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Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Content guide

The Military history WikiProject's content guide is intended to provide recommendations regarding the content and structure of articles within the scope of the project.

Article structureEdit

The structures suggested in this section are intended to serve as a starting point for writing a good article. They are not meant to enforce a single, binding structure on all articles, nor to limit the topics a fully developed article will discuss. The recommended structures may be further broken down into subsections if judged appropriate for each article's content.


The opening paragraph (or lead section) should concisely convey:

  1. The name of the war (including alternate names).
  2. When did it happen?
  3. Who fought in it?
  4. Why did it happen?
  5. What was the outcome?
  6. What was its significance, if any?

The article can be structured along these lines:

  1. The historical background to the conflict, including preceding conflicts, the political situation, military preparedness, and technology.
  2. The causes of the conflict.
  3. The stated casus belli. For example, the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria triggered a sequence of events that led to World War I. Take care to ensure neutrality, since the stated casus belli is often disputed, whereby reliable sources dispute whether the "trigger event" was either truly a trigger or else was just a pretext. In such cases, best practice would include either a footnote or a paragraph in the main body of the article setting out the different perspectives on the stated casus belli, and would avoid stating in wikipedia's neutral voice that the conflict was started by one side or the other, unless reliable sources are in agreement and do not reference such disputes. Separately, also take care to distinguish a casus belli from the underlying causes that allowed the event to trigger a war.
  4. A summary of the conflict. When a war is large, it can often be divided into phases, geographic regions ("theaters"), or naval and land campaigns. Don't describe individual battles in detail; refer to a separate article on the battle and just explain the result of the battle and its consequences for the war.
  5. How the war came to an end. What treaties were signed, and what were their conditions?
  6. What were the consequences of the war? Who did it affect? What happened next? Did the war lead to peace or to further wars? Were countries conquered or liberated? Were there significant advances in tactics or technology?


The opening paragraph (or lead section in a longer article) should concisely convey:

  1. The name of the battle (including alternate names).
  2. When did it happen?
  3. Where did it happen?
  4. Which war or campaign does it belong to?
  5. Who were the combatants?
  6. What was its outcome or significance?

The article can be structured along these lines:

  1. Background. Why did it take place? Which campaign did it belong to? What happened previously? What was the geography of the battlefield?
  2. Prelude. What forces were involved and who were the commanders? How well prepared were they for the battle? How did they arrive at the battleground? Was there a plan? Were there any preliminary moves or operations?
  3. Battle. A description of the battle. What tactics were used? Which units moved where?
  4. Aftermath. Who won, if anyone? What were the casualties? Was there a pursuit or followup? What happened next? How did the battle affect the course of the war?
Summaries of battles in other articles

Because of the key role the discussion of individual battles plays in military historiography, it is often useful to summarize information about a particular battle in an article of broader scope (such as one discussing a war or military leader). In such cases, the bulk of the material should be in the article on the battle itself; the summary in the external article should be trimmed to one or two paragraphs that concisely present the following:

  1. Why did the battle take place? Who was attacking and who was defending? Why was it worth fighting the battle instead of avoiding it; what was at stake?
  2. What was the troop strength of each side and approximate composition of the forces?
  3. Who won, and how decisive a victory was it? Were there any important personages that were captured, wounded, or killed? What was the impact of the battle on the overall campaign?
  4. Were there any notable strategies or tactics that make this more than just one of many battles? Were there any brilliant moves or notable errors that contributed to the outcome of the battle?

Units, branches or formationsEdit

The opening paragraph (or lead section) should concisely convey:

  1. The formal name of the unit, its abbreviation, and its nickname(s).
  2. What is the unit's country or allegiance?
  3. What service (Air Force, Army, or Navy) was the unit part of?
  4. When was it formed?
  5. If the unit no longer exists, when was it disbanded or deactivated?
  6. In what notable battles, operations, or wars did the unit participate?

The article can be structured along these lines (note: these do not denote headings as such, but general topics that could be included):

  1. The unit's history (both service and organisational) including potentially: When and why was it formed? Who formed it? Where and how has the unit served in peacetime and war (e.g. what battles did it fight in, or what operations was it committed to, and what role did it undertake in those actions)? Who has commanded it? How many casualties did it incur?
  2. Where was/is it based? What higher-level formation is the unit assigned to, if any? What role did/does it fulfill? What was its structure?
  3. The unit's traditions. What mascots does it have? What anniversaries does it celebrate?
  4. What gallantry awards (such as the Medal of Honor, Param Vir Chakra, or Victoria Cross) have been awarded to members of the unit? What unit awards (such as battle honours or presidential citations) has the unit received?

