TOC – Journal of Military History, Vol. 77, No. 2

The latest edition of the Journal of Military History has just appeared with the following articles present:


Claire Robertson, ‘Racism, the Military, and Abolitionism in the Late Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century Caribbean’

This article suggests that racism was a strategic military liability in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century wars between Britain and France in the Caribbean, wars which, ironically, coincided with the rise of abolitionism in both nations. The French Revolution, meanwhile, had provoked slave uprisings on many of the Caribbean islands. The article focuses on the actions of General Sir John Moore, Captain Thomas Southey, and Governor Victor Hugues, whose supposed abolitionism was contradicted by their belief that blacks could not govern themselves or be proper soldiers without white leadership. Their actions are contrasted with those of Sir John Jeremie, whose non-racist abolitionism cost him his career. Thus, both the British and French underestimated the black rebels’ capabilities and routinely executed black prisoners of war rather than ransoming or imprisoning them. These tendencies made Caribbean campaigns longer and bloodier than they might otherwise have been.

David J. Fitzpatrick, ‘Emory Upton and the Army of a Democracy’

Historians have long contended that Emory Upton (1839–81) was a “militaristic zealot” whose anti-democratic ideas caused generations of U.S. Army officers to sink into “Uptonian pessimism,” a belief that democracies were unable to manifest a coherent military policy. This essay argues otherwise. First, it contends that Upton was not a militarist and that he intended his reforms to protect democracy, not undermine it. Second, it argues that the U.S. Army officer corps in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was not mired in pessimism, Uptonian or otherwise.

Katherine C. Epstein, “No One Can Afford To Say ‘Damn the Torpedoes’: Battle Tactics and U.S. Naval History before World War I’

Historians overwhelmingly agree that the U.S. Navy changed dramatically between the early 1880s and World War I, but few have asked how the “New Navy” of this era planned to fight its battles. This article seeks to recover its ideas about battle tactics, using torpedo development as a point of entry. Although officials thought seriously about torpedoes’ tactical implications, technological complexity and habits of institutional communication hindered the navy’s ability to agree on them, and important questions remained unresolved on the eve of World War I in 1914.

Tim Cook, ‘Grave Beliefs: Stories of the Supernatural and the Uncanny among Canada’s Great War Trench Soldiers’

The Great War’s No Man’s Land and the trenches that faced into it, with destructive weapons ruling the space, created a dislocated environment that spawned stories of death and haunting. The Canadian soldiers’ belief systems were robust and varied, but some men embraced the magical, uncanny, and supernatural to make meaning of their war experiences. An attempt to locate and situate these ‘grave beliefs’ within soldiers’ narratives brings to light an understudied aspect of the cultural history of the war.

Alex Souchen, ‘The Culture of Morale: Battalion Newspapers in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, June–August 1944′

This article explores the collective impact of information sharing, social interaction, and cultural expression on the morale of Canadian soldiers in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division during the Battle of Normandy in France during World War II. It finds that battalion newspapers played an important role in supporting unit morale in three ways. First, they stimulated interest in unit traditions and folklore. Second, they defended unit morale against German psychological warfare tactics. Finally, they provided soldiers with a coping mechanism, as the songs, poetry, and humorous anecdotes helped them to express a cultural identity and construct meaning from the traumatic experience of war.

Ken Young, ‘Special Weapon, Special Relationship: The Atomic Bomb Comes to Britain’

Post-1945 U.S. war planning assumed that a strike on the Soviet Union would be prosecuted by B-29s flying the atomic bomb from forward bases in East Anglia, England, where in 1946 bomb preparation and loading facilities were established at disused airfields. In 1950, atomic-capable aircraft, complete with bomb components, were first deployed to England, amidst anxieties about sabotage and a pre-emptive Soviet air strike. This establishment of a U.S. atomic strike capability in England arose from an entirely informal arrangement based on mutual trust. That informality would soon engender concern in Britain as the lack of symmetry in Anglo-American atomic relations became more apparent.

Christopher Tuck, ‘Cut the bonds which bind our hands’: Deniable Operations during the Confrontation with Indonesia, 1963–1966′

In 1966, Britain triumphed in a little-known low-intensity war against Indonesia. Orthodox assessments of what was known as the ‘Confrontation’ have lionised British achievements during the campaign, especially the role played by Operation Claret: a campaign of secret, deniable cross-border operations. This article argues that, in fact, British deniable operations were extremely problematic and, indeed, increasingly unpopular with senior military officers. The argument highlights, in particular, the re-occurrence of a perennial problem in the use of military force: the difficulty in measuring during campaigns the extent to which tactical- and operational-level military successes actually translate into strategic political success.

Steven A. Fino, ‘Breaking the Trance: The Perils of Technological Exuberance in the U.S. Air Force Entering Vietnam’

A survey of U.S. Air Force air-to-air armament from World War II through Vietnam’s Operation ROLLING THUNDER reveals the institution’s focus on developing advanced technologies and tactics designed to thwart hordes of Soviet bombers. Challenged by nimble MiGs over Vietnam, the service was reluctant to investigate “low-tech” armament solutions. When the value of a gun in air combat was finally acknowledged, the Air Force elected to field it as part of an integrated weapons system on the F-4E. In the interim, pilots at DaNang air base cobbled together an inelegant but effective air-to-air external gun system. The episode reveals the significant potential, and fragility, of unit-initiated tactical innovation and the peril that can arise when an organization’s technological exuberance obfuscates less technologically-appealing solutions.

Document of Note:

Earl J. Catagnus, Jr., ‘Infantry Field Manual 7-5 Organization and Tactics of Infantry: The Rifle Battalion (October 1940)’

FM 7-5 Organization and Tactics of Infantry: The Rifle Battalion, published in 1940, has yet to be used by historians of the interwar U.S. Army. Written under the supervision of its primary contributor, Major General George A. Lynch, the U.S. Army’s Chief of Infantry, this field manual prescribed tactics, techniques, and procedures similar to those of the vaunted German army. The excerpts were chosen as representative of the nature of the military intellectualism underpinning the document.

Review Essay:

Patrick J. Speelman, ‘The Logistics of British Naval Supremacy in the Age of Sail’

Fred L. Borch, ‘Lieber’s Code: A Landmark in the Law of War But Not Lincoln’s Code’

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