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Disabled Veterans in History

David A. Gerber

Publication Year: 2012

Disabled Veterans in History explores the long-neglected history of those who have sustained lasting injuries or chronic illnesses while serving in uniform. The contributors to this volume cover an impressive range of countries in Europe and North America as well as a wide sweep of chronology from the Ancient World to the present. The essays address the emergence of "veteran" as a political category with unique privileges and entitlements and of disabled veterans as a special project--and indeed one of the original projects--of the modern welfare state. The introductory essay, "Finding Disabled Veterans in History," offers perhaps the first attempt at synthesizing knowledge about disabled veterans in Western societies. The other essays examine the representation of disabled veterans from Sophocles' Philoctetes to American feature films; the relations of disabled veterans to the state and society in such public policy issues as pensions, medical care, physical rehabilitation, and job retraining; and the disabled veteran's agency and experience in reentering the peacetime world. Other topics include the place of disabled veterans in societies defeated in war; the fate of disabled veterans in societies experiencing frequent changes of political regimes; the emergence of pensions and vocational rehabilitation for disabled veterans; and the abiding problem of alcohol abuse among disabled veterans. The contributors come from a variety of disciplines, including history, physical rehabilitation, Slavic studies, sociology, communication and media, and museum studies. The book will be of interest especially to researchers in the fields of war and society, the welfare state, and disability studies, as well as those in the medical, rehabilitation, and counseling fields. David A. Gerber is Professor of History, State University at Buffalo. He is the author or editor of five previous books.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Corporealities: Discourses of Disability

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface to the Enlarged and Revised Edition: The Continuing Relevance of the Study of Disabled Veterans

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pp. ix-xxiv

The war disabled are once again in the news in the United States, and the news about them is hardly reassuring. Once again, as disabled veterans become an increasingly visible feature of the American social landscape, the lack of preparation, unevenness, and lack of generosity in the state’s response to their needs has led to scandal and national soul-searching...

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Introduction: Finding Disabled Veterans in History

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pp. 1-52

Disabled veterans are neglected figures in the histories of war and peace, and the historical scholarship about them at present is fragmentary. There is no synthetic history of disabled veterans. This volume is the only historical collection on the subject. The volume exclusively reflects the histories of large and relatively affluent Western societies, at times with particular emphasis...

I. Representation

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Philoctetes in Historical Context

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pp. 55-69

The tale of the wounded war-hero Philoctetes was spun over several centuries. Philoctetes’ adventures were first recorded in the Homeric writings (Iliad 2.716ff.) around the eighth century B.C. They are best known through Sophocles’ tragedy Philoctetes, produced at the end of the fifth century B.C., upon which this essay is based.1 Many additional versions exist; for example...

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Heroes and Misfits: The Troubled Social Reintegration of Disabled Veterans in The Best Years of Our Lives

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pp. 70-95

With a sharply divided consciousness that both honored the veteran and feared his potential to disrupt society, Americans in 1945 prepared to receive and reintegrate millions of demobilized men. The return of the disabled veteran gave rise to particularly acute anxieties, for his difficulties in adjusting to civilian life would be compounded by his injuries. During the...

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Bitterness, Rage, and Redemption: Hollywood Constructs the Disabled Vietnam Veteran

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pp. 96-114

The American movie industry has represented disabled people in its products since the 1890s, but, as I have argued elsewhere, its images have only occasionally resembled the people on whom they are supposedly based. From a political perspective, we might say that such images are designed primarily to serve the needs of—indeed, perpetuate—a mainstream society...

II. Public Policy

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Disabled Veterans and the State in Early Modern England

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pp. 117-144

The ships were “much dyed with blood, their masts and tackle being moiled with brains, hair, [and] pieces of skulls.”1 This description of warships entering Dover harbor in 1653 illustrates the havoc war wrought on the bodies of servicemen in this period. The bodies of those who survived were a political problem; for the early modern state, the move from tenant-based...

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“A Sacred Debt”: Veterans and the State in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France

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pp. 145-162

War veterans as a group straddle civil and military society. True, they can be studied strictly within the context of the military profession, as André Corvisier did in his book on the eighteenth-century French soldier and the career of soldiering. But most elderly or disabled veterans at that time, and certainly during the revolutionary-Napoleonic era, found themselves upon demobilization in the lower reaches of civil society.1 Since needy veterans...

