Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Notability guide
This page is an essay on notability. It contains the advice and/or opinions of one or more WikiProjects on how notability may be interpreted within their area of interest.
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The Military history WikiProject's notability guide is intended to provide recommendations regarding the notability of topics within the scope of the project. Areas covered include events, people and units/formations. The key to determining notability is ultimately coverage in independent sources per the general notability guideline, although the following is provided to give a general understanding of who, or what, is likely to meet the site-wide notability requirements for creation as a stand-alone article.
In general, an event is presumed to be notable if it has received significant coverage in independent, reliable sources. However, determining whether an event should have a stand-alone article (and, if so, what the title of that article should be), or should be mentioned in an existing article (and, if so, which article), can be a more nuanced decision. The evolving nature of warfare has meant that an event that might have been classified as a minor skirmish in the past might now be called a battle; at the same time, not every exchange of fire, IED strike, or bombing needs to be documented, either as a stand-alone topic or within a larger article.
Editorial discretion is required, particularly as media coverage is more prevalent than in the past, meaning that even minor incidents in current conflicts may receive significant press coverage. There are various options for writing about minor incidents; some will warrant stand-alone coverage (in an article titled "Battle of X", "Attack on X", or some other variation), while others can be sufficiently described in a section of an existing article on an overarching battle, campaign or conflict, and can be included there using a summary style of writing. Where an event does not have a specific name that has been accepted by reliable sources, it is more likely that it should be covered in an existing article about a higher-level operation, rather than in a stand-alone article.
In cases where the participating military units have their own articles, it may be appropriate to include mention of a minor incident there, albeit in a manner that does not breach the rules on undue weight.
In general, an individual is presumed to be notable if they have received significant coverage in multiple verifiable independent, reliable sources. It is presumed that individuals will almost always have sufficient coverage to qualify if they:
- Were awarded their nation's highest award for valour, or were awarded their nation's second-highest award for valour (such as the Navy Cross) multiple times; or
- Held a rank considered to be a flag, general or air officer, or their historical equivalents; or
- Held the top-level military command position of their nation's armed forces (such as Chief of the General Staff), or of a department thereof (such as Chief of Army Staff); or
- Played an important role in a significant military event such as a major battle or campaign; or
- Commanded a substantial body of troops in combat (e.g. a capital ship, an army division or higher, a Commonwealth air group, United States air wing, Soviet/Russian aviation division, or other historical air formation of equivalent size, generally two levels above a squadron); or
- Made a material contribution to military science that is indisputably attributed to them; or
- Were the undisputed inventor of a form of military technology which significantly changed the nature of or conduct of war; or
- Were recognized by their peers as an authoritative source on military matters/writing.
Conversely, any person who is only mentioned in genealogical records or family histories, or is traceable only through primary documents, is not notable. Likewise, those who are only mentioned in passing in reliable secondary sources should not be considered notable for the purposes of a stand-alone article, although, depending upon the circumstances, they may warrant mention within an existing article or list. In determining this, the breadth of coverage should be considered. If, for instance, there is enough information in reliable sources to include details about a person's birth, personal life, education and military career, then they most likely warrant a stand-alone article. If this information is not available, then inclusion in a parent article or list is probably the best approach rather than a stand-alone article. As with all other editorial decisions, consensus should be sought where there is uncertainty in this regard.
It is important to note that a person who does not meet the criteria mentioned above is not necessarily non-notable; ultimately, this determination must be made based on the availability of significant coverage in independent, secondary sources. For example, Teddy Sheean, despite having only received a relatively low-level military decoration, is notable per the guidance set out in the WP:GNG due to the level of coverage he has received in reliable sources.
