20th Century Wargaming Resources on the Internet

Chris Scruton

The evolution of electronic media promises a bright future for wargamers who have access to computer networks like the Internet. The rapid growth in the number of resources available and the increasing availability of outlets for individual researchers to make their efforts public means that there is a vast untapped pool of information of interest to wargamers. Since there is no central organizing structure for the Internet, much of the information available is virtually unknown to its potential market; while there are a number of search tools available through both Gopher and the World Wide Web, the chaotic nature of the Internet means an individual could waste a great deal of time tracking down that one elusive resource that they've been searching for. This article is an attempt to make Internet users aware of just a few of the resources available for 20th century wargaming; the list is intended as a jumping-off point that an interested researcher could use to get himself started in the search for information and to seek out and contact like-minded individuals from all over the world.

USENET Newsgroups

USENET groups are akin to an electronic 'bulletin board' on which participants post messages and queries. There are several clusters of newsgroups that deal specifically with wargaming and 20th century military history.

rec.games.miniatures.historical
rec.games.miniatures.misc
The rec.games.miniatures (r.g.m) groups are devoted to miniature wargaming in all of its forms. On these groups you will find postings covering everything from ancients wargaming to the present day. While the discussion doesn't focus specifically on the 20th century, r.g.m groups reach the widest audience on the Internet and, as such, make it possible for you to reach individuals from all over the world; recent discussions I've seen have had participants from countries as geographically remote as New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Australia, Great Britain, and South Africa.

sci.military.moderated
This group focuses on military art and science, with a heavy emphasis on equipment, doctrine, and battlefield tactics. It is, for the most part, heavily theoretical, but many of the respondents are active or reserve soldiers in military forces from around the world -- I've seen posts from serving officers in both Canada and the U.S., as well as Great Britain, Finland, and Sweden, giving this group a real international flavor and providing differing perspectives on all aspects of military science.

soc.history.war.world-war-ii
soc.history.war.misc
soc.history.war.vietnam
These three groups are devoted to discussing the military history, with thematic emphases ranging from military science (patrol tactics, armored doctrine, etc.) to tactical history to more broadly historical (the social impact of war, scientific developments, the home front, etc.). While the discussion on these groups is generally at a less-detailed level than many wargamers would find interesting, they can prove to be very useful for posting requests for information.

alt.current-events.bosnia
misc.news.bosnia
soc.culture.croatia
These groups are just a few of the many currently available covering topics that range from the war in Bosnia to current events in the former Soviet Union, the course of the insurgency in Chiapas (Mexico), and many other 'hot spots' around the world. While many of these groups are highly polemic, they are an excellent source of up-to-the-minute news and a gauge of public perception of conflicts around the world - as one might expect, the Bosnia newsgroups are rather emotionally charged in their tone, but very few public news sources in the West give you the opportunity ti hear what a Serbian or a Russian thinks about the war in Bosnia. Since many postings pertinent to military events in the former Yugoslavia are also posted to these groups, they can provide a clearer picture of military events than is often portrayed in the traditional news media.

Newsgroups can prove an important source of information and a point of contact with other wargamers from all over the world. Other services, such as CompuServe and America On-Line, offer proprietary discussion groups of their own dedicated to military matters; for information on these services, contact your on-line service's help line. For really in-depth discussions with people who share your specific interests, your best bet is to sign on to a computer 'mailing list' or listserv.

Listservs

While USENET groups require you to leave your email environment in order to access the information posted on them, listservs are automated programs or mail sorting routines used to forward mail to email addresses subscribed to the mailing list. The advantage of this system is that it is effortless for the user - they simply receive the message as if it were a message from another individual, and they then have the option of replying, printing, or archiving the message just as they would with any other email message; in short, no arcane commands to memorize (there are dozens of commands available in USENET, most of which are not readily obvious to the novice user) and no real work involved since all messages sent to the list are automatically delivered to all of the participants. A variation on the automated mailing list theme is the 'mailing header' list, in which subscribers must themselves enter the addresses of all of the subscribers on the list using the 'group' or 'alias' function in their email package; in practice, this list functions the same as an automated list - when an individual sends a message, it is delivered to all of the subscribers noted in his 'group' header.

There are currently several listservs of interest to 20th century wargamers:

WWII-L

WWII-L is a listserv dedicated to discussing the history of the Second World War. Topics cover the whole range of subjects pertinent to the Second World War - everything from island-hopping strategy and unconditional surrender to the Romanian navy and the composition of Russian penal battalions. To subscribe to WWII-L, send an email message to:

listserv@ubvm.cc.buffalo.edu

Leaving the subject line blank, type: subscribe wwii-l (your first name) (your last name) Of course you would replace '(your first name)' with your name; when subscribing to email lists, make sure to follow the conventions used precisely - in this case, use only lower case letters for the command portion of this message (you may use capitals in your name).

