DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
Oral History Interview
DSIT AE 104
MAJ Donald E. Plank
3397th US Army Garrison
CPT Ida M. McGrath
Historian, 101st Airborne Division
Interviews Conducted 5 June 1991 at the Don Pratt Museum, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Interviewer: MAJ Dennis P. Levin (130th Military History Detachment)
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
7 August 1990 - 15 May 1991
Oral History Interview DSIT AE 104
MAJ LEVIN: This tape is 5 June 1991. This tape is unclassified. This is an oral history conducted by the 130th Military History Detachment, MAJ Dennis Levin, interviewer, and I am interviewing ...
MAJ PLANK: MAJ Donald E. Plank.
MAJ LEVIN: And can you tell me what your duty position is?
MAJ PLANK: Right now I have been acting as the Acting Historian at the installation, supporting it in regards to the museum, as directed by the curator as a support element.
MAJ LEVIN: I see. Now what unit do you come from?
MAJ PLANK: I am from the 3397th US Army Garrison.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. Can you talk to me a little bit about how you were activated and how you ended up in the historian's position?
MAJ PLANK: We were activated on about the 26th of August  as a garrison unit to support Fort Campbell during the [101st Airborne] Division's deployment. As a garrison unit, we came in with a lot of different specialties. My first basic assignment when I came to the installation was the lessons learned, because obviously a deployment like this ... in a mobilization like this, was an enormous task. The Division was rapidly moving out of the installation and there were a lot of problem at Campbell. The Department of Army IG [Inspector General] was very concerned about a number of areas that were ... instances that were occurring.
MAJ LEVIN: We have a lot of background noise from construction going on. Can you talk just a little bit louder?
MAJ PLANK: Sure. As a result of that, I think that we put together a pretty substantial lessons learned package, 70 or 80 pages of issues. The Department of Army IG came down on two different occasions; went over those issues with us. As a result, we think that some of those problem areas we got some resolution. Some of our suggestions were picked up on and were acted upon by the Department of Army IG. We got the message traffic within like ten days that some of these issues had been resolved. And we were getting some of those suggestions that we had made come back, and we could implement the solutions that we had recommended for the re-mobilization.
So we felt that that was pretty responsive on the part of the Army to move that quickly, particularly in light of the ... we had Reservists that were called in the earlier stages of DESERT SHIELD, and they were running into all kinds of difficulties. The Division was basically gone, and we were running the installation with the remaining garrison. It was partially depleted by the Division's deployment too.
MAJ LEVIN: How did you become a historian?
MAJ PLANK: Well, what happened is, after we had basically accumulated the lessons learned and we had seen most of those problems finally work themselves through the system and be resolved, the G-3 section in the museum here was just getting overlooked with requests for information, with lack of support to document what was going on. We started in the EOC [Emergency Operations Center] taping anything and everything: CNN [Cable News Network]. This was in the very early stages of DESERT STORM--pardon me, DESERT SHIELD--[we] started taping 24 hours around the clock the CNN. We had all kinds of materials we were trying to catalog. We were working, and we were briefing--nearly every day in the EOC--the installation staff on the Division's movements, the Division's activities, as well as what was happening here as far as the Reserve.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
MAJ PLANK: And that was just a large amount of Reserve activity.
MAJ LEVIN: Who was pushing for that? Who was primarily interested in the documentation?
MAJ PLANK: Well, the museum curator [Mr. Rex Boggs] was very, very concerned that we would have a situation that was similar to what happened after Vietnam. The Division came home from Vietnam, and apparently there was very, very little documentation on its Vietnam experiences; and a lot of that information when it came back, from what I understand, was just boxed up and sent to the Center of Military History. We are continually getting inquiries for people from that period to come in and tell us what happened here and when, and we have very little documentation.
MAJ LEVIN: He had to send it all to Center for Military History?
MAJ PLANK: He had to pass it on through.
MAJ LEVIN: And then they sent it to Archives, and dah-de-dah, right?
MAJ PLANK: Yes. It was situation or a circumstance that he didn't want to see repeated.
MAJ LEVIN: How was the curator of the museum able to latch onto you?
MAJ PLANK: Well, as a support element here on the installation, we offered a number of our people to, quite frankly, to the installation in needed areas; we're talking augmenting forces. And I was pretty well through with lessons learned at that point now, and they were looking for a historian, and I offered to take it because I felt like that would be very interesting. I enjoy writing and documenting myself, so that appealed to me.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. Once you came in, what was your interaction, because the Division already has a historian? Had she [CPT Ida McGrath] already left?
MAJ PLANK: Yes, she was gone.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. When you came in, then, how did you know what you were supposed to do, and what kinds of facilities did you have available to you?
MAJ PLANK: Well, we were kind of going through this the first--you know, working our way through it together--and what I did is, I would go back over to the EOC briefings, or Mr. Boggs, the curator, would. We alternated. One of us would be at the EOC briefing every day. We would also take the slides, the briefing slides; accumulate those, incorporate those into a write-up which was basically a calendarization of events day-by-day-by-day throughout the entire--well, from the time of the invasion up through the second week of October we had a daily activity written up which included activities here at the installation, what kind of training the Division was doing in theater, intelligence data that was coming back through INTSUM [Intelligence Summary] reports and SCIF [Secure Classified Information Facility]-book. All that was documented and put into a daily activity log, if you will, a write-up. If you can pick a day, a time sequence, the ZULU calendar dates and so forth, you can pick that up. So it is a daily log, basically.
