Writing a Term Paper in Military History
by Edwin Moise
These guidelines are intended for students writing research papers for me in History 3900, History 4360/6360, History 4920/6920, and History 4990 at Clemson University. Students at other institutions might also find some of my advice useful.
Topic and SourcesPick a topic on which you can find good sources. Make sure before you get too deeply committed to the topic that you can actually get the sources. It isn't enough to know the title of a good source; check and make sure you will actually be able to get your hands on a copy.
Pick a topic on which you will be able to find primary sources. These are accounts of the events written by people who were actually involved in them, or witnessed them. Actual government documents are primary sources if you are studing the development of government policy. Memoirs written by people who participated in, or witnessed, the events, are primary sources. Newspaper articles written by reporters who covered the events are usually primary sources. History books are usually secondary sources, not primary sources. Even if they quote passages from the original documents, you are not seeing the whole documents, just the particular passages the historians choose to quote.
TV documentaries are not primary sources. They often contain good quotes from people who were involved in the events, but when the people making a documentary interview a witness, they do not normally put in the whole interview, or even a quarter of it. They just select brief sections, so what you are seeing does not count as a primary source.
You will almost certainly need to use secondary sources quite a bit, but don't do a paper that is all or almost all based on secondary sources. I will be a lot happier if I see at least ten source notes in your paper that refer to primary sources.
Be careful about the first few pages of books; the first ten pages are often by far the least accurate part of a book on warfare. An author writing about a topic he or she really knows will often start off by writing an introduction about the historical background--about what had been happening in the years before the period that the author really knows about. Students like these introductions because they provide nice, neat summaries of events. But they are often seriously inaccurate.
If there is only one good book on the topic you want to write about, forget it and find another topic. You want to write a paper in which you put together information from a bunch of different sources. I would suggest the following rough guideline for the number of sources you should use. Count two points for each primary source (example: a general's memoirs); count one point for each secondary source (a book such as Keegan's book on Normandy, written by a historian on the basis of primary sources); count zero points for each tertiary source (example: an encyclopedia or a textbook of American History). On this scale, you should if possible have ten points or more. But this is only a rough guideline, not an absolute quota.
I tend to get unhappy if I see too many source notes citing books, whether they are primary or secondary sources, that were assigned texts in the course you are taking.
Interviews can be very good primary sources, but if you are using material from interviews, try also to get printed sources that cover the same events so you can compare the information you are getting from the interview with the information about the same events that you find in printed sources.
Judge SourcesJudge the validity of your sources. Don't just assume that if your source says something, it must be true. If one of your sources (primary or secondary) says something that is wrong or makes no sense, notice this, and comment on it. If your sources disagree with one another, take sides: explain why you think this one is right and that one is wrong.
Please bear in mind that Wikipedia is not a very reliable source.
Make clear what is going onDon't just give a bunch of details without explaining what the overall situation is. If you are talking about some people attacking a position, then before you give the details of the attack, you need to give a good clear description of the position they were attacking.
If you are giving background to the events, focus on aspects of the background that actually help to explain the events. This usually means focusing on the short-term background, not the long-term background. If your paper is about what a general did in a certain battle, then it is unlikely to be useful to explain where the general was born or where he grew up. It is much more likely to be useful to explain where he was and what he was doing one day before the battle, and one week before the battle.
MapsIf you are talking about things that happened in particular locations, you probably need maps to show those locations. It is OK if you just xerox the maps out of books, but after you have xeroxed them, look at them and ask yourself whether they make clear the things you are talking about in your paper. If they don't, mark them up with colored pens or magic markers. Mark in arrows, or highlight the place names that are important to your paper.
Quotes and NotesAnything that is word-for-word out of one of your sources must be clearly labeled as a quote (either use quotation marks or make it an indented block quote), AND must have a note giving the source. A source note is NOT a substitute for quotation marks.
Don't use too much quoted material. Most things you should be putting into your own words. But if someone has already found the exact right words to say something, you can quote instead of rephrasing. The times it is most important to quote is when you are using other people's words as evidence of something. It may be more convincing as evidence if you quote the exact words. This is particularly true if you are saying somebody has written something silly. Quote the exact words, so the reader will be able to tell that the person really did write something that silly.
When you are not quoting, I still want you to give enough notes telling where you got ideas and information to give me a good general idea of what types of sources you were using for what sections of the paper. I would like ten or more notes referring to primary sources. Give notes if you think I might be curious about the source. This is especially important if there are things in your paper that I think are not true; if I can go to the library and check your source, then it might convince me that you really are correct, or at least that your source gave you good reason to think what you thought. (Please return the books you used to the library as soon as you hand in your paper, so I will be able to do source note checks.)
I am flexible about notes; you can use footnotes, or endnotes, or you can just put something in the text like this (Herrington, p. 119). Notes should almost always specify particular page numbers, not just identify a book or article. If your notes are not at the end of your paper, you must have a bibliography.
When you cite something, make sure it is clear what you are citing. For example, on page 548 of the book Into the Storm, by Clancy and Franks, there is a quote from the regimental log of the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment, February 26, 1991. If you cite this in your term paper you will need to tell me that it is the regimental log of the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment, February 26, 1991, and that you found it in Clancy and Franks, p. 548.
If you cite a statement made by a particular person, please tell me, if you can, who that person was. For example, if you are writing a paper on the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, and you quote or cite Larry Gwin, make sure that anyone reading your paper will be able to tell that Gwin was an officer, and will be able to tell which battalion Gwin was in (the 2/7 Cavalry).
This is especially important when you are citing a primary source. If you cite a book by a particular author, and you want me to give you credit for this as a primary source, you need to tell me what role the author played in the events, so I will know that the author was actually involved in them.
When you cite a source that you found on the Internet, you should tell me where you found it on the Internet and also tell me what it is. I don't just want to see
I want to see
Lieutenant Colonel John R. Galvin, "The Relief of Khe Sanh," Military Review, January 1970 http://calldbp.leavenworth.army.mil/eng_mr/txts/VOL50/00000001/art11.pdf
Academic integrity requires that we not try to pass other people's work off as our own. The things that have happened on term papers that led me to file charges of academic dishonesty against students, in past years, have been:
Large portions of a term paper copied from a few books or web sites, or even just one, without any indication that the material was copied. Typically this involves both large amounts of material quoted word-for-word, without quotation marks, and also a serious shortage of source notes pointing to the book from which the material came. Often there are misleading source notes claiming the material came from sources other than the ones from which it was actually copied word-for-word. These false source notes are especially strong evidence that there is deliberate dishonesty involved, not just carelessness.
Whole term paper obtained from some source (a commercial term paper service, or the Internet, or the collection of term papers that one of the fraternities used to have, and may still have).
While it is not exactly plagiarism for you to turn in a term paper in my course that is indentical or very closely similar to on you have done in another course (in the same semester or a previous semester), it is not acceptable unless you have discussed the matter with me and obtained my permission.
EditAfter you have written your paper, read it over and see what needs changing. Is the language clear? Do your sentences fit together correctly, or do you have singular nouns with plural verbs, dangling participles, and so on? Are your paragraphs in the right order, or do you need to rearrange them to make your paper fit together as a coherent whole? Are there unnecessary words that can be deleted, to make your paper simpler and more straighforward? Then read it over again. AND AGAIN.
Do you have the right details? One of the most important skills that students need to develop in writing is choosing which little detailed fact actually will illustrate or prove the point the student is trying to make, and which words really need to be quoted word-for-word, to show exactly what the source was saying.
ConsultIf you run into problems or if you have questions, come and ask me in my office, or phone me at home. The University pays me to help you with this stuff. It is a shame not to use my services.
If you are doing any battle or campaign of the Civil War, you should use The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies and Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. These huge collections of documents contains the reports and orders written by officers of both sides in the war. You should use a lot of different documents from these collections, not just three or four documents. They are on level 3 of the library, call numbers
W 45.5: [for the armies]
W 45.6: [for the navies]
- The whole sets have been placed online at a Cornell University website, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies and Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. You may want just to use the online version. But you might find it easier to search through a volume, figuring out which particular documents you need to use, if you have an actual bound volume. In that case you need to go to that web site, scan down the list of volumes and figure out which volume or volumes you need for your topic, and then get that volume or volumes off the shelf.
Bibliography of the Vietnam War: If you are thinking of doing a term paper on the Vietnam War, you should check this bibliography to get ideas about sources you could use.
Bibliography of the Iraq Wars: If you are thinking of doing a term paper on either the First (1991) or the Second (2003- ) US-Iraq War, you should check this bibliography to get ideas about sources you could use.
There is a useful web page "Using Primary Sources on the Web" written by the American Library Association.
The Cold War International History Project (CWIHP), based at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, has recently been publishing a considerable amount of good scholarship on the Cold War, and English translations of documents recently released from Chinese and Russian archives. There is quite a lot on the Korean War, and some on other aspects of the Cold War. Most of this material is available at CWIHP web sites.
CWIHP Publications.Combined Arms Research Library of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
There are many topics for which the published transcripts of congressional committee hearings can be useful sources. The published transcripts are often accompanied by considerable amounts of documentation, or the documents may even be published without the excuse of a hearing. Transcripts of important committee hearings, if not classified, are usually published by the Government Printing Office (GPO), in Washington. In the Clemson University Library, these are located on Level 3 (one floor down from where you come in), and usually have call numbers starting with Y 4.
