The Somme at 99: WWI, Death, and the Trap of Technology

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“The nearer to the Front one goes, naturally, the more blasted the countryside becomes. Beyond Roeselare, the land grows crater scarred, crisscrossed with collapsing trenches and pocked with burnt patches where not even weeds take root. The few trees still standing here and there are, when you touch them, lifeless charcoal. The skein of green on the land seems less nature revivified, more nature mildewed … farmers still daren’t plow the land for fear of unexploded ordinance. One cannot pass by without thinking of the density of men in the ground. Any moment, the order to charge would be given, and infantrymen well up from the earth, brushing off the powdery soil. The thirteen years since … [Read more...]

Remembering a Forgotten War: Memorial Day and World War I

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In a recent visit to Kansas City, I took the opportunity to visit the National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial. I found it rather odd that the national museum and memorial to the Great War were located in Kansas City and not D.C. or an East Coast location. However, upon further investigation the location made sense. Kansas City was an entrepôt and depot for soldiers heading to training camps in the East and Midwest. From there, the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force travelled to France and the trenches of the Western Front. As Memorial Day approached, it was an interesting time to visit the museum and memorial. The museum was busying itself for the approaching holiday … [Read more...]

Jeff Davis’s Ghost: The Long Battle over the Memory of the Civil War

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History versus heritage? Memory versus history? Whose history and why? These questions are currently brewing a controversy at the University of Texas-Austin campus. The controversy swirls around a statue of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America. The turn-of-the-century statue is being hotly contested because of its association with a certain memory of the Civil War and for the heritage it represents. To opponents of the statue, Davis represents a racist past – one incongruous with a multicultural present. Those battling to preserve the statue, namely the Sons of Confederate Veterans, claim that the Davis statue represents a piece of heritage. Contestations over … [Read more...]

Northern Virginia and Cold War Covert Capital

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The covert actions of the US government abroad, and their domestic ramifications, have drawn an increasing amount of attention from journalists and the general public. Yet for decades historians like Thomas Bender and Amy Kaplan have mined similar territory in an effort to debunk the rhetoric of American exceptionalism and to demonstrate how US foreign policy reshape demographics, national culture, and local politics.[1] In Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia, Andrew Friedman demonstrates how CIA skullduggery in Vietnam, Central America, and Iran intersected with burgeoning post-World War II suburbanization in Northern … [Read more...]

The American Military: Nineteen Histories about War, Society, and the U.S. Military’s Influence on the Nation

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Even today, the category of military history still elicits a bit of head scratching. Our own John Southard noted as much in a 2012 essay for ToM: “Crayons, Fraternities, and Military History.” Southard pointed out that in the last throes of the twentieth century and the first decade of the new millennium, there existed among historians a great deal of doubt regarding the efficacy of military history. At the 1997 meeting for the Society of Military History, John Lynn publicly confided that one of his University of Illinois colleagues inquired, in the best voice of academic condescension one can imagine, if military historians “write in crayon.” At the 2008 meeting of the American Historical … [Read more...]

“Capital within a Capital”: Covert Action, the Vietnam War, and Creating a “Little Saigon” in the Heart of Northern Virginia

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“That flag is the symbol of the spirit of the refu­gee,” Springfield resident and Vietnamese American talk show host Liem D Bui told journalists in 2012. The flag to which Bui referred is that of the fallen South Vietnam government and it along with an American flag fly over Eden Center shopping plaza in Falls Church, VA, a symbolic embodiment of Vietnamese American culture that some call “a capital within a capital,” for D.C.’s 80,000 residents of Vietnamese descent. Unfortunately, in recent years, the shopping center has garnered attention for more than its restaurants and markets. A murder-suicide left two men dead in July of 2012 and gambling raids in 2011 linked Eden Center and its flag … [Read more...]

Memorial Day Reveille

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We here at ToM hope that your Memorial Day weekend has gone swimmingly.   Over the years, our writers have explored various aspects of foreign policy and military history, from the American Civil War and the idea of "total war" to the impact of the all-volunteer military and the efficacy of intervention in Iran and Syria. In honor of the holiday, we've gathered our most relevant pieces below. Was the American Civil War the First Total War? Alex Sayf Cummings (ASC) asks the question and surfs through the historiography to find the answer. Crayons, Fraternities, and Military Historians: The Perception and State of American Military History Georgia State University's John Southard traverses … [Read more...]

Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform: Best of AHA 2014, Part 3

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Over the past couple of decades, categorizations like “military history” have undergone numerous permutations. Georgia State’s John Southard ruminated on the state of the field for ToM in 2012 and ToM devotes an entire page to the subject. (There’s even something for the Civil War buffs. ToM has even posted some original research in the area of the military and postwar suburbanization.)  Historians like Roger Lotchin, Ann Markusen, Carol Lynn McKibben, and Andrew Myers have offered new insights into the ways military installations in the South and California have interacted politically, economically, and socially with local cities, towns, and suburbs in which they are located or abut. The … [Read more...]

The Motor City at War: Mobilization, Wartime Housing, and Reshaping Metropolitan Detroit

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“New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie,” commented former Punk rock queen Patti Smith in recent weeks. “New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city."  Today, Detroit usually receives attention for all the wrong reasons: industrial decline, corrupt mayoral administrations, and racial tension to name only a few issues assailing the city.  Add the seemingly ubiquitous spread of ruin porn – photography that tends to capture Detroit as if it were nothing but municipal ruin and squatters – and Detroit’s main attraction seems to be, at the moment, its desperation. Desperate New York of the … [Read more...]

How Do We Know an Intervention Has Succeeded?

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We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans. – President Obama Back in late August of 2012, President Obama uttered words these in an impromptu press conference. At the time, it represented the most concrete and coherent statement of policy regarding the conflict in Syria. With the latest revelation that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on a small scale, calls for … [Read more...]

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