U.S. Records in the Gulf War (1991)

Of course, there were problems with the U.S. Army record keeping in the Gulf War (1991). There were serious problems with the U.S. Army record keeping in the Vietnam War (1965-1973), so not surprising, the problem had not been corrected, and the same problems existed 20 years later. In the Vietnam War, the 82nd Airborne Division pretty much threw away most of their records. According to Don Hakenson, Director, Center of Unit Records Research, Records Management and Declassification Agency; in the Gulf War, 86% or 87% of the battalion daily journals were not preserved (see War by Numbers, page 146).

This became a big issue when the “Gulf War Syndrome” became an issue. People became suspicious that U.S. soldiers had become exposed to hazardous materials or chemical weapons. Yet, when the Veterans Administration and others tried to figure out where the units were at the time, they found that the records no longer existed for many these units. In many cases, they could not determine where the unit or the people were during operations. Many of the records had simply been thrown out.

The Gulf War Syndrome was not a small issue. It has been estimated that 250,000 U.S. veterans were afflicted. It was a case where record keeping briefly became a major issue. Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War_syndrome

Since the 1960s, there has been serious gaps in U.S. record keeping. There still was in 1998 when we conducted a survey of the subject for the U.S. Army. We have conducted no other surveys since then, but gather that corrective action has been undertaken.

U.S. Army Record Keeping

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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