Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Marine Corps Culture and Warfare
Debra Sheffer, Park University
Sarah Patterson, Florida State University
Participant's Paper Title: Marine Corps Bodies in World War II
Participant's Paper Abstract: Though women entered the Marine Corps initially during World War I, far larger numbers joined the Corps during the Second World War. The increased number of women involved in the Marines, a branch of the military focusing particularly on elite images of masculinity, meant important changes were happening in the perception of the ideal Marine. Bodies were especially good indicators of the shifting masculine ideology within the Corps during this period, as bodies often serve as gendered markers of status and points of negotiation. Christina Jarvis' The Male Body at War makes a compelling argument for the significance of the presentation of male bodies in militarized settings. I build on her work her by looking at the specific portrayal of bodies in the Marine Corps, adding consideration for the presence of Women Marines. The presence of women's bodies in such militarized contexts directly impacted the perception and presentation of men's bodies as well. Aaron O'Connell's Underdogs also influenced my research. His investigation of the intentional ways that Marines present themselves publically highlights the significance of gendered images to the Corps. Additionally, Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, R.W. Connell's Masculinities, and J. Halberstam's Female Masculinities point to the variety of gender expression and the complexity of gender negotiation in public spaces. This paper explores the nuances of how the portrayal of Marine Corps bodies shifted with the increased presence of military women during WWII and examines what that meant for individual Marines and the Corps as a whole.
Earl Catagnus, Valley Forge Military College
Participant's Paper Title: The Amphibious Infantry Mind: Assessing the Impact of World War I on the U.S. Marine Corps' Development of Amphibious Warfare, 1918-1941
Participant's Paper Abstract: The First World War had a profound effect on the U.S. Marine Corps as an institution. After 1918, it was no longer seen as just a small service primarily responsible for policing adventurist American foreign policy. Although small, the Corps was now a proven organization that could manage all the multifarious aspects of a total, industrial war. These included a hasty manpower mobilization program, rapid materiel procurement, deployment and sustainment of relatively large forces abroad, combined arms warfare, and an understanding of the staff coordination and planning required of large-unit action. Senior Marine leaders embraced their newfound institutional knowledge, and were successful in redefining the Corps as an operational-level amphibious warfighting organization. Eventually, the Marine Corps became an integral part of American national defense strategy when it embraced the advanced base mission of the U.S. Navy. By doing this, Marines' military heart was now squarely placed within a naval strategy, one that was a de facto amphibious warfare strategy. Much has been written about the importance of the Marine Corps' attempts to perfect its amphibious warfare techniques during the interwar period. Comparatively little of that discussion, however, placed the Corps' innovation within the larger context of American naval and military developments. Generally, the historical narrative highlights the Corps' 'can-do' attitude and willingness to adapt to accomplish any task assigned to it. Historians looked at Marines as embattled institutional guardians who, through tremendous perseverance and intelligent foresight, entered uncharted, treacherous waters when developing amphibious doctrine and capabilities. This paper will seek to counter that historiographical trend by contextualizing the Corps' amphibious warfare concepts and doctrine development. Amphibious doctrine, tactics, and operations were not revolutionary, but evolutionary. They sprang from a common understanding of battle, the infantry way of battle, which dominated the Army and Marine Corps during the interwar period.
Mark Folse, The University of Alabama
Participant's Paper Title: U.S. Marines, War, and the Changing Landscapes of American Culture, 1914-1924
Participant's Paper Abstract: This paper explores how U.S. Marines navigated the shifting landscapes of American culture in the Great War Era. The gradual change from traditional Victorian proprietary capitalism of the late nineteenth century to corporate and consumer capitalism of the early twentieth altered the culture of the American middle class. What it meant to be a respected American man had changed. While more Americans began to promote a masculine ideal that valued personality, self-expression, and leisure, the Marine Corps held fast to more traditional, older forms of Victorian manhood that praised character, cleanliness, self-restraint, and physical prowess. The Great War, too, provided a significant amount of impetus behind the evolution of American culture. For the most patriotic, war against Germany promised to reinvigorate American manhood, provide a solution to the perceived 'crisis of masculinity' that plagued men of all stripes who succumbed to the newer, more 'modern,' notions of manliness. Combat operations in France, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, while not the sole focus of this paper, are of crucial importance here because they gave Marines opportunities to practice what they preached. War made their conservative notions of manliness more relevant, more persuasive, and made the Marines themselves more popular than ever. The Marines of Belleau Wood, Soissons, and Mont Blanc came to represent all that was good and strong in American manhood. This paper seeks to place the Great War Era Marines within the broader historical and cultural contexts of their time. Reevaluating the significance of war and culture on the Marine Corps expands its own traditional scholarship from one that has looked primarily at operational history. Doing so reveals an institution that flexed strong cultural muscles during a notable period of change in American history which contributed to their staying power throughout the twentieth century.

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