Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Coalition Warfare from the Confederacy to World War II in the Pacific
James Thomas, Northwest College-HCCS
Peter Dean, The University of Western Australia
Participant's Paper Title: MacArthur's Command: Coalition Warfare in the Southwest Pacific 1942-45
Participant's Paper Abstract: In early 1942 General Douglas MacArthur was ordered out of the Philippines to Australia to take command of the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA). On arrival in Australia MacArthur became the head of a coalition war effort formed around an 'alliance' of Dutch, Australian, and American forces. Due to Nazi occupation of Holland and Dutch defeats in the East Indies in relativity this partnership was effectively a bilateral coalition between the United States and Australia. Despite orders from Washington D.C. to form an integrated coalition command structure MacArthur systematically worked to ensure the dominance of his personal leadership position in the theatre and that of his US Army headquarters (GHQ). This paper details the structure, approach and command system that MacArthur established in the SWPA in order to ensure his authority over his Australia coalition partners. It details MacArthur's approach to cementing a strategic partnership with the Australian government and assesses his unrelenting approach to sidelining Australian leadership and influence at the operational level of war. Drawing on detailed archival research from three continents this paper uses examples from across the span of the Pacific War to outline the nature of the command system in the SWPA. It argues that MacArthur provided a 'master class' on strategic and operational control in the SWPA to affect his own strategic ends. MacArthur was able to set himself up as the 'Field Marshal of the Australian military' to effectively exploit the economic and military assists of the Australia to further his strategic aims while minimizing Australian influence on his strategic goals and operational plans.
Jesse Pyles, Independent Scholar
Participant's Paper Title: British Fictions: The Uncovered History of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps and the Battle of the Lys, 1914-1918
Participant's Paper Abstract: Anglophone authors who have contributed to the Great War historiography of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps have asserted that General Sir Henry Horne's First Army lost the Battle of the Lys?the second major battle of the German army's Spring Offensive, fought on 9 April 1918?because 13,000 or more Portuguese soldiers?as if in unison?abandoned their weapons and fled the field in disarray, before German infantry attacked. Archival evidence that supports this narrative, however, does not exist. Within this void we find the conjectures of a few British officers who served on the battlefield and who had strong incentives to disguise how the battle developed, and why. British archival and other primary source records reveal that the prevailing narrative of the Portuguese Corps' service in France rests upon fictions. Indeed, archival records are clear: senior British commanders, including Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, scapegoated the Portuguese to cover for their own discomfiture, and very few have questioned whether their account was true. Why did the conjectures and fabrications of British officers quickly coalesce into an ostensibly decisive account of Portuguese ineptitude and cowardice that resulted in the tactical defeat of a British army? British officers sought to explain a second consecutive thrashing inflicted by German forces and longstanding beliefs of intrinsic cultural superiority combined to make it possible. The proposed paper will examine British conjectures and myths regarding the Portuguese Corps' service in France, particularly during the Battle of the Lys, and how sociocultural prejudices influenced the ways in which British officers and officials perceived of and interacted with their Portuguese allies. It will also examine the decisive hours of the least studied major Western Front battle of the Great War.
James Tindle, Kansas State University
Participant's Paper Title: A Treaty of Peace and Friendship: Stand Watie and the Confederacy during the Civil War
Participant's Paper Abstract: This paper examines the Confederacy's military relationship with the Cherokee Nation during the American Civil War, focusing specifically on the interactions between Principal Chief Stand Watie and his non-Cherokee comrades. As leader of the largest tribe to join the Confederacy, and also as the only Native American to achieve the rank of Brigadier General on either side, Watie's military career provides an excellent case study for the projects' central questions, which include: Did Southern officers have qualms about fighting alongside Native American troops? What did the commanders on both side of this partnership say about their counterparts? Who benefited from this relationship? Sources for the project include battle reports from several major engagements involving Cherokee forces, promotion reports and recommendations for General Watie, documents relating to treaties and agreements between the two nations, and official correspondence from the Confederacy regarding military policy in Indian Territory. The battle reports will discuss the performance of native troops, and will also reveal how white officers viewed the effectiveness of these units. The promotion reports will yield insight into the reasons behind Watie's rise through the ranks, and will also expose any special treatment for his career, positive or negative. The treaty documents and official correspondence not only demonstrate the nature of the relationship between the Confederacy and the Cherokees at the state level, but also provide information on Southern motivations for instigating the partnership in the first place. Studying these sources and investigating these questions has relevance both for specialists in the field as well as for non-experts. Evaluating this unusual relationship will not only provide a better understanding of Native Americans' participation in the Civil War, but will also give a deeper understanding of the way Americans waged war in the nineteenth century.

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