The New Military History The Making of the Modern World Rob Johnson The Face of Battle 1970s/80s growth of new military histories – social and individual experience … Challenged the orthodox military history: generals’ perspective, unit designations, weapons, and map movements ‘Since we appear to know a great deal more about generalship than we do about how and why ordinary soldiers fight, a diversion of historical effort from the rear to the front of the battlefield would seem considerably overdue. All the more does it seem desirable in the light of what little reliable information we do have about what goes on at the place soldiers call “the sharp end”.’ John Keegan, The Face of Battle, (London, 1976). US Army Historical Teams • Post-1945 advocacy of small group tactics as most efficient fighting level; interest in unit cohesion • Marshall, Men against Fire (1947): ‘In an average experienced infantry company in an average day's action, the number engaging with any and all weapons was approximately 15 per cent of the total strength. In the most aggressive companies, under the most intense local pressure, the figure rarely rose above 25 percent of the total strength from the opening to the close of the action.’ • Ambrose, Citizen Soldiers (1997): thesis that US conscript troops more democratic than totalitarian troops (politicisation); inspiration for Spielberg’s ‘new realism’. Popular Cultural Representations This shift is mirrored in: • Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg, 1998), with 20-minute Omaha beach scene • Band of Brothers (HBO, 2001) Use of handheld cameras for point-of-view shots; camera shake for authenticity Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg, 1998) Heightened levels of gore (cf more sanitised The Longest Day, 1962) • Medal of Honor (2002, Electronic Arts): ‘first-person shooter’ use virtual reality to recreate a safe substitute experience of battlefield. Medal of Honor (2002) Popular Representations of War Re-enactors Militaria Collectors War gamers Portrayal: War Art Napoleon at the St Bernard Pass, 1801, Jacques-Louis David ‘Stonewall’ Jackson Memorial, Manassas, Virginia The Thin Red Line at Balaclava, by Caton Woodville Menin Road, IWM, Paul Nash Otto Dix Otto Dix C.R.W. Nevinson, Machine Gun Soldiers as Natural Born Killers? • Human nature versus environmental factors • Brutalising effects of warfare; Bartov’s study of German troops on eastern front • ‘Numbness of killing’ (Lifton) aided by distancing from killing by focus on weapons technology • Male psychology of latent aggression manipulated by training regimes (Bourke, An Intimate History of Killing, 1999). Massacre in Warfare • Irregular warfare & counter-insurgency: large part of 20th-century wars Examples: Ukraine, 1941-44; Algerian War, 1954-62; Vietnam & Iraq) Controversial: Nanking, Armenia • Civilians as ‘soft’ targets for troops seeking revenge; rural population targeted for aiding guerrillas Police Battalion 101 in occupied Poland, 1941 • Capacity to kill increased by peer group pressure, permissive hierarchy, hostile environment • Countered by discipline, a strong legal ethos, & affinity with the local population Victims of the My Lai massacre, south Vietnam, March 1968 Casualties of War • Disease: biggest killer of 18/19th-century troops Crimean War: 25,600 Anglo-French battle deaths 38,000 disease deaths American Civil War: Ratio 1:2 • Battlefield casualties, c. 1/3 killed: 2/3 wounded; -High mortality rates after amputations • 1944+ Combat casualties exceeded diseased in Western theatres • Aids: the new vector American Civil War amputee Casualties of War: Nuclear Potential Military and Civilian Deaths in the Two World Wars WWI military WWI civilian WWII civilian WWII military Nuclear predicted casualties (1958 estimates): 1st day of a nuclear exchange: USA would have suffered 42 million dead, 16th day, would rise to 83 million dead 1960s, introduction of the cobalt-coated ‘doomsday’ bombs and higher yield weapons: the nuclear option threatened mass extinction Shell Shock and Battle Fatigue • American Civil War: diagnosed as ‘nostalgia’ • First World War: prolonged shelling led to nervous disorders … • …initially diagnosed as shell concussion, but later as psychiatric breakdown • Treatments ranged from electrotherapy and ‘talking cures’ • 1941-45, psychoactive drugs prescribed • ‘proximity’ treatment now favoured. Social History and New Military History http://www.library.miami.edu/archives/shedd/sutler.jpg Cultural History • Soldiers’ beliefs and military ideas • Service life: songs, humour, routine, women, training • Impact of garrisons and ports on civilians • Civil-military relations – vocabulary, fashion, ideas, reforms, behaviour • The military in idealised forms: heroes, values, icons • The media and war • Identities: ‘place’, class systems, gendering • Loss, memorialisation. Sources for Experiential History • Written sources • Conscription leads to higher proportion of educated, literate soldiers • Diaries • Letters home • Unit histories • Oral history Memorialisation Oral History Skills: Memory • • • • • • Lived memory versus historical memory Lived memory evolves over time Repression of painful memories Life stories: culture of narration Body language Historical memory: influence of the state in creating official memory Pierre Nora, ‘lieux de mémoire’, focuses on official monuments Lynn Macdonald, Malcolm Brown, weave veterans’ remarks into a narrative history • Gordon Corrigan, Mud, Blood and Poppycock Memorialisation of War War is used to reinforce existing narratives ... or create new ones The Ossuary of Verdun New Military History • Broader approach to the study of war (war in history, not just military history) • Utilises more material and techniques • Is in danger of a lack of clarity and rigour • Is still too Euro-centric, telological, and technologicallydeterminist or ‘emotional’.