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Society for Military History Records Accrual

  • Collection
  • 1933-2012

The Society for Military History Records (1933-2006) consists primarily of administrative and journal-related correspondence, organizational planning memoranda, and internal officer level reports. The original general arrangement of the records has been retained wherever possible. The majority of the collection is related to the preparation for annual conferences and the publishing of the organization's quarterly journal. The collection is organized into seven series: 1) Historic Papers, 2) Administrative Records, 3) Subject Files, 4) Journal Publishing Records, 5) Financial Records, 6) Printed Material, 7) Photographs. More detailed summaries of each series follow the scope and content section.
Originating as collaboration between the army's publications/historical research office workers and several Washington, D.C. area archivists, the organization, originally called the American Military History Foundation, was formed in an attempt to supplement the military's primary resource-poor collection in preparation to fight future wars. In time, the organization gravitated towards the scholarly study of American war fighting capabilities and public policy. Eventually, the organization grew into a multi-facetted society of scholars, military personnel, archivists, and military history enthusiasts, encompassing a dual foreign and domestic orientation, which encouraged a veritable kaleidoscope of traditional and non-traditional subject fields. Hence, this collection spans the history of the organization's different incarnations chronologically and by subject. These periods of change are reflected in their changes in name. They are the American Military History Foundation (AMHF), 1933-1939, the American Military Institute (AMI), 1939-1990, and the Society for Military History (SMH), 1990-present, respectively.
Their main publication, frequently referred to as "the journal" in documentation, has also changed names several times. They are The Journal of the American Military History Foundation (1937-1939/1940), Military Affairs (1939/1940-1988), and The Journal of Military History (1988-present), respectively.
The records also reflect the organization's involvement with other scholarly organizations, most notably the American Historical Association (AHA), the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the United States Commission on Military History (USCMH), as well as their affiliation and later absorption of the veterans/historians association the Order of the Indian Wars (OIW).
Consequently, the strength of the collection lies with documentation concerning both the shifting needs of the general military, academic community, and the general public as well as the increased diversification of the military historiographic landscape due to the organization's non-profit efforts in both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The Historic Papers (1933-1972) series consists of (1) box of documentation, relating to the original goals of the organization, several early projects, certificates of incorporation, constitutions and by-laws, reports outlining the duties of officers, copyright information, taxes, early organizational correspondence between founding members, and agreements made with other organizations regarding membership and journal publishing, including the Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) and Kansas State University (KSU). Also found in the series are a few 1935 articles, published through Army Ordinance, which provided a mission statement, the creation of an organization beyond the Army History Division and served as the starting point for the organization's publishing arm.
The Administrative Records (1933-2007) series consists of (79) boxes of correspondence and reports circulated between the officers of presidential administrations, individual organizational members, the executive directors, and the boards of trustees. These files include such issues as membership drives, conference planning, journal publication evaluations, officer reports, and general correspondence. The papers covering the early years focus on daily administrative activities within a narrow scope of weeks and months. The papers covering the latter years of the organization span both daily material and long-range planning by the organization's officers. Many notable archivists and historians served as officers in the organization, including Trevor Dupuy, William Foote, B.F. Cooling, Russell Weigley, K. Jack Bauer, Alan Millett, Robert Berlin, Donald Bittner, Timothy Nenninger, Edward Coffman, and Edwin Simmons. Much of the correspondence and officer reports also shed light on several key events in the organization's history, including a 1940s attempted transformation of the journal towards a National Geographic-type format by Dallas Irving, the 1950s and 1960s performance of an all-volunteer editorial staff managed by Victor Gondos, Trevor Dupuy's late 1950 attempts to develop AMI into an increasingly scholarly organization, periodic evaluations of Kansas State University's journal publishing performance, the forces behind the creation of the Moncado Awards and the AMI/SMH Book Award, the search for a replacement publisher for the journal prior to the 1988 completion of KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY 's contract, and reports outlining the sequence of fiscal/membership crises which nearly dissolved the organization. Similarly, the SMH papers of Donald Bittner collected in this series outline the entire process of conference creation from thematic conception to methodological process and management to the post-conference publication of several papers in the Marine Corps University's "Perspectives on Warfighting." Correspondence pertaining to several other noted military historians can also be found in this series, including material by Martin Blumenson, Victor Gondos, Brian Linn, Forest Pogue, Craig Symonds, Dennis Showalter, Robin Higham, Robert Berlin, and Bruce Catton.
