University of Nebraska Press

Studies in War, Society, & the Military

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An American Soldier in World War I

George Browne

George “Brownie” Browne was a twenty-three-year-old civil engineer in Waterbury, Connecticut, when the United States entered the Great War in 1917. He enlisted almost immediately and served in the American Expeditionary Forces until his discharge in 1919. An American Soldier in World War I is an edited collection of more than one hundred letters that Browne wrote to his fiancée, Martha “Marty” Johnson, describing his experiences during World War I as part of the famed 42nd, or Rainbow, Division. From September 1917 until he was wounded in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in late October 1918, Browne served side by side with his comrades in the 117th Engineering Regiment. He participated in several defensive actions and in offensives on the Marne, at Saint-Mihiel, and in the Meuse-Argonne.

This extraordinary collection of Brownie’s letters reveals the day-to-day life of an American soldier in the European theater. The difficulties of training, transportation to France, dangers of combat, and the ultimate strain on George and Marty’s relationship are all captured in these pages. David L. Snead weaves the Browne correspondence into a wider narrative about combat, hope, and service among the American troops. By providing a description of the experiences of an average American soldier serving in the American Expeditionary Forces in France, this study makes a valuable contribution to the history and historiography of American participation in World War I.

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Andean Tragedy

Fighting the War of the Pacific, 1879-1884

William F. Sater

The year 1879 marked the beginning of one of the longest, bloodiest conflicts of nineteenth-century Latin America. The War of the Pacific pitted Peru and Bolivia against Chile in a struggle initiated over a festering border dispute. The conflict saw Chile’s and Peru’s armored warships vying for control of sea lanes and included one of the first examples of the use of naval torpedoes. On land, large armies using the most modern weapons—breech-loading rifles, Gatling guns, and steel-barreled artillery—clashed in battles that left thousands of men dead on the battlefields. Eventually, the warring parties revamped their respective military establishments, creating much needed, civilian-supported supply, transportation, and medical units. Chile ultimately prevailed. Bolivia lost its seacoast along with valuable nitrate and copper deposits to Chile, and Peru was forced to cede mineral rich Tarapaca and the province of Arica to the victor.
 
Employing the primary and secondary sources of the countries involved, William F. Sater offers the definitive analysis of the conflict's naval and military campaigns. Andean Tragedy not only places the war in a crucial international context, but also explains why this devastating conflict resulted in a Chilean victory.

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Army and Empire

British Soldiers on the American Frontier, 1758-1775

Michael N. McConnell

The end of the Seven Years’ War found Britain’s professional army in America facing new and unfamiliar responsibilities. In addition to occupying the recently conquered French settlements in Canada, redcoats were ordered into the trans-Appalachian west, into the little-known and much disputed territories that lay between British, French, and Spanish America. There the soldiers found themselves serving as occupiers, police, and diplomats in a vast territory marked by extreme climatic variation—a world decidedly different from Britain or the settled American colonies.

Going beyond the war experience, Army and Empire examines the lives and experiences of British soldiers in the complex, evolving cultural frontiers of the West in British America. From the first appearance of the redcoats in the West until the outbreak of the American Revolution, Michael N. McConnell explores all aspects of peacetime service, including the soldiers’ diet and health, mental well-being, social life, transportation, clothing, and the built environments within which they lived and worked. McConnell looks at the army on the frontier for what it was: a collection of small communities of men, women, and children faced with the challenges of surviving on the far western edge of empire.

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Beneficial Bombing

The Progressive Foundations of American Air Power, 1917-1945

Mark Clodfelter

The Progressive Era, marked by a desire for economic, political, and social reform, ended for most Americans with the ugly reality and devastation of World War I. Yet for Army Air Service officers, the carnage and waste witnessed on the western front only served to spark a new progressive movement—to reform war by relying on destructive technology as the instrument of change. In Beneficial Bombing Mark Clodfelter describes how American airmen, horrified by World War I’s trench warfare, turned to the progressive ideas of efficiency and economy in an effort to reform war itself, with the heavy bomber as their solution to limiting the bloodshed. They were convinced that the airplane, used as a bombing platform, offered the means to make wars less lethal than conflicts waged by armies or navies. Clodfelter examines the progressive idealism that led to the creation of the U.S. Air Force and its doctrine that the finite destruction of precision bombing would end wars more quickly and with less suffering for each belligerent. What is more, his work shows how these progressive ideas emerged intact after World War II to become the foundation of modern U.S. Air Force doctrine. Drawing on a wealth of archival material, including critical documents unavailable to previous researchers, Clodfelter presents the most complete analysis ever of the doctrinal development underpinning current U.S. Air Force notions about strategic bombing.

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Citizens More than Soldiers

The Kentucky Militia and Society in the Early Republic

Harry S. Laver

Historians typically depict nineteenth-century militiamen as drunken buffoons who stumbled into crooked lines, poked each other with cornstalk weapons, and inevitably shot their commander in the backside with a rusty, antiquated musket. Citizens More than Soldiers demonstrates that, to the contrary, the militia remained an active civil institution in the early nineteenth century, affecting the era’s great social, political, and economic transitions. In fact, given their degree of community involvement, militiamen were more influential in Kentucky’s maturation than any other formal community organization.
 
Citizens More than Soldiers reveals that the militia was not the atrophied remnant of the Revolution’s minutemen but an ongoing organization that maintained an important presence in American society. This study also shows that citizen-soldiers participated in their communities by establishing local, regional, and national identities, reinforcing the social hierarchy, advancing democratization and party politics, keeping the public peace, encouraging economic activity, and defining concepts of masculinity. A more accurate understanding of the militia’s contribution to American society extends our comprehension of the evolutionary processes of a maturing nation, showing, for example, how citizen-soldiers promoted nationalism, encouraged democratization, and maintained civil order. Citizens More than Soldiers is not a traditional military history of campaigns and battles but rather the story of citizen-soldiers and their contribution to the transformation of American society in the nineteenth century.