The GPO issues monthly and annual subject indexes to its publications, and you can also do a search of recent ones on the GPO web site.. But for the years from 1970 onward, the index published by the Congressional Information Service (CIS) is better. For each year since 1970 CIS has published two volumes. One, titled Abstracts, has all the hearings published that year, arranged by committee. The other, Index, is the subject index. Look up whatever you are after, such as "Laos" or "Colby, William" in the Index, and you will see a list of items. If one looks as if it might be interesting, look it up in the Abstracts to get a more detailed description, and the call number that will let you find it on the shelf (at least in most cases) two floors up on Level 3. Bear in mind that a hearing held in one year may be published in a later year. (In the Clemson University Library, the CIS volumes have recently been moved down to Room 104, with a sign "Abstracts" by the door, in the back on the lowest floor of the library. The last time I checked, these volumes were in the middle aisle, right side, but I presume the room will soon be reorganized; when that happens, look for them under call number KF 49 .C62. They may be moved again when the current renovation program is completed.)
Foreign Relations of the United States is a huge compilation of documents on U.S. foreign policy, including wartime policy, published by the State Department. Bound volumes are on level 3 of the library, call number S 1.1: The series provides very thorough coverage of U.S. policy in the Vietnam War, and somewhat less thorough coverage of earlier wars.
The State Department has been making the complete texts of recent volumes available through the Internet, at its
Foreign Relations of the United States web site.
The University of Wisconsin has made many of the older volumes available online at its own
Foreign Relations of the United States web site.
U.S. Army Oral Histories: The U.S. Army War College and the Military History Institute associated with it have had a variety of oral history programs over the years, including the Senior Officers Debriefing Program, the Senior Officers Oral History Program, and others. An impressive number of oral histories from these various programs have recently been placed online in the Army Heritage Collection Online,
An impressive number of books and documents on the history of the U.S. Army Medical Corps have been placed online in the Medical Corps' Books and Documents site. Some of these (particulary some of the memoirs) might have relevance for research in some topics other than medical care.
Military Journals: There are a number of U.S. military journals people might find useful, many of which can be found in the Clemson library (see further comments at the end of this page). Such journals include:
ADA Magazine. Fort Bliss, Texas: U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery School. Formerly titled Air Defense Trends (1968- ), then Air Defense Magazine (1976-1982), then Air Defense Artillery (1983-1990) (Clemson has only a handful of issues, call number, on level 3 of the library, D 101.77: ). Publication on paper appears to have ceased at the end of 1997; it was replaced by ADA Magazine Online in 1998. Issues from Winter 1998 to April 2001 can be found at an ADA Magazine Online Archives. There is another ADA Magazine Online Archives containing the issues from May 2001 to September 2006. The print publication came back as Air Defense Artillery at some point--at least issues seem to have been published in 2005 and 2006, and are also available online, but it was terminated at the end of 2006. The plan is for the print publication to merge with that for the Field Artillery School under the title Fires Magazine, to begin publication at some point in 2007. There will continue to be an online publication from the Air Defense Artillery School, Air Defense Artillery Online.
Army. Washington, D.C.: Association of the U.S. Army. Call number, on level 6 of the library,
Army History: "The Professional Bulletin of Army History" Fort McNair, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History. A typical issue has a couple of long articles, not a lot of short ones. Call number, on level 3 of the library,
Aviation Digest. The monthly professional journal of US Army helicopter forces. Call number, on level 3 of the library:
Armor. Fort Knox, Kentucky: U.S. Army Armor School. Call number, on level 3 of the library:
Field Artillery. Fort Sill, Oklahoma: U.S. Army Field Artillery School.
The Clemson library does not seem to have paper copies for years before 1997. This journal began in 1911 under the title The Field Artillery Journal, and it has been published intermittently under various titles for most of the years since then. Issues all the way back to the beginning are available on a nicely organized web site (you can choose to access a whole issue in one very large .pdf file, or an individual article) through the Field Artillery archives page. The titles include:
The Field Artillery Journal (1911- )
The Field Artilleryman
Infantry. Fort Benning, Georgia: U.S. Army Infantry School. Tables of contents for issues since 1982, with actual links to the texts of articles in issues since 1988, can be found on the Infantry web site. Call number, on level 3 of the library:
Marine Corps History magazine, formerly Fortitudine, published quarterly. The new version has more pages per issue, and more per article, than the old. Current and past issues are available though Marine Corps History and Fortutudine web pages at Marine Corps University.
Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin. Fort Huachuca, Arizona: U.S. Army Intelligence Center. Some issues used to be available online at a U.S. Army web site, but this appears no longer to be the case. Some have been placed online at a website of a private-sector organization, the Federation of American Scientists. The Clemson University Library has the issues from 1997 through 2005 on the shelf.
Military Review. "Professional Journal of the US Army." Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: US Army Command and General Staff College. Publication began in 1922. There is an index giving a table of contents for every issue on a Fort Leavenworth web site. This index has links to the individual texts of the articles all the way back to 1922. Call number, on level 3 of the library:
Parameters. "Journal of the U.S. Army War College." Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania: U.S. Army War College. Publication began in 1971; Clemson's holdings begin 1977.
Quartermaster Professional Bulletin. A quarterly publication. Issues since 1995 are available online in its Archive File.
Special Warfare. Fort Bragg, N.C.: John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Issues since 1990 are online at the Special Warfare Archives.
Air University Review, "The Professional Journal of the United States Air Force." Published by the Air University, Maxwell AFB, 1947-1987. (It was replaced in 1987 by Airpower Journal, in 1999 by Aerospace Power Journal, and in 2002 by Air & Space Power Journal--see below.)
Many articles published in the Air University Review have been placed on-line. There is an index to the available articles, Air University Review Index, with links to the full texts.
Airpower Journal, Aerospace Power Journal. Call number, on level 3 of the library:
Air & Space Power Journal Index. This is a complete subject index to articles published since 1987 in the journal, published by the U.S. Air Force Air University, at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, now called Air & Space Power Journal, formerly Airpower Journal (1987-1999) and Aerospace Power Journal (1999-2002). The texts of the articles are available online. Some of the ones relevant to the conflicts in the Persian Gulf are:
Airman, "Official Magazine of the U.S. Air Force." Monthly, published by the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.
Air Force Journal of Logistics. Published quarterly by the Air Force Logistics Management Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
Leatherneck: Magazine of the Marines. This monthly magazine is published by the Marine Corps Association, which is nominally a private organization, but has its offices on the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia. The Clemson library only started getting this a couple of years ago. A lot of articles have been appearing about the Marines' involvement in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf conflicts. Call number, on level 1 of the library:
Naval Aviation News. Washington, DC: Navy Department. Publication apparently began in 1920. NOTE: shorter articles may not be mentioned in the table of contents just inside the cover of the magazine. Issues since late 1996 available online at Naval Aviation News. Call number, on level 3 of the library:
Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute. The monthly professional journal of the U.S. Naval officer corps, with the Marines also included to a significant extent. Call number, on Level 6 of the library:
Naval War College Review. Issues since 1996 are available online. Bound volumes on Level 3 of the library, call number:
Joint Force Quarterly. Published for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University. All issues are available online, beginning with issue #1 (Summer 1993).
Huge collections available online through Clemson University: There are now commercial services making available online, for a fee, huge amounts of documents of various sorts. Clemson University has paid the fees for a lot of these collections, so you can access them if you are browsing the Internet through the Clemson University computer system, going through the Library's web pages. (If you are reading this from some university other than Clemson, your institution probably has a fairly similar system. Check and find out what is available to you.) There are far more than I can discuss here, but I particularly thought I would mention:
LexisNexis has articles, transcripts, etc., published in recent years in a huge variety of publications. This is the best place I know to find newspaper articles published in the past few years.
If you go to the Alphabetical List of Article Indexes & Databases, one of the Library's web pages,
Under "D" you will find "Dissertations and Theses - Full Text," which links to the full texts of most Ph.D. dissertations written at universities in the United States in the last few years, and some M.A. theses.
Under "N" you will find "New York Times - Historical," giving the full texts of issues from 1851 to 2005.
Under "W" you will find two links for the Wall Street Journal, which between them give all issues from 1889 to the present, and a link for the Washington Post, issues from 1877 to 1990.
Edwin Moise's Home page
Click HERE to return to Oral History section.
Downloaded from http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/oral.htm
Oral history, in one form or another, has long been an integral part of a historian's trade. The Greek historian Thucydides wrote in History of the Peloponnesian War: "Andwith regard to my factual reporting of the events of the war I have made it a principle not to write down the first story that came my way, and not even to be guided by my own general impressions; either I was present myself at the events which I have described or else I heard of them from eyewitnesses whose reports I have checked with as much thoroughness as possible." Thucydides set a precedent for the judicious use of oral testimony, and historians following in his footsteps continue to debate the proper handling of evidence offered in personal accounts.
The U.S. Army Center of Military History's concept for Oral History Techniques and Procedures developed in the mid1980s. Its objective was to provide Department of the Army (DA) oral history guidance for the growing number of historians tasked with conducting interviews. The principal predecessors to this guidethe Military History Institute's Interviewer Handbook, which consists of interview techniques for Army War College students participating in the Senior Officer Oral History Program, and DA Pamphlet 8702, The Military Historian in the Field, which affords suggestions for combat interviewsadmirably filled their niches, but a broader approach to oral history was desirable. Army Regulation 8705, Military History: Responsibilities, Policies, and Procedures, is currently being revised to include a chapter on oral history and, when published, will provide higherlevel official policy in contrast to this document's procedural guidance.