MAJ LEVIN: Was that the primary duty that you had, was just tracking ... ?
MAJ PLANK: Well, I didn't come in until around November, I believe, into that position, really. So I went back, took the data and started coming forward. I was behind before I ever got here. And we accumulated that information for the period, and that took probably about six weeks for us to do that.
MAJ LEVIN: Were there procedures in place, formats in place already from the historian's work, or was this brand new?
MAJ PLANK: This was brand new.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. When you were working with the mobilization people, how did you ... what kind of coverage did you give to the mobilization?
MAJ PLANK: Every unit that came through ... the garrison, like I said, has a large number of MOSs [military occupational specialties] within it. It is a multi-faceted unit. We ran a mobilization station where we in-processed the units. When a unit comes on post like that, that has been activated, it is under a whole lot of strain. It is going through basically a shaken up period. You are saying, "here I am, I was a civilian yesterday and now I am a soldier today." They are not in a position to be able to go immediately to the ranges and become range qualified, so we set up range committees. Our people ran all the ranges here at the installation. We processed their paperwork. We did their financial ... finance work. They left. They left all their files and records with us, their promotion packets. We performed support for them, every unit that came through the installation which activated. We photographed every unit that came through here, so we had a record there. We have copies of all their activational orders. We basically built a history file on every single unit that was activated.
When they come back through here, we have a survey that we give to the commander, to the staff, that we request back from each unit. We ask for an after-action report that covers DESERT STORM from them, which will also go into the history file as well. So we'll have a pretty good picture of that unit's activity from its activation to demob[ilization].
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. As a historian, what kind of access did you have to what was going on in the mobilization? Were you an integral part of the planning of the mobilization, or did you go up and say, "Here I am, a historian," and they said, "Fine, do your thing," or how did it work?
MAJ PLANK: Well, I really didn't have any input into the mobilization, so to speak. My concerns were, as far as staff-type meetings and so forth, that we made sure that we had these elements coming back in, and that we knew what was going on as far as what they had to do and where they were going to be, so that we could record it. We had--I have taken photographers and run them all over this installation, recording some of this.
MAJ LEVIN: Mostly public affairs types, or ...
MAJ PLANK: No. The G-3 tasked through him the TASC [training aids support center], which is where the photography assets on this installation are. They have been very, very supportive. They are out at the airfield, the hangars, day and night. Any unit that comes in, they are there, it makes no difference what time of day, and I think that is pretty good support from the installation.
MAJ LEVIN: About halfway through this, the regular historian came back.
MAJ PLANK: Right.
MAJ LEVIN: And how has the office been operating?
MAJ PLANK: She has been involved in working in basically the EOC up until this past week. I have been associated with the museum here. I have pretty well dropped off of the historical ... the historical working parts of the installation. I have gone back to working with Reserve units now, and what I am doing here is basically trying to manage the renovation here at the museum which the garrison started during a period of time where there was a lull. Now that the Division is back and the units are almost back, a lot of them are back, part of our unit is being demob'd as well, and what we have here is, we have a small work force that is wrapping up this project for the installation. And then at the end of the month they will probably also be replaced.
MAJ LEVIN: What were some of the significant situations that you encountered or the Reserve units encountered as they mobilized through here? What kind of things were done right, what kind of things were not done right, that you noticed as an observer?
MAJ PLANK: Well, quite frankly, I think a lot of things were done right. I think the fact that the garrison took the airfield early on, during the Division's movement, you know, I think it was a very, very positive act that allowed the Division to use all its assets in getting to theater pretty quickly. Because they need to be on the other end. They need to have their DAG and their high and low type people on the other side ... .
MAJ LEVIN: So they operated entirely separately from the Reserve mobilization?
MAJ PLANK: Right. When we loaded the aircraft--a lot of the Division--out of here with our personnel, our gear, our personnel who supported the installation or the airfield. We took the airfield over very, very early on after our arrival, and we have had it ever since until, I think, at least about three weeks ago we gave it back to the Division, and our people are now moving and trying to put equipment back into the rail, they've turned the airfield back over to ... you know. People moved. We had people working, as I say, at the airfield. We had them working over at Caske [?], which is over at Hopkinsville, which is a rail yard that we were using. We supported them very strong in those areas. We also, like I mentioned earlier, the ranges, we took the ranges over early on. We processed, I think essentially, as far as man-type or person-type ranges fired, there were 16,000 range firings during the operation with our range people.
MAJ LEVIN: Now the unit that was doing all this garrison support, had they had any experience in doing garrison support before?
MAJ PLANK: Yes, they have been a garrison for a number of years. They were a garrison for, early on, it was Camp Shelby, until the Mississippi National Guard decided they wanted to run that installation themselves. When the Mississippi Guard took Shelby over, we were basically picked up as the augmentation garrison for Fort Campbell for mobilization, and we have had that mission now for about four years.
MAJ LEVIN: What kind of working relationship have you had with the regular staff at Fort Campbell? Because obviously if you do your drills or AT [annual training] here, you are going to sidesaddle with somebody who is already doing the job. Have you felt like you have been underfoot, or have you been here, or what has happened?
MAJ PLANK: We have had what I consider to be an exceptional relationship with the installation. We have really enjoyed working with the people. We found that we didn't always agree on a lot of things, but we managed to work it out as professionals. We are here to do a mission, and I think we have done the mission very, very well. COL Seymour, who was the installation commander while the Division was gone, is an exceptionally dedicated soldier, and he definitely did a good job augmenting and integrating Reserve and active duty forces. He made it very clear early on that there would be no difference. As far as he was concerned, we were here to do the mission, we would work together to accomplish that mission, and we have.