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Deterrence through Strength

British Naval Power and Foreign Policy under Pax Britannica

Rebecca Berens Matzke

The notion of a Pax Britannica—a concept implying that Britain’s overwhelming strength enforced global peace in the era that began with Napoleon’s defeat in 1815—largely ended with the British Empire itself. Although most historians still view this period as a departure from the eighteenth century, when lengthy coalition wars were commonplace, critics argue that Britain had only limited means of exercising power in the nineteenth century and that British military or naval strength played an insignificant role in preserving peace.
 
In Deterrence through Strength, Rebecca Berens Matzke reveals how Britain’s diplomatic and naval authority in the early Victorian period was not circumstantial but rather based on real economic and naval strength as well as on resolute political leadership. The Royal Navy’s main role in the nineteenth century was to be a deterrent force, a role it skillfully played. With its intimidating fleet, enhanced by steam technology, its great reserves and ship-building capacity, and its secure financial, economic, and political supports, British naval power posed a genuine threat. In examining three diplomatic crises—in North America, China, and the Mediterranean—Matzke demonstrates that Britain did indeed influence other nations with its navy’s offensive capabilities but always with the goal of preserving peace, stability, and British diplomatic freedom.

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For Home and Country

World War I Propaganda on the Home Front

Celia Malone Kingsbury

World War I prompted the first massive organized propaganda campaign of the twentieth century. Posters, pamphlets, and other media spread fear about the “Hun,” who was often depicted threatening American families in their homes, while additional campaigns encouraged Americans and their allies to support the war effort. With most men actively involved in warfare, women and children became a special focus—and a tool—of social manipulation during the war. For Home and Country examines the propaganda that targeted noncombatants on the home front in the United States and Europe during World War I. Cookbooks, popular magazines, romance novels, and government food agencies targeted women in their homes, especially their kitchens, pressuring them to change their domestic habits. Children were also taught to fear the enemy and support the war through propaganda in the form of toys, games, and books. And when women and children were not the recipients of propaganda, they were often used in propaganda to target men. By examining a diverse collection of literary texts, songs, posters, and toys, Celia Malone Kingsbury reveals how these pervasive materials were used to fight the war’s cultural battle.

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I Die With My Country

Perspectives on the Paraguayan War, 1864-1870

Hendrik Kraay

The Paraguayan War (1864–70) was the most extensive and profound interstate war ever fought in South America. It directly involved the four countries of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay and took the lives of hundreds of thousands, combatants and noncombatants alike. While the war still stirs emotions on the southern continent, until today few scholars from outside the region have taken on the daunting task of analyzing the conflict. In this compilation of ten essays, historians from Canada, the United States, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay address its many tragic complexities. Each scholar examines a particular facet of the war, including military mobilization, home-front activities, the war’s effects on political culture, war photography, draft resistance, race issues, state formation, and the role of women in the war. The editors’ introduction provides a balance to the many perspectives collected here while simultaneously integrating them into a comprehensible whole, thus making the book a compelling read for social historians and military buffs alike.

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Imagining the Unimaginable

World War, Modern Art, and the Politics of Public Culture in Russia, 1914-1917

Aaron J. Cohen

As World War I shaped and molded European culture to an unprecedented degree, it also had a profound influence on the politics and aesthetics of early-twentieth-century Russian culture. In this provocative and fascinating work, Aaron J. Cohen shows how World War I changed Russian culture and especially Russian art. A wartime public culture destabilized conventional patterns in cultural politics and aesthetics and fostered a new artistic world by integrating the iconoclastic avant-garde into the art establishment and mass culture. This new wartime culture helped give birth to nonobjective abstraction (including Kazimir Malevich’s famous Black Square), which revolutionized modern aesthetics. Of the new institutions, new public behaviors, and new cultural forms that emerged from this artistic engagement with war, some continued, others were reinterpreted, and still others were destroyed during the revolutionary period.
 
Imagining the Unimaginable deftly reveals the experiences of artists and developments in mass culture and in the press against the backdrop of the broader trends in Russian politics, economics, and social life from the mid-nineteenth century to the revolution. After 1914, avant-garde artists began to imagine many things that had once seemed unimaginable. As Marc Chagall later remarked, “The war was another plastic work that totally absorbed us, which reformed our forms, destroyed the lines, and gave a new look to the universe.”

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The Militarization of Culture in the Dominican Republic, from the Captains General to General Trujillo

Valentina Peguero

The Militarization of Culture in the Dominican Republic, from the Captains General to General Trujillo traces the interaction of the military and the civilian population, showing the many ways in which the military ethos has permeated Dominican culture. Valentina Peguero categorizes the Dominican military before 1930 as protectionists, facilitators, or self-servers, a framework that sheds new light on Dominican civil-military relations.

Peguero synchronizes the history of the Dominican military and that of Dominican society from her dual perspectives as a native of the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo era and as a historian who is well acquainted with the country’s history and literature. She shows how the brutal Trujillo dictatorship created La Nueva Patria (The New Fatherland) to promote a new order and present the military as a model for society, imposing military principles on the civil society and mixing military culture with popular culture to reshape the nation. Structured around interviews with former military personnel, scholars, and politicians, this study brings to life documentary information and presents a poignant narrative that describes the unintended consequences that resulted when Trujillo valued arming the nation above meeting the needs of the populace.

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