Oral history is an essential means of preserving the experience of past battles and of imparting that experience to young soldiers. Since World War II oral history has become an increasingly critical adjunct to the more traditional sources of historical documentation. Army historians, in preparing the official histories of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, conducted extensive interviews to uncover the personal insights often lacking in written documentary sources. For the same reasons, presentday historians have recently turned their microphones towards American soldiers participating in military operations throughout the world. These historians have also discovered that the details of planning and execution of military activities are increasingly hammered out by action officers through telephonic or radio communications. This informal process has resulted in less information committed to paper or into permanent electronic databases, again emphasizing the importance of supplementing the written record with oral interviews.
The uses for oral history products also continue to grow. The Army's military and professional historians, archivists, and curators use oral history to support a variety of historical programs. Some museums, for example, currently use interviews to bring a new dimension to their exhibits or to obtain information from veterans about donated artifacts. Army leaders, commanders, and soldiers, faced with the challenges of today's politicomilitary environment, rely on oral histories to learn from the experiences of their predecessors. And increasing numbers of scholars, both official and unofficial, are taking advantage of the Army's existing oral history collection or using interview techniques to round out their research and create a more complete story
Oral History Techniques and Procedures addresses the needs of this growing and diverse body of Army interviewers, from novices to practiced historians. To aid this diverse audience, the guide is organized into five sections, each with topical subsections. This format allows more experienced users to refer directly
to that portion of the text addressing their particular question or concern while furnishing basic stepbystep information for beginners.
For historians wishing an introduction to oral history, Part I discusses the medium, its association with the Army, and the histories it has made possible. Part II offers general advice on improving interview techniques and presents guidelines for conducting, transcribing, and using oral histories. It also contains information on video interviews and addresses the particulars of the EndofTour Interview Program. Although the procedures described below are specifically directed towards recorded interviews and their related products, historians preferring to rely entirely on interview notes may glean new techniques concerning the basic interview process. Part III deals with procedures for military history detachments conducting wartime interviews. Parts IV and V offer additional information on procedural formats and readings in oral history.
Oral History Techniques and Procedures amplifies the requirements for Army oral history programs outlined in the forthcoming edition of Army Regulation 8705, Military History: Responsibilities, Policies, and Procedures. Although this guide presents a few mandatory requirements, such as the need for an access agreement or the use of standard size cassettes for all audio interviews, it also suggests recommended procedures. Some of these suggestions are not suitable for every oral history program or interviewer, and readers should pursue the technique(s) that best suits their own interviewing skills. Proposals for improving the guide or questions concerning its contents should be sent to the Commander, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Attn: DAMH-RAO, 1099 14th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 200053402.
It is often a perplexing challenge to create a document encompassing the surprisingly strong thoughts and emotions that oral history evokes among historians. I would like to thank my colleagues at the Center of Military History and in the Army's historical community: Larry Heystek, James T. Stensvaag, William C. Baldwin, Frank N. Schubert, James W. Williams, Lt. Col. Charles R. Shrader, Col. C. Reid Franks, Janice E. McKenney,
John T. Greenwood, Lt. Col. Gary L. Bounds, Edward J. Drea, Dwight D. Oland, Jeffrey J. Clarke, Col. Michael D. Krause, Col. Joseph M. Gesker, and Morris J. MacGregor. Staff officers in the Office of the Judge Advocate General offered counsel on access agreements and the Freedom of Information Act. Richard A. Hunt supervised the project through many obstacles. Robert K. Wright, Jr., shared the wisdom he gained as a combat historian in Vietnam, Panama, and Southwest Asia, and Part III is largely based on his views of "how to do it right." Melissa D. Hackett took time out from her other duties to retype and reformat the draft manuscript. The project's editor, Joanne M. Brignolo, applied her technical skills with energy and enthusiasm and shaped the manuscript into a more readable product. This guide is greatly improved because of these valued associates, but I alone am responsible for any errors or omissions.
STEPHEN E. EVERETT
Oral history is defined for Army historians in the forthcoming Army Regulation (AR) 8705, Military History: Responsibilities, Policies, and Procedures, as "interviewing participants or experts in a particular subject or issue and preserving their judgments and recollections. Oral history materialssound and video recordings, transcribed interviews, interview notes and memorandasupplement, but do not replace, official written records. Oral history materials contain information not normally preserved in official documents." Oral history preserves through interviews an individual's interpretation or recollection of events. The final product, whether it is an interview tape or transcript, reflects the combined effort of the interviewer and interviewee in the creation of a unique historical account. An interview is subject to the same scholarly analysis and standards that a historian applies to other evidentiary sources. It is the responsibility of the historian to sift and weigh all evidence and to use sources wisely in the preparation of historical accounts.
To use oral history properly, the historian must understand its strengths and weaknesses. Good interviews provide background information, personal insights, or anecdotes rarely found in official documents. These contributions, together with oral history's ability to capture and preserve information that may not otherwise be saved, illustrate some benefits of the technique. Most of oral history's deficiencies are attributable to human faults. Like all historical sources, interviews contain personal biases, but these biases may themselves constitute important data for the historian's consideration. Interviewees may also be unwilling to honestly discuss mistakes or errors even years after the fact. A potentially greater problem is the inability of some interviewees to provide accurate accounts because of the limitations of human memory. This is a special concern when recounting traumatic events or actions that took place years before. As time increases between an experience and its recounting, individuals tend to condense the sequence of events and omit critical actions and judgments. Although historians should consider the elapsed time when weighing oral history materials, a long duration does not automatically diminish the value of an interview. An individual who may not remember events that
took place yesterday or last week often can recount in detail events that took place twenty or thirty years ago.
An additional liability is the tendency of many to view oral history as a panaceaan inexpensive and instantaneous way to preserve or produce history. When historians take this impulsive approach to oral history, their work may be handicapped by poor planning and personal biases. A wellprepared historian who has carefully considered his project is not guaranteed a good interview, but the chances for success are much greater. In spite of the limitations of oral history, a properly conducted interview can be a precious resource and a special means of preserving the past.
Army historians use four types of interviews: biographical, subject, exit, and afteraction. A biographical interview focuses on an individual's life or career. Army historians usually conduct this type of interview after the individual has retired from government service. A subject interview concentrates on obtaining information about a single event or topic, such as the Army's role in providing emergency medical care to disaster victims. Historians often use subject interviews to provide information for command histories and monographs, and their research may require interviews with several persons to obtain complete coverage. An exit interview is conducted near the end of a person's tour in a particular assignment and centers on the issues and decisions unique to that job. Commanders, project leaders, program directors, staff principals, or other key individuals are likely candidates for an exit interview. Although related to subject interviews, exit interviews are categorized separately because they may cover many topics. Depending on special requirements, some may fall under the EndofTour Interview Program. An afteraction interview is a specialized form of subject interview. It is conducted during wartime, contingency operations, or peacetime military exercises, and its objective is to preserve information about military operations in the field.
Over the years the Army has accumulated a wealth of oral history interviews that have helped preserve the record of its activities in peace and war. Without these materials it would be difficult to reconstruct many events in the Army's history. Some of the books and monographs prepared by Army historians are based largely on oral histories, and a few of these will be highlighted in the following pages. This section also summarizes the Army's efforts to collect and use interviews, and discusses the role of oral history in the Army today.
During World War II the Army decided to play a more significant role in telling its own story. Under Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, the Army established a program to preserve and collect documentary sources that could be used to prepare the Army's official history of the war. The Army's program, which enjoyed the support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, brought together in each theater of operations many professionally trained historians to collect sources and write historical studies. Shortly after beginning their work, however, they realized they would need to conduct interviews to supplement official written records.
As a historian assigned to cover the Pacific theater, Lt. Col. (later Brig. Gen.) S.L.A. Marshall pioneered the Army's oral history effort. Marshall drew on his experience as a journalist to develop what he called the "interview after combat." Frustrated in his initial attempts to reconstruct a battle's sequence of events, Marshall brought participants together shortly after the fighting (often within a few hours) and conducted group interviews. Marshall asked questions that guided soldiers through the battle, step by step, and elicited personal experiences and detailed information about what occurred during the fighting. He first used his interview technique after a fierce night engagement on Makin Island in November 1943, with members of the 3d Battalion, 165th Infantry. A few months later Marshall used the same procedure on Kwajalein Island to gather material for Island Victory, the story of the 7th Infantry Division's invasion of the atoll. Furthermore, Island Victory relates Marshall's first detailed explanation of his new approach to gathering information through interviews.
Marshall went to Europe in 1944 to bring historians in that theater up to date on his interview techniques, and after DDay he traveled to Normandy to interview combatants from the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions. These interviews constitute the basic record of the airborne assault, because the widely scattered and hardpressed airborne troops kept few written records. Six months later during the Battle of the Bulge Marshall and his assistants, Capt. John G. Westover and Lt. A. Joseph Webber, interviewed members of the 101st Airborne Division and its attached units in Bastogne, Belgium. The historians conducted their first interviews just four days after the German siege had ended. Their combined efforts, collecting not only oral histories but also official records, produced a wealth of data that was later published in Bastogne: The First Eight Days, Marshall's only attempt to produce a fully footnoted work.
Although Marshall was probably the Army's bestknown wartime historian, several hundred soldierhistorians advanced the Army's historical effort. Their primary focus was the creation and preservation of written documentation, but interviews were used to complement those sources. Historians attached to higher headquarters, as well as members of the Information and Historical Service teams of field armies, moved freely about the battle lines to gather interviews. The collection process occasionally began while units were still in action, but the majority of interviews were conducted about a week to ten days after the action or sometimes even later. After interviewing an individual, part of a unit, or the entire unit, the historians would summarize their interview notes to create a narrative of the specific action.
