Doing Battle/Greatest Generations – World War 2

I enjoyed reading Doing Battle. The fact that it was a soldier’s first hand account of war made the scenes so vivid in my mind. Fussell did not even intend on joining the army. he was interested in photography, not the army. He joined the ROTC not because he was interested in the army but because he liked the uniforms and how important he felt wearing the uniform. He enjoyed being in the ROTC but it did nothing to prepare him for actual war. Everything seemed “sugar-coated”. Fussell said the ROTC never prepared them for war, never giving the slightest idea of what they should expect. It seemed to me that Fussell went into war with misleading expectations. I thought it was good that Fussell and the other men were given time to continue their college education before being taken to Camp Robert.

I did not like how Fussell and others were told they were going to become officers but they were treated like dirt while at Camp Robert. The way they were treated in boot camp was awful. I understand the army was probably trying to make them stronger by being harsher, but it seemed like the army’s harshness was unnecessary. Things like not being able to drink water from breakfast until dinner or not being fed a half-way decent meal is not making the soldiers stronger, but was hurting them. Even in boot camp, the men were not given a realistic view of what war would be like. I found it interesting how Fussell found himself becoming a changed man. He found himself finding power in shooting a gun or learning to kill enemies in self-defense. It was somewhat saddening to see how the army had changed Fussell, changing a young college student into a “killing machine.” 

In Greatest Generations Come Home, it spoke of the process soldiers went through to become prepared for war, called the “hardening process.” The soldiers were made tougher through different activities like marching 25 miles, with soldiers “enduring bloody, blistered feet.” I feel bad for the soldiers who had to go through that process, but I think it was necessary. In my opinion, it is better for the soldiers to be prepared for what war will look like, rather than go into war and being blind-sided by the true colors of war. The mindset the army instilled into its soldiers was interesting. Just like in Fussell’s case, nothing mattered except for learning to shoot guns but more importantly, learning the art of war. I enjoyed reading about how the soldiers remembered home while at war. The way the book said they held on to the small things was touching. While at war, the men learned to appreciate the smallest reminders of home, whether it be a picture or anything containing memories from home. 

It was sad how the veterans were expecting to return to an America where the civilians completely understood what the veterans had gone through.  In reality, while the civilians wer supportive of the veterans, they had no idea how to relate to their emotions and had no idea what the veterans had experienced while at war. While I was reading, I could not imagine what the soldiers were experiencing as they waited to return home after the war. They must have felt so overjoyed and I wonder if that joy was enough to cover the horrors of war they had experienced. I understand the soldiers overseas wanted to return home quickly, but I think the government should have slowed down the demobilization process just a bit. Bringing so many veterans home at once would cause shortages in jobs, money, etc. By spreading out the return of troops, the civilians and civilian life could offer more to veterans, getting one group settled while another one came in. To me, that would be more reasonable. 

It was refreshing to see troops being welcomed home. In the past wars, we have seen a lack of civilian respect and appreciation to the veterans. This time, the troops returned to warm welcomes from family, friends, and civilians alike. The reason for this was probably because this war hit home, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. These men were fighting to defend their country, which was most patriotic especially in the eyes of the civilians.

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Doughboys pp 1-34

I never knew that World War I was the first war to draft soldiers. This caused animosity and rebellion among citizens, especially those who did not want to fight. The government was so adamant about men obeying their drafting orders that the government threatened to humiliate those men who did not enter the draft. While this may have motivated many soldiers to join the draft, I think it was wrong of the government to bully people into joining the army. I understand there was a need for men in the army, but humiliation is not the way to go about finding able soldiers.

 I thought it was odd how the drafted soldiers were given parades but the ones that volunteered received no recognition whatsoever. The army refused to acknowledge their service. I think the army may have given parades to the drafted soldiers because those men did not want to fight… they were chosen and were not given the choice to back out. So, in attempts to make being drafted seem more tolerable, the government ordered parades for the newly drafted soldiers. Personally, I do not think the parades made things better; the men knew they were going to war whether they liked it or not. 

I read about how many soldiers were self-interested in the war, with no regard to what was going on internationally. Soldiers thought of the future and what they could get for themselves, which showed little motivation. I noticed less motivation in World War I than in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War probably because the war was not on American soil. It was overseas and was not directly affecting the United States. It is disappointing that the men would not want to readily support their allies overseas. 