The Subject Files (1908-1993) series consists of (11) boxes, containing a wide assortment of document-types from the organization's holdings according to topic and chronology. These files, originally retained separately from the general collection, were frequently utilized by different administrations as reference material for numerous policy initiatives described in other series. The set of records relating to the Order of Indian Wars contain both historic oral histories of the Plaines Wars and membership lists as a recruitment resource, which were incorporated into the organization when the Order of the Indian Wars merged with AMHF/AMI between 1938 and 1947. Other files contain biographical summaries of influential early members and journal contributors. Several files concern the drafts, correspondence, and memoranda on the reorganization of organization. Another collects the correspondence, submitted entries and judges description's for AMI's 1939 "Historical Fire Arms Contest." Still others include the efforts of several public relations to increase membership, membership paraphernalia, contractual agreements with other organizations, reports concerning the location and disposition of the AMI Library and Archives, federal tax-related forms, the history behind the Moncado Award, and one of the only successful 1960s Civil War commemorative events, the AMI Civil War Centennial Celebration.
The Journal Publishing Records (1933-1980) series consists of (13) boxes of correspondence, memoranda, reports, and papers submitted for publication by the journal. It covers the publication's many changes in name, editorial direction and format from The Journal of the American Military History Foundation (1937-1939) to The Journal of the American Military Institute (1939-1941) to Military Affairs (1941-1988), and, most recently, to The Journal of Military History (1989-present). The contents range from submitted manuscripts, such as "The United States Army Troops in China, 1912-1937" by Charles W. Thomas III (circa 1933), to editorial board-level material. Although originating in 1937 as the Journal of the American Military History Foundation, the majority of this collection was gathered together in the 1950s by Victor Gondos and served as the staff's institutional memory during his tenure as editor of Military Affairs. Researchers interested in business history and publishing will find the editor's daily correspondence particularly valuable, detailing the journal's on-going relationship with printers, advertisers, readers, reviewers, and prospective contributors. Another valuable resource includes the Cold War era's editorial board reports, which recorded membership/subscriber growth as well as managed printing venues, advertisers, subscribing institutions, and book reviewers. Other interesting subjects covered by the files include editor Dallas Irving's attempt to widen the journal's readership, the near dissolution of the journal in the late 1940s upon the resignation of the volunteer editor, the brief period in which the publication was maintained by the United States Army Office of the Chief of Military History, the 1949 attempt to rescue the publication by then-Columbia University President Dwight Eisenhower, the 1968 transition of publishing operations from a volunteer staff in the Washington, D.C. area to a paid professional publishing staff comprising Kansas State University's History and English departments and headed by Robin Higham, and a 1998 joint project with the United States Commission on Military History to publish an issue of Reveue Internationale D'Histoire Militair on the relationship between the United States Constitution and America's armed forces.
The Financial Records (1934-1999) series consists of (17) boxes of accounting records, receipts, officer reports, trustees meeting minutes, membership lists, and correspondence by subject and chronology. The first section of the records includes membership lists spanning the early years of the organization and the Cold War era AMI, detailing the status of active members, dues accrued, patrons, and honorary members as well as groupings of members by geographic region. Some individuals listed as members include George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Charles Summerall, Samuel Bemis, William D. Campell, Hoffman Nickerson, Hilario Moncado, Walter Lippmann, Milton Skelly, Bernard Brodie, Stephen Ambrose, and Harold Deutsch. The second section covers the accounting records of the early organization to the onset of the Second World War in the form of bank statements, bound ledgers, deposit slips, paid bills, and check books. The remainder of the collection covers the Treasurer and the Treasurer-Secretary's reports to the organization's officers, meeting minutes with the Board of Trustees, correspondence concerning member's status, investments, and bills to be paid. The financial arrangements made for joint conferences/seminars with other organizations are also interesting, including the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians, arrangements made for the organization's own annual conferences, and the early AMI Treasurer's financial reports concerning membership shortfalls after World War II and the Korean War.
The Printed Material series collects in (3) boxes maps, posters, and illustrations as well as copies of conference programs, newsletters, and some newspaper clippings. The first section of the series contains several black and white illustrations, printed in England, outlining the evolution of weaponry from edged weapons and armor to firearms, graphics describing officer ranks, two World War II era posters ("Careless Talk" and "5th War Loan"), maps of the United States, the world, and a handful of World War I battlefield actions. The second section holds several programs for SMH Annual Meeting events, membership directories for both the AMI and SMH for the years 1981, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, and 2002, respectively, and an eighteen year run of the Headquarters Gazette (1990-2008). The final section of the series includes newspaper clippings, featuring the obituaries of notable organizational members. A complete collection of Journal of Military History issues from 1994-2006 has been separated from the papers, catalogued, and shelved in the University Archives.
The Photographs (1940-2008) series collects in (1) box the miscellaneous printed images and portraits of the organization's members. Included in the series are portraits of several early organizational presidents and officers, black and white pictures of the 1968 Victor Gondos Testimonial Dinner, a photo of Victor Gondos at his desk, an assortment of images depicting naval vessels, aircraft, military personnel, and combat actions collected for potential supplements to issues of Military Affairs, as well as amateur pictures taken of SMH awards recipients and panel discussions held at miscellaneous annual conferences.

Society for Military History

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