Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Landscapes of U.S. Intervention, 1898-1949
Abstract: This panel encompasses four landscapes in which U.S. policy-makers, institutions, diplomats, and military professionals struggled to shape armed interventions. China, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Washington D.C. comprise the diverse settings for three panel papers that address questions on how U.S. officials attempted to manage interventions, how they perceived success and failure, and how intervention experiences influenced the individuals and institutions involved?both on the front lines and in halls of power far from the scenes of armed confrontation.

Jonathan Chavanne's paper examines how individual prejudices and interagency friction hindered U.S. attempts intervene constructively in China after World War II. Marko Stawnyczyj shows how U.S. Marine Corps activities in Cuba during 1898 produced lasting impacts on institutional doctrine and identity well into the twentieth century. In his study of William D. Leahy as military governor in Corinto, Nicaragua during 1912, Scott Mobley gleans how race, ethnicity, nationalism, interventionism, and naval service shaped the worldview of this future presidential advisor and senior World War II commander.

The three papers proposed by this panel bring into sharper focus the complexities, costs (both apparent and hidden), and unintended consequences of U.S. interventions during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By deepening our understanding of U.S. interventionism during the five decades covered by this panel, scholars and policy-makers today might make better-informed choices when questions of intervention arise in the future.
Jonathan Chavanne, United States Naval Academy
Participant's Paper Title: Defense vs State: James Forrestal, George Marshall, and the American Intervention in China, 1945-1949
Participant's Paper Abstract: In the aftermath of the Pacific War, the United States embarked on a complex series of operations in China to stabilize the war-ravaged nation, repatriate Japanese soldiers and civilians, and promote a coalition government between the Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek and the Communists under Mao Zedong. James Forrestal, first as Secretary of the Navy and then as Secretary of Defense in 1947, began to see China as a key flash point in the Cold War in Asia. On a trip to Asia in June of 1946 Forrestal came to view the presence of the U.S. Navy and Marines as critical to the stability of China, a view strengthened by his growing hostility to the Soviet Union. By contrast General George Marshall, who ended his failed diplomatic effort to China in early 1947, had grown weary with further efforts in the region and was less concerned over the dangers of Communism. These differences would result in a series of conflicts and heated disagreements over the future and purpose of the United States in China and its role in propping up the failing Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek.
This paper will discuss and analyze the strong rivalry and service related rift over China between the Department of Defense under Forrestal and the State Department under Marshall. The U.S. Navy had sought to re-establish its longstanding historical presence in China that had been interrupted by the war with Japan. At a time when intra-service rivalry was at its height, differences over China between Marshall and Forrestal symbolized the divide on American policy in East Asia. Forrestal, supported by many senior Navy leaders, sought to keep the United States engaged in China for as long as possible. An understanding of this impasse is critical to any analysis of the early Cold War.
Scott Mobley, United States Naval Academy
Participant's Paper Title: By the Force of Our Arms': William D. Leahy and the U.S. Intervention in Nicaragua, 1912
Participant's Paper Abstract: During the summer of 1912, Lieutenant Commander William D. Leahy teamed up with U.S. Consul James W. Johnson to exercise military rule in Corinto, a city on Nicaragua's northwest Pacific coast. Normally an obscure entrepot, Corinto vaulted to importance as a landscape for intervention and logistics hub supporting over 2,000 U.S. sailors and marines sent ashore to protect American interests and prop up a tottering Nicaraguan regime wracked by internal revolt.

During his six-week tenure as military governor of Corinto, Leahy recorded details and impressions of events, personalities, and U.S. policies in a personal diary. Of particular note are Leahy's commentaries on Consul Johnson, one of a handful of African-American diplomats appointed by the Taft Administration.

This paper takes a fresh look at Leahy's Nicaragua diary through the lens of Critical Theory. Applying techniques recently developed by diplomatic historian Frank Costigiola, the analysis examines Leahy's language, syntax, and use of metaphor to reveal underlying assumptions, agendas, and attitudes. Through this process we obtain a deeper understanding of Leahy's outlooks on race, ethnicity, nationalism, U.S. interventionism, and the naval service. With Leahy's perspectives in mind, the paper then compares them to existing scholarship on U.S. navy culture during the early twentieth century, with some surprisingly nuanced results.

The new insights developed by this paper shed light on the ideas and influence later fostered by Leahy as the nation's first Fleet Admiral, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and informal national security advisor to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman during World War II and the early Cold War.
Mark Belson, United States Naval Academy
James Rentfrow, United States Naval Academy
Marko Stawnyczyj, United States Naval Academy
Participant's Paper Title: The Battle of Cuzco Wells
Participant's Paper Abstract: On June 10, 1898 Lieutenant Colonel Huntington and his Battalion of Marines were the first American forces to land in Cuba and defeat the Spanish forces that opposed them. Although this engagement did not match the operations conducted by the Major General Shafter against the Spanish in the vicinity of Santiago in regards to the size of troops involved and notoriety; the battle of Cuzco Wells and the seizure of Guantanamo Bay arguably served as a turning point in the role the Marines would play in future military operations and set the precedent for advanced base operations.

 The research shows how the battle of Cuzco Wells demonstrates the Marine Corps transformation into an expeditionary force capable of conducting advanced base operations.  In order to explain how this genesis occurs there is a survey of previous Marines Corps operations between 1867 and 1885, ranging from Formosa to Panama.  The paper then examines how Lieutenant Colonel Huntington foresaw the possibility of the Marine Corps assuming advanced base missions and on the onset of America's war with Spain, began training his Battalion for such an operation.  The analysis of the battle demonstrates the strategic, operational and tactical successes of the Marines and their contribution to the War with Spain as well as the lasting institutional contributions to the Navy and Marine Corps. This paper attempts to uncover what lasting impact the landings at Guantanamo Bay had on future war planners and if leaders such as General Elliott who served as a Company Commander at Cuzco Wells and later Commandant of the Marines Corps contributed to the eventual acceptance and formalizing the Marine Corps advanced base operations mission.

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