The list of selected staff publications may be searched by keyword or author and can be sorted by year.
Politically, the Vietnam War differed from other American conflicts through the juxtaposition and immediacy of television and communication satellites, enabling U.S. civilians to experience scenes of this conflict within hours from the serenity of their living rooms. Through the eye of the combat photographer, the ugly visage of battle could be tempered with the beauty of nature, cultural exchange, and innocence of youth. Sharing many of the same hardships as the fighters, the combat photographer's battle is to understand the situation and their subject matter, all to better capture in still or moving images a moment of clarity, compassion, valor, or humanity. One young American in uniform, Corporal William T. Perkins Jr., represented a typical 20-year old Marine in Vietnam. However, whereas most carried a rifle into battle, Perkins deployed to Vietnam as a combat photographer, armed with cameras to record his fellow Marines' efforts to support and defend the South Vietnamese people against the Communist Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. His photography is perhaps less notable compared to Perkins’ heroic actions which made him a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor, the only combat photographer so honored. Through his letters and personal photographs from the war, this article allows this young Marine’s voice to speak anew on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Perkins's own writings provide a critical opportunity to observe his transformation into a Marine and a photographer, but also to perhaps understand the reasoning behind his images and frame his ultimate act of selflessness.
This brief article provides a ten point overview of the American civil defense effort, from 1949 to the present. In the twentieth century, the U.S. federal government established organizations to prepare the public for the possibility of such an attack. These efforts, broadly known as civil defense, consisted of all measures designed or undertaken to protect the civilian population from enemy attack. During World War II, civilian defense personnel rarely found their efforts in demand for anything beyond practice drills. At the time the United States Army Air Forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the United States had an atomic monopoly. But, as nuclear weapons and delivery systems increased in destructiveness and accuracy over the ensuing decades of the Cold War, civil defense efforts waxed, waned, and ultimately failed to provide a credible means to protect civilians from the effects of attack. Almost 75 years after the first use of an atomic weapon, American civilians still have few protective measures from nuclear attack. Civil defense’s lasting legacy is little more than faded fallout shelter signs and the wail of emergency sirens more commonly used for tornadoes than incoming nuclear attack.
In an era where military innovation may conjure up thoughts about futuristic weapons and high-dollar research, development, and acquisition, perhaps consider an innovation redux: the homing pigeon. The electromagnetic spectrum’s influence extends throughout the systems and operations of the battlespace into the fabric of civil society. Offensive and defensive operations in the cyber space realm, combined with kinetic strikes on air, land, sea, or space-based infrastructure, could potentially disable or severely damage entire communication or power grids. Adversaries with electronic warfare dominance would then be positioned to control the battlespace and restrict the options presented to American or allied commanders. Reflecting on electronic warfare’s potential, some communications between the front lines of the battlefield and rear echelon command and control elements may need to rest on the legs or back of a feathered messenger when a human runner or more visible vehicle or aircraft may prove too vulnerable to interception or destruction.
On the centennial of the promulgation of the first doctrine in U.S. Navy history, this article explores the intellectual creation of this brief, seven-page doctrine statement and its relation to the Navy's current approach to doctrine and strategy.
Dr. Edgar Raines’s book, Eyes of the Artillery: The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, provides a solid foundation to explore the debate and circumstances surrounding the placement of aircraft within the Army ground forces and the contemporary role of light, fixed-wing aircraft over the battlefield. The book focuses on the institutional origins of the U.S. Army’s organic aviation in the field artillery’s Air-Observation-Post Program during World War II. During the war, organic aviation assigned to field artillery units provided observation for indirect fire missions, locating and targeting enemy forces beyond the visual range of ground-based observers. Organic aviation, however, was only established after a long period of bureaucratic infighting that reflected deeper disagreements between the Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces about the role of new technology on the battlefield. Today, these themes are echoed in the debate about the Air Force’s contract for the OA-X light observation/attack aircraft. Support for and against the OA-X is typically drawn from the service-specific pages of Air Force history, but perhaps the origins of the Army's organic aviation program may provide valuable perspective on the incorporation of light, relatively low-technology aircraft into a war zone with a combined arms approach.