Weapons, vehicles, aircraft and equipmentEdit

The article can be structured along these lines:

  1. Development and design. A description of the major features, including details of the key features and functions of the weapon, vehicle, aircraft or equipment, including its characteristics or specifications, unit cost, crew, armament and or operating mechanisms, etc. For individual weapons, a list and description of the officially approved accessories issued with the weapon, such as bayonets and any special cleaning kits may be included.
  2. History. A history of the weapon, vehicle, aircraft or equipment, including background events leading to the design and the evolution of design, plus service/operational history.
  3. Variants and upgrades. A list and description of all variants, upgrades and close descendants, plus production details.
  4. Operators. Current and former military operators should be listed. Additionally, some weapons, vehicles, aircraft and equipment may have civilian operators. Where this applies, a general description of its use by non-military, non-government, and other groups may be applicable.
  5. See also section. This should list similar items comparable by role, configuration or era.

Bases or fortressesEdit

The opening paragraph (or lead section) should concisely convey:

  1. The formal name of the base in English, any appropriate foreign names, and any nickname(s).
  2. Who owns or operates the fortress or base?
  3. What is the purpose of the fortress or base; in other words, why was it built?
  4. When was it built?
  5. In what notable battles, operations, or wars was the base or fortress involved?
  6. If the base or fortress no longer exists, when was it demolished or deactivated and why?

The article can be structured along these lines:

  1. The base or fort's background. What events led to the need for a new fortress or base?
  2. The planning and construction of the fort or base. Who built it? What were its physical features and what problems arose during construction? Consider the surrounding terrain and other potentially hostile conditions, including opposition to its construction.
  3. The base or fort's history. After it was built, how did the base serve its builders? What purpose did it serve, and how effective was it in that role? Was it involved in any battles or provide a supporting role to an army or unit? What units were stationed at the base, and who were its commanders?
  4. If the base or fort still exists, what is its purpose and condition? Who is in charge of the base? What are the politics surrounding it?
  5. If the base or fort no longer exists, what happened to its site? Has it been turned over to commercial use, another military, or converted to park land?


The opening paragraph (or lead section) should concisely convey:

  1. The highest rank achieved (generally though, only for ranks equivalent to Major and above), the person's common name and postnominals in the lead sentence.
  2. The basis for the person's notability. See WP:GNG and WP:SOLDIER for guidance on this.
  3. The war or wars they served in.
  4. Specific mention of high awards, such as the Medal of Honor, Param Vir Chakra, or Victoria Cross along with the battle they were earned in.

The article can be structured along these lines:

  1. Early life before military service. Include details of parents, notable siblings or other relatives, schooling and prior employment.
  2. Service life. Including sections or subsections for each war or distinct period of service, detailing what battles they were involved in and their impact on each battle where relevant, and any wounds and awards received.
  3. Post-service life. Including any later non-military employment or activities, retirement and death.
  4. Awards and dates of promotions may be incorporated into the body at the appropriate chronological points, but may also be listed in separate subsections for ease of reference.
  5. Where relevant, for flying aces or submarine captains, for example, it may be appropriate to include a table listing their victories, but depending on its size in comparison to the rest of the article, consideration should be given to collapsing it.

It is very important that biographies of military personnel are placed into their wider military and social context. In a military sense, the contribution an individual made to a military campaign should be explained in a neutral way, including the wider context of military operations, not just the individual's combat decisions or actions. The social context should include, but is not limited to, how the individual fitted into the political, religious, economic, and ethical context of the time. Where high quality reliable sources refer to a person's political or ideological views these should be included. If an individual has been alleged to have been involved in breaches of the law of war, these allegations should also be included, along with the results of any legal action taken against them.

Popular cultureEdit

See also the specific guidelines for firearms and popular culture.

"In popular culture" sections should be avoided unless the subject has had a well-cited and notable impact on popular culture. Any popular culture reference being considered for inclusion must be attributed to a reliable secondary source for the article topic. Items meeting these requirements should typically be worked into the text of the article; a separate section for popular culture items, and in particular the following, should be avoided:

  • Compendiums of every trivial appearance of the subject in pop culture (trivia)
  • Unsupported speculation about cultural significance or fictional likenesses (original research)

This tends to be a particular problem in articles on military hardware (weapons, vehicles, and so forth); for example, the Mauser K98 and the M1 Garand may appear in any World War II film, and their many appearances don't warrant an exhaustive list. On the other hand, a discussion of the Webley representing a stereotypical British revolver, or a conceptual artist's public response to the symbolism of the East European tank monument, is certainly notable.

The following text may be inserted as a hidden comment into military history articles:

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The subject of this article has appeared in popular cultural contexts such as films, video games, novels, strip cartoons, and the like. These are mostly trivial mentions, and listing them adds no value to the encyclopedic treatment of the subject.

Before adding items to this section, please read [[Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Content guide#Popular culture]]. Additions that appear to be insignificant and/or are not attributed to a reliable source WILL be removed.

If an item you have added has been removed and you wish to contest its removal, please start a discussion on this article's talk page proposing that it be restored.

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