I noticed the recurring theme of African Americans being exploited in the Army. The army needed more soldiers, but refused to bring in African American units. When the army was desperate though, the African American units were willing to step up and fight. I think it was really unfair when the army placed many African American soldiers in the trenches. That is the most dangerous area during war, and the army was willing to put them in the front lines. It just seems unfair to me. It was interesting to read about this war, (World War I) and how different it was from the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

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To Appomattox and Beyond Part 2

It was interesting to read about the Civil War soldiers and their readjustment to regular life after the Civil War. The veterans had to deal with so many things like finding jobs, dealing with disease, alcohol and drug addictions, as well as simply readjusting to civilian life. There were so many veterans and not enough jobs, so many ended up in poverty. I thought it was great how the government created shelters for ex-soldiers, where veterans could stay until they were able to get back on their feet. I did, however, think it was wrong that the government instituted military-style discipline in the shelter, such as soldiers being required to wear uniforms, etc. The book made a good point, which I completely agree with, and that being the soldiers were trying to forget about the war and by creating this militaristic environment, the veterans were not given the chance to try and forget.  Some citizens attitudes postwar probably did not help the soldiers. While some soldiers were unruly, most were simply trying to begin their regular lives but some citizens automatically assumed that all soldiers were unruly and therefore held a lower opinion. Other citizens helped the soldiers, working closely with veterans groups to make life easier for them. 

Black veterans were not treated well. They were exploited, especially at the end of the war. Most were sent to the South to keep order down there. Why would the Union army send the African American soldiers there, knowing Southerners thoughts and reactions about African Americans?? These soldiers volunteered to fight in the Union knowing they would not be treated fairly and then they are exploited by the government. How unfair. But through all of this, the African American veterans never put up a fight… they always followed orders. 

I never thought there would be a difference in how Union and Confederate soldiers readjusted. After reading, I found there were many differences. The Confederate veterans had a much harder time, because they were living with the burden of defeat. Some experienced periods of violence, while others had bouts of depression. Much of the Confederate veterans hatred was toward African Americans after the war, which led to more crime/violence, such as the Ku Klux Klan. I never had any idea that the original clan members were confederate veterans. It was sad the torture the African Americans went through. They were harassed beyond belief and therefore could do very little without running the risk of being attacked.

Why was there no public assistance offered to ex-Confederate soldiers? I do not think that their losing the war was a cause of no public assistance…. I do believe the South was struggling economically after the war and being defeated probably did not help any. I found it interesting how the book said veteran activities (soldiers joining veteran groups, etc) increased public concern for their well-being. Why did public concern increase only when veterans began to join groups? It was surprising to see that some veterans refused to accept state money. Many claimed it was “unmanly” for a soldier to take it, so instead they lived in poverty and struggled to get by. I think that is a dumb thing to do; accepting state money does not make someone “unmanly.”

I couldn’t believe how some people tried to take advantage of the government pensions by marrying soldiers. That is so wrong… it made me angry. People could not even appreciate the sacrifice those soldiers had made; they exploited soldiers for their money. I was amazed at how long the last couple of Civil War soldiers lived. One died in 1957, while another died in 1959. That is a long time. What surprised me even more was the soldier Sylvester Magee, who lived until 1971. It was great to see that his legacy could live on and that he could carry on the legacy of a Civil War Veteran, so that no one would ever forget the sacrifices soldiers from both sides made during that war.

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Co. Aytch Part 2

Soldiers during wars have found ways to keep themselves occupied, ways to keep their minds off the fighting. Watkins thought about home and how he had a girlfriend, Jennie, waiting for him when he returned. It was saddening to read about the family Watkins met while staying overnight with some people. Their son had left for war and they had not heard from him again. This just goes to show how families were traumatized by war, just as the soldiers were. When I reached the part about how the Cavalry left the Tennessee regiment, I was surprised. Why, in a time of need, would the Cavalry be ordered to leave? Now the regiment was susceptible to so many more attacks, since they did not have the same defense. It seemed as thought the Confederate Army was setting the regiment up for failure. Watkins used such vivid imagery throughout chapter 13. He clearly explained the suffering and death all around him. I could almost picture those images in my mind. I notice that Watkins had a different opinion about fighting in these later chapters.