Historians conducted interviews as close to the actual battlefield as possible in order to stimulate a soldier's recall of events. Although not allowed to land in the first waves of the Normandy invasion, Forrest C. Pogue, a noncommissioned officer with the First Army's 2d Information and Historical Service and future biographer of George C. Marshall, spent DDay aboard a landing ship interviewing wounded soldiers who participated in the assault. Combat historians assigned to cover the invasion had studied operational records from earlier campaigns to determine what subjects were usually ignored and then made a special effort to cover these subjects in their own interviews. Even under these
lessthanideal conditions Pogue collected valuable firsthand information about the assault because of his immediate access to battle participants. The historian's search for information was not always easy. Although not considered "combat" soldiers, three historians were killed in the line of duty and two others wounded by mines while interviewing frontline troops in the European Theater.
Oral histories gave many participants the opportunity to relate their experiences in battle. Historians used the expanding collection of interview notes, terrain studies, maps, photographs, and afteraction reports as the basis for wartime historical monographs, many of which were later published as the American Forces in Action series. These popular pamphlets were produced at the request of Chief of Staff Marshall, who wanted histories available for explaining the war to wounded and convalescing soldiers and for training new soldiers. Each pamphlet was based on the best available records, which usually meant extensive use of interviews. For example, researchers for Small Unit Actions conducted group interviews with almost all surviving members of the units engaged in two of the four actions covered by the book. Some indication of the detail provided in these interviews is reflected by the fact that some of these group interviews lasted two or three days.
As an example of the size of the oral history effort, historians assigned to the European Theater alone collected over 2,000 interviews by the end of the war. The Army's interview collection was used extensively by authors of the U.S. Army in World War II series, and references to these and postwar interviews are found on many pages. The notes and transcripts from many of these interviews are now in the custody of the Suitland Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. 20409. About 375 interviews are together in one collection, while other interviews are in the operational records of individual units. Some wartime and postwar interviews are also filed with other supporting documents for volumes in the U. S. Army in World War II.
The interviews vary in the quality of coverage. Historians found that they needed to use caution while utilizing the interviews, especially when looking for exact time and dates and when searching for information outside of the interviewees' own unit or combat area. "This corpus of Combat Interviews," wrote one author of an official World War II
history, "is one of the most valuable sources of information available to the historian. It fleshes out the framework of events chronicled in the unit journals and provides additional testimony to help resolve disputed questions of fact."* Information garnered from interviews enabled S.L.A. Marshall and other authors to place their readers in the midst of battle and convey the "feel" of war. These impressions would be virtually impossible to recreate without the personal stories collected during interviews.
A special collection of interviews provided historians with a "view from the other side." Captured German and Japanese general officers were debriefed in order to provide intelligence information on successful combat tactics as well as useful historical material. These interviews were invaluable to Army historians, who often lacked the records needed to cover the decisions of opposing commanders.
The Korean War brought new challenges to Army historians. Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward, the Chief of Military History, called many Reserve officers to active duty to collect historical materials. Many of these historiansJohn G. Westover, Roy Appleman, Russell A. Gugeler, Martin Blumenson, William J. Fox, and Bevan Alexander, to name a fewhad served as combat historians during World War II and were familiar with interviewing techniques. Most Army historians were assigned to numbered historical teams, which replaced the Information and Historical Service units of World War II. In an effort to share the wartime experience gained in Korea with new junior officers, many of the interviews conducted by Army historians were compiled by Westover and published in Combat Support in Korea, while interviews provided the basis for the narratives in Gugeler's Combat Actions in Korea. Other monographs and studies compiled by the historical teams in Korea contributed to the official history of the war and are now located in the Historical Resources Branch, U.S. Army Center of Military History.
Vietnam provided another opportunity for Army historians to use oral history. Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson wanted
the widest possible historical coverage of the war. To meet this objective, the Chief of Military History, Brig. Gen. Hal C. Pattison, realized he would need interviews to fill many gaps in the documentary record. Military history detachments (MHDs) went to Vietnam to do interviews and collect documents. MHDs, which replaced the historical teams, were attached to divisions and separate brigades; assigned to higher headquarters and commands, or pooled to provide special coverage for nationwide programs, such as pacification. The detachments helped document the Army's role in the buildup of Free World Forces in Vietnam, and over the course of the war they conducted after-action and exit interviews with thousands of officers and enlisted men.
MHD historians benefited from changing technology. Their mobility increased through the use of helicopters, which brought them to interviewees in isolated fire support bases or to more secure base camps, and the availability of "portable" tape recorders freed them from having to rely only upon interview notes to remember details. They used the interview tapes to reconstruct events and to prepare combat afteraction interview reports (written interview summaries and evaluations), and subsequently sent the tapes and reports to the Office of the Chief of Military History (now the Center of Military History). Seven Firefights in Vietnam is an account of smallunit actions based on interviews.
The MHD Vietnam interviews are housed at the Center of Military History. The primary users are historians working on the U.S. Army in Vietnam series, but scholars from the United States, Asia, Australia, and Europe have also employed them. The Army's wartime interviews are unique and irreplaceable. Interviews conducted months or years after the fact cannot replicate the freshness, accuracy, and details of those conducted within a few days of the actual event.
The recent military deployments to Grenada, Panama, and Southwest Asia, although of shorter duration and intensity, were similarly chronicled through oral histories. Individual historians or MHDs continued the traditions of their predecessors in the major conflicts by
collecting interviews for all three operations. The subjects for these interviews range from soldiers in the area of operations to general officers in the Pentagon. The Center of Military History has a large number of these interview tapes and transcripts, and they are available for use by official historians.
A sign of the growing importance of oral history in the Army was the creation of a new interview program. In 1970 Army Chief of Staff General William C. Westmoreland directed the U. S. Army War College and the U.S. Army Military History Institute to sponsor jointly what has become known as the Senior Officer Oral History Program. Westmoreland hoped that retired officers would convey to younger officers the qualities and experiences that had made their careers successful. The program, which has produced over 100,000 transcribed pages, uses War College students to interview selected retired senior officers about their Army careers. The students, mostly lieutenant colonels who are expected to advance to future leadership positions, learn oral history techniques from the Institute's staff. The Senior Officer Oral History Program was the most visible Army interview program during the 1970s, although other historical programs, like that of the U.S. Army Medical Department, had been collecting interviews since the early 1950s.
By the late 1970s the range of Army oral history activities began to expand. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established an active biographical and subject interview program in 1977. During the early 1980s the establishment of fulltime historians at most of the U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's centers and schools provided greater opportunities to record new military developments using oral history. Today, in each Army major command (MACOM), historians use interviews to collect data for preparing monographs or to teach lessons learned to young soldiers.
In 1986 the Department of the Army directed that exit interviews be conducted with departing school commandants as well as division, corps, and MACOM commanders. This effort, known as the Endof-Tour (EOT) Interview Program, is designed to make interviews available to incoming commanders so they can better understand the issues faced by their predecessors. Through the guidance and support of Army
Chief of Staff General Carl E. Vuono, an expanded EOT program ensures that selected members of the Army Staff are also interviewed.
Recognizing the expanding role of oral history, the Center of Military History created an Oral History Activity in 1986 to coordinate issues concerning the Army's oral history programs. The Center's oral history office establishes interview guidelines for Army historians; conducts EOT interviews with members of the Army Staff; advises the Army Staff on the uses of oral history; and biannually reports the status of the EndofTour Interview Program to the Army leadership. The office also assists historians in using proper oral history techniques and aids researchers searching for oral history resources.
Recording the spoken word is not a "quick fix" for preserving information. An oral history must be well researched and its preparation is a time consuming affair. The guidelines provided below are designed to assist historians in conducting interviews. Special procedures for the EndofTour Interview Program and guidance for videotaping interviews are also outlined.
Before investing time and resources in an interview, remember that not everyone has a story suitable for an official oral history. Key considerations are the significance and usefulness of each project to the Army and the quality and quantity of the resources, both personal and documentary, that are available for study and review. Once a project is approved, prepare a list of prospective interview candidates and relevant discussion topics for each. This list will help determine what information can be obtained from the interviews and also facilitate the development of a concept for the final product. Avoid duplicating information on those persons and subjects that already exists in other interviews. Check with the Center of Military History, or the Finder's Guide to U.S. Army Oral Histories (forthcoming), to locate pertinent interviews. After this initial background research, decide which candidates offer the best return for the effort invested in the project.
Requesting an interview is one of the most important steps in the interview process. A poorly planned and executed approach could dissuade a potential interviewee. After selecting interview candidates, contact them and explain the mission and goals of the project. Initial contact may be made over the telephone if time is short, but it is usually better to write to a candidate during the project's early planning stage. This letter should introduce the interviewer, the interviewer's agency, the purpose of the interview, the potential product, and the key topics to be covered. Openness from the start can help avoid having an interviewee refuse to address certain issues during the interview ses-
sion. Also use the letter to inform the prospective interviewee about the probable number and length of the sessions, as well as what is expected in terms of editing the transcript and signing an access agreement.
After a few days, follow up the initial contact with a telephone call to arrange an interview date. This is also an opportunity to discuss the planned final product, its disposition, and access policies. Do not let the telephone conversation turn into an interview. Neither party will be prepared at this point, and the interviewee may be tempted to allude to his unrecorded phone conversation during the actual interview.