MAJ LEVIN: Did they envision, before this mobilization took place, the really massive change to procedure? In other words, like for instance the garrison taking over the airfield and that sort of thing? Did they anticipate that sort of thing going on?
MAJ PLANK: I can't ... I don't think that anybody, even when you do your mobilization planning, you ever completely can address all these functions. We were in the middle of a TDA change when we came up here. We were downsizing our unit from about a 360-man unit to a 127-man unit. What has come out of this operation is the fact that that 127 is not going to be sufficient to support this installation, and that TDA adjustment to the revised TDA or the new TDA I think is in process now. What we have done is, we have gone back to the installation's manning, determined where the structure is not adequate, where there are vacancies that are not presently being filled, that our garrison in the event of an augmentation or a mobilization will fill those spots when we report.
MAJ LEVIN: One of the things that we noticed at Fort Bragg, [North Carolina], is that the mobilization was not really geared to the absence of the [XVIII Airborne] Corps. It was geared to the fact that the Corps' workload would increase, maybe there would be a couple of brigades of the 82d [Airborne Division] gone, maybe some of the COSCOM [1st Support Command (Corps)] would be gone, and some of the Corps Headquarters would be gone. But nobody envisioned everybody moving out of Dodge and then having to replace everybody who had left on that kind of scale. Was that something like what happened here?
MAJ PLANK: Absolutely, the same type situation. In fact, in one of the interviews with the DISCOM [101st Airborne Division Support Command commander], the DISCOM said that--when we were talking to the commander over there--he said nobody completely envisioned the Division here pulling out at one time, basically everybody. You know, we are going to empty the lockers. We will hit the road all at one time, and we have got to deploy immediately. That was never really envisioned. He said that their op[eration]s, their mobilization, their planning here was basically going out a brigade at a time, if they were going to do that.
It didn't really happen quite that way. In fact, the Division went out here on a task element basis: What do we need over there immediately? And let's put it together here, and it goes out together. What do we need when we hit the ground? We have got to be prepared to fight when we get there. So aviation assets with infantry assets and support assets going early on. That is not the way that you would normally imagine this to occur. You would pull a brigade, and a brigade would go. So we are not a task element as opposed to brigade kind of flow.
MAJ LEVIN: So essentially our mobilization plans have been geared for kind of a trickle-in sort of war, rather than an all of a sudden 250K [250,000-man] call-up?
MAJ PLANK: Absolutely, and everybody goes.
MAJ LEVIN: And everybody goes.
MAJ PLANK: Everybody goes.
MAJ LEVIN: And the active duty has already left?
MAJ PLANK: Right. Like I said, the mission that we had immediately was to assist the Division, and the Division was going, and the Division was going very rapidly, and they were going prepared to fight when they hit the ground.
MAJ LEVIN: One of the things that took place during the mobilization also, early on especially, there were issues about maintaining National Guard integrity, and Army Reserve integrity, as opposed to being incorporated into active duty. Now to what extent was the post caught or the units that were mobilizing caught in the middle of that tension, of the National Guard Bureau perhaps trying to maintain some control over the units that had been mobilized?
MAJ PLANK: We worked with the MAT [mobilization assistance team] team here, and the MAT team we had, we had a mobilization stationed here basically where the Division was the deployment command. Our headquarters became a deployment command. We became responsible for all the units. When they hit the gate here, they belonged to Ft. Campbell and they belonged to us, and they were on active duty from that time on as far as assumption of responsibility for them.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
MAJ PLANK: That didn't mean that the National Guard and the Reserve didn't continue to support us with those troops, because when we ran into equipment shortages or whatever, our S-4 would work with the ARCOMs [Army Reserve Commands], would work with the National Guard Bureaus of the States, to get those assets--those equipment, personnel--whatever it took to get them here, and we didn't have a problem with that.
MAJ LEVIN: Did the National Guard and the Reserve components have a liaison officer assigned to the mobilization station to help facilitate that kind of coordination?
MAJ PLANK: We had, through the MAT team, we had those coordinations being laid on, liaison. We had--also MAJ Bell was the National Guard support here at the installation, who was very, very effective in helping us in that regard.
As far as any separation between active duty and Reserve, as far as any differences, we didn't really have that much on the installation because, like I said, when our garrison came here we spun off. We had individuals go out and take the airfield. Now they became ... when they took the airfield, when our MPs when to the Provost Marshal, when our aviation people went to the training simulators, whatever, they became augmented to the installation garrison here. Our support still fell within the 3397th U.S. Army Garrison, you know, activated. All the units that came in under our command structure reported up through the Garrison Commander of our unit through the Installation Commander, who is also the Garrison Commander full time here at Ft. Campbell.
MAJ LEVIN: There was some controversy at Fort Bragg about wearing their patches, which patches they would wear and that sort of thing. Did that happen here at all?
MAJ PLANK: Well, there was some discussion when we came here whether we would put on the FORSCOM [US Army Forces Command] patch or whether we might even put on the 101[st Airborne Division] patch. That didn't pan out to be a major problem, and we continued to wear the ARCOM patch, the 125th, that we came and activated with. Now I understand that there has been some discussion about the units that we deployed over, that went into theater and went through the operation, as to what combat patch they were going to wear when they came back. Some of them were saying that they would be wearing the patch of the Reserve component that they served with--the ARCOM, the National Guard units--and some of them were saying they would be wearing, in the case, maybe the XVIII Airborne Corps or the 101. I think that that is still being kicked around. I think that there are some frustrations there.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, I am sure that will be a frustration, especially since nobody decided to really cut orders on who would be attached to whom.
