular alpini and the sciatori.
If any are in the neighborhood on the 26-27 September, please stop by and share some stories.