Barsanti Fellow Pursues Cutting-Edge Military History Research

By: 
Jaime Blanton

For Michael Ferguson, the $5,000 award he received as a 2013-2014 Maj. Gen. Olinto Mark Barsanti Graduate Fellow in Military History will allow him the freedom and financial flexibility he needs to complete his doctoral degree.

“The study of military history provides useful insights that help us understand and learn from the past so we can make informed decisions in the future,” he says. “It’s a huge honor to be named a Barsanti Fellow. It’s a recognition of my research; an acknowledgement that I am contributing to society as scholar.”

Ferguson is considered the only scholar in the U.S. conducting oral history interviews with the civilian pilots who flew for Air America, an airline secretly owned by the CIA during the Vietnam War. He says his fellowship funding will make it possible for him to travel to interview more subjects.

Established by donors Bob and Bette Barsanti Sherman, the UNT fellowship honors her late father, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the war in Vietnam. Barsanti is best known as the commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. In his 31-year military career, he earned more than 60 awards, medals and commendations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross and seven Purple Hearts.

The Barsanti Fellowships, awarded by the UNT history department, help UNT’s Military History Center attract the best graduate students in the field, says the center’s deputy director, Michael Leggiere. Renowned for teaching and scholarship, UNT’s Military History Center partners with the U.S. Department of Defense and several branches of the U.S. military to offer military history training to its officers, Leggiere says. The center also offers courses and community lectures, including the 31st annual Alfred and Johanna Hurley Military History Seminar, set for Nov. 2 in UNT’s Gateway Center Ballroom.

Pictured above, Barsanti Fellow Michael Ferguson with a UH-34 helicopter, one of the helicopters used by Air America during the Vietnam War. The history of Air America and its civilian pilots is the subject of Ferguson's research.