MAJ PLANK: Well, it is interesting from the standpoint that in some cases you have maybe a National Guard unit that came through that was the higher headquarters, in the case of a brigade, and then you would have three battalions assigned to that brigade from three different states. Now the brigade is assigned, say, to support maybe XVIII Airborne Corps, so when they come back they have got--the headquarters of that particular brigade is wanting its battalions to wear the combat patch of its, maybe, National Guard patch. But maybe the battalions at this point in time do not want to wear that patch. They are saying, "Well, we were directly in support of the XVIII Airborne Corps. We want to wear the Airborne Corps patch as a combat patch." And I know there has been some frustration there. I have seen that and I have talked to some individuals who feel very strongly as to which patch they want to wear or should be wearing.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. Well, we will see what it takes to iron that out. Okay, is there anything else from a historian's standpoint that you would like to add?
MAJ PLANK: We are continuing at this installation to create records and files of all the activated Reserve units, National Guard and Reserve component units, that have come through here, went to theater. We are accumulating for each of those records a survey, after-action reports, unit photographs, copies of orders, so that we have at this installation, in the museum, an archives of their participation in Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, as part of the historical operation.
MAJ LEVIN: Very good. Okay, thank you very much.
MAJ PLANK: Thank you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
MAJ LEVIN: This is interview number two. The date is June 5, 1991. This is the 130th Military History Detachment; MAJ Dennis Levin, interviewer, and I am interviewing--
CPT McGRATH: CPT Ida Melinda McGrath, Division Historian for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. CPT McGrath, can you tell me a little bit about the nature of your duties? How did you become the historian for the 101st?
CPT McGRATH: About two years ago the Division was about three years behind in its history, and at that time I had an eye problem, and they had an SD [special duty] position that opened up and they needed to get the reports into FORSCOM, so I came aboard, submitted the reports. And then after the reports were submitted, a [new] Commanding General [MG J. H. Binford] Peay, [III], came aboard, and he wanted a full time historian, not just a person that was here to submit reports to FORSCOM. He wanted somebody on board all the time, so I remained in the position up to the present day.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. What kinds of activities have you been doing prior to Operation DESERT STORM--DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM?
CPT McGRATH: Within Fort Campbell there are a lot of units that conduct promotion boards, etc., and I maintain all the historical files for the various units. Also, we found that over the years a lot of the files within the history were really messed up, because you had a different historian every two or three years and each historian that they had, whether it was a civilian assigned temporary or an officer assigned as an SD, had their own filing system. So in order to find anything to help out the units, you had to go through something like 15 filing cabinets that had various filing drawers in maybe four or five different areas to find information.
Well, one of my primary areas was to get that all organized, and that was done. I also organized an active file and an inactive file, which wasn't done previously, and maintained the photographs and the pictorial history of the various units; took in the unit histories on a quarterly basis from the units; compiled them into an annual history, submitted them to FORSCOM; tried to maintain biographical data on all the key individuals; just doing anything with history.
I also ... we had an ongoing history pamphlet of the 101st that was about five years outdated, and so I revised the old one by correcting some of the grammatical and spelling errors and updated that and brought that up to the present date, prior to DESERT SHIELD. Also worked very closely with the 50th anniversary celebration of the Airborne. It was coming up, and they needed documentation to put into a yearbook, so working with the various associations, the present-day association, and an honorary Colonel, I got that done.
So there were all kinds of things. Conducted tours of the Division; gave history lectures to the various units. The units, as part of their OPD [officer professional development] and NCODP [noncommissioned officer development program], would sign up for a time to come in museum and we would show them films, and then also give them a 30- or 45-minute lecture on the history of the museum--I mean a history of Fort Campbell, a history of the 101st that was very detailed. Gave them the key issues to study for their boards--their promotion boards. And generally provided them that information.
And I guess, other than that, I also maintained a reference library so that anybody coming in could do military research. Had that all available for them, so that they could do their research, and tried to get more books as we had them come in. Conducted one-on-one walking tours around the museum, helped anybody I could, did correspondence when somebody would call.
One of the problems with any post is that a lot of people that were prior soldiers would want to come to the post and want information, either on a particular unit's history or something on themselves, and I maintained enough addresses for the United States, you know, all over the United States, so that I could get them in the general direction. Or I would do the research for them by contacting St. Louis or the various places.
MAJ LEVIN: How did you find out what would be involved with being a historian? Who gave you the guidance to be able to do that?
CPT McGRATH: Well, part of it was, when I came aboard there was a captain that had been here for four months, and there were a lot of areas that he couldn't help people with. You know, he would get people who would come in and say, "I need this, this and this," and it just wasn't fair. And so what I tried to do is, looking at all those areas that were open during that time, and he obviously didn't have time to correct the problems, and it wasn't his making--it was just ... . There was a need there to be able to help people. And because you didn't have it all centralized on the post, you sent people to various places. And so I got information from him. Also through making phone calls to the Center of Military History, regular things like reading the regulations. There was not a trained historian to be able to say, to give me guidance or anything like that. I just picked it up as I needed to do it, and expanded it as I wanted to do it. Unfortunately, a lot of the areas, you have to keep working with it. History is an ongoing thing, so I just never got it [all] done.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay, as it became obvious that the 101st was going to be mobilized, how did the Division prepare to use you in the process of covering it ... you know, what they were going to be involved in?
CPT McGRATH: Well, in ... the Division was alerted on the 7th of August. On the 8th of August I received a phone call from the Deputy G-3 [who] said that, "You are to report to the EOC and observe, write, do whatever you need to do to record what is happening on a daily basis until it is finished." So the EOC is the Emergency Operations Center, and I worked with the G-3 Operations very closely.
CPT McGRATH: Are we on again?
MAJ LEVIN: Yes.
CPT McGRATH: And then what I did was ... is ... I really didn't know what I was supposed to do because I really didn't get any guidance from anybody that said, "You will record that." What I did for the first, oh, I would say the first two or three weeks, was mainly kept a copy of everything I could get my hands on, and maintained an extensive filing system of all the FRAGOs [Fragmentary Orders], the Ops [Operations Orders]. And later on it was very beneficial to even the Command Group, because we had FRAGOs that said for a certain deployment, and because I had kept a copy of them, when they were missing their copy, they could come back and look at mine. So that was very interesting to try to do that. But as far as, you know, initial guidance or anything, it was just to do what I could do to record it.
Starting around the first of October, I started maintaining a daily log of what everybody said in every briefing that I could go to, so we have logs from October to December on a daily basis of what everybody said in the different staffs. I also would ... maintained a daily sort of key events scenario. It was a sheet of ... it was ... like it would say "7 August, N-Hour Sequence," and then two or three items that would have happened that day; "13 August, ADVON [advance detachment] party deploys," and then I would put the names of the individuals to give you some examples if you wanted to know who had deployed in the ADVON party, who were the first people in Saudi Arabia. And I was able to later on produce five names that gave them that.
What I also tried to do was to try to get a handle on the G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4--on what they were all trying to do. And because they would all go in their separate directions a lot of times and they would be brought together at staff briefings. But a lot of times the information was not brought together, you know, they would make a decision but I would try to get the charts and everything that everybody else did. And that really helped when somebody had to say, "Well, what happened? Why didn't we do this? If it was a log[istics] problem, why did the op[eration]s decide to get these trucks." A lot of time they could come to my stuff and say, "Pull out that particular date and look at it." Because the duty logs, a lot of times what those were, were they would attach messages ...
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: ... and they would attach the different things dealing with the situation, but all the duty log would say is, "one," and "message such-and-such." What I had was, on a particular day, was all the charts from all the sections, and an idea. And because I was there, people started giving me stuff.
MAJ LEVIN: So the information that you were gathering wasn't just useful for an archival purpose. It was also ...
CPT McGRATH: Oh, it was very useful for the command later on.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: And I think because it was centralized. They knew one person they could come to. I also made it a policy that I never, ever gave them the only copy I had. I didn't care who it was, they had to make a copy of what I had or get the information from it, but I wouldn't let them have it.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: I ran into some problems, but I would just say, "Hey, that's a historical document."
MAJ LEVIN: And you were supported in that?
CPT McGRATH: Yes, very much so. The G-3 here was tremendous as far as--I should say the D[eputy] G-3. The G-3 has enough things on his mind to worry about a historian, but LTC Needham--he was Major at that time--he was very supportive. When I first went down there, I didn't even think that I was going to have a place to work, so I sat on a little chair outside of the Ops Section and kind of listened in whenever I could. Eventually, though, I had a table, a chair, and when available, a computer to work with. I would do a lot of things differently and recommend a lot of things, but that was how it was for me. That is kind of what's happened.
MAJ LEVIN: What would you recommend differently?
CPT McGRATH: Okay, what I would recommend is that a historian use a laptop. A historian needs to know what kind of programs, or I should say software programs, that that person is working with so that they can be familiar with that before the exercise. I got access to a computer two and a half months after the operation started, and I spent the first three days trying to run the program that everybody else was using.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes.
CPT McGRATH: I also think that you need to have a way of getting your information back to some sort of central place. You know, when I was over there, I wound up carrying up everything I had in a briefcase and a satchel bag for the whole three months, which meant that it was very hard and a lot of times I had to leave stuff in the filing cabinets with the respective staff sections with the hope that when this was all over with I would get that stuff back.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes.
CPT McGRATH: There was no history chain of command. We had a historian at the Division level. Some units didn't have a historian.
MAJ LEVIN: Civilians?
CPT McGRATH: No civilians. No civilian historians.
MAJ LEVIN: So you were the historian?
CPT McGRATH: Right. I was the historian at the Division level. Some units, depending on the brigade, had the historian's ... . Many units have the philosophy that the after-action report takes care of the history. And what I found, even when I would get after-action reports, is that those reports only dealt with issues, but not with what happened that day. I was able, because I was there, to document it day-by-day--key points that happened--and that helped.
I think a historian would be really good to be there. I also think that a historian should have somebody there that can take photographs, and some sort of transportation. You are talking, equipment-wise, a computer, a person that can take photographs, and transportation.
I was never able to really leave, because historians were a lower priority, which meant that I got out twice during the whole time I was there. And my vision was very narrow, by being only at the Division level.
MAJ LEVIN: Right. We had a military history detachment that covered the 101st during the ground war, but just barely, and the lead-up time that they had to do the coordination with the 101st, which was extremely difficult because that particular detachment was also covering the XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters and all the Corps activities. So if you had had access to an MHD earlier on, would that have been helpful?
CPT McGRATH: Okay. Well, first off, and just for the general knowledge of people who are seeing this, I was there only for DESERT SHIELD.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: There was another individual [1LT Cliff Lippard] that was there for DESERT STORM. During the time I was there, I had one visit from the FORSCOM--excuse me, from the Corps Historian [Dr. Robert Wright], because he had nobody on ground to be able to come down. The 101st, from the very beginning, was the first ones to ask for a military history detachment to be attached to the 101st, and we never got it, so there was nobody else.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: Which meant that you couldn't get familiar with anything that was going on or any of the areas. It didn't happen.
The other thing was that because we didn't have that impetus from the outside, unless you came across somebody who was interested in history, they really ... you know, there were some people within the Division that really said, "Hey, look, I got a job to do. I don't have time for you." That is what it amounted to, where if somebody had been attached and their primary job ... you know, they had to report to somebody or something ... .
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: The impetus would have been more so. Also, having a military history detachment or just having additional people would have been super, because you could have put someone with the brigades. They could have went down and talked to the brigade beforehand. They have the equipment, whereas I didn't have any equipment. I had a briefcase.
And being with the G-3, I saw a lot and I got to, you know, keep the maps and stuff like that, but on the other hand I just didn't have the assets to do as good a job as I wanted to do.
MAJ LEVIN: So basically you were tied to the headquarters itself, and maintained a good record of documentation and covered the briefings that were going on.
CPT McGRATH: I also wrote a week-by-week scenario of what was going on.
MAJ LEVIN: How was that used? Did anybody else look at that, or was it just like a memo for the record.
CPT McGRATH: Right now I guess I am the one that has got it. It is ... because I left before DESERT STORM started, the emphasis was on DESERT STORM, and I am sure that eventually they will put the two together, but so far it hasn't happened that way.
MAJ LEVIN: Once you ... well, could you talk a little bit more about some of the activities during the DESERT SHIELD phase? How did you get into the EOC? Were you ... were they just ready to have you there because you were already operating with them?
CPT McGRATH: Right. I knew the people here, so it was just a matter of going over there. I had the same passes. I identified myself with the G-3, which meant anything dealing with the G-3. Administratively, support wise, I came under the G-3, so the support was already in place. I came to work and I found it was easier to alternate my hours. Sometimes I would work 8; sometimes I would work 12. Sometimes I would work from noon to midnight, and other times I worked eight to four, so that I could get a better perspective of the different shifts that would work and the different people.
I was not allowed in all the briefings. I would say that a historian should have a Top Secret clearance, because it really limited me in some respects. Especially as the war started forward, they started having more closed-in conference type briefings. I think sometimes that being a captain hurt me, because if I had been a major, I may have been allowed to be in more areas, but administratively that is what I did.
MAJ LEVIN: Were you able to interview people over there? Or did you do any of that?
CPT McGRATH: No. The basic gist of it was, "We have got a job to do, and we don't have time for you."
MAJ LEVIN: So you were allowed to be a fly on the wall but you couldn't really explore issues with individuals?
CPT McGRATH: No. What would happen is, if I didn't understand something, I could go up on an individual basis to anybody and, if they had the time, they would explain it to me. Because I wanted to make sure that what I was writing down was what was happening, and when you have got three or four people directing things. I wanted to make sure that I had the right scenario. To give you an example, when we were sending flights out of here, out of Fort Campbell, there were some problems with the planes and they wanted the units to reorganize loads, because instead of sending C-5s [Galaxies] they had sent C-141s [Starlifters], and the G-3 said no. Well, I wanted to understand that so I could write it down, to explain something like that, so I went up to the ops officer and he took the time to explain it.
But as far as having programmed one-hour interviews, things were going too fast to do that. And also, I found out that a lot of people didn't think of what they were--how they were deploying--as a history. Once we got over there to Saudi Arabia, it was like, "Okay, we are here, its an operation, that's it." I didn't get the feel that anybody thought it was important until, I am sure, when the ground war started and all that.
MAJ LEVIN: That got most folks' attention, yes.
CPT McGRATH: Yes, but the deployment was moot because everybody was going ...
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: ... and until people found out what everybody was doing, it was like, "Okay, the Ready Brigade is going," and stuff like that. But that was what--you know, it was like they didn't feel that we had to have a one-hour interview because we weren't doing anything.
MAJ LEVIN: Right. Had you been doing any interviews before you went to Saudi? Had that been part of the program?
CPT McGRATH: No.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay, so that was a new concept to them, anyway.
CPT McGRATH: Right. Well, I don't think anybody even understood the idea of an interview, and also personally I think my--this is me talking, not official--but I would say that personally I felt that people didn't exactly know what to expect, so they were kind of leery of interviews. There was a lot of, you know, we weren't sure where we were going with DESERT SHIELD at that time ...
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: ... and what we were doing over there, and people were afraid to say, you know, "This is how I stand on what we should do to Kuwait." They didn't care about talking about deployments, I mean, deployments is statistics. But when you talk in an interview you give details into why we do things, and there were a lot of things that they did to get over there that they didn't want to talk about because they weren't sure, you know, what would happen down the line.
MAJ LEVIN: What would happen to the tape?
CPT McGRATH: What would happen to the tape. That was part of the problem. The part of the problem is when the interviewers would come in, the tapes would go to D.C., and they would be classified as Secret if they were a Secret tape. And the moment you mentioned that it was going to go into something that could be available to anybody to listen to and look through, it is like, "Stop, because I don't know what the command wants me to say."
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: And I think that was a big problem with interviews.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. There was some confusion, then, with doing a history interview as opposed to a public affairs interview?
