85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History
Landscapes of War and Peace
April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky
Title: Warfare and the Media: From World War Two to the Persian Gulf
Michael Rouland, Headquarters, Department of the Army
Michael Bulfin, Lewis University
Participant's Paper Title: The Screenification of Conflict: Jean Baudrillard, Virtuality, & the Impending Death of Proximal Warfare
Participant's Paper Abstract: This paper uses French theorist Jean Baudrillard's essays The Gulf War Did Not Take Place to explore Baudrillard's theoretical arguments about war in the 21st century where physical conflicts play our virtually. As war-making technologies allow the West to conduct virtualized warfare from across the globe, Baudrillard's ideas on hyperreality, screen wars, and the power of the image have radically reconceptualized what can be known as 'war'. It begins by explaining what Baudrillard meant by penning The Gulf War Did Not Take Place essays. Baudrillard did not deny that some type of physical conflict occurred in the First Persian Gulf War. Rather, Baudrillard challenged the West to prove a 'war' actually happened by questioning the reality of a war that was conducted with overwhelming force from a safe distance and consumed by the Western public almost entirely via mediated screen images. For the viewing public, this screenified war became more 'real' as the accepted reality of the conflict than what was happening on the ground. This paper then surmises what happens when screenified images, via news, movies, or video games become more real, as accepted accounts of what happened/is happening, than physical war events. Using Baudrillard's media theories this paper makes a theoretical argument that new technologies have nearly eliminated the need for physical proximity in conflict, and that a new theorization of 'landscapes of war' is needed. It concludes with Baudrillard's ideas about war fought via images, and if hot (proximal) physical warfare can be the response to cold distantiated semiotic conflict.
Sarah Miller, Texas Christian University
Participant's Paper Title: Capturing Warfare: Censorship in the Work of Vietnam War Photographers
Participant's Paper Abstract: Photographers and the images they captured during the Vietnam War contributed to the narrative of the war presented to the public in the United States. Military photographers often had specific day to day tasks they had to photograph for collection and documentary purposes, as well as to gather and disseminate intelligence amongst different units throughout the country. Yet, photographers in the press were less censored and tended to photograph moments to capture the horrors of war, and evoke emotion in their viewers stateside. Transparency differed between the two groups of photographers, whether for security purposes or perhaps to intentionally change the perception of United States military successes. Photographers that worked for the Department of the Army Special Photographic Office had different orders than those who worked for the Associated Press, the New York Times, and other publications, but both entities had the power to control the visual landscape of the American war experience through honest, staged or omitted depictions of the war. Photography evoked emotions and had the ability to change people's minds about the morality of warfare. This could drastically affect morale in-country and stateside, and therefore civilian and military photography outfits began to develop diverging concepts of what war photography should entail as the United States' involvement in Vietnam intensified. Military photography had always been purposeful but became more censored as the press began to capture more visceral moments that depicted combat and its impact on soldiers and Vietnamese citizens. Ultimately, the landscape of censorship was changing and Vietnam War photography is a representation of this phenomenon as well as a depiction of the American people's fight for truth during a war full of rumors and misdirection.
Kendall Cosley, Marquette University
Participant's Paper Title: "These are thrilling times!": The Associated Press and American Neutrality from 1937 to 1941
Participant's Paper Abstract: American neutrality during the interwar period has long captivated historians across the globe. Despite the vast scholarship investigating the political, economic, and social causes for the neutrality, a noticeable gap remains. The historiography lacks studies analyzing the experience of Americans living in Germany during the buildup to World War II and their sentiments on American isolationism. My paper closes that gap in scholarship by examining how American correspondents living in Berlin from 1937-1941 felt about American neutrality and their views on the United States joining the war. I focus on two Associated Press Correspondents, Edwin A. Shanke and Louis P. Lochner. Shanke and Lochner wrote personal letters home to their families which reveal their feelings on the state of Europe and the progression of the war. Their positions as journalists gave these two correspondents the unique opportunity to play witness to some of the most iconic events of the era. They lived in the heart of the German war machine in Berlin and experienced the devastation of the war firsthand. I argue that the excitement and fascination of the war's progress did not stop the AP reporters from acknowledging the horrible consequences of total warfare. The correspondents' support of American neutrality was not a callous opposition to the war itself; rather, their experience as correspondents affected their disgust of the war and their desire for their country to avoid the atrocities they witnessed. Examining the way these men experienced Nazi Germany in their daily lives as reporters provides a new angle for analyzing American neutrality during the interwar period.