Occasionally, persons will decline to be interviewed, believing that their knowledge is of little value to anyone else. If this happens encourage the individual to talk by telling him or her what type of information you hope to gain from the interview and why it is important. People are often surprised that historians are interested in their "routine" lives. If the individual still refuses to be interviewed, however, be tactful and leave open the possibility of trying again at a later date.
If you are arranging an interview to discuss controversial events or persons, a candidate may prove reluctant to talk. He may ask: "How will you know whether I'm telling you the whole story or lying?" Do not become defensive, for this will weaken your rapport with the interviewee. Encourage the individual to talk and tell him that the purpose of the interview is to record the views of the interviewee (even if that requires the inclusion of false statements). Remember that through sound research and additional interviews historians will usually be able to substantiate statements or identify falsehoods.
Thorough preparation is the key to a successful interview. Knowledge of important events in an interviewee's career is essential for developing a meaningful list of questions. In contrast to your initial investigations while selecting an interviewee or topic, indepth research on the specific subjects of the interview is required for this phase.
The availability of sources will vary depending on interview topics. The local or post library is a good starting point for any background study, and basic texts can provide a good foundation for additional research. If interviewing an individual on a World War II topic, for
example, start your research with the "Green Books," the nearly eightyvolume series comprising the official history of the Army's participation in that war. When preparing for a biographical or exit interview, do not hesitate to contact persons who knew or worked with the interviewee. Other sources of information are unit operational records, rosters, and miscellaneous official records. Sources of specialized information are provided below:
a. The Center of Military History and the Military History Institute maintain large reference collections of books, documents, and privately published unit histories. For additional information on the availability of research material and for bibliographies on selected topics write to Commander, U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1099 14th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 200053402, and Director, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pa 170135008. Researchers are welcome at both agencies.
b. Unit operational records are probably the best sources of information because they were created by unit members either during or shortly after the events that they chronicle. Official operational records created before 1940 can be found in the Military Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.20408. World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War unit records are in the custody of the Suitland Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. 20409. Morning reports and rosters provide information on unit personnel strengths and are available to researchers. Unit morning reports and rosters created between 1917 and 1974 (the year morning reports were discontinued) are in the custody of the National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, Mo.631325200. Rosters for RegularArmy units created since 1974 are also located at the National Personnel Records Center, but Army Reserve rosters for the same period are in the custody of the Army Reserve Personnel Center, which is colocated with the National Personnel Records Center.
c. Requests for individual military personnel files (201 files) should be addressed to the Army Reserve Personnel Center, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, Mo. 631325200. Under the provisions of the Privacy Act, an individual's permission is required to gain access to his or her files.
d. Official Army photographs produced before 1954 are located at the Still Pictures Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. 20408. Photographs created after 1954 are in the custody of the Department of Defense (DOD) Still Media Depository, Building 168,Naval Station, Anacostia, Washington, D.C.20374-1681. The Military History Institute also maintains a large collection of unofficial pictures that can provide a wealth of photographic treasures.
e. Veterans associations are often a good source of information and potential interviewees. A roster of veterans organizations is prepared annually and can be obtained by writing to Headquarters, Department of the Army, Attn: SAPACR, Washington, D.C. 20310.
f. Listed below are the addresses for the historical agencies of the other DOD armed services:
Naval Historical Center, Building 57, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. 203745088.
Marine Corps Historical Center, Building 58, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. 203745088.
Office of Air Force History, Attn: AF/CHO, Building 5681, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C. 20332.
The development of an interview question list is the immediate objective of background research, while the second goal is to allow the interviewer to ask followup questions during the session. The purpose of the interview will determine the nature of the questions. For example, biographical interviews will tend to use broader questions that will illuminate the important facets of the interviewee's life. Subject interviews require more focused questions. These interviews are not intended to be complete accounts of an individual's career, but additional sources of information for specific research projects. Ideally, the interviewer needs to draft questions that will elicit information useful for both contemporary and future historians.
A wellprepared interviewer will be aware of gaps and inconsistencies in the available source materials and will ask questions to clarify or, in some instances, to confirm the record. Interviewers may occasionally
ask questions even if they suspect that they already have the answers. An interviewee's response to these queries may shed new light on an issue; if not, their answers may serve as yardsticks to judge the accuracy of other information provided by the interviewee.
One of the closing interview questions should provide the interviewee with the opportunity to discuss relevant matters that may not have occurred to the oral historian. This question can be as simple as "Is there anything else I should ask you?" or "Is there anything that you would like to add on this subject?" It may also be appropriate for the interviewer to ask for the names and addresses of any other individuals that should be interviewed concerning the interview topic. The final query for the interviewee to address is the proper security classification for the interview.
For most historians, the interview becomes the "moment of truth." Adequate preparation allows the interviewer to focus his abilities on the interview session. Primary responsibility for initiating and directing the course of an oral history falls to the interviewer. The latter, while observing military and social courtesies, must maintain complete control of the interview session despite the rank or status of the interviewee.
An interviewer should bring the following items to each interview: standardsize cassette recorder and any necessary microphones and cables; power and extension cords, or an ample supply of batteries; an ample supply of cassettes; paper and pencil; question list; access agreement; and supporting maps, photographs, charts, as appropriate. Be sure to test the recording equipment and batteries prior to leaving for an interview. Some experienced interviewers prefer to have an extra recorder for insurance. If conducting interviews while traveling on temporary duty, it is a good idea to have the orders authorize the emergency procurement of cassettes, batteries, or even a recorder. Your preparation will be wasted if your equipment does not work.
The interview session should be scheduled at a mutually convenient time to avoid distractions or interruptions. If possible, reserve a whole morning or afternoon for the session. The schedules of some individuals may make this impractical, and the participants may have to arrange several shorter sessions. Because recording equipment is very sensitive to room noises, it is advisable to conduct the interview in a quiet office or room.
Before starting, relax and put the interviewee at ease. Briefly explain how the session will be conducted. Tell the interviewee that you may ask followup questions to those on the basic list. Remind the interviewee that he or she need not hurry into a response simply because the recorder is running. Try to make the interviewee feel comfortable in the presence of a recorder. Use either a sixty or ninetyminute standardsize cassette to record the interview (see Appendix A). Ad-
vance the tape past the leader (the white or clear segment of tape at the beginning and end of most cassettes). Position the recorder so the microphone can register the voice of each participant. The interviewer, however, should still be able to see the recorder and monitor it periodically. When using builtin or tabletop microphones, isolate the recorder from noises passing through the furniture by placing the recorder or microphone on a thin piece of foam rubber. (A pad of paper or a magazine will suffice as well.) Lapel microphones should be securely fastened to the interviewer and plugged into the recorder. Make a brief test recording to see if the microphone is registering the voices and adjust the recording volume. When everything is working the interview can begin.
Start the interview with a brief introduction that, at a minimum, identifies the interviewer, the interviewee, the date, and the place of the session.* For example, "This is an interview with Maj. John Smith, S-4 of the 75th Ranger Regiment, conducted by Mr. Joseph Jones, Infantry School historian, in Smith's office at Fort Benning, Georgia, on 25 August 1990." During the interview:
- a. Be confident. Your background study should have familiarized you with the material to be covered during the interview.
b. Maintain control of the interview. Try to pace the session so that you have sufficient time to ask all of your questions. You know what you want from the interview.
c. Avoid asking leading questions, but phrase queries to elicit detailed responses. For example, a question like "Is it correct that during the Battle of the Bulge you had a great deal of responsibility while serving as a company commander?" already implies the desired answer and will usually bring a simple affirmative response from the interviewee. Asking instead "What duty position and responsibilities did you have during the Battle of the Bulge?" facilitates followup questions and may provide a wealth of detailed information.
- d. Ask direct questions to avoid ambiguity. Use a specific frame of reference, such as "during the Battle of the Bulge" in the example above, that gives the interviewee a starting point around which to organize his response.
e. Ask followup questions. Such welltimed queries may help an interviewee to recall specifics otherwise overlooked and also to clarify any possible contradictions with earlier statements or written sources. Be careful not to confront the interviewee in a manner that challenges his integrity. A frequently successful approach is to acknowledge some confusion on your part before asking additional questions.
f. Take notes. Interview notes are useful for indicating when followup questions are needed, for organizing one's thoughts, and for preparing a preliminary word list of items requiring verification. Writing key words and topics as they are mentioned during the interview is also helpful for preparing a subject index of the tape. Do not become so immersed in taking notes that it distracts the interviewee or interferes with the conduct of the interview.
g. Have the interviewee explain the meaning of acronyms and jargon, as well as provide additional information on any unfamiliar subjects or individuals mentioned during the interview. Ask for proper spellings, if necessary.
h. Do not interrupt the interviewee in the middle of an answer. Be respectful, courteous, and attentive.
i. Do not be afraid of silence. A pause may signify that the interviewee is thinking of additional information. That information could be lost if the interviewer is too quick with his next question.
j. If the discussion digresses from the subject of the interview, return to the interview plan by tactfully asking a question from your list.
k. Both the interviewee and the interviewer will become fatigued, so it is advisable to limit sessions to no more than two or three hours and to take short breaks (perhaps when changing tapes).
