Editor’s Scratchpad

Friday, December 7, 2001

Naval history must be explored

This week, while assisting historians in gathering oral histories of Pearl Harbor survivors, I asked a Navy League official what I thought was an obvious question: How can we best preserve history at an active-duty naval base?

A representative from the Naval History office in Washington exploded in rage and tried to scuttle the interview. His reasoning was that preserving history should be a purely political issue.

Actually, it's a cultural and educational issue. His view, however, seemed to be in line with the Navy's approach to history, which is that it has to be managed, not studied. Many senior Navy officers think it should be tightly controlled, not explored. Knowledge, they apparently believe, is too dangerous for civilians.

This same Naval History office provided expertise to "Pearl Harbor," a movie with an approach to historical accuracy that was goofy at best, jingoistic at worst. Naval history is important to American citizens, and it will continue to be explored. We just can't count on the Navy to do it.

Burl Burlingame

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