85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History
Landscapes of War and Peace
April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky
Dr. Joseph Stoltz examines French motivations in their participation in the American Revolutionary war. Far from merely combatting the same antagonist, the French monarchy also deployed considerable ground and naval combat power to the American continent. In "Old World Politics, New World Players: French Government Advisors in the American War of Independence," Stoltz finds they did so "to strengthen their advisory position" with a fledgling and presumably impressionable new national partner.
Dr. Jay Varoulo's paper, "The Northern Russian Expedition, Balkanization, and the Failed State," outlines how Entente and US forces arriving in Russia in 1918 at the request of a no longer surviving Provisional Government facilitated Balkanization in the Komi region of northern Russia. Confronted both with the specter of Bolshevism and the question of how and questions of sovereignty, the coalition briefly partnered with sympathetic local nationalists before withdrawing from Russia in 1919. The results suggest that Balkanization merits attention alongside political science theories of trusteeship, shared sovereignty, and institutional approaches.
Dr. Nick Sambaluk explores a different kind of changing coalition landscape in "Indonesia's Occupation of Mississippi: Lend-Lease, the Netherlands East Indies, and the Pacific Theater Coalition in WWII." The 1940 invasion of the Netherlands prompted both the United States and the Dutch colonies toward military preparedness. Japanese invasion displaced the Dutch-Indonesian aircrew training program, and its hosting in the United States constituted an opportunity for the American homeland to participate in coalition building.
Together, these three papers reflect the complexity of coalitions in war and their impact on the landscape, both physical and metaphorical.
Nazi conquest of Holland in 1940 left the then-Netherlands East Indies (NEI) vulnerable to Japanese invasion, and mobilization efforts were still incomplete when Japanese forces invaded in the winter of 1941-42. NEI air crew training was hurriedly evacuated and relocated to headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi, which served as the hub of training for this 700-strong Royal Netherlands Military Flying School (RNMFS) group. This was the fifth largest US-hosted foreign aircrew training program during World War II (behind only that of the British, French, Chinese Nationalists, and Brazilians).
Spanning 21 months from May 1942 to February 1944, the trainees were celebrated by contemporary national media (ranging from the National Broadcasting Company to Walt Disney) as an emblem of the Allied coalition. Furthermore, the RNMFS personnel developed lasting bonds with members of the Jackson community at large and at a person-to-person level. At least 60 of the personnel, 10% of the group, married women they met while training in Mississippi.
While the most prominent elements of the Lend-Lease Program constitute the shipments of trucks, planes, ammunition, and fuel to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, the foreign training programs represent a significant part of American coalition-building at mid-century. The RNMFS in Jackson represent a highlight among the total of nearly 25,000 officers and men from almost 30 countries who received aircrew training in the United States during the war and shows how stateside efforts helped build and maintain the Allied coalition.
This paper will investigate French ambassadorial efforts to influence the military decisions of Congress and various state governments. It will also explore the French military's endeavors to advise the Continental Army on specific strategies and operations. Finally, it will argue that the French deployed their expeditionary force to mainland North America in 1780 to strengthen their advisory position.
Whether French ambassador Anne-César de la Luzerne, navy officers like Jean Baptiste Charles Henri Hector d'Estaing, or the famed army officer Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur de Rochambeau, French officials played an important role in guiding the Americans through the later stages of their war for independence. La Luzerne used the military resources at his disposal to directly influence congressional votes. D'Estaing tried two separate attempts to coordinate naval descents onto the American coast with Continental Army forces. Rochambeau offered the allied army commanding general George Washington valuable advice on numerous occasions that tempered Washington's desire for a faster, but unrealistic, operational tempo.
The French military had a long tradition of advising the military activities of numerous minor European states. That experience was a valuable resource in their alliance with the United States, and played an important part in the allied victory during the American War of Independence.