The Historical Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense is one of the oldest organizations in OSD, tracing its origins to the appointment of the first chief historian in 1949. It has been a small but busy entity ever since.
For most of its existence its focus of effort has been on researching and writing annual reports and the major volumes in its Secretaries of Defense Historical Series. Now, for the first time, the Historical Office is branching into untested waters with the Department of Defense History Speaker Series.
The concept for the series is simple—identify interesting and relevant historical topics and find a well-qualified and well-spoken historian to address them in a venue available to all personnel in the Pentagon (and hopefully well beyond).
The presentations will serve as professional military education (in official lingo), promote historical awareness among those charged with developing and influencing national defense policy and strategy, and also honor those who have served before us in defending the nation. The latter goal is especially important as we enter a period commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the 150th of the Civil War, the 100th of World War I, and the 50th of the Vietnam War.
The format of the presentations will vary somewhat but will generally take place at lunchtime in the Pentagon Auditorium and last about an hour. Usually we’ll have a speaker talking for about 45 minutes, followed by opportunity for dialog with the audience. We plan to air the program live on the Pentagon Channel (schedule permitting) and webcast it, as well, so those who can’t attend in person can still see it.
Our first speaker is Dr. Ethan Rafuse, a professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College
at Fort Leavenworth. A noted expert on the Civil War, his prominent books include A Single Grand Victory: The First Campaign and Battle at Manassas, McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union, Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy, 1863-1865, and George Gordon Meade and the War in the East. The topic of his talk is “’A People’s War’: The First Months of the Civil War.”
The series is a collaborative effort among the history offices of OSD, the Joint Staff, and the military services. We plan to offer a presentation each month and cover a wide range of subjects related to military history. For more information on the series, please visit the OSD Historical Office web site.