Vital Field Records Missing From Iraq, Afghan Wars

ProPublica: It slows down vets' claims, worries historians

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 10, 2012 9:40 AM CST

(Newser) – Historians might have a hard time piecing together the battles of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars because huge swaths of military field records are missing, reports ProPublica. What's worse, those lost records make it harder for vets to claim medical benefits. The Army is the worst offender, but the US Central Command in Iraq also lost files, and part of the problem, amazingly, stems from confusion between Army and Centcom commanders about who should have been keeping them.

"I can't even start to describe the dimensions of the problem," says Conrad C. Crane, director of the Army's Military History Institute. "I fear we're never really going to know clearly what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan because we don't have the records." Other factors: the transition from paper records to computer records was rocky, and some units erased hard drives before returning to the US because of confusion about transporting classified files. ProPublica has much more on the scope of the problem here.

In this Dec. 17, 2011, photo, US Army soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division board a plane at Camp Adder moments before the unit leaves Iraq.
In this Dec. 17, 2011, photo, US Army soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division board a plane at Camp Adder moments before the unit leaves Iraq.   (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
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