Field Historians in OPERATION JOINT ENDEAVOR
Army historians are very busy today, providing historical coverage of Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR. The primary mission of these historians is to ensure the records of the operation are preserved for use in writing the official history of the operation. Major tasks for the deployed field historians include collecting important operational documents, maps, photographs, video and audio recordings, artifacts, and other historical materials that might not be preserved otherwise. Army officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers are being interviewed to aid in understanding subjects not treated in regular reports and documents. This article explains how the Army historians in Europe are covering the Army's role in Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR.
In early December 1995, the commander of U.S. Army, Europe (USAREUR) requested the U.S. Army Center of Military (CMH) to assist in the historical coverage of Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR by providing an Army Component Command Historian for the theater of operations. Initially, CMH sent its chief of the Military Studies Branch, Major Mark Gillespie, who previously led the team that produced the Department of Defense's Former Yugoslavia Handbook, over to the theater of operations to get the historical collection effort started while a permanent Army Component Command Historian was being sought. MAJ Gillespie arrived in theater on Christmas Eve and shortly thereafter set out to cover the 1st Armored Division's historic crossing of the Sava River in Croatia. As soon as his replacement arrived in late February, MAJ Gillespie returned to CMH.
The Army historians covering Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR today are led by Lieutenant Colonel Walter Kretchik, who replaced Major Gillespie. He serves as the Army Component Command Historian and is based at Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe (Forward) located at Taszar Airbase in Hungary. LTC Kretchik controls two Military History Detachments (MHDs) supporting the historical collection effort inside Bosnia, Croatia, and Hungary.
Two other MHDs support the historical effort from Heidelberg, Germany; one supporting the historian at Headquarters, USAREUR, and one supporting Dr. Charles Kirkpatrick, the historian at Headquarters, V Corps. Pictured below are members of the 90th MHD. The 90th supported JOINT ENDEAVOR by collecting and organizing the documents, disks, and photos gathered in the field by other MHDs. The 90th also travelled around Germany interviewing other units involved in supporting JOINT ENDEAVOR.
The Military History Detachments are composed of three military personnel each--two noncommissioned officers commanded by a major. The MHDs currently supporting Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR are all from the reserve components: the 130th MHD from the North Carolina National Guard, the 102d MHD from the Kansas National Guard, the 90th MHD from the U.S. Army Reserve, and the 49th MHD also from the U.S. Army Reserve.
Members of the 102d MHD were on hand to document the arrival of Russian airborne troops to the Zone of Separation (ZOS) at Check Point Shark on 1 February. One of Task Force Eagle's primary missions was to enforce the separation of the warring factions in Bosnia-Herzegovina along a line determined at the Dayton Peace Accords.
In order to ensure protection for the American forces operating in Bosnia-Herzegovina, any vehicles leaving the fortified base camps are required to move in convoys of four vehicles and be equipped with at least a machine gun. Field historians also face the hazards of mines which litter the countryside (some estimates range to six million mines in Bosnia, with only one million of them in marked minefields).
Interviewing soldiers taking part in Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR requires the field historians to get out to the various base camps and check points where the troops are working.
Field historians traveled widely within TF Eagle's area of responsibility in order to provide in-depth coverage of the operation.
The ZOS is sprinkled with check points manned by Implementation Force (IFOR) troops. The building behind this check point on the road to Vlasenica shows the recent scars of battle.
Members of the 130th MHD covered the opening of the fixed bridge across the Sava constructed by the Hungarian Army Engineers in conjunction with Engineers from the U.S. Army at the town of Brcko on 28 March. Brcko is the sole area in dispute from the Dayton Accords that was so difficult to resolve that it was left to be arbitrated at a later date.
The Army's military historians in the field continue to serve the country collecting and preserving valuable information concerning Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR. We will continue to employ armed forces in support of American foreign policy. The information gathered by the Army's field historians provides an increasingly important record of how such operations develop and will be used to help chart future missions for America's Army--Force XXI.