Interview participants are encouraged to make their oral histories (tapes or transcripts) as accessible as possible, but some persons may prefer to restrict access to their interviews. Interviewees should indicate any restrictions they wish to place on their interviews by completing an
access agreement similar to that provided in Appendix B. Agencies may use their own letterhead and addresses, but the basic format and text should reflect the requirements set forth in AR 8705. The access agreement in Appendix B meets regulatory requirements and has been approved by the Department of the Army's Office of the Judge Advocate General. Access agreements will be executed for all interviews (see AR 8705). It is recommended that access agreements be completed at the conclusion of the interview session while the interviewer is present to answer any questions. Obtaining signatures at the conclusion of the interview should preclude any problems that may arise if an interviewee becomes unavailable to complete the agreement.
The Army regards its oral histories as internal reference papers and will do its best to honor any restrictions placed on an oral history, but can make no firm guarantee because of the changing case law surrounding access to government information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Before conducting interviews, agencies may wish to contact their local judge advocate general's office or records manager for the latest FOIA information. Interviewers should explain the implications of the FOIA to interviewees before the interview session.
Interview tapes should be labeled with the names of the interviewer and interviewee; the date, place, and classification (if appropriate); and the total number of tapes in the interview. As an example of the latter, identify tape number one of a twotape interview by placing "1 of 2" or simply "1 / 2" on the cassette label. Press in the two tabs at the top of each cassette (see the illustration in Appendix A) in order to prevent accidental erasure of the interview through rerecording.
The interviewer should listen to the interview tapes shortly after the session, while the memory of events is still fresh. This review enables the interviewer to determine if a followup session is required and, accordingly, proceed with the necessary arrangements; to expand upon the interview notes; to clarify any garbled sections of the tapes; and, if not already prepared during the interview, to make a word list of terms requiring identification. A word list is also an excellent tool for making the transcription process easier. The preparation of an interview summary that records the topics discussed, the interviewer's personal
evaluation, and any unusual circumstances will be valuable to future researchers who will appreciate having access to the interviewer's insight. If it is decided not to transcribe the interview tape, this summary can be the basis for a memorandum for the record. Finally, send a letter thanking the interviewee for participating in the session. If possible make a copy of the interview tapes. It may not always be feasible to make a duplicate at the office, but many home stereo systems have dual cassette players that can easily reproduce tapes. The duplicate should be clearly labeled as such and used as the working copy in order to preserve the original.
After the interview the historian's task is that of product managementtranscribing, editing, publishing, and storing. Some oral history programs routinely consign between forty and sixty hours to completely transcribe and edit an hour interview. An essential first step is deciding whether or not an interview should be transcribed. Not all interviews are worth the commitment of time, manpower, and money. Before beginning, consider the following:
- a. Is transcription mandated by regulation or official tasking?
b. What resources (both financial and personnel) are required? What resources are available?
c. What is the significance of the interview? Does it merit becoming part of the Army's historical reference collection? Does it fill a void?
d. What is the final product to be derived from this interview? Is the outgrowth of the venture intended to be an archival resource for an official history or monograph? Is the interview text itself to be included in a larger publication such as an oral history anthology?
e. What is the interview's potential audience? To reach that audience, is it necessary to transcribe the interview?
Transcribing is a demanding job. Interviewers seldom have time to transcribe their own interviews and, therefore, usually rely on transcribers who may be unfamiliar with the contents of the interview. This makes transcription all the more difficult and time consuming. It takes an estimated ten to twelve hours to transcribe one hour of tape, although an experienced transcriber familiar with the subject and using a word processor can probably finish in about two to three hours. To meet their transcription needs, some oral history programs use outside contractors and others employ secretaries or inhouse transcribers (full or part-time employees) to produce transcripts.
Inhouse transcription offers the advantage of closer supervision of the transcription process and readily permits the transcriber to ask questions about unclear words and phrases. In addition, using the same individual to transcribe interviews provides continuity, a benefit that an oral history program will appreciate only after it has had to train several transcribers.
Using an outside contractor is often the fastest means, but may involve extensive procurement and contract administration duties. Contractors can also be expensive. For example, a bill can include the actual cost of transcription plus additional expenses for postage/messenger service, for floppy disks, and for short suspenses.
Although some companies specialize in transcribing oral histories, most large transcribing firms function primarily as court reporters who only transcribe interviews as a sideline. They may subcontract to other organizations or randomly assign transcription jobs to any available worker. Thus it may be hard for a transcriber working for a large contractor to develop expertise with military interviews, which often have a unique vocabulary of words and acronyms. Some large companies may be willing to designate one transcriber to work on military interviews, but smaller contract transcribers, who usually work in their own homes, offer the best guarantee of having one transcriber work on related subjects.
It is important to be able to track an interview as it progresses to a completed transcript. Attaching an interview transcription/production status sheet (see the example in Appendix C) to the working copy of
each tape is one way to track the progress of an interview, but an automated database or log will also suffice. Develop a standard format for interview transcripts and pass the appropriate instructions to your transcriber. The format listed below provides an easily read transcript:
- a. Use oneinch margins on each side of the page, with double-spaced text.
b. Number each page and use a header"FOR HISTORICAL REFERENCE PURPOSES" or "FOR REFERENCE ONLY"above the interviewee's name.
c. Identify each speaker at the start of his/her comments, by typing the participant's name in bolded capital letters, followed by a colon.
Transcribers should use standard symbols within the transcript to convey specific messages to readers. Place a question mark before and after a word or phrase to indicate any uncertainty about imprecise language or terms (for example, ?destroyed?). Bracket details explaining why the interview was interrupted or why the tape recorder was turned off (for example, [Interview interrupted by a telephone call]). Indicate the end of a side in capital letters, (for example, END OF SIDE
ONE, TAPE ONE; BEGIN SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE.) Portions of a tape may be garbled or simply inaudible. Identify these sections in the transcript. If one word is inaudible, the transcriber should indicate the gap with a "___ " and multiple words by inserting " ___+." If a significant passage is inaudible, the transcriber should estimate the elapsed time using the indicator "___
Following the return of a rough transcript, the interviewer should read the text while listening to the tape. Because the nature of a transcript is conversational, sentences often are disjointed or run on for many lines. Decide whether to leave them alone or to form several sentences out of separate or incomplete phrases. Be sure to check spelling and use of acronyms. Corrections can be made quickly and easily when a transcript has been typed on a word processor. When making corrections on a typescript, it is advisable to use standard editorial or proofreading marks, such as those found in the Center of Military History's Style Guide.
Send a copy of the edited transcript to the interviewee for review, noting any passages that may need his/her special attention or explanation. This revision is the interviewee's opportunity to clarify and develop comments, to correct inadvertent errors of fact, and to improve grammar and syntax. Discourage any deletions from the text, whenever possible. Interviewees may be slow to return their edited transcripts, so it is crucial to impose a reasonable suspense date. Once returned, the statements in the transcript are considered to be "on the record." At this time a second review to check for any remaining spelling errors or other editorial oversights is advisable before printing a clean transcript.Oral histories can provide a wealth of information to researchers, but most interviews for one reason or another receive limited circulation. All revised and edited transcripts should be bound in some fashion and placed in the appropriate archives. AR 8705 directs that copies of all transcribed interviews be sent to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Attn: DAMHRAO, Washington, D.C. 200053402; to the
U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pa. 170135008; and to the Center for Army Lessons Learned, Fort Leavenworth, Kans. 660277000.
Some agencies publish interviews in order to reach the widest possible audience. Interviews may be published separately (for example, the Military History Institute's, Changing an Army: An Oral History of General William E. DePuy, USA Retired) or in a series (for example, the Corps of Engineers' Engineer Memoirs). To merit publication, an interview should contain information that is unique and important; appeal to a substantial audience; and be able to stand as a separate publication. Intended to be useful to a wide audience, the DePuy oral history includes footnotes, pictures, maps, and charts to clarify the text. Oral histories as published in the Engineer Memoirs relate the career of one senior engineer of ficer. Aimed at a specialized audience, the engineer interviews are not as heavily edited as the DePuy interview.
Another format is an anthology of related interviews. An anthology may contain selections from various interviews or entire transcripts. Westover's Combat Support in Korea is an example of this popular format.
Before storing interview tapes and transcripts (or memoranda for the record) make sure that each copy of the interview tape is properly labeled and its tabs pushed out. (This should have been done immediately after the interview or after the interview was dubbed.) Ideally, tapes should be stored in a dustfree environment that is kept at a constant temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity of 40 to 50 percent. Environmental conditions at government facilities are seldom ideal, making it difficult to store the tapes in the proper climate, but try to keep the conditions as constant as possible. Rewinding can create uneven tension within a tape; therefore, store tapes (both cassette and reel to reel) after they have been played. Do not rewind the tape before storing. The storage life of reeltoreel tapes is generally longer than that of cassette tapes. If the equipment is available, duplicate the original cassette onto a reel to reel and then designate the reeltoreel version as the archival copy. All interview
tapes, transcripts or memoranda for the record, and supporting materials (maps, photographs, documents, and access agreements) should be stored together. To prevent wear and tear on the original tape, let researchers use the working copy (the cassette copy that was dubbed for the transcriber).
All interviews conducted by Army agencies are reported to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Attn: DAMHRAO, at least twice each year with the semiannual report. AR 8705 lists the required interview information, or agencies can simply use the status form in Appendix D. This reporting system enables the Center to update its index and finding aids, such as the Finder's Guide to U.S. Army Oral Histories (forthcoming), in order to assist researchers interested in Army oral histories. This requirement, however, does not preclude local oral history programs from maintaining their own catalogs.
