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United States Military Academy Library


Operation Husky: Additional Primary Sources

This guide is intended to assist cadets with their HI 302 writing assignment.

Other Types of Primary Sources

Records created by and about military during the course of the war are not the only types of primary sources useful for research on the campaign in Sicily.

Papers from Miltiary Service Schools

Army officers (as well as officers from the other services) while attending military service schools such as the Command and General Staff College (CGSC), the Army War College, etc. as students have long written research papers on operational military history topics just as you are doing now.  Many U.S. Army officers attending military service schools during the late 1940s-early 1950s were World War II veterans and sometimes when writing on a World War II topic were able to draw on personal experience. This means that some of those papers contain primary source evidence. Not all do, of course, and therefore one must scrutinize carefully the nature and evidence employed. Yet many of these can be valuable. Student papers from the Command and General Staff College can be found in the Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library. Student papers from former Infantry School and Armor School can be found in the digital collections of the Donovan Research Library at Fort Benning. Note that collections of students papers at each library include those written by World War II veterans *and* papers written by officer students in later decades up to the present day. Some of the latter may be about the Sicily campaign and might be included in your search. Although those would be secondary sources, they might still be relevant to your research. Learn to look carefully at all results and judge what might be useful to your own scholarly inquiry.

Memoirs

Many of the men and women who fought in World War II, from private to senior officer, later wrote memoirs of their experiences. Historians must use such evidence with caution, especially with memoirs written many years after the writer experienced the events described or memoirs written by someone seeking to justify or explain the actions of the losing side. Yet when scrutinized carefully, such primary sources can be quite valuable. Many memoirs take the form of published books, underscoring the potential value of using published primary sources alongside archival and manuscript primary sources. Several published memoirs have been placed on Reserve in the 4th Floor Reserve Room in Jefferson Hall; see under "Reserve" heading above. 

 

One example is Steinhoff, Johannes. Messerschmitts over Sicily : Diary of a Luftwaffe Fighter Commander. 1st ed. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2004.

 

The memoirs of a Luftwaffe fighter pilot who fought over Sicily in 1943, this work was originally published in German in 1969 and later in English translation, including in the edition cited above.

 

To find other memoirs in addition to the ones already placed on Reserve you can use the Library catalogs. One method is to use "Advanced Search" to search by author for the names of prominent commanders on either side.

Narratives by Former German Officers

In the years immediately following the end of World War II, U.S. authorities in Europe interrogated captured Axis officers (primarily German) regarding their wartime experiences. In addition, U.S. Army historical agencies encouraged some German officers, while those officers were held as prisoners of war, to write narratives about their wartime experiences. These narratives were then submitted to U.S. authorities. After the release of most Wehrmacht prisoners in the late 1940s, some German officer veterans continued work in U.S. Army historical programs to produce additional written narratives of similar scope. Many (though not all) of the initial interrogation transcriptions and written narratives were translated into English. They are an invaluable source for primary source perspectives from the opposing side. Today they are held in the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), but in recent years, a great many have been made available digitally by a database called Fold3. The Fold3 database groups them into a specific collection titled Foreign Military Studies. USMA users can access this digital collection via the link below.

Locating German Officer Narratives Within the Foreign Military Studies Collection


Although one can search the Foreign Military Studies Collection directly within Fold3 using the Fold3 database's own search functions, some users may find it more productive to consult a separately-published catalog and index to the Foreign Military Studies collection prepared in 1954 by the historical services of Headquarters, United States Army, Europe. A web version of that published index is available.  

 

Part I of this guide is a catalog of all the narratives. Each listing in the catalog contains an alpha-numeric identifier (e.g. D-063, T-2, etc.), a title, the name of the German officer who authored it, and a short description. You may browse the description or try a simple search of the webpage for the term "Sicily". Because the catalog is provided here in the form of a static webpage, searching the page for the term "Sicily", using your browser's "find" function may be convenient. You can also use Part II, an index to the catalog in Part I. You will have to read the instructions carefully for using the index but depending upon your topic this can be a valuable investment of time. You may indeed find additional results beyond what you discover just by searching the catalog directly. Note carefully that some narratives are available only in German but do not be discouraged if you are searching only for narratives translated into English, as several useful ones are available.

 

Once you find a listing in the catalog or index of a narrative of interest, take careful note of the alphanumeric "code" at the beginning. You will need this to retrieve it from the Fold3 database described above. Go to the Foreign Military Studies section of the Fold3 database, and find the menu for the grouping starting with the letter in your listing; you can then browse to the correct narrative.

 

Part II of it is an index by subject, name of campaign, name of (German) unit, and name of German officer. Once you find a citation in this index consisting of a letter and number code (e.g. D-063, T-2), use that citation to browse to the correct location directly in the Fold3 database online version of Foreign Military Studies, described and linked above.

Oral History Interviews

Starting during the war and continuing until today, historians have sought to interview participants in World War II about their experiences. The result is what scholars refer to as an "oral history." Today the recordings and transcriptions of such interviews can be invaluable primary sources, though scholars must scrutinize their objectivity and accuracy just as they do all primary sources. 

 

Although present-day technology has made it easier than ever before to encapsulate, present, and preserve the spoken word; historians greatly benefit from the oral histories conducted in the years following World War II, owing to the preservation and digitization of the interview transcripts such as those referenced below that discuss Operation HUSKY. 

 

The U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center (USAHEC) is part of the United States Army War College, and it maintains collections that support scholarly research about the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army War College, USAHEC, and USAHEC's predecessor, the U.S. Army Military History Institute, have had a variety of oral history programs over the years, including the Senior Officers Debriefing Program and the Senior Officers Oral History Program. There are currently a few oral history transcriptions available online of officers involved in Operation HUSKY from the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center. 

 

There is no "one-size-fits-all" for library and digital collection catalogs and their associated search interfaces. Therefore, it is essential to experience researching within various collections. To begin the online search at the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center, start by entering the subject keyword search: Sicily Oral History into the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center's main search bar. 

 

When you examine the results of this search, you will see that some of the collections described will be available to view online while others will not. Many oral history transcriptions may be listed or digitized in parts, volumes, or linked to other collections on the website. Please be diligent and remember that many excellent sources may require multiple search attempts and search tactics to discover, but those attentive efforts can yield valuable results

 

You may also find success by searching the keywords Senior Officers Oral History Program Project or Oral History with the specific general's name. The oral history transcriptions for General Charles H. Bonesteel III, General Ben Harrell, General Robert Porter, and General William P. Yarborough pertain to Operation HUSKY and are available online at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.  

 

For an example of valuable oral history evidence, examine the transcript below of the Oral History of Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, conducted in 1962 for the Naval History Project by the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University. During Operation HUSKY, Admiral H. Kent Hewitt was the United States Navy commander of amphibious operations in North Africa and southern Europe.

The Reminiscences of Admiral H. Kent Hewitt

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