Permissible Arms

Military History Carnival #23

Posted in american media, united states, us military by Karaka on 19 April 2010

I had hoped to contribute a piece to H-War and Edge of the American West’s Military History Carnival #23, but alas the Troupes de la Marine in 18th century North America will have to wait until next time. The weekend escaped me, as weekends so often do–cooking, gardening, errands eating up the time between Friday and Monday.

There’s some good stuff in there, though; in particular I liked Bruscino’s piece on media interpretations of World War II, Remaking Memory or Getting It Right? Saving Private Ryan and the World War II Generation. I’m personally fascinated by war recreated in contemporary drama, from Band of Brothers to Generation Kill, Jarhead to the Hurt Locker. I own and routinely watch these films and miniseries, and even watching less realistic entertainment suffers from my critical eye. And Bruscino treats us to a survey of the trends in interpretation of WWII:

Largely ignored in the discussion of the memory of the good war is the American soldier’s memory of the war and his purpose in fighting. The topic is complicated for a number of reasons and the subject of ongoing scholarly debate. Still the general consensus is that soldiers fought for their buddies in a strong spirit of comradeship. In the words of veteran and scholar Paul Fussell, “men will attack only if young, athletic, credulous, and sustained by some equivalent of the buddy system—that is, fear of shame.”[4] The soldiers themselves insisted they were not fighting for the “four freedoms”[5] or democracy or patriotism or any other great cause. Instead they put their efforts in more banal terms—they just wanted to finish the job and come home. General Eisenhower himself acknowledged the prevalence of that view in the spring of 1945, when American units began to overrun German concentration and labor camps: “We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.”

Well worth the time to read, though–and I say this perhaps unfairly, as the article is styled academically rather than blogtastically–I wish the author had included some video clips from the films he was referencing, because the thesis would have benefited from the mise en scène illustrated rather than described.

Shame no female writers submitted to this Carnival round, though.

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6 Responses

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  1. onparkstreet said, on 20 April 2010 at 11:02

    Karaka –

    Have you read Mavis Gallant? She has a short story about a couple actors who are working in the period after WWII in France. The story has this eerie little passage about how ideas about an event changes, even with those who participated.

    Will try and dig up the link or name.

    – Madhu

  2. onparkstreet said, on 20 April 2010 at 11:03

    Aargh – I mean, they are extras in a television film about WWII, many years later, and they can contrast it to what it actually was to them.

    – Madhu

    • Karaka said, on 20 April 2010 at 13:02

      I have not! And would much appreciate a link if you can find one.

  3. Because Karaka Asked « OnParkStreet said, on 22 April 2010 at 15:42

    […] 22, 2010 · Leave a Comment And because I brought it up here! Although, I didn’t quite have it remembered […]

  4. onparkstreet said, on 22 April 2010 at 15:51

    I added the excerpt to my blog, linking back there :)

    – Madhu

    • Karaka said, on 22 April 2010 at 15:55

      Thanks, Madhu. It’s a great quote.


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