Thursday, May 12, 2005

USA Today, today.

'Milbloggers' are typing their place in history
By Mark Memmott, USA TODAY

Imagine some of the soldiers who survived the Battle of Gettysburg stopping the next day to write their dramatic tales — and people around the world instantly reading them. If that battle had been fought today, no imagination would be necessary.
The number of Internet Web logs — or "blogs," as online diaries are known — by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is soaring, giving people everywhere unprecedented windows into servicemembers' lives.
From 50 or so a year ago, the number of their online journals is now about 200 and is expected to be near 1,000 by the year's end, say the bloggers themselves and experts who track the Web.
The growth means a historic phenomenon is gaining momentum: Anyone with access to the Internet can read many first-hand accounts of life in a war zone within seconds after they're finished.
And the blogs are "full of real substance and depth," says Jon Peede, director of the National Endowment for the Arts' Operation Homecoming program, which helps troops and their families write about their wartime experiences. "They're raw, powerful reflections on the war."
They also could be among a troop's last words. At least one "soldier blogger," Army Spc. Francisco G. Martinez, has been killed in action.

From the front lines
Many of the stories troops tell in the blogs are about everyday life at their bases. But some also show how terrifying, confusing and chaotic battle can be. Among the most gripping stories told so far: Army Spc. Colby Buzzell's Aug. 5, 2004, account in his blog My War of a battle in Mosul, Iraq, the day before. "I saw 2 guys creeping around this corner ... (and) hiding behind a stack of truck tires," he wrote. "I saw another guy come out of that corner with an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) in his hands. I freaked ... I gathered my composure as fast as I could, put the cross hairs (of a gun) on them and engaged them. ... I didn't see anybody move from behind those tires after that."

Buzzell is now home in Brooklyn, N.Y. He says the number of people reading My War, which he'd only started a few weeks before that entry and was writing anonymously as "cbftw," soared to several thousand a day after that account.
About a month later, he was done blogging. Commanders had figured out who the writer was and ordered him to have his entries reviewed by an officer before he posted them. There was some concern his detailed reports might have divulged too much information about Army tactics. Buzzell stopped blogging and removed most of his stories from the site.
But his writing hasn't disappeared. Since being discharged in December, Buzzell has published two stories about his experiences in Esquire magazine. G.P. Putnam's Sons will publish a book by Buzzell, also about his experiences, this fall.