Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: The End of the Second World War in Europe and the Transition to Peace
Abstract: The theme of this panel is discovering new ways to view three key events at the end of the Second World War in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) as well as the implications these events had on the impending peace. The role of cigarettes, the impact of J. Lawton Collins, and the performance of the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) all contributed in their own way and to varying degrees to Allied victory in the ETO. In addition to discussing these war-winning contributions, each paper will address an aspect of the post-war world. For example, before the war was even over, the US cigarette industry was predicting the role of cigarettes in post-war Europe (which included half-a-billion dollars for cigarettes to "rebuild" the continent). Likewise, J. Lawton Collins played an important role in the capture of Cologne, a city whose rebuilding is indicative (yet not widely known) of American post-war activity. Finally, the official histories which emerged at the end of the war tell a different story of USAAF efforts than does the historiography which emerged decades later. In each of these case studies, popular memory is inadequate. This panel seeks to uncover and clarify the memory of three key events at the end of the war in Europe.
Jared Dockery, Harding University
Participant's Paper Title: J. Lawton Collins and VII Corps' Capture of Cologne during World War II
Participant's Paper Abstract: During the Second World War, J. Lawton Collins led the U.S. 25th Division at Guadalcanal, then switched to the European Theater to command VII Corps in Europe. His forces landed at Utah Beach, captured Cherbourg, broke out of the Normandy beachhead at Coutances, and captured the German cities of Aachen and Cologne. After the war, he served as the Army Chief of Staff from 1949 to 1953, then in 1954 went to Vietnam on a special eyes-and-ears mission for President Eisenhower.
I propose to present a paper which will focus upon the capture of Cologne by VII Corps in March 1945. Collins utilized all four of his divisions ? the 8th, 99th, and 104th Infantry Divisions as well as the 3rd Armored Division ? in his operation against the city. I want to examine the city's capture from an operational standpoint, but I also wish to explore it from a cultural angle, as well. Cologne is famous for its twin-spired cathedral. Collins, who was both a sincere Catholic and a very cultured man, was relieved to find the cathedral still standing when his troops occupied the ravaged city (and, for that matter, was likewise relieved that his men were able to capture Aachen and Marburg without destroying the cathedrals in those towns, as well.) I plan to close the paper by addressing the repair of the Cologne cathedral and the rebuilding of the city.
This paper represents a continuation of my research into Collins's life. My dissertation concentrated on his World War II service, and I am working toward a full-length, scholarly biography.
George B. Eaton, US Army Sustainment Command
Joel R. Bius, Air Command and Staff College
Participant's Paper Title: The Soldier and the Cigarette in War and Peace
Participant's Paper Abstract: The role of wars and the military in establishing American cigarette smoking culture has often gone unrecognized. This paper argues that the GI smoker was at the heart of that culture, not only as a state sponsored-cigarette customer, but as a walking advertisement for the cigarette industry. Tom Brokaw once labeled the generation of Americans who fought in WWII the "greatest generation." To this, one could add that they were the greatest generation of smokers. By 1944, the Army's official policy, codified in War Department Circular 285, gave soldiers access to 12 free cigarettes per day as part of their rations, plus one additional pack (16 cigarettes) for purchase. However, field commanders took cigarettes designated for sale and placed them in the ration accessory packs assembled in theatre. In practice, therefore, every soldier was authorized, on average, anywhere from 12 to 28 free cigarettes per day, not including gift cigarettes that the American public supplied. Considering the American per capita consumption rate in 1940 was five cigarettes per day, this is an astonishingly high figure.
This had profound implications at home and abroad as the nation transitioned from war to peace. First, a domestic shortage occurred because of the nearly 350 billion cigarettes provided soldiers during the war. Second, the industry projected record production in 1945 to meet the requirements of smokers on the battlefield and in the factories - cigarettes were a strategic issue of consequence. Finally, the industry was already anticipating peace and the role American cigarettes would play in rebuilding Europe. Joseph Kolodny, a lobbyist for cigarettes, said that as a result of all the "missionary work" being done by the "men of the armed forces . . . with their omnipresent cigarette," cigarettes would have an ongoing role in Europe after the war. In essence, he was predicting the role of cigarettes in the Marshall Plan, which included half-a-billion dollars for cigarettes to "rebuild" Europe. This paper presents cigarettes as venues to understanding important strategic, cultural, and international relations aspects of WWII.
Sean P. Klimek, Air Command and Staff College
Participant's Paper Title: Outstanding Performance: US Army Air Forces in Operation Varsity
Participant's Paper Abstract: This paper analyzes the contributions of the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) during Operation Varsity. Troop transport pilots and crews of the USAAF are often portrayed in popular memory as bumbling idiots. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, these men performed bravely and competently despite inadequate training and resources. This paper seeks to correct an historical inaccuracy about the performance of USAAF aircrew during airborne operations in the ETO. Operation Varsity represents a culmination of aircrew persistence and outstanding performance. From the first US airborne operations in North Africa until Operation Varsity, the USAAF was in a constant state of adaptive learning. Astonishingly, this organization-level learning and improvement took place in spite of infrequent and inconsistent training and despite a constant lack of resources. As such, the men who flew troop carriers deserve the bulk of recognition for airborne successes. Not surprisingly, amateur and professional historians alike have emphasized the efforts and bravery of the paratroopers who jumped out of the troop transports at the expense of the aircrews who delivered them. Some historians simply, and perhaps innocently, overlook the aircrews. To others, the aircrews represent a scapegoat (or a type of strawman) for flawed airborne plans and/or operations. This lack of recognition is particularly surprising considering the commentaries in the years immediately following the end of hostilities favored a positive interpretation of pilots and crews. A contradiction, therefore, exists between the post-war official histories and the historiography which emerged much later. This paper seeks to expose and rectify these inconsistencies.
Michael E. Weaver, Air Command and Staff College

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