Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Ideology, Race, and War: American Perspectives
Abstract: The intersection of race and ideology is nefarious for historical cases where conflict, repression, and terror were condoned on racial grounds. But war and armed forces can affect this interaction in variable and multifaceted ways. Ideologies than are overtly racial, for example, can be supported, or challenged, by the military service of distinct groups. For others, questions of race and conflict test how to realize, implement, or achieve professed ideals.
This panel uses historical cases from North America, and involving U.S. forces abroad, to explore how war, conflict, and military forces have shaped the relationship between race and ideology. These include Matthew Muehlbauer's examination of when, and how, just war tenets were applied by early Puritan colonists in their relations with native peoples; David Krueger's analysis of "Indian companies" as a means to advance an agenda of assimilation and pacification of indigenous groups in the late-nineteenth century - and the resistance it produced; Amanda Nagel's study of how the service of African-American soldiers in World War I inspired black leaders to develop and advance a concept of "military citizenship" to challenge prevailing racial prejudice and repression in the U.S.; and Casey Doss' scrutiny of the popular outcry against the Roosevelt administration when its dealings with Vichy French officials seemed to belie its commitment to publically expressed ideals for fighting World War II - and the lack of such scrutiny regarding the U.S. Army's treatment of local populations in North Africa.
Matthew Muehlbauer, United States Military Academy
Participant's Paper Title: Defending the City on the Hill: Holy War and Just War in Early New England, 1630-55
Participant's Paper Abstract: One of the most infamous episodes in early colonial history is the destruction of Mystic village by English forces during the Pequot War of 1636-37. After the fact, English treatments of this episode used holy war arguments to justify the carnage. But Puritan leaders were familiar with just war concepts, and those in Massachusetts Bay may have attempted to abide by them in the months preceding the conflict. The paper will examine this evidence and review the complex reasons the war's outbreak. Moreover, it will argue that in the years after the Pequot War, just war tenets played a greater role in colonial decisions for war and peace. Massachusetts Bay, in particular, used this doctrine to argue against pre-emptive action against native peoples when New England faced rumors of Indian attack in the early 1640's; and to prevent an invasion of New Netherland during the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-54). In addition, when on the verge of war with the Narragansetts in 1645, instructions regarding the conduct of New England troops demonstrated much greater restraint relative to the events of the Pequot War. Finally, the presentation will review the debates and disagreements among the Puritan colonies regarding decisions to use force, and those instances when just war theory was employed incorrectly
David Krueger, United States Military Academy
Participant's Paper Title: "The cheapest and best insurance": The Logic of Indian Companies in the United States Army, 1891-1897
Participant's Paper Abstract: The years of 1891-1897 are often viewed as a moment of transition for the United States Army, when its role pivoted from continental consolidation to projecting power overseas. Army officers and soldiers stationed across the American West, however, continued the task which had defined their mission for the previous half-century: reconstructing the people and territory of the continental United States into an American nation. Over these six years, the army attempted to consolidate recruits from tribal reservations into ethnically homogeneous "Indian Companies" under white officers. I argue that this brief experiment was not an aberration, but a culmination of a developing imperial logic linking territorial expansion and incorporation with the concepts of civilization and citizenship through military service. While the plan's supporters frequently highlighted the martial skills of particular tribes or compared them to colonial ethnic troops of European empires, contemporary observations suggest that military capabilities were an ancillary concern, that the greater purpose of forming these units was to enlist, educate, and employ native soldiers as agents for the transformation and pacification of their own tribes. Using official reports alongside the petitions and military records of the Native American soldiers themselves, this work seeks to highlight the tensions between the assimilationist visions of Army reformers and the efforts of the soldiers to negotiate the terms and significance of their service.
Amanda Nagel, United States Military Academy
Participant's Paper Title: "Our boys have gone to France": Race, Ideology, and Military Citizenship during World War I
Participant's Paper Abstract: In the last fifteen years, historians have revealed the critical role of race ideologies in guiding American interpretations of citizenship. We know far more about the transformation of citizenship during the World War I era than ever before. While historians have examined these new interpretations both in American civilian and military life, we have yet to identify a concrete methodological terminology that encompasses the transition of American citizenship via military service during the World War I era. This presentation examines the concept of what I have termed military citizenship in relation to World War I, focusing on the indirect relationship between African American military personnel and race leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois as well as organizations like the NAACP. It argues that soldiers and activists including Du Bois sought permanence to the military citizenship African American soldiers accessed while in a United States Army uniform. Leading NAACP members strove to transform definitions of American citizenship for people of color in the United States, providing new avenues toward equality. African American soldiers, having experienced a fuller citizenship than ever before while enlisted in the United States Army, also pursued maintaining their military citizenship after their discharges. In many ways, military citizenship explains the rise in soldier activism during and after World War I, setting a precedent for the Double V Campaign of World War II and continued soldier activism. The unprecedented access to military citizenship for African American soldiers reinforced their determination to fight Jim Crow in all its forms during and after World War I, and that determination remained for the next generation of black soldier activists in World War II. Therefore, this examination of race, ideology, and military citizenship will provide a new layer of complexity to African American military participation in the First World War.
J. Doss, United States Military Academy
Participant's Paper Title: Moral Anxiety in North Africa: American Ideology in War, 1942-43
Participant's Paper Abstract: In naming America's enemies during World War II, interventionists described them in ideological terms. Employing a rhetoric of ideals and principles, President Roosevelt justified American interventionism by starkly describing Fascism as a mortal threat to democracy. He ultimately portrayed the war as nothing less than a Manichean contest between civilization and barbarity, good and evil, with an almost apocalyptic outcome if the democracies failed.
Yet while the war's ideological purposes and stakes pervaded public discourse, they were largely absent from strategic decision making. Rather, the War Department sought to insulate the prosecution of the war from the deeper contest between democracy and fascism, and to concentrate instead on the best and most rapid way to defeat the enemy. The government?to include the War Department? presented the war as a moral contest, but strategically the War Department pursued a path of expediency.
The gap between governmental rhetoric and strategic action became most apparent in occupation policies, which marked the interstice between war and peace. During the North African campaign this revealed bureaucratic tensions within the government, but it also created moral anxiety within the American people. While the government appealed to expediency to justify its policies in North Africa, many members of the American public denounced the apparent appeasement of quislings and suspected the government of illiberalism.
Interestingly, however, while the American relationship with collaborationist Vichy officials fostered an uneasy dissonance within the public sphere, there was much less concern over the American reinforcement of French colonialism in North Africa. Despite professed American anticolonialism, racialized views of North Africans helped stifle the demand for social intervention into France's colonial system. This paper will thus examine these dynamics.
Bobby Wintermute, CUNY - Queens College