The EndofTour Interview Program described in AR 8705 consists of exit interviews with the principals of the Secretariat and Army Staff, MACOM commanders, commanders of Army specified commands and Army components of unified commands, commandants and deputy commandants of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) schools and of the Army Medical Department Center and School, corps and division commanders, and commanders of theater and corps support commands. The program is designed to pass on command experience to incoming commanders and to preserve the institutional memory of major events occurring in an organization during a particular commander's tenure.
The procedures for an EOT interview differ little from procedures for other official interviews, except for the following:
- a. When an officer assumes a command position included in the EOT Program, the appropriate interviewing agency or command historical office will request in writing that an EOT interview be conducted with that individual prior to the conclusion of his or her tour. This letter also provides an opportunity to request the retention of important documents by either the historian or the interviewee's office. These documents will be useful when developing the EOT interview question list.
b. The interviewee's office is responsible for selecting a point of contact for the EOT interview. This point of contact is charged with assisting the interviewer with the preparation of a question list and scheduling the interview session. In some cases, the point of contact may also help conduct the interview.
c. EOT Interviews use standard core questions as well as queries specifically tailored to local issues. The core questions provide a basis for comparison when analyzing common leadership qualities and command problems. Core questions for EOT interviews are listed in Appendix E.
d. EOT interviews should be transcribed and edited by both the interviewer and interviewee within sixty days of the interview session. A quick turnover time is required in order to increase the usefulness of
- the EOT interview to the next commander. The interviewing office will handle the distribution of the transcript. AR 8705 requires that the interviewee, the incoming commander, the Center of Military History, the Military History Institute, and the Center for Army Lessons Learned all receive copies. The Chief of Military History may determine if additional distribution is warranted in order to further the interests of the service. The interviewer should inform the interviewee that his interview may be sent to other offices. The cover or title page for each EOT interview will contain the following statement: FOR REFERENCE ONLY. NOT TO BE RELEASED OUTSIDE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE ORIGINATING AGENCY.
e. The interviewing historical office will maintain the original tapes, supporting documents, and transcripts. When the historical office can no longer retain these materials, it will transfer them to the Military History Institute.
f. The Oral History Activity, U.S. Army Center of Military History, maintains a database of general officers who have served in positions covered under the EOT Program. This inventory indicates which general officers have been interviewed and the production status of the interviews. At the Army Chief of Staff s request, reasons for not conducting interviews are also registered. The Chief of Military History updates the Army Chief of Staff on the EOT Program twice a year. This report necessitates input from historical offices concerning the status of their EOT interviews. Agencies unable to conduct required EOT interviews should provide the Oral History Activity with a written explanation.
Videotaping interviews adds a new dimension to oral history. The final video product can juxtapose an interviewee to an object or setting that is the subject of the interview, such as a battlefield, where the combination of sight and sound allows for a clearer perception of the interviewee or subject. It also facilitates the use of visual enhancements, such as photographs and maps.
Not every interview is suited for a video format. Various factors come into play for determining the suitability of video recording interviews. Some of these include inappropriate subject matter, inaccessible interview locations, and special lighting and sound adjustments often required for certain settings. In addition, without at least one assistant, it is nearly impossible to run a video camera and conduct a good interview.
The medium of video recording also places greater responsibility on the interviewer, who must now be a director as well. The video camera should not be used simply as a tape recorder that also takes motion pictures. This creates what is known as the "talking heads" syndrome and does not take full advantage of the medium. Assessing the interviewee's discomfort level before a video camera is critical; for some, the experience is too overwhelming and results in "stage fright. " A final consideration is that the intimacy and openness achieved in a oneonone interview is nearly impossible, primarily due to the distractions caused by a video crew. Unless these factors are addressed at an early stage of the process, the quality of the oral history product will be less than satisfactory.
Video equipment is currently too expensive for most oral history programs. The local Training and Audiovisual Support Center (TASC) or Media Support Center, however, should be able to provide some equipment as well as a trained video crew. Most audiovisual offices have video recording capability, using professional productionquality 3/4inch and 1inch tapes. These choices offer the best quality recording but require more resources than a standard VHS camera. Before fixing on a course of action, consult your TASC to determine which equipment will produce the best results for your particular project.
One soldier's description of the events of battle is oftentimes different from that of the soldier who fought next to him, because each is aware of only the activity in his own immediate area. The jumble of individual and incomplete perceptions contributes to what is referred to as the "fog of battle. " To discover or confirm what actually happened in battle and also to preserve unique insights that cannot be recaptured after the conflict, the Army has in place a wartime interview program. By thoroughly conducting background research and by methodically questioning battle participants, an interviewer can hope to come close to reconstructing a complete and accurate account.
In a wartime theater of operations the military history detachment, with a strength of one officer and two enlisted men, is usually charged with the mission of preserving the historical materials that can be used to prepare monographs and official histories. Attached to major command elements as well as to divisions, tactical regiments, and separate brigades, MHDs routinely conduct interviews to supplement information contained in other sources. General guidelines are discussed below, but combat historians will develop their own special interview techniques as they gain experience and encounter various wartime conditions.
Combat After-Action Interviews
MHDs cannot cover every battle and must select which operations to study. Knowledge of current military doctrine, operational objectives, tactics, organization and equipment, together with an awareness of combat and combat support applications, will help the MHD commander choose which actions to document. Ordinary operations may be just as important to record as unusual actions, and examples of both should be preserved for the historical record.
The MHD commander must exercise initiative to cover events. It is his job to obtain operational details and continually seek out fresh sources of information in an effort to compile a complete account. Routinely used sources for unit operations include:
a. Documentary Sources
- 1. Division/brigade situation reports (SITREPS)
2. Division/brigade intelligence summaries (INTSUMS)
3. Daily staff journals (DA Form 1594)
4. Operation Plans (OPLANS)
5. Messages and facsimiles
c. Personal Contacts. Good rapport is critical. Develop contacts within units and gain their cooperation and trust. If the officers and soldiers of a unit already know the MHD members, it will be easier to conduct interviews and collect information. MHD members should routinely introduce themselves to commanding officers, to staff officers (especially those dealing with operations, logistics, and intelligence), and to unit adjutants and historians. These officers plan and execute combat operations and will often collect maps, photographs, documents, and eyewitness accounts for their own official reports.
Once a battle is selected for coverage, the MHD interviewer will have to determine what information is required to create a complete historical account of the action. While some documents may furnish only limited information, the "skeleton," combat afteraction interviews (CAAIs) should provide the "flesh." For example, entries in a daily staff journal, which usually contain brief one or twoline summaries of events, are a good starting point and are useful in combination with other documents or interviews to tell the complete story. Also, CAAIs are effective for verifying any detail, element, occurrence, or sequence of events that are questionable. Verification allows soldiers to elaborate on data and is not necessarily a duplication of effort. Some operational details, however, will emerge only through wellplanned questioning.
Be sure to cover specific items of information that may be missing from other documents. Examples include:
- a. Terrain and weather conditions
b. Mission goals and reasons, as conveyed to the participants
c. Enemy situation and order of battle
d. Type and effectiveness of enemy fire
e. Problems of communications, morale, and supply
f. Rationale for actions of the forces engaged
- a. Planners
- 1. Commanders
2. Officers/soldiers who were present. Soldiers with secondhand knowledge of events should be interviewed only if direct participants are unavailable.) Participants from other services or allied nations
- a. Be familiar with the recording equipment. Check the recorder's batteries and make a test recording before leaving to conduct an interview. Carry an ample supply of cassette tapes (use only C60 and C90 standardsize cassettes) and batteries.
b. Check in with the host unit's commanding officer. Combat historians are often forced to "sell" themselves to unit commanders and soldiers who may be justifiably more concerned with current or
future operations than with history. Offer to provide commanders a copy of your findings for the unit's use. Stress that your job is to preserve the historical record, not critique the unit's performance. If officers and men show a concern over the possibility of their critical comments reaching their superiors, emphasize that interview tapes will be sent back to the continental United States (CONUS) through historical channels, rather than through command channels.
- c. Because military protocol may be a hindrance to building rapport, officers should interview officers and NCOs should interview NCOs and other ranks, whenever possible. Although not an axiom, NCOs may relate facts and opinions to other NCOs that they would never tell an officer.
d. To discover what the interviewee did during a battle, prepare an interview plan and question list. Although it is impossible to develop questions to cover every situation, use the sample questions included in Appendix F to generate a preliminary list.
e. At the start of each interview, identify the date, the interviewer, the interviewee, and briefly describe the topic. For example:
"Today is 30 January 1988. This is Major John Smith of the 27th MHD interviewing Capt. John Doe, commanding officer of Troop B, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, concerning his participation in the 27 January 1989 engagement near Hammelburg, Federal Republic of Germany, during REFORGER exercises."
- f. Become familiar with the general course of a battle and basic combat tactics, thus making it easier for you to identify any questionable comments and ask followup questions. Establish the vantage point of an interviewee in relation to a particular action and learn what
the soldier actually saw. Compare the responses with information provided in planning documents, particularly in regard to fire support and logistics.
- g. Ask questions about the specific equipment (both authorized and unauthorized) that was carried or used during a battle. Do not be satisfied with vague responses, such as "the same as everyone else" or "the standard stuff." Practices vary from unit to unit, and it is important to know what the soldier felt was beneficial to him during combat and what was not. Asking about what personal items he carried will help develop a "picture" of the individual's personality.
i. Always seek additional sources. Ask the interviewee for the names of other individuals that could clarify or corroborate certain points.
j. Be conscious of classification procedures and guidelines. Don't let the conversation reach a classification level that is too high. Tell the interviewee at the beginning of the session the highest level of classified information that you want to cover. Before concluding, discuss the interview's proper classification level with the interviewee. Have a secure area to store classified tapes during nonduty hours or while in the field.
