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Totally knackered after a five mile run followed by a hour's bike ride around the Mont 24 track in Corrin Forest with John, who did 9 laps last weekend for the event. We'll probably do a night ride on Wednesday. I'll be so glad when this race in Beechworth is over. Then spent the rest of the afternoon at the War Memorial. Progress: nil.

SWPA was an American and Australian effort. When the war finally ended, the documents were divided between the US and Australia. Generals MacArthur and Blamey agreed that scholars of both nations would forever have access to both collections.

I very much doubt that they had any legal authority to make such an agreement but the fact is that the undertaking has been honoured, in Canberra, and in Washington.

Took a month off work. Travel to the US involves a long air flight across the Pacific. Security at Los Angeles is chaotic and delays are extensive. had to change planes in LA and St Louis before arriving in Baltimore. Rhonda said she had a friend in the Washington area called Tami who would put me up. I was a little chary about people volunteering friends but Tami said it was okay, but she wasn't getting rid of her kids or her cat to give me peace and quiet, which is fair enough. Her kids turned out to be charming, and the cat was a hoot.

From her place, I would drive around the Beltway to College Park, MD. The traffic moves fast there, about 70 mph minimum. Canberra traffic cops would have a field day, setting up speed cameras and automatically mailing out fines by the thousand each day.

The archives are in this modern glass building. As in other US Government buildings, security is strict. They don't let you take notebooks in! So I used the laptop. It has a dicky battery and I was afraid security would ask me to switch it on to prove that it works. And they let you do your own photocopying, for much less than they charge back home. They use this 18 inch foolscap size. Every page has to have a declassification tag on it, or the security guards will take it off you.

The files are not computer catalogued, much less digitised. And they are in the original form, having not been refiled. The US Army used a kind of Dewey Decimal filing system. Instead of constantly fetching files like they do in Australia, there are a few "pulls" each weekday - none on Saturday. The idea is to get requests into each pull so you don't run out of files. You can have a whole trolley worth of boxes, which is good, but can go through box after box very quickly. Anything vaguely interesting got photocopied.

I only looked at files related to 1943-44. Those for the Final Campaigns await another trip next year.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
2nd Nov, 2003 01:25 (UTC)
Sounds like you do the Military history bit on a professional level, Hawkeye.
I 'take an interest', to the exent that I have collected books on the periods that interest me. I tend to focus on Roman Britain, Saxon England and the stuff we did at school.
In the present day conflicts, I get quite a bit of info from Tom Clancy. I wonder how you rate him for accuracy.
3rd Nov, 2003 01:30 (UTC)
What is the stuff you did at school? For me, this was mostly the 19th Century. Apparently now that the 20th Century is over, it has started to appear in the high school texts. I remember Peter Simkins at the IWM bemoaned the fact that the Great War wasn't properly covered in the UK.

For present day conflicts, I tend to just listen to the veterans tell their stories. I'm actually older than most of the East Timor veterans! I tend to collect books on wars since 1980 for the joy of collecting.
3rd Nov, 2003 02:45 (UTC)
I never got past the Georgian era at school. I think that by then, the world was taking shape as we know it today, and they didn't want us getting ideas about the overthrow of Capitalist society.
I was more interested in Social History than learning dates of accession, though. I read text books for 'A' level students, and found them interesting. The Great War was not covered at all when I was at school. Not even the Boer war, which my grandfather fought in.
When you say you are older than East Timor veterans, I am not sure how old that makes you. I chiefly remember the Anzacs being at Gallipoli, but I also recall that Aussies were in Vietnam alongside Americans at one point. When was this East timor campaign?... You don't mean WW2...do you?
3rd Nov, 2003 13:18 (UTC)
For most Australians, military history is Gallipoli. Efforts to interest the public in the Second World War have had slight impression thus far. Australian (and New Zealand) tourists still visit Gallipoli in large numbers.

Australians were in Vietnam alongside the Americans at every point. Advisors were deployed in 1962, combat troops arrived in 1965 and withdrawal was in 1973. RAAF aircraft participated in the final rout in 1975.

Being born in the 1960s, my generation (GenX) didn't have the WWII vets growling at us and instead we looked up to the Vietnam vets with awe. Now they are all retired too. Even the Chief of Army was too young to serve in Vietnam.

I was not referring to the East Timor campaign of 1942-43 but to the one in 1999. Troops are still there. Since Vietnam, Australians have been in four wars: Gulf War I (1991), East Timor (1999), Afghanistan (2001) and Gulf War II (2003). Plus some minor efforts in Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda and the Solomons.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )