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Historical Resources Branch

The US Army Center of Military History's Historical Resources Branch manages the reference facilities needed to support the Center's professional staff in carrying out their official responsibilities. It is internally organized into a small technical library, an archival collection, and the facilities to support the Center's home page. Materials held by the branch are also available to outside researchers, including the general public, during normal business hours (8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Monday through Thursday and 8:00 to noon on Fridays). Limited reproduction facilities are available to visiting researchers at a charge of $.15 (fifteen cents) per page, payable by check made out to the United States Treasury. Because of the fragile nature of the documents in the collection and limited staffing, Historical Resources Branch does not provide copying of requested documents exceeding twenty pages for requests received via mail, e-mail, or telephone.

The branch's secondary mission is to serve as the Center's institutional memory. It performs this function by acting as a central access point to the broader array of archival collections and libraries around the world and maintaining coordination with those other repositories. This mission derives from the pre-World War II support function performed by the Historical Division of the Army War College. The branch's goal is to be able to direct a researcher to the actual location of the records or other information, and to be able to provide the researcher with specific guidance on how to phrase his or her request so that the librarian or archivist in possession of the material can correctly furnish the information or retrieve the records with minimal difficulty.


The Center's library is not a full-service library and does not circulate its materials. Within the Army historical system, that function is performed by the US Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Instead, the Center maintains a focused holding of over 57,000 items designed to support the Center's long-term writing projects and a set of basic references. The collection operates on an open-stack system and has ample work station facilities for the convenience of its patrons.

The library's strongest holdings are built around the subjects of the Center's major series of published works: World War II; the Korean War; the Vietnam War; and it is in the process of assembling the resources needed to support work on the forthcoming series of volumes on the Cold War. Current acquisitions strategy calls for strengthening holdings of the basic references and narrative histories for other periods of the US Army's history such as the Civil War (to support the Army's staff ride program) and acquiring volumes on Islam and the Middle East to support the writing of information papers and monographs to support the Army Staff.

The library has a number of particular strengths. It houses a virtually complete set of the published Annual Reports of the Secretary of War/Secretary of the Army. It has a complete set of War Department/Department of the Army General Orders. These General Order, Bulletins and Circulars have been digitized with the eventual goal of making it available to outside researchers electronically via the CMH website. The library has a complete set of published station lists. It maintains an extensive collection of post-1940 published Army Regulations, field manuals, Department of the Army pamphlets, and technical manuals. It also has a very complete collection of published Army Registers and other standard biographical directories. Many unit histories are included in the library's holdings, although the largest collection of such materials is found at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, in the US Army Military History Institute.

The periodical literature holdings of the library are focused particularly on Army professional journals. Bound volumes of these journals are gradually being replaced with complete runs on microfilm.


The branch is authorized to hold only a limited array of original materials under the Army's records management system. By Public Law most of the records created by the United States Army pass through a retirement process and are turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration for permanent retention. Personal papers of individual soldiers (privates to generals), as opposed to the official records of Army units or other organizations, by current regulation are normally deposited at the US Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, or at other repositories (which can be identified through the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections). The subject areas of original materials authorized for retention by the branch are: annual command histories submitted to the Center under the provisions of Army Regulation (AR) 870-5; monographic treatments and studies compiled by the Center's historians or other historical offices; and source materials compiled by field historians and Military History Detachments in combat and contingency operations. These items all are maintained at the Center to support ongoing writing and research projects and are transferred to the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration when no longer needed by the Center.

The Center's archival holdings are organized into a series of discrete collections. Most of them are arranged in accordance with the War Department Decimal File system (the Army's correspondence filing procedure in effect during World War II and the Korean War). Copies of the guide to the organization of that filing system are available for visiting researchers. An extensive card index provides cross-referencing capabilities; a number of additional finding aids have been compiled for various components of the collections. The branch has embarked on a program to create an electronic search capability using dedicated work stations for researchers located in both the archives and library, with the added feature of posting those finding aids on the Center's home page.

The heart of the branch's holding is the Historical Research Collection (HRC) which consists of many of the original files created by the Historical Branch of the Army War College and supplemental materials added after the establishment of the Center. By arrangement with the National Archives, this collection (HRC1) closed in 1984 and the branch created a second collection, Historical Research Collection II (HRC2), to cover more recent materials. These two blocks of files contain many important background materials, especially strong on World War II. Other strengths include the official biographies and lists of assignments of Regular Army general officers since 1940; general reference files on permanent Army posts, camps and stations; and copies of each of the Standard Form 135 (SF 135) used by the Center to retire materials to the National Archives.