The section about a soldier’s brains and head falling over Watkins was shocking and almost unbelievable. I cannot image how traumatized those soldiers must have been. The way in which Watkins wrote made it seem as though he was not fazed greatly by what he encountered and experienced. I found it honorable that Watkins was promoted after fighting so hard. He showed great humility by saying he did not deserve the awards and that other soldiers deserved them more. It was nice to see the soldiers receiving some sort of honors, since during the Revolution very few soldiers were recognized for their services. 

Continue Reading »

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Co. Aytch Chapters 1-12

The book, Co. Aytch by Sam Watkins, was an interesting book. His narrative gave the reader a deeper look into the Confederate Army, allowing the reader to see the joys and hurts of war from his (Watkins) view. Towards the beginning of the book, it seemed that Confederate soldiers wanted to be at war. They anticipated fighting, craving a battle, even if for only a short time, with the Yankees. I was surprised at the way Watkins spoke of war. He spoke of it such a nonchalant way, war seemed almost like a game. From Watkins writings, it seemed as though the war was only settling a confusion about whether the North was North or the South was South. After reading the first chapter, I didn’t think the soldiers were suffering very much. I was surprised to read that Watkins only killed Yankees in self-defense… not just to shoot someone. I found that quite honorable. I was shocked to read about how a soldier was killed for falling asleep accidentally. 

Watkins stated he never understood war until he was actually in fighting in it. He made the distinction between his personal account of war and what the history books speak of.  He encourages the reader to take a look at the history books, and continually makes sure the reader understands he is writing about what HE saw, not about anything else. I found Watkins account to be fascinating….He wrote about certain circumstances humorously but also portrayed the awful circumstances in ways that made me, the reader feel like I was there. 

On page 31, Watkins claimed “war had become a reality.” Earlier, he had spoken of how everyone was anxious to begin fighting, but when the time came, men no longer wanted to fight. It was sad to read how Watkins compared himself, and other soldiers, to machines. It was saddening because these soldiers are sacrificing their time and lives to fight for their country and they are treated worthlessly. To me, it seemed that General Bragg caused more suffering for the soldiers than the actual war itself. He showed no respect to any of teh soldiers, which in turn caused morale to lessen among the troops. 

As I read chapter 4, I wondered why the soldiers were treated like criminals for small offenses. Many of these offenses were committed by soldiers who were trying to find food or some means to survive. I find it to be hypocritical and simply wrong to give soldiers capital punishment WHILE at war. These men were doing what they had to in order to survive, yet they were punished for that. 

When the Confederate Army marched to Kentucky, it was nice to see soldiers being appreciated by citizens for once. It was hard to imagine the soldiers suffering when they were eating well, playing poker, going to dances, and drinking together. Here again, I saw the anticipation of Watkins to fight the Yankees. Watkins made an interesting point about generals and privates/regular soldiers. He said generals make history and have reputations to keep up, but the soldiers who fight are the ones who give their lives but are forgotten. I began to think about what he said and I realized that Watkins is correct. We always read about the famous generals of certain wars, but who is to say that the soldiers who fought, and especially those who died, should not be remembered as well? 

Throughout the reading, I saw many instances of the Confederate Army being unorganized. It seemed that during a battle, the Confederate army was always caught of guard and just began shooting anywhere. I say the army was unorganized because I read more than once that the Confederate army had been shooting at its own men. The rations for soldiers showed lack of consideration or preparedness. The generals should have been looking out for their troops, not allowing them to die of starvation. This lack of supplies and food makes me wonder: Where was the regiment money spent?? Watkins made the statement that the regiment had spent all its money and apparently it had not gone to the soldiers because of the squalor they were living in. So, where had it gone? 

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. Watkins incorporates humor as well as the realities of war, and allows the reader to experience the joys and pains of war. I am looking forward to reading more about Sam Watkins time in war. It was interesting to see Watkins opinions of war changing, as the war continued. At first, he joked about war, but further into the book, he began to realize war was not a game. Watkins saw so many awful things, from someone’s chest being blown open, to experiencing the sorrows of losing fellow friends/soldiers. Yet, he was able to write a fascinating memoir; one that hopefully leaves a lasting impression.

