User:Geni/WW2 sourcing issues

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World war 2 is the most written about war in human history so there are plenty of sources for wikipedians to work from. There are however a number of risks editors should be aware of.

Problems due to classified material[edit]

  • anything written pre 1974 won't know about Ultra. In fact this appears to continue for sometime afterwards.
  • Anything before the early 90s will have suffered from limit access to soviet records
  • Britian is known to have cleaned up its colonial records "it is permissible, as an alternative to destruction by fire, for documents to be packed in weighted crates and dumped in very deep and current-free water at maximum practicable distance from the coast" not sure to what extent this covers the WW2 period.

Problems due to churnalism[edit]

While these days records of the war are pretty open the is a tendency for writers particularly of popular histories to copy each other rather than go back to original records. While for the most part this is harmless (if in some cases tiresome) it can allow false information to start to sneak into apparently more robust histories.


  • Operation Tyr-Originaly a web hoax about a supposed plan by nazi germany to invade Liechtenstein has made it's way into Michael Sharpe's 5th Gebirgsjäger Division: Hitler's mountain warfare specialists. It also made it's way into wikipedia
  • Jasper Maskelyne-A stage magician serves as a perfectly respectable and competent camouflage officer. After the war he had a set of ghost written memoirs published which are a mix of wild exaggerations and plain making stuff up. These stories make it into various sources including wikipedia. see [1] for details
  • Narrowboat at dunkirk. untrue but the claim has been floating around for a while.

Problems due to wartime propaganda[edit]

These vary from specific stories making it into sources to more general distortions (Mass-Observation records for example suggest a lot of the claims about brits holding up well under the blitz and behaving themselves are so much BS).