the joys of research

It's pretty easy to get carried away with research. It feels productive, it feels like you are etting somewhere, until you click back on your document and see nothing but that infernal blinking cursor and a mocking, white space.

The internet is an enabler. But the internet is also full of gems. Only recently have I uncovered some pretty amazing information hidden within its nooks and crannies. My book is focused almost entirely upon WWII, which, as luck would have it, was a war covered extensively by all different forms of media.

But still, there are questions to be had. I don't have access to all the books of the world. I wasn't in Berlin in the 1930s. I don't know what brands of products were popular or available; I don't know exactly what information is available to the public. I certainly don't know how to operate artillery. But there are some wonderful gems to be had that have helped me immensely.

YouTube. Weird, right? But films created by the OSS and the US Government are de-classified and, for the most part, available to view. By following a trail of breadcrumbs I was able to learn quite a bit. Some of the more fascinating videos included a training video for US forces highlighting basic German infantry tactics. Another showed how to operate the most common German weapons a GI might happen to come across. There is a video about interrogation techniques, and another that cautions GIs not to spread military information in casual (or any) conversation. One can also find interviews, newsreels, and documentaries to view for free. One of the more interesting videos I found was a tour of Berlin filmed in the '30s.

Newspapers. The Chicago Tribune has a free archive. I was able to search and read through articles printed on a daily basis. In this way I could get a feel for daily life, for how people spoke, what they cared about.

There were lots of small details I was able to use to my advantage, thanks to these sources.

What research gems have you uncovered?