CPT McGRATH: Yes, because, see ... I'm sure that in the case of the Division, the PAO [Public Affairs Office] felt that they should have a handle on anything dealing with interviews or anything written, etc. That that was their area.
MAJ LEVIN: Did they actually intrude into that sort of thing?
CPT McGRATH: Well, it is not so much that they intruded, but they didn't allow anybody else to do anything. Everything had to be approved through the PAO. However ...
MAJ LEVIN: Including the historian?
CPT McGRATH: No. I kept mine separate. I was able to maintain a separate identity because I came under the G-3. In some fields they say, "Well, the historian should work under the PAO." I say absolutely not. For one thing, the PAO is interested in press reviews and what could make headlines right now.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: And I found that a lot of times they didn't want to know all the details. They just wanted to know the bottom line, and what I was trying to do was to have as much information there statistically, and all the background stuff, so that ten years from now if somebody wants to know why we did something, it is right there, and I was able to do that. If I had worked under the PAO, it would have been history for briefings, etc.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: I did do that, too, by the way. Was ... when there was a briefing that came up here at Fort Campbell and over there, depending on if it was classified or unclassified, I provided week-by-week bullets, and they had somebody to turn to. They didn't have to turn to one of their Ops officers. They could turn to the historian and say, from the get-go, first week, second week, third week, and all I had to do was to take my daily ones, pick out two or three of them, and then I had the whole week.
MAJ LEVIN: How long were you in Saudi Arabia?
CPT McGRATH: From September 24th until December 17th.
MAJ LEVIN: So basically you were there for the majority of DESERT SHIELD?
CPT McGRATH: Yes.
MAJ LEVIN: Now you had a personal crisis that brought you back.
CPT McGRATH: Yes.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. Once you returned to Fort Campbell, you continued with your work as a historian.
CPT McGRATH: I started documenting again what was happening. See, we were still sending out of Fort Campbell the Reserves and stuff ...
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: ... and also, when the war started, the command wanted to have everything that was happening on television being recorded for us on tape. So we had all the tapes down there, we had CNN going, and we recorded like the whole--you know, from January 16th until the end of March--all that was recorded on tapes. We have something like 200 tapes, but it was so that if something happens with the 101st, we can go back, you know, get permission to publish it, and do it, but it is there. It is a historical document.
Also, too, they started sending stuff back, and because I was here, it didn't get thrown in the trash can. They had somebody that was central do that.
MAJ LEVIN: Who was sending it back to you? Did you have some kind of instruction ... ?
CPT McGRATH: When I left, about a month after I left to come back here, and my family situation was such that I couldn't go back, they sent 1LT Lippard in my stead. As soon as he got aboard, he boxed up a bunch of stuff and had that stuff sent back. By having been there and being here, we were able to keep a lot of stuff from October and November, from being destroyed.
MAJ LEVIN: So it was good to have somebody back at the home base to receive this. Now did you have a regular courier run back, or ... ?
CPT McGRATH: No.
MAJ LEVIN: Just went through regular shipping?
CPT McGRATH: Regular mailing, as a matter of fact.
MAJ LEVIN: Oh.
CPT McGRATH: They mailed them back, which was very expensive but it was a way of bringing stuff back. They had to get them out of the area of the ground war.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: Now, if ... I should also add that if there hadn't been an officer here, the curator of the museum, Mr. [Rex] Boggs, would have been the receptor. As a matter of fact, he was listed as the person to send it to, you know, as we were sending different boxes back.
MAJ LEVIN: Did that create any kind of problem in terms of classification?
CPT McGRATH: No, because the curator happens to have a clearance, and he was able to put the stuff in the EOC. The stuff would come back addressed to him, but it would be sent to the EOC, to the Operations Center, so that it could be classified.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay, I see. What kind of--was it--as I recall, communications back and forth between CONUS and Saudi Arabia were sketchy at best. Were you able to maintain communications with your counterpart in Saudi on a regular basis?
CPT McGRATH: I did not talk to 1LT Lippard when he went over there, primarily because he left about in mid--about mid-January--so he was busy from the time he got there.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: And he would send his stuff back as he had them available, but as we both know, the war ended. I think in time we would have established that communication, but we didn't have it while he was there. And primarily he took over as the historian once he arrived in country.
MAJ LEVIN: You weren't able to brief him before he went?
CPT McGRATH: I was able to talk to him the day that he went, and explain--he was the G-3 schools officer, and he wanted to go over, and when I could not go back over, he--Mr. Boggs then requested that somebody be sent, so that we can track this, because we were concerned about it--loosing ... . The Deputy G-3 had assumed the duties when I came back, and because of his position of being in charge of everybody in G-3, he just couldn't do it.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: So, as a matter of fact, we lost 30 days of my lecture notes from briefings as a result of nobody being there. You know, there's sort of a disconnect. 1LT Lippard picked up when he came over.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. So essentially, if we had to do it over again, you would be looking for ways of doing more oral histories--interviewing?
CPT McGRATH: I would say if we had to do it over again, I would want the command to put out a FRAGO, probably in the initial days of the operation, saying that such-and-such is a historian, send all after-action--you know, send reports, send your copies, maintain or assign a historian at the point of contact. See, that was not done.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: There was nothing from--the Division felt that since they had a Division historian, that there were no directives down to subordinate units needed. If you are going to have an operation and you want to do history right, you just can't have one man. You have got to have it going all the way down.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: I think if I ... what I should have done is, I should have organized the historians at the different levels. The problem is that officers come and go. By the time that DESERT SHIELD started, we didn't really know who was who.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: But if there had been a FRAGO that came out, and just a standard one that says, "You will do the following," it would have really helped my situation a lot better as far as the command went, because nobody really acknowledged me. I mean, I was there, and I was basically the recording secretary or whatever you want to call it, but I could have done a lot better job if it had been in writing that says, "You will do this, and you will do that," and establish it.
