Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Unfamiliar Ground? Displacement and Movement through Wartime Spaces
John Curatola, Command and General Staff College
Eugenie Buchan, Independent Historian
Participant's Paper Title: A Sudden Change of Location: Burma and the Flying Tigers
Participant's Paper Abstract: Dr. Buchan is unable to attend in person but her paper will be read by the Chair: Soon after Pearl Harbor, the American Volunteer Group - better known as the Flying Tigers -- started to fight the Japanese over Burma and southwest China. How did the AVG happen to be there? As the story goes, in late 1940, their commander Claire Chennault went to Washington DC to form a small 'private' air force for defending areas of unoccupied China against enemy attack. Thanks to friends in high places, Chennault secured a hundred Curtiss-Wright P-40s and 'secret' permission from FDR to hire US military personnel. By the summer of 1941, his group was to start defending Chungking from Japanese bombers. But things did not go according to plan. In August 1941, the first volunteers reached the port of Rangoon, in the British colony of Burma: they were ordered to go to Toungoo, 170 miles north of the city and stay there. For this last minute decision, Chennault blamed bureaucratic wrangles which delayed the departure of American men and planes; by the time they reached Rangoon in August 1941,the monsoon had turned China's grass airfields into quagmires. Unable to train his men in Yunnan, Chennault negotiated with a local Royal Air Force commandant to lease an air base in Burma. Location matters. Buried in British archives is a different explanation for this sudden change of destination. By the early summer of 1941, British and Chinese officials had decided to keep the AVG in Burma to protect the air assets from the Japanese and to coordinate the AVG and RAF for joint defense of Burma and Yunnan if and when the Japanese declared war on the British Empire. This account makes sense in terms of pre-war strategy and international relations, especially FDR's efforts to avoid war with Japan. It redefines the place of the AVG in the global history of WWII.
June Mastan, University at Albany, SUNY
Participant's Paper Title: The United States and Canada: Porous Spaces, Fluid Citizenship, and the First World War
Participant's Paper Abstract: The border between the United States and Canada has always been porous with continuous cross border movement over the last almost four hundred years for purposes of war, immigration and emigration, as well as for work and family. The early years of the First World War brought another element of border crossing as American citizens sought to become part of the war effort by joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Ultimately, almost 40,000 men born in the United States served in the CEF. Most had no prior military experience. While the birthplaces of many of these men clustered around states bordering Canada, volunteers came from across the United States. Why would these men willingly disregard the neutrality declaration of the United States and potentially risk their American citizenship to volunteer with the Canadians? The United States did not formally enter the First World War until April 6, 1917; however, Canada automatically joined the conflict with Great Britain's declaration of war on August 4, 1914. The expectations put upon Canada to produce sufficient numbers of recruits, officers, and technically skilled personnel such as engineers and doctors were enormous because the population of early twentieth century Canada was still small at approximately 8 million people. Yet by war's end, the CEF consisted of 619,636 members with 424,589 serving overseas, some of whom were American citizens. This paper explores the impact on the citizenship of these men and examines the state of the border between Canada and the United States in the early twentieth century leading up to the war. Because of escalating troop needs, citizenship questions among Canada, Britain, and the United States developed a certain amount of fluidity.
Gabriel Moss, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Participant's Paper Title: Roman Mountain Warfare: Environmental Perspectives on Imperial Control
Participant's Paper Abstract: This paper explores the relationship between the imperial Roman military (c. 1-200 C.E.) and the ground on which it fought, focusing on the Romans' generally poor performance in rugged terrain. I argue that by combining traditional techniques of military history with an environmental perspective, we can better understand the nuances of Roman imperial control. Moreover, by using G.I.S. technology to reconstruct the landscapes the Roman army faced, we can map out these nuances of imperial control with significant local specificity. This work begins with sources and techniques very familiar to ancient military historians?Livy, Tacitus and the other traditional sources on the Roman army make frequent reference, rarely complimentary, to their empire's experience on broken terrain. Their observations are supplemented by the comparative use of sources from other pre-industrial militaries, which generally struggled to project power onto rugged terrain. Having determined that the Roman army was relatively ineffective in mountains and hills, it becomes possible and necessary to ask how this affected the dynamics of imperial power in such landscapes?both theoretical models of the relationship between force and Roman military control and direct evidence from our ancient sources suggest that the relationship between Rome and its subjects was qualitatively different in hills as opposed to plains. G.I.S. reconstructions of ancient terrain allow us to turn this realization into a predictive model of the dynamics of Roman imperial control, one that sheds light on local and regional histories of the Roman borderlands. Broken ground constrained military force and shaped imperial power relations; understanding and mapping these phenomena sheds new light on the military history of Roman imperialism, and suggests directions for broader histories of imperial control. Note: I would prefer to give this work as a paper, but will happily present it as a poster if the selection committee prefers.

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