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From Individual Trauma to National Policy: Tracking the Uses of Civil War Veteran Medical Records

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pp. 163-184

On September 19, 1998, 133 years after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox one of three surviving widows of Civil War veterans died in Denver at the age of 97. Daisy Anderson met her husband-to-be when he was 79 years old: “I wanted a home,” she recalled shortly before her death. “I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have but one dress. We ate standing up at the table.” She was...

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Work-Therapy and the Disabled British Soldier in Great Britain in the First World War: The Case of Shepherd’s Bush Military Hospital, London

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pp. 185-203

In May 1918, the French and Belgian ministries of war hosted the second annual international conference on the aftercare of soldiers disabled in the Great War. In London, leading medical authorities, voluntary-aid representatives, labor leaders, and politicians met to exchange views on two vital questions: How could the war’s disabled be healed effectively and, following this healing, how could they be successfully reintegrated into civilian...

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“Empty Sleeves and Wooden Pegs”: Disabled Confederate Veterans in Image and Reality

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pp. 204-228

“Truly it seems to me that the time has come when ‘No Maimed Confederate Need Apply,’” observed 41-year-old Charles Moore Jr., of Alexandria, Louisiana, during the summer of 1880. For some time after the war, Moore, a former corporal in Company F, Fifth Louisiana Infantry (Hays’ Brigade), had done remarkably well for himself and his family of five...

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Fifty Years of Pain: The History of Austrian Disabled Veterans after 1945

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pp. 229-250

Generally, soldiers who are part of a defeated army anticipate little sympathy from their captors but a great deal of support and understanding from their countrymen and their government. In the case of the Republic of Austria, both because of its annexation by Germany in 1938 and because of the special role its citizens played as soldiers in the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War, neither of the foregoing was really the case...

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Disabled Russian War Veterans: Surviving the Collapse of the Soviet Union

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pp. 251-272

Finding information about the disabled in Russia is not easy, because Soviet and Russian statistical handbooks until recently tended to lump pensioners and disabled into one category. There was also a tendency to deny that any problems existed among the disabled, which kept them even further from view. In the 1990s, a diligent researcher could nonetheless dig into printed...

III. Living with a Disability: Adjustments and Maladjustments

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Nomads in Blue: Disabled Veterans and Alcohol at the National Home

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pp. 275-294

On a Saturday evening in late March 1878, amid the glades and glens surrounding the Milwaukee’s Civil War soldiers’ home, a veteran named Henry Ives died. Ives had spent all of Friday afternoon and most of the night drinking at Brady’s, a nearby saloon. By Saturday morning he was in the guardhouse sleeping off what the home’s surgeon would later call...

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Will to Work: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany after the First World War

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pp. 295-321

The First World War was murderous without precedent. More than nine and a half million soldiers died over a period of 52 months; on average, the war claimed the lives of 5,600 men every day that it continued.1 Twenty million men were severely wounded; eight million veterans returned home permanently disabled.2 They had suffered the worst injuries ever seen...

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Lieutenant John Counsell and the Development of Medical Rehabilitation and Disability Policy in Canada

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pp. 322-346

War brings about an epidemic of disease and of disability, and World War II was no exception. Improvements in medical care for veterans during the war resulted in dramatically increased survival rates for veterans with serious disabilities, such as spinal cord injury. At the end of World War II, new developments in medical rehabilitation enabled more veterans with disabilities...

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Post-Modern American Heroism: Anti-War War Heroes, Survivor Heroes, and the Eclipse of Traditional Warrior Values

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pp. 347-374

Even a cursory examination of today’s language of war in the United States reveals that the traditional formulation of hero has undergone a good deal of erosion in recent decades. The result is that the models represented by the real world Alvin Yorks and Audie Murphys of the distant past, and John Wayne characters in any number of Hollywood movies in which inspiring...

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Afterword: A Challenge to Historians / Jonathan Shay, M.D., Ph.D.

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pp. 375-382

I contribute this piece to the new edition of Disabled Veterans in History with considerable emotion, because it calls to mind the late Dr. Faris Kirkland, my mentor in military matters and the nation’s top historian of U.S. Army leadership practices, policies, institutions, and culture,1 and write it in a ‹rstperson voice for complex reasons. For the psychologically and morally...


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pp. 383-384

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028887
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472035083

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Corporealities: Discourses of Disability