Units and formationsEdit
As for any subject on Wikipedia, presumption of notability for a military unit or formation depends wholly on the existence of significant coverage in multiple reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject. The consensus within the Military history WikiProject is that the following types of units and formations are likely, but not certain, to have such coverage and therefore likely, but not certain, to be suitable for inclusion:
- National armed forces or branches thereof. Examples include Canadian Forces, People's Liberation Army Navy, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Marines, Special Republican Guard and United States Army;
- Higher level land forces command formations, such as regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, and armies, or their historical equivalents. Examples include 2nd Brigade (Australia), 1st Infantry Division (Germany), I ANZAC Corps and Eighth Army (United Kingdom);
- Land forces units that are capable of undertaking significant, or independent, military operations (including combat, combat support and combat service support units). Examples include battalion-level or equivalent units such as 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and 21st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry;
- Warships, including submarines, commissioned in recognised naval forces. Examples include HMAS Sydney, USS Enterprise and SMS Blücher;
- Civilian vessels serving as auxiliary warships are notable in the same way as commissioned warships. Otherwise, a civilian vessel's notability is derived from participation in a notable naval action or association with an otherwise notable military figure. Examples include SS Ohio, RMS Lusitania and Queen Anne's Revenge;
- Higher level naval command formations, such as flotillas, squadrons and fleets. Examples include Caspian Flotilla, West Africa Squadron and United States Seventh Fleet; and
- Air force, naval, or marine aviation squadrons, wings, groups, and commands. Examples include No. 1 Squadron RAF, No. 1 Wing RAAF, No. 6 Group RCAF, 16th Air Army and Western Air Command, Indian Air Force.
As a general rule, sub-units that exist below the level of those formations or units listed above—such as sections, platoons, troops, batteries, companies, and flights—are not intrinsically notable. Such information as can be suitably sourced should normally be included, with appropriate focus, in an article about a notable parent formation. Rarely, some sub-units will meet Wikipedia's general notability requirements. These however will be exceptional cases, such as E Company, 506th Infantry Regiment (United States), which is notable because it was the subject of a best-selling and detailed book and TV miniseries.
The requirement for "significant coverage in multiple reliable secondary sources independent of the subject" can be met through published books, journal articles, newspaper articles, and/or reputable websites that discuss in depth the units and their involvement in significant military operations. It does not include websites, newsletters and webcasts published by a unit itself about itself, its actions or personnel, or other non-independent agencies (such as a parent formation).
While usually acceptable as sources for content, material published by armed forces, individual branches, or historical divisions (such as the USN's Naval History & Heritage Command or United States Army Center of Military History) should generally not be used as the only evidence towards a subject's notability or determining whether it should have a stand-alone article. Exceptions to this rule may be possible where it can be established that these works are reliable per the established guidelines and provide significant coverage of the subject.
Significant coverage does not equate to multiple passing mentions in otherwise suitable sources; however, once notability has been otherwise established, it is acceptable to use such sources in constructing an article, per relevant guidelines on reliable sources. Additionally, while secondary sources should be used to establish notability, primary sources can also be consulted once notability has been established, so long as they are used in accordance with the restrictions set out in the rules on primary sources.
- What constitutes the "highest" award has been the subject of debate on Wikipedia. Some awards, such as the Légion d'Honneur and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, are/were bestowed in different grades and/or have civil and military versions. For the purpose of this notability guide it is considered that only the highest military grade of such awards is likely to result in significant coverage to confer notability, although the case of recipients of lower grades needs to be considered carefully as some will potentially have this coverage also, while even some recipients of the highest grade may not. A discussion regarding awards with multiple grades can be found here.
- For example cohorts, legions or alae or medieval mercenary companies, such as the Catalan Company.
- The availability of sources on different sized units, and hence the intrinsic notability of the unit, can vary from country to country. For example, in Australia most infantry battalions have had at least one detailed book published about them along with a high degree of coverage in various official histories. In other countries with larger military forces, such in depth coverage for similar sized units may not exist. In deletion discussions here and here, battalion-level units were deemed not to be notable due to a lack of suitable coverage.
- Precedents were set for this in deletion discussions here and here, where it was held that information contained in such articles should be merged with the units' parent formations.