General Johnson's 1963 Holiday Dispatch
Christmas cards from the archives
Back in 1963, General Harold K. Johnson sent 257 Christmas cards. Perhaps not surprisingly for a future Chief of Staff of the Army, 60 of those went to people in Virginia or Maryland. 39 cards also traveled across the world, reflecting the Army’s Cold War disposition. 13 went to sites in Germany, 8 to Vietnam, 4 to Taiwan, 4 to Japan (including the Ryukyu Islands!), 4 to the United Kingdom, 3 to Turkey, 2 to the Panama Canal Zone, and 1 to Korea. Sadly, not a single card went to the north pole.
Notably, this list came from a remarkably accessible Army archive–something our military journals need today.
Below, I review the challenge with the professional bulletin archives as currently organized, and then explain how this map arose from the well-organized archive at Carlisle Barracks.
Well-organized and searchable archives of professional journals will unlock insights that we may not anticipate today, helping link leaders to win wars. The Army’s digitized branch journal archives are held across the Army, largely at the centers of excellence associated with each journal and with some behind the CAC-wall. Making matters more challenging, branch journals are held by issue, rather than article and are hard to browse. Rather than searching across journals, the reader must open and search within each one. While third parties have made some journals accessible for some periods, the Army’s branch magazine historical holdings are hard to access. The Army has made great strides in digitization, but the archives require more attention before reaching their potential.
Fortunately, the Harding Project Workshop, held at West Point last month, proposed several options to improve the Army’s archives of professional journals. The Army is currently assessing these options to determine the best way forward. While this map is a fun example that I imagine no archivist imagined, unlocking the Army’s archived branch magazines will likely yield other, unanticipated benefits for the Army.
Making the map
One Army organization well resourced for an archival mission is the United States Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) at Carlisle Barracks. While looking for holiday themed items on the USAHEC search tool, I found Gen. Johnson’s November 1963 list of Christmas card recipients and a holiday photo of the family (see below).
A snapshot from his list
Fortunately, USASEC held the list as a PDF with text that I could cut-and-paste. After some gentle cleaning, I counted the number of cards sent to each of the 126 municipalities.1 Then, using the ggmap package for R, I located each municipality’s latitude and longitude, and plotted them on the map.
The Johnsons in 1968
Happy Holidays from the Harding Project!
Cleaning the dataset required some judgment. For example, Johnson addressed many cards to Army Post Office boxes, but generally the unit or other information helped me estimate the intended municipality. I only excluded one card because I could not determine the location.