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Suffering Soldiers – Week 3

After reading this, I guess it is true that there are two sides to every story. I got the impression from this reading that the veterans were not as sympathized for as in Wages of War. It was interesting to see this side of the argument, the side that claimed the veterans had all they needed but were becoming greedy, always wanting more benefits. I also found it fascinating how the book spoke of Americans and their view of the Revolution being that of a “people’s war”, not a war fought by “regular armies.” That was disappointing to me because I once again saw the recurring theme among American citizens: lack of support & respect for their soldiers. The way the text kept referring to veterans as the “suffering soldiers” had almost a sarcastic tone to it.  I believe anyone who gives their time and to defend the country, whether they be army or militia deserves respect and honor for what they have done. I found the Revolutionary War Pension Act to be bittersweet. First of all, I cannot believe it took the government until 1818 to finally decide on a pension for the revolutionary veterans. Despite this, I was glad to see the government finally began to follow through with its promise to its veterans. I found myself a bit confused after reading this first section. I began comparing what I had read in Wages of War to what I had read in Suffering Soldiers and now I am unsure of what I should think. I understand both sides of the story, but which one is correct? I do honestly believe the veterans were ill-treated. I think they were hurting economically and emotionally and there was no one there to support them in their times of need. 

 

I think the veterans were “used” in a political means, which I find so wrong. To politicians, the “image” of te veteran was more important than the veteran as a person. The Jeffersonians honored the veterans, commending them on their service. Then, the Federalists began to recognize the veterans, but only to compete with the Jeffersonians. I think that is completely wrong. All these veterans wanted were benefits and help in adjusting to life, but they were used almost as political platforms for the two opposing parties.  What a way to treat our veterans. This book focused a lot on the Continental Army…. I feel as people are overanalyzing the army. They were soldiers who fought in the Revolution and did not receive benefits. It seems as though the book is trying to portray the Revolutionary soldiers in a negative way, by implying they had the necessary benefits, they were just greedy, etc. 

 

I found it interesting how people began to look up to Revolutionary war soldiers almost 35 years after the Revolutionary war. At that point, it seemed almost too late to show the veterans respect and thankfulness. What the veterans really needed was the people to have supported them after the war… . where were those people when the soldiers had no jobs, emotional and physical damages to deal with….. where were those people then? My question was what made the people suddenly respect and glorify the veterans after so many years? I was happy to see that slowly programs began to be instituted that helped veterans. Those programs were far from being perfect, but at least it was a start in the right direction.

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Wages of War Ch. 3,4, & 5

Henry Knox seemed as though he did not represent the army well. His weight seemed paradoxical to the current plight of the army, that being a lack of food and supplies. Although he was a good representative, his appearance made it seem as though the army was being greedy and that they really did not need supplies and food…. that they were well to do. (which they weren’t) As I read, I was unsure of what the Cincinnati was exactly. I know it was a society of veterans, all of whom had not received their rewards from the American Revolution. I was not sure why the society was looked down upon because it was just a group of veterans fighting for a cause. 

 

In chapter 4, I saw the other side of the issue of Congress’s power to tax. When I first studied American history, I sometimes believed that Congress should not have the power to tax. After reading this chapter, I may have changed my opinion on the subject. Most of the veterans were not able to be paid because Congress had no money to pay them with. If they had had the power to tax, maybe the veterans would not have been in that specific predicament. In  this case, I believe Congress should have collected taxes from the states. I mean, the least the states could do was to give back to their government, especially since the money was going to the people who fought for their freedom. Once again I see the selfishness in Americans and it is disappointing.  Bowdoin was not my favorite person while reading this chapter. He always seemed to be trying to find something wrong with the farmers, finding a way to place them in debtors prison because they could not pay their debts after the war.  

 

In chapter 5, it was interesting to read about how the journalism of the time would manipulate what people said, making it to mean something completely opposite of its intended meaning was. This caused many problems for veterans, especially Daniel Shays. Anything he said or did was completely turned around, and in turn gave him multiple reputations, some being good, and some being not so good. I found it disappointing that Shays is remembered for a “rebellion” when all he really wanted to do was voice his opinion on the current state of veterans at that time. He did not want to be remembered for anything, but I believe he should be remembered for his courage to speak up against the government. It angers me to think that the newspapers and people of that time were corrupt in making things seem worse than they really were. A veteran is someone who should be honored, not made out to be the “bad guy”. It seemed to me that when Bowdoin’s army would face off with Daniel Shays men, their actions were pointless. What was trying to be accomplished when they fought? My belief is that Shays was defending himself, while Bowdoin was the offense, finding a way to quiet Shays. As I read, I wondered why the African American soldiers were so willing to fight. No one was receptive to them fighting, nor were they appreciative of the men’s service. I think it shows a great amount of patriotism for the men to fight for their country; for a country that was less than willing to recognize their service.

