“Slam” and his Books: UTEP’s S.L.A. Marshall Military History Collection

By on September 21, 2012

Drawing of SLA Marshall on display in the SLA Marshall Military History Collection

In 1974 S.L.A. Marshall, known as “Slam” to his readers and friends, retired from a long career as a journalist, correspondent, researcher, and historian to come home to El Paso. Upon his return to the Southwest, he donated his professional library to his alma mater, the University of Texas of El Paso. His collection– including several of his own first editions– held enough books on military history to warrant an entire room. The collection of more than 17,000 volumes now resides in the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department within the aptly named “S.L.A. Marshall Military History Collection” room.

A view of the SLA Marshall Military History Collection Room

Marshall spent the majority of his life writing articles, reports, or histories about the U.S. military in conflicts from World War I to Vietnam. He is best remembered for pioneering the after-action group interview method. He also wrote more than 30 books, the majority of which deal with improving the training of American soldiers through the effective analysis of history. In addition to his professional library UTEP also houses the S.L.A. Marshall Papers, a collection of over 100 document boxes of material ranging from personal records to professional correspondence to family history and photographs.

Photo from the SLA Marshall Papers of Marshall conducting an interview in the Pacific

Mr. Tom Burdett curated the collection for more than 30 years. Under his care the collection outgrew the space it was initially allocated.   Marshall documented wars that he was personally involved in or reported on, such as WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  After the Vietnam conflict, the collection has increasingly focused on works analyzing guerilla warfare and counterinsurgency.

A photo of Mr. Burdett from a past article in the El Paso Times

The S.L.A. Marshall Military History Collection represents an important part of the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections’ research material. In addition, this collection emphasizes the major contributions of one of UTEP’s own in the field of military history. The presence of the collection at UTEP also highlights the significance of the border and Fort Bliss in a national military narrative. With steady expansion taking place at Fort Bliss over the last few decades, the Marshall Military History Collection has become increasingly important in providing historical analysis for the continuing education and training of military personnel in our area.

Note: For more information on “Slam” investigate the S.L.A. Marshall Papers at http://libraryweb.utep.edu/special/finding_aids/MS186_Marshall.pdf.

Andy Klooster served as an assistant in the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department of the UTEP Library. He is currently an MA student in History at UTEP.