Wartime interviews tend to be more stressful for the participants. Unlike peacetime interviewees, soldiers will not have time to consider participation in an interview. Most probably will be willing partici-
pants; however, others may be reluctant to talk about their experiences in combat for personal reasons. If they have recently returned from combat, they could be exhausted and not inclined to share their ordeal with someone they may perceive as a "rearechelon type." A soldier cannot be forced to be a helpful interviewee, but by being courteous and respectful you may gain his cooperation.
Occasionally, a soldier may prefer to provide some details of his story off the record and ask you to turn off the tape recorder. Explain that all details should be recorded. If, however, the soldier insists that you turn off the recorder, let him tell his story and take careful notes. Your notes will afford the chance to doublecheck the details through other sources.
Conducting an interview with a single individual is the preferred scenario, but tactical considerations and the shortage of time will often necessitate interviewing many participants in a group session. Remember that assembling large numbers of soldiers is not an easy task. Also, group interviews are hard to record and difficult to control because of the number of soldiers involved in the session and the likelihood of having to deal with a barrage of diverse information from numerous sources. A possible way to circumvent these drawbacks is to limit the size of the grouppreferably no more than fifteen, which would permit the assembly of an entire squad/tank crew or of key individuals from several platoons and their supporting units.
For optimum results, two interviewers should be present for each group session. While one asks questions, the other should observe the participants and examine their reactions to specific statements made by their comrades. Soldiers will often show signs of disagreement without necessarily voicing their comments. Note the reactions and direct followup questions to the soldiers that may have disagreed. Do not let one or two soldiers dominate the discussion by directing queries to others in the group. Properly done, collective interviews can provide historians with more information than individual interviews. For example, the comments of one soldier may refresh the memory of another and cause him to remember important details. Soldiers are also less likely to exaggerate or lie about their actions in the presence of their peers. Thus other group members will often correct mistakes and contribute additional details.
Combat historians prepare combat afteraction interview reports (CAAIRs) to synthesize and organize the vital data collected not only during the interview but also after. A wellwritten afteraction report enhances the interview by tying together all supporting materials (such as the interview synopsis or index, tapes, photographs, and maps) for packaging and forwarding to the Center of Military History.
CAAIRs present the vital data in an orderly and logical manner. Their basic organization is derived from the format of the Army's operational orders (see Field Manual 1015, Staff Organization and Operations, for an explanation). Historians, however, should tailor CAAIRs to specific situations and append additional information, as appropriate. The reports should be objective, factual, and written in clear, concise language. Avoid acronyms and jargon unless these terms are clearly defined in the text or a glossary. Appendix G contains detailed instructions for preparing a CAAIR.
Both exit and subject interviews are conducted during times of conflict, but usually under less stressful conditions than CAAIs. Interview techniques resemble the procedures discussed in Part II. Summarize and evaluate each interview in a written report, and ensure that the report is sent along with the tape to the Center of Military History.
Exit interviews provide a forum for preserving standard operating procedures (SOPs), innovations, problems areas, solutions, and lessons learned. They are conducted with commanding officers at the battalion/ squadron, brigade/regiment, division, corps, and army levels. As a rule, officers below the battalion level are not interviewed due to insufficient time. Companygrade officers, however, should be interviewed for lessons learned during CAAI and subject interviews.
To facilitate the process, contact the interviewee's staff to schedule appointments and to obtain assistance in preparing a question list. Remember that these staff officers probably will have little time for historians, and any personal contacts that you have made may make a difference in the level of cooperation you receive. Submit a question list prior to the interview, and avoid scheduling the interview too close to the officer's actual departure. This will allow time for the officer to consider the questions before he becomes preoccupied with moving on to his next assignment.
Subject interviews comprise almost any conceivable topic. They may be as simple as recording the standard operating procedures used by the unit or as complex as covering a combat support/combat service support operation to learn what was normal or unusual about that particular mission. Be creative. When interviewing members of the Army Reserve or National Guard, ask about mobilization. Information on specialized training programs is also important. Even ordinary functions may be worth covering with an interview. For example, routine intelligencegathering missions in Vietnam received little coverage from MHDs. Many of the details of these operations and techniques were lost to historians and the Army, but fortunately the 18th MHD interviewed soldiers involved in one type of intelligence operationa "people sniffer" mission. The Center of Military History sent
the 18th MHD's interview to Army officers studying intelligence gathering techniques. The interview has now become the " institutional memory" for this type mission.
MHDs attached to major command elements and to single functional branch brigades are responsible for documenting the various operations of their organizations. For example, in a military po1ice brigade that provides command and control for units charged with guarding prisoners of war, with traffic control, and with other security missions, MHD historians would, under ideal circumstances, interview key commanders, staff officers, and representative individuals from every organizational level within the brigade in order to cover all of these functional areas. Since conditions are seldom ideal, they will have to be more selective when choosing interview candidates. One means of narrowing the list of potential interviewees is to survey the records-keeping program and practices of the various units in the command. A wellmanaged program that retains unit SOPs, training schedules, and other documents significantly reduces the requirement to supplement official records with oral histories. MHDs attached to divisions, tactical regiments, and separate combined arms brigades are responsible for recording the support operations for these organizations.
At the conclusion of each interview session, break all cassette tabs and properly label the tapes (see Part II). Put as much information as possible on the cassette tape and its box in case the interview tape is separated from the rest of its documentation. At the very least, include the name(s) of the interviewee and interviewer; the interviewee's unit and duty position; the MHD designation; the date of the interview; and the classification.
Whenever possible, transcribe the interview tapes before sending it to CONUS. If time does not permit this, then prepare a written summary for each interview and attach it to the appropriate CAAIR as an annex. As a minimum, an index sheet (see Appendix H) and word list should accompany each tape. An index sheet contains a list of the topics covered or a basic description of the subject matter. This information is listed in the order that it would be on the interview tape, together with the corresponding counter reading or an estimate of the elapsed time.
MHDs may want to keep a log or inventory with information on their oral histories. Periodically forward inventories, interview tapes, CAAIRs, and supporting materials to the U. S. Army Center of Military History, Attn: DAMHRAO, Washington, D.C. 200053402. The Center's Oral History Activity will catalog all interviews and, as necessary, endeavor to transcribe tapes; it also will review CAAIRs and, when appropriate, send copies to the Center for Army Lessons Learned. The Center of Military History will provide storage space for all wartime oral history materials.
Army historians, when conducting official interviews, will use standard cassette recorders. Adherence to this policy will facilitate the transcription process and the exchange of tapes between Army historical offices, as well as simplify the procurement of tapes and recorders. The Center of Military History will transcribe only standard cassettes.
Microcassettes are not as common as standard cassettes, and not all transcribers have the equipment to transcribe the smaller cassettes. Reeltoreel recorders are large and unwieldy, and significantly more expensive than cassette recorders. Reeltoreel tapes provide the best format for longterm archival storage, because the estimated shelf life is longer than that for a cassette. If possible, historians and archivists should duplicate interviews onto open reels for longterm storage of their oral histories.
Standard cassette recorders are widely available, relatively inexpensive, and portable. These advantages obviate the purchase of an expensive recorder, unless, of course, an oral history program has specific requirements for the production of broadcastquality recordings. Before procuring your equipment, check with your local Training and Audiovisual Support Center for what may be available in its inventory.
For best results under diverse conditions follow these guidelines:
- a. Purchase a recorder that has a jack for an external microphone, in addition to a builtin microphone. Although an external microphone may not be necessary for a particular program's interviews, the jack can be used to accommodate cables that connect two recorders together while duplicating tapes.
b. Use a recorder that operates with both direct current and batteries. Oftentimes power cords are sold separately from recorders, so know what accessories are available. When conducting interviews without access to direct current, remember that most batteries will only power a recorder between 4 and 6 hours. Monitor the usage of batteries.
At the end of an interview, mark each hour of use on a small strip of masking tape attached to each power cell.
- c. Use a cassette cleaner on the recorder heads and tape drive mechanisms after every 20 hours of recording or playback time. This procedure helps maintain the recording quality of your recorder.
Cassette tapes are designed for various purposes, such as recording music or voices. Tapes designated Type I, Normal Bias, are well suited for recording interviews. Cassettes are sold in several time lengths. 30 (C30), 60 (C60), 90 (C90), and 120 (C120) minutes. A C60 cassette contains a total of 60 minutes of tape, or 30 minutes on each side. Many interviews have been ruined because interviewers thought a C60 cassette had 60 minutes on oneside. Regardless of tape length, all standard cassettes are the same size, so manufacturers make up the difference by using thinner tape. Tape in C120 cassettes is thinner than the tape in either C60s or C90s. Thin tape is more prone to break or jam, and sounds recorded on one side of the tape will often bleed through to the other side. As a general rule, sound quality and the time that recorded sounds remain audible on the cassette decreases with thinner tape.* The C30 tape is too short (15 minutes on each side) to
allow for an uninterrupted interview session. The recommended lengths to use are C60s or C90s.
One of the principal advantages of cassettes is that they are small and selfcontained. If properly treated and stored under good conditions, a cassette should be audible for at least 20 years. Here are some methods that you can use to increase the durability of your interviews l recorded on cassette tapes:
- a. Use only new tapes. Purchase quality tapes made by reputable companies. Avoid "offbrands" or lowpriced specials. Do not erase and reuse cassettes for your interviews.