85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History
Landscapes of War and Peace
April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky
Title: Fit to Fight? War, Medicine, and Disease
Marion Dorsey, University of New Hampshire
Jessica Adler, Florida International University
Will Walker, Arkansas State University
Participant's Paper Title: The Epidemiological Landscape of American Defeat in the Philippines, 1942
Participant's Paper Abstract: On April 9, 1942, approximately 78,000 American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army on the Bataan peninsula in the Philippine Islands. Over three months of stern defense without replenishment of food, supplies, and medicine had taxed the besieged army to the brink of disintegration. In March the food shortage became severely acute with the daily ration dropping to only 1000 calories per man. Malnutrition and lack of medicine ushered in the beginning of disease and exhaustion. In the following three weeks, the prisoners were herded on foot by Japanese soldiers up the peninsula to their first major concentration area, Camp O'Donnell. The trek took a devastating toll on the prisoners and later came to be known as the Bataan Death March. It is estimated that 650 Americans and over 5,000 Filipinos died on the march. During the next three months American POWs from both Bataan and Corregidor were concentrated at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan #1 where they suffered from malnutrition, tropical disease, and starvation, and it was also during these three months that the rate of death was the highest, with thousands of prisoners succumbing to the horrendous conditions. Nearly one hundred percent of the POW deaths during this period were men from Bataan units. The proposed paper will discuss the epidemiological landscape of American defeat in the Philippines in the opening months of World War II, and explain why the death rate surged into the thousands during the first several months of captivity. It will also seek to explain why these rates gradually dropped between August-December 1942 at the main American POW concentration camp, Cabanatuan #1. The first three months of 1943 saw the death rate drop to single digits where it would remain for the rest of the camp's existence.
Kari Boyd, The University of Alabama
Participant's Paper Title: Fruitless Endeavors and Unhealthy Environs: Understanding the Influences of Landscape and the Environment on American Soldier Morale, 1898-1902
Participant's Paper Abstract: The 2nd Louisiana Volunteers, nicknamed the 'Immunes' for their hardiness during training, proved to be anything but after spending two months camped on the putrid soil of the Almeda in Santiago de Cuba. Once a vibrant unit of virile young men, they quickly fell victim to yellow fever, dysentery, and listlessness trapped in a city under quarantine and dying at a rate of two soldiers a day without ever meeting the enemy. The experiences of the 2nd Immunes in Cuba reveal a disconnect between volunteers' expectations of military service and the government's plans on using them in combat. Unhealthy environments served only to exacerbate soldiers' feelings of misuse, particularly in camps that they believed were temporary stops on the way to the front. For volunteers that joined the service in anticipation of seeing battle and never left American soil, the rolling hills of Chickamauga and the sandy shores of Tampa Bay hastened soldiers desires to return home as they felt increasingly more trapped and betrayed by the government. When it became clear to these men that the front would never be reached, many soldiers actively searched for adventures away from camp, hoping to escape the boredom and disease. Lack of combat also quickly wore away the enthusiasm and adventure many soldiers felt as they left home to travel to new and exotic landscapes. Even among men that saw combat during the Philippine-American war, marches through thick jungle, punishing mountain trails, and isolated barrios rarely brought them face to face with an enemy and the islands quickly lost their feeling of paradise. Ultimately, the military experiences of many of the volunteers between 1898-1902 left them feeling unfulfilled and misled by the government, trapped in deadly environments, and anxious to find meaning and purpose in their military service.
Ryan Booth, Washington State University
Participant's Paper Title: Catalyst for Conflict: Martial Race Theory & Native Americans in the Great War
Participant's Paper Abstract: The Great War represented a watershed moment for Native Americans. Beyond the clash of military empires on battlefields, the oft-written about trenches and chemical warfare, another war existed. It was also a war within indigenous peoples in the U.S. However, this war was not without corollaries across the globe. Many indigenous peoples experienced martial race theory at home and abroad. Martial race theory, a prevalent idea at the turn of the twentieth century, held that certain groups of men were more warlike than others. If empires could marshal those martial people, they could rule the world. This outward projection of indigenous prowess by the American military was intended to instill fear in America's enemies. The notion of martial races also influenced the decisions of commanders in the field about how to best use Native Americans on the battlefield. Native soldiers were more likely to serve as scouts for their units. Indian scouts had played an official role within the U.S. Army since 1866 so the role was considered natural to all Native Americans. The U.S. Army even developed special tests during World War I to prove that Indians were superior scouts and played on those abilities to terrify the Germans in a misinformation campaign. With the Armistice, a new identity emerged for Native Americans across the country and began a new push for great autonomy in their own affairs.