Book review: Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S. Army, 1815-1917, by J.P. Clark

J.P. Clark combines his military experience and meticulous research in Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S Army. The book is an insightful combination of military, political, and social history, and describes the evolution of Army officers’ formal education between 1815-1917 in an attempt to contextualise the shift from nineteenth to twentieth century understandings of military proficiency. Continue reading

Book Review: Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen

All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. In ‘Nothing Ever Dies’, Nguyen deals with the extensive ways of knowing and remembering wars in general, and delineates the identity crisis that arises from grappling with what some name the Vietnam War and what others would call the American War in Vietnam. Continue reading

“Coward, take my coward’s hand”: Mudbound (2017) and the legacy of Hollywood’s anti-racist returning veteran films

On a dusty, unpaved main street veteran Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) leaves the local general store serving the outpost Mississippi Delta community near his brother’s farm. Suddenly, he drops to the ground. The noise of a car backfiring has returned him to his recent combat experience as a bomber pilot. As local men eye him suspiciously, help is offered in the form of the outstretched hand of Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell). The offer draws reproach from the onlookers for its disruption of local customs and hierarchy. It is 1946 and, while Jamie is white, Ronsel is black. Continue reading

‘We cast these medals away as symbols of shame, dishonor, and inhumanity’: Veteran Protest and the Rejection of Cold War Patriotism

Part II: Anti-war Activism within the Military

Soldiers returning from the battlefields of World War II were treated as heroes and their sacrifice was celebrated long after their homecoming. By contrast, Vietnam veterans were not similarly welcomed home as champions of democracy. Indeed, some veterans felt there was not any honour in their participation in Vietnam. In 1967, a small group of likeminded veterans – simultaneously upset about the treatment of Vietnam veterans when they returned home and the particularly violent nature of the war – founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Continue reading

‘Still being sent to Nam to protect America’s myths’: Anti-war Soldiering and the Challenge to Cold War Patriotism

Part I: Anti-war Activism within the Military

A 1971 Army study suggests that over 50% of active duty soldiers engaged in some form of dissent during their service. Rejecting popular Cold War patriotic mythology, these activist soldiers deemed the military an authoritarian institution and a tool of oppression wrought by an imperialistic America. In doing so, they challenged the official Cold War depiction of the United States as the protector of global democratic ideals against an evil, totalitarian communist ideology. Continue reading

Book Review: The Good Occupation: American Soldiers and the Hazards of Peace by Susan L. Carruthers

Historical amnesia has created the impression that the reconstruction of Germany and Japan along liberal capitalist lines was a foregone conclusion in 1945. In reality, however, the decision to occupy was a contested question for both Washington’s decision-makers and for soldiers on the ground, many of whom would become reluctant participants in America’s project of democratic nation-building. Continue reading

Book Review: Whiteness on the Border: Mapping the U.S. Racial Imagination in Brown and White by Lee Bebout

The work of Arizona State Associate Professor, Lee Bebout, in Whiteness on the Border is certainly topical. To date, the current U.S. administration plans to build a multi-billion-dollar border wall between Mexico and the U.S., solidifying a line in the sand across which ‘Mexican chaos south of the border must not cross’ (63). Those Americans supporting such a project are likely influenced to varying degrees by the very stereotypes about which Bebout writes. He suggests that theirs ‘is a fear not of military invasion per se but of cultural and biological influence and takeover’ (69). Continue reading

Book review: A Short History of U.S. Interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean by Alan McPherson

In A Short History of U.S. Interventions, part of Wiley-Blackwell’s Viewpoints/Punto de Vista series, Alan McPherson analyses U.S. interventions in Latin America from the No Transfer resolution of 1811 through the present-day drug wars. McPherson argues that the foremost goal of U.S. policymakers was ‘political stability and political cultural change’ (4). Economic and other motivations certainly played a role, but he asserts that every intervention ‘harboured above all political motives’ (4). Continue reading

Review: HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Situating Servicemen and Women: African American Soldiers during World War Two’

‘Winning Minds and Hearts: Constructing National Identity in US History’, HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, Northumbria University, 9 September 2016. In the third of our review series for the HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Winning Minds and Hearts: Constructing National Identity in US History’, Jennifer O’Reilly reviews a panel featuring Rosemary Pearce (University of Nottingham) … Continue reading

In The Fields Of Democracy: The Midwest In World War I

World War I generated a new narrative in American national identity. The easterly crusade to save the Old World, or, in President Wilson’s words, to make the world ‘safe for democracy’, reversed the nation’s foundational movement of western exploration and settlement leading away from Europe.[i] As Joseph Urgo describes it, ‘[t]he close of the old frontier’ was followed by ‘the opening of the global imperial frontier’, inaugurating America’s status as a superpower. Continue reading