Ensign George H. Gay, Jr. flew his TDB Devastator torpedo bomber into history on June 4, 1942 in the morning hours of the Battle of Midway. Gay piloted one of 15 torpedo bombers of Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) which took off from the carrier Hornet (CV8) to strike a blow against the Imperial Japanese Navy's Carrier Battle Group. Due to a variety of factors, VT-8 went in on its attack run unescorted. Japanese fighter planes shot down Gay and all of his compatriots, with Gay becoming the sole survivor of the attack. Although he and his unit failed to strike a blow, their sacrifice upset the delicate opeations of the Japanese carrier battle. Forced to maneuver and reverse course to doge the American torpedoes, the Japanese lost valuable time in launching and recovering aircraft. These delays thwarted strikes against the American carrier force and provided a critical window for American dive bombers to strike fatal blows against three of the four Japanese carriers. Gay witnessed the attacks while floating and concealed from Japanese view.
Since 1943, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) has claimed to have damaged or destroyed two German submarines (U-boats) over the course of the organization’s coastal patrol operation. Drawing from extensive archival research, including previously unavailable primary source materials, this article is the first detailed study of the two incidents forming the basis of CAP’s wartime claims. Based on the surviving data, it can be concluded that CAP aircraft neither destroyed nor damaged any enemy submarines from March 5, 1942 to August 31, 1943. The claim by CAP of damaging or destroying enemy submarines appears to originate from within CAP’s own national headquarters based on reports from the organization’s coastal patrol task forces. The U.S. military did not formally credit the CAP with the destruction or damage of two enemy submarines, either during or after the conclusion of World War II.
In an era where the Navy is facing contested seas from challenges posed by China and Russia, history can unlock potential advantages with which to meet current and future threats. Gathering and preserving its operational records, in essence data, is critical. Unfortunately, in terms of such historical records, the Navy is in the Digital Dark Age. It retains only limited data and is losing access to its recent history – knowledge purchased at considerable cost. The Department of Defense and the Navy must consider a cultural and institutional revival to collect and leverage their data for potential catalytic effects on innovation, strategic planning, and warfighting advantages. This cultural transformation of collecting and preserving historical data within the Navy will be a long process, but leveraging its history to meet current and future problems will aid in maintaining global maritime superiority.
A history of the original U.S. Patent Office building and descriptions of a sampling of patent models now represented in the some 10,000 object collection of the National Museum of American History.
John I. Wells his life, inventions, and letters patent
This article discusses the Congressional and east coast print production and printing of the volumes describing the findings of the U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838-42).
A representation of the story surrounding the press pass printed by the Union Army of the Potomac and assigned to William Conant Church, of the New York Times, in 1862.
Fashion feathers and the part they played in American Conservation history. A short recap of the story told in the physical and virtual exhibit The Feather Trade and the American Conservation Movement, 1998, see: https://americanhistory.si.edu/feather/index.htm.
This article discusses the invention, use, and short-lived importance of the American Civil War portable printing press to the armies and navies of the Union and Confederate forces.
A short recap relating to portable printing presses used by Civil War units to produce orders, and other field documents such as the Appomattox parole.
Woodblocks were used to reproduce illustrations prepared in the field. The illustration for this woodblock was prepared on what is now referred to as Teddy Roosevelt Island on the Potomac River for the New York Illustrated News, ca 1863.
Essay on applying the exhibition experience to research and collections involving the performing arts, specifically in the archival reconstruction/museum performance of Duke Ellington's 1946 musical play, Beggar's Holiday.
This collection of original cast recordings includes book with historical essay and extensive annotations on each selection.
This 12-volume series is devoted to rare original cast recordings of musicals by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Sigmund Romberg.
The earliest sound recordings of American musical theater artists is the focus for this recorded anthology.
Based on the 1996 Smithsonian exhibition with the same title, the text offers a collective biography of the artists and craftspeople who created the American musical on stage and screen.
The history of the American musical is conveyed through 66 archival recordings of songs from stage and screen and textual annotation.
This archival recording focuses on remastered 78’s made by Victor Recording Company artists in the 1920s and 1930s.