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Wages of War Ch. 1 & 2

Many veterans first decided to join the army because of the benefits promised. They were promised clothing and money among other things. It sounded like a good deal, to go fight against the British and when you were done, you received your benefits. It sounded so easy, but to the dismay of the soldiers, it was and never would be that easy to receive what they deserved. Congress had given the soldiers pay but in paper money, which had no value. My question is why did Congress  give the veterans money that was worthless? Was it just a way to satisfy the veterans temporarily? Because if it was, I do not think it worked. It only led to more problems, especially in the lives of the veterans. I think the government should not have made promises it knew it could not keep. 

I found it interesting how in chapter 1, the authors made reference to “paper combat.” Experiencing war was only a small part of the puzzle. The “paper combat” was the actual fighting of the war, but the other side of the battle was readjusting to life postwar.  The soldiers returned from war hoping to return to normal lives, but both the government and the citizens would not allow that. I was surprised to read that citizens were complaining about how the veterans would be looking for work or how they would be trying to use the paper money instead of hard currency. In my opinion, the citizens should have been grateful to the soldiers, but instead they acted as though the soldiers were of a lower status. It was sad to see how soldiers had left war in debt and in order to pay off those debts, they had to incur more debt. It seems like a continuous cycle where the veteran could never win. 

In chapter 2, the statement was made that even General Washington was beginning to have doubts about the war and even the postwar situation. The book said, “He was tired of playing the stoic.” It was amazing to me how the soldiers knew in their minds that they probably would not receive much of what they were promised but yet they still fought against the British. Knowing they could possibly receive only half pay or less and that the land/clothes etc that was promised them would probably not come, they stood up and fought for their country.  I commend the veterans of that time for their patience…. for waiting until the 19th century to receive only a portion of what they truly deserved.

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Diary of Joseph Plumb

Before reading the diary of Joseph Plumb, I thought I would be bored, that it would be a run of the mill war story. But as I read the excerpts, I found myself wanting to keep on reading. As I read the section titled “Split like fish to be broiled”, I was stunned by how Plumb nearly escaped death. Instead, his sergeant was killed. Plumb saw so many of his fellow soldiers brutally killed during attacks by the British, but he wrote about them as if it was an everyday occurrence. My thought is that Plumb saw so many soldiers die that he was no longer fazed by the horrible things he saw. It’s sad when someone has to become accustomed to seeing people die…. no one should have to experience that.  More generally, the titles of the entries were vivid, clearly expressing what he saw, titles like “Men were cut up like cornstalks.” 

In the article talking about Joseph Plumb’s enlistment and discharge, I was shocked about how the soldiers were promised so many things, like clothing and land, but received little to nothing of what was promised. Plumb made the comment, “When the country had drained the last drop of service it could screw out of the poor soldiers, they were turned adrift like old worn-out horses, and nothing said about land to pasture them upon.” I do not understand how the government could not repay these soldiers for the sacrifices they made for their country. It seems unfair and definitely disrespectful not to honor them for their service. Honestly, it made me wonder how many veterans in America’s past have never been given the proper respect/honor they deserve. (I assume there are many) I think the least the government could have done was given them clothes and supplies while they were at war, but the government did not even take care of the soldiers after. We can only hope that our soldiers and their families receive all they need and all they are promised but if they do not, it is simply a disgrace.

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About me

Hey everyone!! 

My name is Alex Mankarios and Im from Los Angeles, California. Everyone is always so surprised I came all the way to Virginia for school. Mary Washington was actually one of my back-up schools. I had originally had my heart set on William and Mary, but I didn’t get in. So I visited campus here at Mary Washington and I fell in love with it. I also loved how close UMW is to Washington D.C.  I think UMW was a good choice.

I chose this freshman seminar because I am really interested in history. This seminar sounded like it would be very interesting and would teach me a lot. Im a history & international affairs major and this class covers both majors. 

I have no veterans in my family… My dad was born in Cairo, Egypt and my mom’s parents came from concentration camps during World War II.  I know some neighbors back at home that were veterans, but that is all. 

Let me just say that I am really excited about taking this class!

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