absolutely hot take here
I respect those who know every model of tank or every little change in a class of warship, but I will fully admit that not only do I not know the differences between an M4A1 and an M4A1E8 right off the bat, I see no need to learn it
Knowing every single tiny intimate detail about a tank or plane past its basic characteristics and capabilities does not mean you contribute to historiography and history as a profession. Such knowledge means you’re interested in engineering and design via history, rather than focusing on history at large. Which in itself is a good profession, but it’s using history as a lens to glimpse machines and their workings, not history itself as a profession.
When it comes to history itself, no one cares about the precise model of tank. What matters is how they were deployed, by whom, who was in them, and what they did, what they experienced, and who survived
Through the use of trivia, pedantic detail, memes and jokes, the humanity of these wars is lost – among non-professional historians, milhist is becoming esoterica that kids memorise to spew at each other, and not a human study of human beings.
Now there is an entire offshoot which looks at history via the design of certain things, especially military equipment – Ian from Forgotten Weapons does a very good job of this sort of history.
The human story to history is not the be all, end all of the profession, but it certainly is a large part of it. It is my opinion that it’s disingenuous to take the human out of the machine and discount the personal experience from it all. But I’m saying that as a maritime historian who works primarily with sailors’ memoirs, and hopes to publish oral histories later.
When I misidentify a weapon or vehicle, or do not know what it is at all, this is why. If you know those things, if it interests you, great. But it is not my focus, never has been, and never will be. My interest in the Vietnam War began on the personal level and I consumed numerous memoirs before cracking open a textbook on the matter. I want to know the effect of the war on the men and women involved in it, not the weapons they used. Yes, those things have their place, and I will leave that to people who are more interested in it to begin with.