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Fire Origins
Remember. Learn. Share.

On Protection of Towns from Fire — Benjamin Franklin, 1735

On Making Official History Honest — Kent Robert Greenfield, 1954

LCES—a Key to Safety in the Wildland Fire Environment — Paul Gleason, 1991

Attitude Check — Bill Fish, 1995

TriData Phase IV, “Developing a Cooperative Approach to Wildfire Protection” — Charles Perrow, 1998

Lessons From Thirtymile: Transition Fires And Fire Orders — Jerry Williams, 2001

Loop Fire Disaster Brief — November, 1966

1967 Task Force Report

2005 Fire Prevention and Safety grant application


The following excerpt was written by Kent Roberts Greenfield in The Historian and the Army, (Kennikat Press, Port Washington, New York, reissue, first published 1954, trustees of Rutgers University).

Greenfield was Chairman of the History Department of Johns Hopkins University. In 1942, he was commissioned as a major and appointed historical officer of the Army Ground Forces. After the war, he became Chief Historian of the newly created Historical Division and oversaw the crucial groundwork for The United States Army in World War II.

A larger excerpt may be found at the website.

Making Official History Honest

The most challenging task that faced the professionals in 1946 was to make official history honest. The problem is real and basic. How can any agency of Government avoid issuing self-serving declarations or be expected to clear statements of fact that its officers regard as contrary to their own interest? This may not, indeed, be possible in the long run. But regarding our adventure let me say at once for the Army and Air Forces that if we have not succeeded in putting out honest history it has been our own fault.

We enjoyed a basic advantage in the fact that in World War II the Army wanted a history of its experience in that war for its own guidance, and for this it needed a full and frank history. But such history might have been produced for internal use only. The remarkable fact is that we encountered no disposition not to publish what we had written or were to write.

In 1945 The Infantry Journal offered to publish the studies that my own historical section had written during the war. I took the matter to General Devers, who was at the time, Commanding General of the Army Ground Forces. I explained to him that our studies, then classified “Secret,” had been written for internal use and that we had called the shots as we saw them. His answer was: “How is the Army going to progress unless its mistakes are seen and studied?” I warned him that living—and quite powerful—officers might have their feelings hurt. “Well,” he shot back, “isn't that the kind of wound a soldier has to take?” I would not mention this incident if we had not found it typical of the Army high command.

General Eisenhower, then Chief of Staff, made this attitude official. When I was offered the position of Chief Historian of the Department of the Army and went to him with the problem of inducing competent professional historians to write under government control, he immediately recognized and took action to meet the conditions that would have to be met if they were to do a professional job. These were three: freedom of access to all records of the War Department necessary to write a comprehensive history; freedom to call the shots as they saw them; and the individual responsibility of the author, signed and sealed by putting his name on his book. This adds up to academic freedom. The only restriction on the contents of our books is that they cannot include information which—to quote one of General Eisenhower's directives to his staff—would “in fact endanger the security of the nation.” (The italics are his.) That same directive made the exercise of our “academic freedom” not optional but imperative. “The History of World War II,” it runs, “must, without reservation, tell the complete story of the Army's participation” [in the war]. “The foregoing directive,” he added, “will be interpreted in the most liberal sense with no reservations as to whether or not the evidence of history places the Army in a favorable light.” [1]

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have had some angry generals on our hands, but have never altered a statement that the historian could document unless the aggrieved party has presented new and reliable evidence to support his criticism. The serious reviewers of our books have testified, with some surprise, but without exception, to our success to date, in making official history honest. The Army can well take pride in the expression which General Lestien recently used in a review of our series, when he wrote in the Revue d'histoire de la deuxième guerre mondiale that the American Army's history has the character of an “examen de conscience.” [2]

— Kent Robert Greenfield


1 Eisenhower Speaks, edited by R.L. Treunenfels (New York, 1948), pp. 264-265. [Return]

2 General Lestien, "L'Armée Américaine au combat," Revue d'histoire de la deuxi. . . .me guerre mondiale, No. 9, January 1953, pp. 38ff. [Return]


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