Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “women”

Women’s History Month Resources

March is Women’s History Month in the United States. The Writer’s Guide to Government Information can help you celebrate this month with what might be some non-traditional resources including:

Center for Cryptologic History

Center for Cryptologic History – http://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic_heritage/center_crypt_history/index.shtml

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find examples of women or African-American cryptographers?
  • What was the role of the NSA during the Cuban Missile Crisis?
  • How did the Soviets use Project GUNMAN to tap into US Embassy typewriters?

Description:

At one time it was said that the federal initials NSA stood for No Such Agency. Today the National Security Agency operates the Center for Cryptologic History. This site has a good amount of procedural and biographical data for a writer creating spies or cryptographers.

Some notable parts of the site include:

Cryptologic Almanac – A set of four articles on notable cryptographers, including Revolutionary War cryptography and Congress Member James Lovell who played a role in Nicolas Cage’s National Treasure movies. He was a master of ciphers and played a key role in decrypting British messages. His efforts to produce secure US communications were less successful. As the Almanac notes:

James Lovell’s secret ciphers produced more confusion than security for American diplomats during the revolution. Only gradually in the years after 1775 did American officials become sophisticated about cryptographic systems. Because of the frustration with ciphers, American statesmen began to rely more heavily upon codes rather than ciphers for secret foreign communications. All of the confusion over the Lovell ciphers provides a remarkable lesson for cipher inventors. Lovell tried to force his system on the best minds of the country–even they didn’t understand it, and the system failed.

Historical Publications – A relatively small but useful number of NSA publications ranging from 15 page brochures to full books. Most are available online and the NSA will send you a print copy if you e-mail them. Since the NSA probably already has your e-mail address, don’t be shy about requesting print if that is the format you are comfortable with. The publications fall into the following time periods:

  • Pre-WWII (Prior to 1941)
  • WWII Era (1941-1945)
  • Cold War (1948-1991)
  • Korean War Era (1950-1953)
  • Vietnam War (1954-1975)
  • Miscellaneous

Good sounding titles from this set of publications include:

  • Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775-1900
  • Listening to the Rumrunners
  • Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust, 1939-1945
  • The Quiet Heroes of the Southwest Pacific Theater: An Oral History of the Men and Women of CBB and FRUMEL
  • A Dangerous Business: The U.S. Navy and National Reconnaissance During the Cold War (Did you know that 90 Navy personnel were killed while doing Cold war recon?)
  • PFC Jay Stoner – A two page story of heroism and sacrifice from the Korean War
  • The Voynich Manuscript – an Elegant Enigma

This site also contains two sets of biographies that may be useful to writers that used to buried several clicks from the main page, but are now available on every page from the left-hand menu:

Each biography is a about a page long and also contains background about the social and working conditions that existed during their time at NSA.

Intelligence Literature Suggested Reading List (CIA)

Intelligence Literature Suggested Reading List (CIA) – https://www.cia.gov/library/intelligence-literature/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find spy biographies?
  • What can I find perspectives on the relationship between analysis and policy?
  • Where can I learn more about spy satellites?

Description:

If you want to immerse yourself in intelligence reading so your character can be a more believable spy, why not learn from pros? This CIA annotated reading list offers works in the following areas:

  • World War II & Before
  • CIA & OSS History
  • Biographies & Memoirs (CIA Careers)
  • Women in Intelligence
  • Espionage
  • Operations: Counterintelligence (CI)
  • Operations: Covert Action (CA)
  • Analysis
  • Technology
  • War on Terrorism
  • General Interest
  • Reference

If a book is available from the CIA’s website, it will be linked. For the other titles, I would suggest searching worldcat.org to locate a copy. You might need to use interlibrary loan if the item is not available at your local library.

Story Idea:

One book from the “Women in Intelligence” section really called out to me as a potential source of material:

A Life In Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE by Sarah Helm London: Little Brown, 2005 – In the “man’s world” of WWII European intelligence, Atkins rose quickly to a key position in Britain’s Special; Operations Executive (SOE) selecting agents and sending them to Europe. After the war she went searching for those who hadn’t returned. This book tells her story.  – Find in a library.

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?

Description:

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.

World War II era WAVES (Naval History and Heritage Command)

World War II era WAVES (Naval History and Heritage Command) – https://web.archive.org/web/20141026031220/http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/prs-tpic/females/wave-ww2.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did the acronym WAVES stand for?
  • What duties did the WAVES perform?
  • What did a WAVES uniform look like?
  • What values did WAVES recruiting posters invoke?

Description:

Website featuring many annotated photos and posters of the US Navy women known as WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Site is divided into the following areas:

  • Recruiting and Training
  • Quarters & Meals
  • Recreation, Leisure & Good Deeds
  • Ship and Aviation Orientation
  • Transportation
  • Occupations – Aviation Related
  • Artworks and posters of wartime WAVES “Recruiting Posters for Women from World War II – The WAVES”.
  • Additional information Women in the U.S. Navy.

Each area has a textual overview up to several paragraphs. This site will be useful in describing WAVES characters and keeping them in era-appropriate occupations.

Women Pilots with the AAF, 1941-1944

Women Pilots with the AAF, 1941-1944, by J. Merton England and Joseph Reither (1946). 122 pages. – http://www.afhra.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-090529-109.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • When did women pilots start to fly with Army Air Forces (AAF)?
  • How were women pilots trained and did it differ from the training offered to men?
  • What tasks did women pilots perform?
  • How were women pilots perceived by their male counterparts and commanding officers?
  • When was the program of allowing women pilots terminated?

Description:

From the introduction:

This study describes the adoption of the program, the training of women pilots, the uses made of them, and the attempt to incorporate them into the Army. In connection with these topics, consideration is given to the administration of the program–including the differing ideas about how many women pilots there should be, how they should be organized, and how they should be directed.

The main text of the work is followed by a glossary, a bibliographical note, an appendix featuring commentary from reviewers and an index.

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