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Atrocity, Deviance, and Submarine Warfare

Norms and Practices during the World Wars

Nachman Ben-Yehuda

Publication Year: 2013

In the early 20th century, the diesel-electric submarine made possible a new type of unrestricted naval warfare. Such brutal practices as targeting passenger, cargo, and hospital ships not only violated previous international agreements; they were targeted explicitly at civilians. A deviant form of warfare quickly became the norm. In Atrocity, Deviance, and Submarine Warfare, Nachman Ben-Yehuda recounts the evolution of submarine warfare, explains the nature of its deviance, documents its atrocities, and places these developments in the context of changing national identities and definitions of the ethical, at both social and individual levels. Introducing the concept of cultural cores, he traces the changes in cultural myths, collective memory, and the understanding of unconventionality and deviance prior to the outbreak of World War I. Significant changes in cultural cores, Ben-Yehuda concludes, permitted the rise of wartime atrocities at sea.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Configurations: Critical Studies of Worl


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p. C-C

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

For many people in my generation, World War II was a major event. It certainly was such for me. My interest in that war and the cultural context in which it took place drew my attention to a few related research topics—the Masada myth, treason, assassinations, remembrances, and war movies. As happened for so many others, submarines caught my imagination and...

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pp. 1-2

On March 26, 1944, the Dutch steamer SS Tjisalak was on its way from Melbourne to Colombo with a cargo of flour and torpedoes. The ship had on board a complement of 66 crew members, 10 gunners, and 28 passengers. The imperial Japanese submarine I-8,1 commanded by Lieutenant Commander Tetsunosuke Ariizumi, spotted the ship about 500 miles south of...

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pp. 3-8

Human history is riddled with tales of war: stories of conquest, destruction, uprisings, heroism and cowardice, and wisdom and stupidity, as well as dark periods of decline and brighter periods of prosperity. This book is an addition to the ocean of fascinating works on one of humanity’s most puzzling forms of interaction—planned and deliberate attempts to inflict...

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Chapter 1. Challenging Cultural Cores and Symbolic-Moral Universes

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pp. 9-43

Some of the oldest, most persistent issues in social science research focus on how and why cultures and societies come into being, how they endure, how they change, and how they disappear and become research topics for archaeologists, historians, and students of folklore. What exactly is it that changes or that remains stable? There are several theories that attempt to explain social change. Some focus on the functional deficits of institutions; others...

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Chapter 2. Developing Submarines

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pp. 44-56

Military thinking about goals of war and its conduct can be and were influenced by available weapons technology.1 Technology gave the military such weapons as the machine gun (which played a decisive role during the massive clashes and bloodbaths in the trench battles of World War I), the big guns, tanks, the bomber, the battleship, and the submarine. While some of...

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Chapter 3. Wars, Culture, and Unrestricted Submarines Warfare

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pp. 57-68

The number of books, articles, studies, museums, and movies about submarine warfare and life in submarines is genuinely astounding. From personal accounts of submariners, historical narratives, and fiction, we can get acquainted to what life in submarines is like. In fact, some of the earliest movies ever made were about submarines.1 Military history books and ...

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Chapter 4. Attempting to Curb Escalating Brutalities and Some Illustrations

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pp. 69-95

Struggles, fighting, and conflicts resulting from competition over scarce resources or other complex issues have characterized human behavior since the dawn of history. Developing social specializations in war and attempts to prevent wars and curb brutalities accompanied this history. The development and chronicity of conflicts helped into being a specialized social class—the...

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Chapter 5. Development of Submarine Warfare in Two World Wars

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pp. 96-163

Assuming that one does have a functioning pigboat, what is one supposed to actually do with it? While the Hunley’s 1864 attack indicated that a stealthy underwater weapon could sink surface ships, a naval theory of how to use such a weapon system did not develop until World War I. This development needs to be contextualized within naval strategic thought of the time....

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Chapter 6. Pigboat Warfare: Acts of Extreme Deviance

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pp. 164-209

Perhaps the most notorious war crime attributed to submarines during World Wars I and II is shooting survivors in lifeboats, on rafts, and in the water. Many believe that following the sinking of ships, submarines (especially German ones) would surface and shoot the survivors in the water. These activities were vividly illustrated in such war movies as ...

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Chapter 7. Concluding Discussion

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pp. 210-254

When we examine the development of unrestricted submarine warfare in the context of cultural cores, three relevant social issues come to mind. First, the most prominent issue is the emergence and development of the idea of a culture of war whose main aim is to inflict a great amount of suffering and misery on civilian populations on a mass scale (Downes 2008). Second,...


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pp. 255-296


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pp. 297-324


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pp. 325-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029327
E-ISBN-10: 0472029320
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472118892
Print-ISBN-10: 0472118897

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 3 tables, 25 halftones
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Configurations: Critical Studies of Worl