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Research, Reference and Historical Study Books, maps, orders-of-battle and other references. .

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  #1  
Old 21 Aug 17, 11:29
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How to study a specific Battle

Pretty basic question.When reading about a battle be it Civil War,WW2,Korean and Vietnam War,what are the methods to study the battle.Breaking it down and analyzing it.I named those particulars cause those are my favorite periods.What American battles in those periods are the most interesting to study.
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  #2  
Old 26 Aug 17, 10:04
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Method? Read, then re-read, then read more, then start comparing sources and drawing conclusions. Just like with studying anything else.
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Old 26 Aug 17, 10:59
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Originally Posted by Karri View Post
Method? Read, then re-read, then read more, then start comparing sources and drawing conclusions. Just like with studying anything else.
Need to be better organised than that.
  1. Get a good general background work on the war, campaign etc in which the battle occurred to put it into context. This may well also point you at sources that go into more detail
  2. Decide if there are any aspects or angles, questions etc that you would wish to explore in particular. For example are you interested in the tactics used, the experiences of those who took part, the technology used etc etc. Whilst you may wish to look at everything it helps to concentrate and organise your reading in specific areas to start with at least
  3. Create a reading list. In many cases you'll find a bibliography in the more general works. As you read more detail you will find references to further sources to add to your reading list. If you can do a little research on the authors when drawing up your list. Historians often have a particular viewpoint, some are mere polemicists and there are "fashions" - for example in the 60s and 70s it was very PC to portray WW1 generals as incompetent butchers to a man, more recent historians generally take a more balanced and nuanced view.
  4. Beware of self justification by authors. It is important where possible to get accounts from those who were there but be aware they may be attempting to paint themselves in a favourable light. Especially prevalent in generals who go on into politics Also consider that eyewitness accounts written years afterward may be subject to the fluidity of memory over the years - one reason why I find journals and diaries written at the time invaluable, but even here be careful - in looking at a particular Mesopotamian battle for my dissertation I used a diary written by a participant on a daily basis, an account by a war correspondent who was also there and a number of regimental diaries with daily entries by the appropriate adjutant. There were unreconcilable discrepancies between them all
  5. Good maps are a great aid so even a rubbish author who produces good clear easy to follow maps can be a boon - just ignore their text!
Then start getting the books, documents etc etc. I have found Bookfinder a web site invaluable for locating secondhand copies - which can save a fortune. Don't be afraid to look for online copies - a great many relevant books are now out of copyright and available to download free. Many big libraries also have stuff that can be accessed online and its amazing what you can find if you poke around online - photos from the US Library of Congress,scanned copies of Kitchener's letters from a regimental museum and secret despatches from Field Marshal French hidden in a general file in the India Office Library are some that I've found for example.
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Last edited by MarkV; 26 Aug 17 at 11:18..
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Old 26 Aug 17, 11:35
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The best way is to go there, hire someone to tour the area with you. Or join a group of historians that tour the field themselves. Just reading gives you a very limited idea of what happened.

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Originally Posted by madmike View Post
Pretty basic question.When reading about a battle be it Civil War,WW2,Korean and Vietnam War,what are the methods to study the battle.Breaking it down and analyzing it.I named those particulars cause those are my favorite periods.What American battles in those periods are the most interesting to study.
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Old 26 Aug 17, 13:27
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Originally Posted by 101combatvet View Post
The best way is to go there, hire someone to tour the area with you. Or join a group of historians that tour the field themselves. Just reading gives you a very limited idea of what happened.
Unfortunately whilst a guided tour alone is useful it also gives a limited view. For example it won't tell you how and possibly why command decisions were made, what was the effect of logistical support on the battlefield, what it was like on the day. I had a guided tour of the last part of the Somme battle in which my grandfather took part. It was a lovely autumnal day- the battle took place in November and there was snow on the ground. The tour allowed me to trace grandfather's footsteps but reading the regimental war diary for that day gave a much better view of what it was like at the time when the wire was found not to have been cut by the artillery, the tank promised for support failed to arrive and 50% of the battalion became casualties just getting through the wire, this included all the officers but one and my grandfather and others were led on to the 2nd objective by an RC Padre from the Royal Naval Division. I'm afraid without doing the reading as well battlefield tourism is just that - tourism.

I have visited many of the battlefields of the ECW, the ACW, The Western Front, Salonika, the Kut el Amra campaign and Normandy and without doing the reading both before and afterwards a lot would have been wasted.
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Old 26 Aug 17, 13:47
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I never said not to read , do a combination of both. I just did a tour Thursday that included information I never knew about, checked an excellent reference book today, and there was nothing about this important piece of the battle. And it is NOT tourism, it is an advanced group of scholarly historians. Just one example.

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Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Unfortunately whilst a guided tour alone is useful it also gives a limited view. For example it won't tell you how and possibly why command decisions were made, what was the effect of logistical support on the battlefield, what it was like on the day. I had a guided tour of the last part of the Somme battle in which my grandfather took part. It was a lovely autumnal day- the battle took place in November and there was snow on the ground. The tour allowed me to trace grandfather's footsteps but reading the regimental war diary for that day gave a much better view of what it was like at the time when the wire was found not to have been cut by the artillery, the tank promised for support failed to arrive and 50% of the battalion became casualties just getting through the wire, this included all the officers but one and my grandfather and others were led on to the 2nd objective by an RC Padre from the Royal Naval Division. I'm afraid without doing the reading as well battlefield tourism is just that - tourism.

I have visited many of the battlefields of the ECW, the ACW, The Western Front, Salonika, the Kut el Amra campaign and Normandy and without doing the reading both before and afterwards a lot would have been wasted.
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My worst jump story:
My 13th jump was on the 13th day of the month, aircraft number 013.
As recorded on my DA Form 1307 Individual Jump Log.
No lie.

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-2 Commando Jumpmaster
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Old 26 Aug 17, 14:55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 101combatvet View Post
I never said not to read , do a combination of both. I just did a tour Thursday that included information I never knew about, checked an excellent reference book today, and there was nothing about this important piece of the battle. And it is NOT tourism, it is an advanced group of scholarly historians. Just one example.
Well that wasn't clear in your first post "The best way is to go there, hire someone to tour the area with you. " I have done field trips with Birmingham University's faculty ( of which I was attached at one time) of the French sectors and a jolly time was had by all but if I hadn't done a lot of reading before hand that's all it would have been. Your original post was at best highly misleading. Do the basic research first before spending cash on a trip.
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Old 26 Aug 17, 16:48
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Here you go...

Just reading gives you a very limited idea of what happened.

Sometimes you really don't need to pay, depends on how you go about it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Well that wasn't clear in your first post "The best way is to go there, hire someone to tour the area with you. " I have done field trips with Birmingham University's faculty ( of which I was attached at one time) of the French sectors and a jolly time was had by all but if I hadn't done a lot of reading before hand that's all it would have been. Your original post was at best highly misleading. Do the basic research first before spending cash on a trip.
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My worst jump story:
My 13th jump was on the 13th day of the month, aircraft number 013.
As recorded on my DA Form 1307 Individual Jump Log.
No lie.

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"Everything looks all right. Have a good jump, eh."
-2 Commando Jumpmaster
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Old 26 Aug 17, 21:45
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I think, first, you need to define what you're looking to get out of the study. Then you can start to look for sources that will give you that information.
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