Professors receive Army Historical Foundation writing award

Story and photo by Kathy Eastwood Staff Writer

August 9th, 2018 | News, News and Features
 Col. Ty Seidule, head of the Department of History, Clifford Rogers and Sam Watson (not shown) display three of the Army Historical Foundation distinguished writing awards for history for editing the hardcover books on World War II, two volumes, Civil War and the most recent, the History of the American Revolution. The hardcover books are the printed version of the interactive History of War website used by USMA cadets, Air Force Academy and 40 civilian universities.

Col. Ty Seidule, professor and History Department head, Clifford Rogers, professor, and Sam Watson, assistant professor in the Department of History, received the Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award for their book, “The West Point History of the American Revolution,” one of three AHF awards they have received for the West Point History of Warfare book series on the Civil War, World War II volumes I and II and this year’s award for the History of the American Revolution.
The AHF awards program was established in 1997 to recognize authors who make a significant contribution to the literature on U.S. Army history. Each year, nominations are submitted to the awards committee by publishers and journal editors. A small group of finalists is selected and a final judging is made. The winners were announced at the annual AHF members meeting.
The West Point History of Warfare books were written for the general public and were taken from the monumental work of producing a digital textbook for cadets.
“We’ve been writing military history at West Point for cadets since 1817, and books have come out very regularly since then.
Dennis Hart Mahan, a professor of military science at West Point, was one of the history writers in the 1840s-1860s,” Seidule said. “Cadets don’t use the books; cadets get the digital book, which was created first and the books came after. The digital version is over a million words with almost a thousand new maps, many of them animated, and 10,000 interactive widgets to show 3D images.
“We wanted a way to immerse cadets into history and show that history is one of the primary ways of becoming an Army officer. The animations show where Soldiers were located along battle lines, like the battle of Gettysburg where you can actually see the units moving into battle,” he added. “This has never been done before. History is too important to be boring particularly for an Army officer. Cadets can look at history in breadth and depth and look at the context of the war with what was happening around them at that time, like with the economy or looking at Gettysburg in the context of slavery.”
The digital book was developed through the history department’s relationship with Rowan Technology Solutions founded by Vinnie Viola, a U.S. Military Academy 1977 graduate. Viola created Rowan Technology Solutions to support cadet education in the areas of military history, military science and leadership. All of the digital technology and the money to create it was from Rowan Technology Solutions.
“There are 71 chapters in the entire West Point History of Warfare digital version. We had eight members of the history department that wrote chapters and then we hired 50 of the best military historians in the world to write the other chapters,” Seidule added.
“We hired an artist to create a Soldier through time, from Plato, NATO through Afghanistan. We used our museum to get copies of various weapons and art work along with some great art from all over the world. Not only did we create the book, but we really changed the IT infrastructure of West Point to support it. Every cadet bought an IPad and they had to create wireless barracks to support it. Now they don’t need the IPad because the cadets can use their computer. Cadets at the Air Force Academy and 40 universities now use the digital textbook.”
Clifford Rogers said he was excited and honored to work on the digital book.
“I got to work with the best historians in the world,” Rogers said. “Right from the beginning we envisioned to release the book to the general public. I think it is good for Americans to have a good understanding of war regarding foreign policy. It’s also an outreach to the community and nation and it brings attention to West Point that helps to recruit cadets and faculty. The books have been received well with good reviews in the New York Review of Books.”
The West Point Department of History professors revised every chapter multiple times, wrote a couple of chapters and edited both the digital and print versions.
“Although the feedback from cadets wasn’t 100 percent positive because some prefer book form, roughly 85 percent of cadets liked the digital version, especially the animated maps,” Rogers explained. “We agree that the maps are very helpful. It helps them to understand history more deeply and in a faster amount of time instead of using just classroom study although we do use classrooms for analysis.”