Six years ago, Lieutenant Colonel Jenns Robertson began tracking down data about every bomb dropped by the armed forces since World War I. After processing thousands of pages of written records and sprawling datasets, Robertson's endeavor has resulted in the THOR database, or the Theater History of Operations Reports, which overlays bomb locations and related data over satellite images.
According to Robertson, researchers can use the THOR database to "pick any place [they] want and look at it in detail" and in real time. The database is proving useful in locating both dangerous un-detonated weapons in previous war zones — like the 456,365 cluster bombs dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia — and in finding the remains of missing pilots and air crew. Historian Chris McDermott said "many of the cases where we have success are in far-flung locations with hazy loss circumstances. Each clue that we can compile from the official records could be the key that assists our team to locate a site.''
consolidating a century of data for historical and humanitarian purposes
Despite THOR's immediate usefulness to historians and military staff members, Robertson still has a lot of work ahead of him. There are large gaps in his timeline not only from missing data, like in the case of the Korean War, but from the thousands of written documents that have yet to be manually converted. Modern digital records are integrating well, however, including operations using cutting-edge technology like aerial drones in Afghanistan and Iraq.