But I also found that people were too busy. It wasn't that they didn't want to. It was just that they were really too busy, and also because the goals were so undefined as far as what you could and could not say, people were reluctant to say anything that had to do with history.
MAJ LEVIN: If a military history detachment had been CAPSTONEd to this Division early on, how would that have altered the way that you could have operated?
CPT McGRATH: I really that think that, for one thing, that we could have put photographs with a lot of the stuff that got compiled. We could have gotten the people down to the brigades and been able to put the military history detachment was a platoon, for example, and document what platoon was doing. Having one person in an infantry air assault division, you just couldn't capture it. I mean, I did very well with what I had, but I think that there needs to be more--there needs to be a team there. There needs to be a person that--every division needs to have its own historian, whether civilian or military, but as a full-time historian that knows the unit, so that they can brief the MHDs.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: And then when the MHDs come in, those MHDs, because they would already know what's going on and they have got a point of contact, can go out and get those interviews. We have no interviews, for example, or any documentation from like the privates. You had it through PAO, but it was for articles for the newspaper.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: But what I would tried to do is, I would try to get the soldiers to describe something, you know, to describe how they lived or something like that, not something that made it very important for the newspaper but something that later on somebody could understand why we suddenly saw all these bottles of water, for example, and the different things that they did with the scorpions. They put them into the bottled water. I did that on a limited basis, but it could have been done a lot better.
For example, I had one soldier that got CNN into the country. He was a primary, key individual, and he wrote up a three-page document saying what he did and how he did it and who he contacted. If later on a unit goes to someplace else in the world and wants to know how you get satellite dishes and stuff like that, they can pull that document out and say, "Hey, this is how the 101st got CNN on television in their country." So that the people could see, the soldiers could see what was happening, to give you an example.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes.
CPT McGRATH: But I wanted to try to get people down with the engineers. There were a lot of things in Saudi that the engineers had to make do with, and the way that they had to do it because of the heat and the sand. If we had had an MHD attachment, they could have went down there and talked to those engineers and said, "well, describe how you set this up, or you had to construct water."
One of the things the CG wanted to do was not have the pipes going above ground that would give water to the showers, where the vehicles went over, so they had to come up with contraptions that brought them over. A lot of this will belost and they will have to do the whole thing all over again because it won't be recorded as to how they did it. And I just ... I feel that we could have done more of that kind of thing. Not the real biggies, because real biggies are going to be covered by PAO. When I say "biggies," I am talking about Ground Day and G-Day and stuff like that, but it was the day-to-day living I think we really lost out on.
MAJ LEVIN: And there is an awful lot of the ground activity that was not covered by Public Affairs because essentially they look for different things.
CPT McGRATH: They look for the bottom line. And I really think that historians look for goes behind the bottom line and what is important is that evidence. I mean, we can say that we jumped from here to there. What is nice to know is how the commander makes the decision that he sends a female pilot and two soldiers to do this mission to that, instead of that soldier to do that. And that is where I think an MHD would be invaluable. Just one person can't do it.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. When you came back to Fort Campbell, were you able--were you providing some coverage to the mobilization of the Reserve component units that were coming through, or did you stay primarily with the 101st?
CPT McGRATH: Well, the thing is that the EOC mobilization worked both with 101st (Corps) Support Group and the Reserve units. So by me being present in there and by me also obtaining the documents, I was recording theirs too. And also, it was just--it was given a lot of push. I kind of reminded people when they came through, the different units that came through, "Get your stuff in." By being there, they would say, "Who are you?" I would say, "I am the historian." And they would say, "Oh?" And I would say, "Have you recorded your history." And I was able to talk to the different people and to kind of push them to do that. A lot of times we put requirements on people, but without that physical body to remind folks, it doesn't get done as well as it could get done.
[END OF SIDE]
CPT McGRATH: I was just going to say that on a regular basis the MHD should be with the Division. Now when we try to train them, for one thing we can get interviews of the commanders and the key personnel, so that if something happens a week after their MHD has left, we have already got the basics. Another thing an MHD could do is, they could come in and learn the organization itself; in how it is set up and where and how the people are, instead of being thrust into it. There was never anybody from outside that came inside to the Division for the two years or the year and a half I was the historian before this happened. And which meant that anybody coming, it had to be explained all over again that we have three infantry brigades, and an aviation brigade, and this is how we are set up, and blah, blah, blah.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: And I would think that if we could have had a person, I mean a team, that was familiar with it, for one the MHD could capture information on a regular basis. And if they had ... for example, if they had had an MHD in July, they would have been able to interview MG Peay and gotten his perspective on life in general even before DESERT SHIELD had come up. Comparing that with an interview later would have been very significant because that historian would have known what to ask.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
CPT McGRATH: For instance, what MG Peay would say later, based on politics or whatever you want to call it, would have been very ... I think very key, and we have lost that. Because none of them were interviewed beforehand, you don't really know how they stood before this all happened.
MAJ LEVIN: Right. True. Okay. Well, I thank you very much for your time, and appreciate the work that you are doing.
CPT McGRATH: Thank you. I appreciate that.
[END OF INTERVIEW; END OF TAPE]