This, Too, Is Public Publishing

The discussion of university publishing in End Papers (Book Review, Aug. 11) suggested that this category of public publishing was the principal exception to the rule that books “are expected, by and large, to pay their own way.” Another form of public publishing that is supported 100% by outright allocation of public tax dollars is government publishing--i.e., books researched, written, edited and published by the U.S. government itself.

The military services continue to be actively engaged in producing official histories of participation in our country’s armed conflicts. The Department of the Army’s chief of military history directs the activities of writers--historians, editors, researchers and artists at the Center of Military History in Washington. These permanent, credentialed and well-paid professionals turn out draft documents that, when reviewed and approved by a board of civilian advisers--prominent historians paid at the rate of expert consultants--are published by the Government.

Some years ago, I had the audacity to point out that one of these official military histories, “South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu,” the first volume in the series “U.S. Army in the Korean War,” was seriously flawed in its inaccurate and incomplete account of the combat performance from July-December, 1950, of the 24th Infantry Regiment, the last black unit of infantry in the Army. (What I didn’t realize then was that never had a chief of military history found it necessary to make any substantive correction to an official military history!) The more I have inquired into this matter and the correlative treatment of the 24th Infantry in yet another official military history volume, “Integration of the Armed Forces 1940 to 1965,” the more convinced I have become that the American taxpayer unwittingly has been supporting an irresponsible and unprofessional series of intermittent studies from 1960 to 1982, and continuing.

The most unsettling aspect of these tax-supported studies is that they appear to reflect significant and perhaps deliberate racial bias that continues to be condoned rather than corrected.



Los Angeles