The Command Decision list

Barry Geipel maintains a very active Command Decision listserv. While much of the discussion on the list specifically revolves around the Command Decision rules, many other topics are covered as well; most recently, topics of general interest have included an in-depth discussion of the differences between Soviet and American doctrine at a tactical/operational level, sources of 1:76th scale French artillery tractors, and orders of battle for the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

To subscribe to the CD-Mailer, send an email message to:

cdmailer-request@primenet.com

Leaving the subject line blank, type a message to the effect of: "please subscribe me to the Command Decision list; my email address is..." Since Barry seems to handle these personally rather than having a computer handle the subcriptions, you need only worry about entering the CD-Mailer's address and your own email address correctly.

Modgamers list

This is a 'mailing header' list originally started by Aaron Longbottom, BJ Kersteter, and Chris Scruton as an on-line outlet for communication among SOTCW members; we have since expanded and encourage anyone with an interest in 20th century wargaming to subscribe. Participant interests as expressed on the list run the gamut from the French colonial wars in Indochina at the turn of the century to warfare in the near future. To subscribe to this list, simply send email directly to me at:

scru0002@maroon.tc.umn.edu Please note that the 0s in my address are zeros, not capital Os. In the body of the message, simply state that you're interested in subscribing to the Modgamer/SOTCW list. I will respond with all of the information you need to get your mail header set up.

[Note: Since this was written the method of subscription to the Modgamers list has changed. To subscribe send an e-mail to LISTSERV@TC.UMN.EDU with no subject header and the message:

SUBSCRIBE MODMIL-L Your first name Your last name

Any problems contact Chris Scruton at scru0002@maroon.tc.umn.edu.
- Aaron Longbottom.]

While listservs are perhaps the best means of interacting with like-minded individuals from around the World, they are limited in the sense that they cannot typically transmit graphical information like photographs, line drawings, or formatted text. When you want access to the vast information resources that Internet advocates have been promising for so long, you need to turn to the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web (WWW)

The World Wide Web opens up a whole new dimension in on-line information resources. With graphical browsers like Mosaic or Netscape (most current WWW pages are 'Netscape enhanced' - designed to look best using the Netscape browser - so you may want to obtain a copy of the most recent software; to download a freeware copy of Netscape 1.1n go to http://home.mcom.com/comprod/mirror/index.html), thousands of libraries, learned societies, schools, and interested individuals are making rich sources of textual, photographic, audio, and even video resources available to anyone with the capability of accessing the sites. Included below is a brief taster of the many sites available:

Photo archives

One of my main sub-interests within the field of military history is combat photography; photographic resources abound on the Web, and three of my favorites are:

http://www2.msstate.edu/~rah2/gulf-war.html
The personal photo album of a U.S. combat soldier who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, including several excellent shots of captures Iraqi equipment, as well as personal shots of his unit and the area of operations.

ftp://byrd.mu.wvnet.edu/pub/history/military/vietnam/pictures/vnr/
An excellent collection of offical U.S. military photographs of the Vietnam War during the period of American involvement, including a number of shots of ARVN forces in action during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

http://144.99.192.240/Normandy/NormandyPhotos.html
My favorite photographic resource on the World Wide Web has to be the Normandy photo database maintained by the U.S. Army Military History Institute. The project was apparently commissioned as a limited test to gauge the viability of creating a searchable tool for locating photographs by subject matter, location of shot, etc. A few sample searches turned up a dozen shots under 'tank', more than 20 under 'German', and more than I had time to access on 'St. Lo', including an excellent aerial photograph shot at an altitude of about 200 feet that showed the location of every major building in town and even gave me a good idea of how wide the city streets were! Quite a few of these shots are unpublished and most should prove useful to any wargamer wishing to do some research on the American army in Normandy. With this collection as a benchmark, I can hardly wait until the Military History Institute does a database for the Battle of the Bulge and the Rhine crossing; hopefully the Imperial War Museum, the Public Archives of Canada, and others will follow suit.

Documents and books on the Web

ftp://linux.osbm.state.nc.us/pub/50ya/peleliu.txt
ftp://linux.osbm.state.nc.us/pub/50ya/hurtgen_forest.txt
Many sites with detailed transcripts of book chapters and research articles are available on the World Wide Web. The two listed above contain detailed reports on U.S. operations on Peleliu and in the Hurtgen Forest, respectively, though there are hundreds of other reports; use Lycos or similar searchable database to find materials in your area of interest.

