More than eight years in the making, a new database containing information from U.S. military and coalition aerial bombing campaigns over the last century is now publicly available online.
An historical data collection project developed and researched by Lt. Col. Jenns Robertson, the Theater History of Operations Reports database, or THOR, has evolved into a full-scale research tool available online.
The database combines digitized paper mission reports starting with World War I to create a central source of bombing history around the globe. The database can be searched by date, conflict or even aircraft-specific criteria, and organized into spreadsheets, charts or onto maps, forming a live-action sequence of events.
The THOR database is useful not only for current and future military commanders, Robertson said, but also for academic researchers, historians and government agencies involved in unexploded ordnance cleanup efforts.
“The most exciting part is that I can’t envision all the ways this can be used,” Robertson said. “This is a data trove that allows us to look over the last 70-100 years of bombing data, how we’ve conducted wars for the last century using airpower, and if we can’t pull lessons out of that, then we’re not doing our job.”
Currently, the public can access data, including 58 different aircraft, bomb information, and even altitude, from World Wars I and II and Vietnam. The records from World War II and Vietnam are the most complete, he said, and include U.S. and Royal Air Force data, as well as some Australian, New Zealand and South African air force missions.
Robertson began the project in 2006 when his military duties required him to create weekly briefings of current bombing activity. Realizing that it was taking longer than necessary to gather information from multiple resources, Robertson wanted to create a centralized source of information for military commanders to use. The need for a single information pool on current missions expanded into Robertson’s goal of building an entire airpower collection dating back to World War I. During his off-duty time, Robertson spent the next five years decoding almost four million Vietnam War entries gathered from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
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See Also: THOR FAQ