Each month, I, the ?WebWarrior’, will be bringing you an in depth look at the armchair historians who are responsible for propagating the growth of, and interest in, military history online. I will introduce these ?webwarriors’ in the hopes of forging a more interactive relationship between them and you, readers of the Armchair General magazine. So, let’s get to it…
Brian Williams of MilitaryHistoryOnline
Brian Williams grew up in an Army family, and like so many of us, got his military history interest started by a war game, when his uncle (an Army Captain) bought him Tactics II.
"My brother and I played that a few times and although I believe my brother moved on, I was bitten," he said . "Later on, even though I really had no one to play with, I bought many games after that to include 3rd Reich, ASL (Advanced Squad Leader), Panzer Leader, War in Russia, etc., etc. I just loved to read the rules, set up the games, and recreate history. I guess as others during High School were buying other things, I was buying wargames.
Continuing in the progression very well known to us, Williams found the new medium of computers to open a whole new world.
"I remember one of the first games I bought was Computer Ambush on the Atari 800 XL. To this day, I still remember the feeling of moving ‘Janko’ across the open town center and getting nailed by a sniper. Boy, I wouldn’t do that again! What a wonderful feeling that was. I also remember playing War in Russia. I remember that the computer had a bug where when it would start losing, it would ?create’ a phantom Russian (enemy in this case) unit behind my lines and disrupt my supply line. And it was immune to any attacks and it just sat there. But, boy it was fun none-the-less! That game taught me so much about the Eastern Front situation that it was scary."
After graduating from high school, Williams became an Airborne Russian Linguist in the U.S. Air Force. He spent two years stationed at Sembach, Germany, flying in EC-130′s. Upon returning to Maryland, he joined the Reserves for a nine year tour, including serving his country aboard an AWACS during the Gulf War.
Williams heard the Gettysburg battlefield call to him while in Maryland, strengthened by SSI’s Gettysburg: The Turning Point game.
"What made Gettysburg so interesting was the length of the battle (3-day battle), the location of the battle (Southern invasion of the North), and the impact of the battle on the Civil War. But, every time I visited, I found myself overwhelmed with the events of the battlefield and especially the chronology of the battlefield. I mean, because of the type of person I am, I HAD to understand what I was seeing and make sense of it all. So, I set out to lay out all of my books on the table and start from the beginning."
Williams decided that, once he started to dissect the battle, he would share his learned knowledge with others. He set about teaching himself HTML, creating maps of the Gettysburg battle, and gathering details about the battlefield to understand it all much better.
"At the time, I had a Mindspring account which gave me only so much bandwidth. It came down to a point where at mid-month, I would have to delete all my maps and images in order to stay online because they would shut me down every time I went over my quota. Those were the old days."
"Well, to make a long story short, the Gettysburg site grew and grew and eventually branched out into other Civil War battles and then into other battles to include all periods. My favorite conflict to study is WWII, so I really wanted to start branching into that conflict with battle summaries, articles, photos, etc. Eventually we had to upgrade servers several times to keep up with the traffic and the demand of the site."
Thus, William’s current site, MilitaryHistoryOnline, was born. Much more than your average website spouting forth facts and figures about military history, MilitaryHistoryOnline is quite grand in scale, especially considering it’s run by one man. Volunteer writers post their best works of knowledge here, in sections devoted to Ancient Wars, the Civil War, The Great War, World War Two, the Vietnam War, and Wargaming.
Williams has allied his site with Amazon.com, providing MilitaryHistoryOnline with an impressive list of military history books and movies. MilitaryHistoryOnline also has a solid Forum section, with blogs, quizzes and polls, where his guests chat and discuss a myriad of topics dealing with history’s wars.
"MilitaryHistoryOnline is all about normal people wanting to learn more about history. I tell folks that it is here for them to use as they wish, as long as the articles remain scholarly and unbiased. I’m in it to have fun and learn about military history, so anything they send in remains 100% their property, copyrighted to them, and fully credited to them ? I just give them a forum for their writings."
MilitaryHistoryOnline incorporates two of Williams’ favorite interests: military history and programming. But it is not the culmination of his love for either one. "Of course, my other ?passion’ is wargaming and I am currently working on my next project which is a web-based Corps-level WWII ETO hex-based wargame. It has probably another year until its completion, but it allows me to further explore new technologies (GDI+ in ASP.NET) and expand my military history knowledge.
Williams says he is well aware of the limitations of a web-based game, but he is trying to see how far he can push the technology. While we enjoy what he’s done ‘on a march through the past’ so far, we’ll also be watching him as he pushes himself, his talents, and the study of military history forward into the future. Greats things can be expected, indeed.
Visit Brian Williams at his site by going to the Special Ops box on our front web page, click on the Armchair General Links section, and click on the MilitaryHistoryOnline banner!
Stay Alert, Stay Alive!
Jim H. Moreno
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