The second major holding is the Historical Manuscripts Collection (HMC). This consists of the manuscript narrative histories compiled by the Center or by various field historical offices and subsequently transferred to the Center for use in writing the volumes of the Official History of the US Army. Most of these studies are unpublished and they tend to focus, naturally, on subjects related to World War II or more recent periods. A few remain classified, and some have been retired to the National Archives. Strengths of this collection include a wide variety of topics from World War II; the various organizations and reorganizations of the War Department or Department of the Army staff; and topics from the Cold War era. A significant piece of this collection is the entire body of material generated during the Korean War by the deployed combat historians including verbatim oral history transcripts and other supporting original documents, maps and photographs. Like the Historical Research Collection (HRC), the basic collection (HMC1) was closed in 1984 by arrangement with the National Archives, and Historical Manuscripts Collection II (HMC2) started to continue the organization of materials. HMC1 is currently being digitized with the eventual goal of making it available to outside researchers electronically via the CMH website. The Office of the Chief of Military History Collection (OCMH) consists of unpublished manuscripts prepared by historians within the Center of Military History (previously known as the Office of the Chief of Military History).

The third major holding is the Annual Historical Report (AHR) collection. Beginning in the 1960s the Army's history regulation required all units and major headquarters or comparable organizations to compile a basic history and to prepare annual supplements which were to be forwarded to the Center. In the 1970s the regulation was modified to require only the more significant headquarters--Major Commands (MACOMs) and equivalent division-sized organizations--to submit such histories to the Center. The major commands were encouraged to have their subordinate organizations continue to prepare such histories, but were no longer required to forward them to the Center. The branch maintains the largest single collection of annual command histories, arranged by organization, but it does not have a complete set. Individual researchers should also consult the US Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, or the various historical offices throughout the Army to determine the physical location of any specific history. The Center's holding of lesser organizations' annual histories prepared during the 1960s and early 1970s was transferred to MHI in 1975.

The Oral History collection consists of several discrete sub-collections of oral history interviews collected by military historians since 1965. The Vietnam Interview (VNI) and Vietnam Interview Tape (VNIT) collections consist of original primary source materials assembled during the Vietnam War by combat historians. The former consists of several hundred narrative reports based primarily on data collected through the oral history process; the latter consists of over 1,000 audio tapes. Both collections are most extensive for the period 1967-1970. Researchers may make arrangements with the Center's Oral History Activity to listen to the tapes. The archive also has the following collections of taped interviews conducted by historians for combat and contingency operations: Operation JUST CAUSE (Panama, 1990), Operation DESERT STORM (Kuwait, 1990), Operation RESTORE HOPE (Somalia, 1993), and interviews with Korean War veterans of the 24 th Infantry Regiment that were done in support of the CMH book Black Soldier/White Army.

The branch also has several specialized permanent collections, some of which are quite extensive. The Gulf War Collection (GWC) is focused on Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM (1990-1991). It consists of a limited array of original materials, some monographic studies, and copies of other reports and documents forwarded to the Center. The Contingency Operations Collection (COC) is composed of similar materials generated during various recent contingency operations including JUST CAUSE (Panama, 1989-1990) and RESTORE HOPE (Somalia, 1992-1993), the Hurricane Andrew relief effort (1992), and Operation NOBLE EAGLE (attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Towers). Other, smaller, collections cover the Holocaust, and various collections of papers deposited at the Center for the convenience of official historians, mostly dealing with the Vietnam War or activities of the Army Staff. Each of these collections is, by its very nature, a work in progress and new materials are constantly arriving. The Army Nurse Corps Collection (ANC). focused on that particular branch's history and was formerly held at the Center of Military History. It was transferred to the custody of The Surgeon General’s History Office when that office was re-established in 2001.

The Historical Resources Branch also provides a limited amount of support to selected elements of the Army Staff or deployed units. This advisory function does enable the branch to maintain reasonably current knowledge on the disposition of recent records, although the Archivist of the Army remains the primary records manager and controls the retirement process for all official Army primary source materials through the US Army Records Management and Declassification Agency.

Current as of: 6 December 2005