Periodicals on-line

http://www.janes.com/janes.html
While a subscription to one of the excellent Jane's publications is well beyond the means of most wargamers, this site contains some tidbits of useful information, especially the 'Picture of the Week'. The Jane's Web page also houses indexes of recent issues and a searchable sampler of Jane's products that will allow you to look up a rather limited range of subjects from the on-line versions of Jane's defense annuals.

http://www.tiac.net/users/jgawne/index.html
This useful Web page is maintained by one of the American editors of Militaria, Jon Gawne. Not only does this site have indexes of Militaria, RAIDS, and After the Battle, but it has a great collection of links to reenactment sites around the World and some nice scanned photographs of WWII and modern uniforms.

Single interest sites

In addition to sites used as repositories for primary research information, there are also a number of 'single interest sites' dedicated to interpreting a particular facet of military history during the period. Four of my favorite are:

http://192.253.114.31/D-Day/Table_of_contents.html
This is a site maintained at an American military base school in Germany to commemorate D-Day; it has some nice maps and a number of links to other sites of military interest on the Web.

http://www.ncb.gov.sg/nhb/dec8/war.html
This is rather a nice page put together to explore the surrender of Singapore during the Second World War. Supported by attractive graphics and a fair number of photographs, this site should prove to be of some interest to researchers interested in the opening campaigns in the Pacific.

http://www.princeton.edu/~mkporwit/uprising/top.html
Another useful page explores the 1944 Warsaw Uprising; while designed with a definite political agenda in mind, it still provides some interesting text and graphics to provide context on the battle.

http://www.hkkk.fi/~yrjola/war/finland_wwii.html
Finally, a great site dedicated to exploring Finland's role in the Second World War; supported by several excellent photos that I've never seen before, this provides a nice taster that made me want to dig a little deeper on Finland's relatively unexplored participation on the Russian Front.

Wargaming on the Web

http://biochem.dental.upenn.edu/Mosaic/bill/tmp.html
If you go nowhere else on the World Wide Web, make sure you visit The Miniatures Page. While it's neither the most visually attractive page on the Web nor does it contain the most up-to-date product reviews, it is the best site to visit for information on wargames in the broadest sense - it is home to everything from a question-and-answer session with the designer of the Free Fire Zone rules to a photo gallery of wargamers' painted models to an on-line directory of figure manufacturers, gaming societies, and miniatures-related publications (even an index and contact information for the SOTCW Journal contributed by the Society's own Aaron Longbottom). With the growth in interest in miniature wargames resources on the World Wide Web, I expect that the quality of The Miniatures Page will continue to improve, making it your best 'one stop' source for gaming material on the Internet.

http://www.access.digex.net/~jappel/ASL.html
This is the first stop Advanced Squad Leader players should make on the World Wide Web. This site has links to just about every other ASL resource on the Web. Competition ladders, discussion list archives, FTP sites with rules, scenarios and map boards - you name it and it's right here on this site.

Summary

While a full accounting of the many military resources currently available on the Internet would probably take hundreds of pages, I hope this brief overview has at least given you a tase of what's out there. Using search engines like Lycos or WebCrawler you should be able to find information on just about any military topic you can imagine, all from the comfort of your desk! Anyone interested in corresponding further about military information resources on the Internet or joining in the discussion on the Modgamers list can do so by contacting me via Internet email at: scru0002@maroon.tc.umn.edu

For anyone interested in obtaining Internet access in the UK, Paul Scrivens-Smith (an SOTCW member and Modgamers discussion list participant) has kindly volunteered to serve as a contact. Paul is a Technical Support specialist at Eth (ix) Distribution Ltd, a UK Open Systems distributor and would be more than happy to answer your questions at: +44 1773 863666 (telephone) or +44 1773 863919 (telefax). Other popular UK Internet providers include: BBC Networking (0181 567 7799); Celtic Internet (01633 815550); Cityscape (01223 566950); Demon Internet (0181 371 1234); and Pipex (01223 250120). US members should contact their local Internet provider (national providers include America On-Line, Compuserve, and Delphi among others; shop around for the best rate).

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank David Brewer, BJ Kersteter, Eric Llewellyn, Aaron Longbottom, Tim Marshall, Will Scarvie, and Paul Scrivens-Smith for providing comments and suggestions on early drafts of this article; of course, any errors or ommissions are my own. I would also like to thank all of the members of the Modgamer discussion list for many interesting discussions -- I look forward to many more in the future.


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