Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “army”

Office of Medical History (Army)

Office of Medical History (Army) – http://history.amedd.army.mil

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were some preventative measures taken by the US Army in the American Revolution?
  • When were US soldiers first vaccinated for smallpox?
  • What was considered typical care during the Civil War?
  • What were World War I base camp hospitals like?


This site is divided into a number of sections, but the most helpful will be:

Books and Documents – materials from Revolutionary times to the the Iraq War. Some representative titles are:

  • The Evolution of Preventive Medicine in the United States Army, 1607-1939
  • Medical Men in the American Revolution, 1775-1783 by Louis C. Duncun
  • Thesis: A Study of the Medical Support to the Union and Confederate Armies During the Battle of Chickamauga: Lessons and Implications for Today’s U.S. Army Medical Department Leaders by David A. Rubenstein
  • The U.S. Army Medical Department in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
  • Women in the Army Medical Department in World War II
  • Battle Casualties in Korea: Studies of the Surgical Research Team, Volume II, Tools for Resuscitation
  • In Their Own Words: The 498th Air Ambulance Company in Iraq, 2003

Historical Art Work – Captioned images and photographs from WWI through the Iraq War. The Office of Medical History discourages the use of this imagery for commercial or partisan publications, but does not disclose their authority for prohibiting these uses.

Medal of Honor recipients – Short citations of medical personnel awarded the Medal of Honor.

AMEDD Unit Patches and Lineage – Patches and organization histories from Army Medical units.

As you might gather from the title of this resource, it will be most helpful in determining what level of field medicine is available to your military characters in a given period of time.

Vietnam Studies (series)

Vietnam Studies (series) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/vn-studies.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was the role of Australians and New Zealanders in the Vietnam War?
  • How did the military blood program work in Vietnam?
  • Where can I find an account of the battles of Prek Klok?
  • What was the role of Army intelligence in Operation Cedar Falls?


Another online bookshelf of Vietnam-related materials from the Center of Military History. From the series introduction at the beginning of each volume:
“At the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative group of senior officers who served in important posts in Vietnam and who still carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities has prepared a series of monographs. These studies should be of great value in helping the Army develop future operational concepts while at the same time contributing to the historical record and providing the American public with an interim report on the performance of men and officers who have responded, as others have through our history, to exacting and trying demands.
All monographs in the series are based primarily on official records, with additional material from published and unpublished secondary works, from debriefing reports and interviews with key participants, and from the personal experience of the author.”

Notable works in this series are:

  • Allied Participation in Vietnam
  • The Development and Training of the South Vietnamese Army 1950-1972
  • Division-Level Communication 1962-1973
  • Field Artillery, 1954-1973
  • Medical Support of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965-1970
  • The Role of Military Intelligence, 1965-1967
  • U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam: 1961-1971

Most of the books in this series are arranged in chronological order and have tables of maps, charts, illustrations and photographs.

US Army in Vietnam (series)

US Army in Vietnam (series) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/usavn.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were US forces doing in Vietnam before the handover in 1954?
  • How did US reporters tackle a story about malfunctioning M16s?
  • How did lack of Vietnamese language skills hamper US efforts to train the South Vietnamese Army?


Online library of books relating to the Army’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Notable titles in the series include:

  • Advice and Support: The Early Years, 1941-1960
  • Public Affairs: The Military and the Media, 1962-1968
  • Public Affairs: The Military and the Media, 1968-1973
  • MACV: The Joint Command in the Years of Withdrawal, 1968-1973
  • Images of a Lengthy War
  • Engineers at War

Most books are well illustrated and consist of chronological chapters followed by an index. These volumes will be helpful for scene setting and may provide guidelines for media coverage of fictional wars.

Images of a Lengthy War was not freely available online as of December 2013, but it is available at many libraries. Visit http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/13003872 to see if there is a copy near you. The work covers three decades of photographs and includes early French involvement in Vietnam.

US Army in the Korean War (Series) (Center of Military History)

US Army in the Korean War (Series) (Center of Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/usakw.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find a copy of the Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War?
  • What was LITTLE SWITCH?
  • What do symbols on military maps of the 1950s mean?
  • Where can I find photos of admirals who served during the Korean War?


This page links to electronic versions of:

  • Policy and direction: The first year
  • South to the Naktong, north to the Yalu
  • Truce tent and fighting front
  • Ebb and flow

These represent all of the books in this series except “Medics’ War.” The books have narrative text which in all cases is followed by lists of tables, charts and maps. Some books have appendices and two have an index. The four books are available in PDF and HTML.

Although the “Medics’ War” volume is not available in electronic full text through the Center of Military History, it is available online through the HathiTrust digital library at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015051829276.

Story idea:

If your science fiction story requires a treaty between wary powers, the armistice agreement found in Truce tent and fighting front might come in handy.

US Army in World War II Pictorial Record (Center of Military History)

US Army in World War II Pictorial Record (Center of Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/ww2-pic.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did a P-51 fighter look like?
  • What does antiaircraft tracer fire look like?
  • What did Japanese bucket brigades look like in World War II?
  • What could mail call in the Solomon Islands look like?
  • What did the USS Hornet look like while under attack from dive bombers?
  • Where can I find scenes of urban devastation like that of Osaka in World War II?


Although part of the larger set of US Army in World War II discussed elsewhere, the Pictorial Record volumes deserve their own entry for their usefulness to writers of stories set in this era. The three volumes in the series are:

  • The war against Japan
  • The war against Germany and Italy: Mediterranean and adjacent areas
  • The war against Germany: Europe and adjacent areas

The aim of these volumes is clearly stated in the foreword to “The war against Japan”:

The photographs have been especially selected to show important terrain features, types of equipment and weapons, living and weather conditions, military operations, and matters of human interest. These volumes will preserve and make accessible for future reference some of the best pictures of World War II. An appreciation not only of the terrain upon which actions were fought, but also of its influence on the capabilities and limitations of weapons in the hands of both our troops and those of the enemy, can be gained through a careful study of the pictures herein presented.

