The visuals above demonstrate the potential of combined digital techniques. They also barely scratch the surface of the nearly endless questions that can be asked of the information. Posing meaningful questions of the information and interpreting the results sensitively are the domain of humans. All signs suggest that the U.S. Government never thought these files would be seen. Yet, journalists have already discovered incidents where numerous eyewitness accounts contradict the 'War Diaries.'
In the end, this database reflects the sum of entries written by soldiers on the ground. Any number of factors might affect how events were reported, such as the fog of war, cultural differences, or the principle of CYA. In addition, by determining the fields (e.g. Event Type) as well as the terms (e.g. Friend, Enemy) available, the defense planners define the range and manner of possible expression.
Data must be read as sensitively as any textual source. Whatever the difficulties of reliability and interpretation, this source unquestionably gives the public an insight to the events of two wars on a scale that was scarcely conceivable as recent as the Gulf War.
Nevertheless, this source remains critical even if we choose to choose to assume a cautious stance towards the reliability of reporting. For, it shows us how the war appeared to defense planners. Beyond events themselves, this data can illuminate the decision making process of the U.S. political and military command structure.
The results found here are just a beginning. They were a random sample of individual questions which lacked a sustained narrative. As a demonstration, this was not my intent here. But, only is analysis and interpretation does this data start to have value. As many voices enter the debate about these and other digital issues, scholars of the Humanities and Social Sciences contribution to the discussion is more important than ever before. As for this source, I will leave it up to others (including some of my students) to do so for themselves.
Should you want to do so for yourself, below you will find links to the spreadsheets and Google Earth files. Best of luck!