The Seattle Times and ProPublica have an unsettling answer to that question: Many of the military records of eleven years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have disappeared, quite often erased from hard drives at the direction of folks more concerned with security than history – or disability payments.
This mirrors a similar debacle after Gulf War I, compounded by the fact that even though the Army set up a central records computer system in 2005, deployed units did not use it, according to the detailed and exhaustive Times/ProPublica report.
Records that went missing include reports abundantly available in paper from the Vietnam War – after-action write-ups, intelligence reports and other day-to-day accounts from the war zones. Lack of these records means veterans seeking disability claims have a hard time proving they were in combat – and instead have to resort to chasing down eye witnesses, whose memories dim over time.
These reports also serve as the raw record of history – and the cynic in me thinks maybe some of that history is just too raw to preserve, which has led to wholesale erasing of hard drives.