Each volume is divided into sections with a brief historical essay that precedes a group of pictures with commentary. An excellent index in the back of each volume makes it easy to find pictures of weapons, aircraft, ships, locations, allied troops, bomb craters, blasted neighborhoods and more. Finally each volume has a list of abbreviations that may be helpful in understanding other materials besides these photographs.

In addition to serving as aids to describing war scenes, people, weapons and vehicles, the pictures in these volumes are public domain. You can freely illustrate your own work with these photographs, though it would be good to provide a credit back to the pictorial volume and the Center of Military History.

The PDF format of this series does make it harder to use the photographs. You might try using screen clipping tools built into Windows and Macs. From an examination of the volumes it was unclear where one might go to request the originals of these photographs. If anyone has insight into this, please leave a comment or use the “Contact Kari” link at the top of the page.

US Army in World War II (Series) (Center of Military History)

US Army in World War II (Series) (Center of Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/usaww2.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were Americans doing in both Iran and Iraq during World War II?
  • How did World War II affect the Caribbean?
  • Whom did Soviet Russians employ to clear rubble in occupied Berlin?
  • Where can I read about the successful Axis evacuation of Sicily?


This is literally an entire library related to US Army operations in World War II. From the forward to the US Army in World War II “Readers Guide”:

The United States Army in World War II series describes the organization, plans, and operations of the War Department and the Army, in the zone of interior and in all of the Army’s five theaters of operations from 1939 to 1945. Since the Army authorized the project in 1946, seventy-eight volumes have been or are being published representing an organized treasury of knowledge on the world’s greatest conflict. Behind them lies one of the largest masses of records and recollections ever produced. These documents, including those of the enemy, have been explored by professional historians, with the cooperation of a host of participants and with all the facilities and assistance that the Office of the Chief of Military History and its successor, the Center of Military History, could provide to ensure that this endeavor was as comprehensive, accurate, and objective as possible. The final result has provided commanders and staff officers, historians, and students-military and civilian alike-with an unprecedented professional guide to past experience as they seek light on the uncertain path ahead.

The series is subdivided into the following sections:

  • The War Department
  • The Army Ground Forces
  • The Army Service Forces
  • The Western Hemisphere
  • The War in the Pacific
  • The Mediterranean Theater of Operations
  • The European Theater of Operations
  • The Middle East Theater
  • The China-Burma-India Theater
  • The Technical Services
  • Special Studies
  • Pictorial Record

If you’re uncertain where to start, visit the series’ “Reader’s Guide.” It has summaries of all 78 volumes, which will give you some basic information and lead you to a specific volume for greater depth.

Most of the of the volumes contain maps, charts and illustrations. Others will have bibliographic notes for further reading. A number of the books in this series appear to be offered in both PDF and HTML. The Pictorial Record series and a handful of other books appear to be in PDF format only. This seems unfortunate in the case of the Pictorial Record series as it makes the public domain photographs harder to share.

Search Tip:

It is possible to search across HTML formatted books of the US Army in World War II books by typing in [(keywords) inurl:books/wwii site:army.mil] into your favorite search engine. For example, searching [women inurl:books/wwii site:army.mil] brings up over 300 results, including:

  • An escaped woman refuge bringing word of massed German equipment in the woods.
  • A picture of a Belgian woman salvaging grain in a gutted barn.
  • The Soviets use of women to clear rubble piles in occupied Berlin.

Searching [drowned inurl:books/wwii site:army.mil] brings up instances of troops drowned in battle and also instances of cut communications.

If you don’t get the results you expect, it may be the volumes you thought you were searching are not in HTML format.

Center of Military History Online Photograph Library

Center of Military History Online Photograph Library –  http://www.history.army.mil/html/artphoto/photographs.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did a radio operator’s equipment look like in World War II?
  • Where can I find scenes associated with the Battle of the Bulge?
  • What did a Buffalo Soldier training camp look like?
  • What did Army Nurse uniforms look like in World War II?


This library has collections of photographs that encompass a number of eras. The collections that cover World War II are:

  • Battle of the Bulge Images
  • Buffalo Soldiers on the Eve of World War II
  • Images from World War II: The Early Years
  • African Americans in the U.S. Army – Early World War II
  • Images from World War II: Preparing for Battle
  • Photographs of World War II Ireland
  • The Normandy Invasion: The Story in Pictures
  • Army Nurses: World War II & Korean War Images

The presentation of each photograph varies, but you can usually rely on a caption for each photograph. In some cases information about the collection from which this came from will be offered.

World War I Online Bookshelf (Center of Military History)

World War I Online Bookshelf (Center of Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/resmat/WWI.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What role did the 82nd play in the first World War?
  • Where can I learn more about the US Army’s role in World War I?
  • Who were the commanders of the US 2nd Division?


Links to published and archival material related to World War I, including capsule histories of the war prior to US entry and a summary of US actions during the war. Will be more useful for setting the stage for stories of that era than gaining character back story. May be useful for finding names in use during the early 20th Century.

Army Nurse Corps in the War with Spain (Center of Military History)

The Army Nurse Corps in the War with Spain (Center of Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/documents/spanam/WS-ANC.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:
How were US Army Nurses attired during the War with Spain?
What did US Army hospital wards look like around 1898?
What did a operating room on a US hospital ship look like around 1898?


Set of photographs showing Army nurses around 1898 in camps, hospitals and hospital ships.

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