Perceptions and Ideas: New Work in American Military History

Solicited by the Society for Military History

Saturday, April 17, 2021, 6:15 PM - 6:45 PM

Type: Paper Session

Tags: Intellectual; International Relations; Military

Papers Presented

Intellectual Property in Defense of Liberty.

The American conception of intellectual property was in its infancy at the onset of the American Revolution. Under the influence of Enlightenment philosophy and English law, many colonists entered the revolutionary era with an understanding that the fruits of the human intellect were valuable and worthy of protection, and colonial governments had made significant progress toward adequately protecting intellectual things as property under the law. However, the colonial momentum toward a comprehensive legal framework for intellectual property slowed due to the disruptions that accompanied the onset of the Revolutionary War. Despite this slowdown and the resulting lack of a comprehensive framework for protecting intellectual things under colonial law, the American conception of intellectual property was somewhat reframed in pursuit of independence, and the creativity and ingenuity of the colonists marched on throughout the war. Indeed, the American intellect was on full display in support of the war effort, as the Continental Army was constantly and cleverly reacting to their circumstance of being overmatched in military might. Practically speaking, the colonists banded together in a collective effort to generate embodiments of the intellect — such as writings, maps, processes, systems, tools, weapons, and more — that would ultimately propel the Continental Army to victory. Even after the Continental Army was disbanded, the influence of intellectual property on developments in the American military persisted through the formation of the United States Army. This paper takes a fresh look at how intellectual property, at a conceptual level and a practical level, fueled the development of the American military in the latter half of the 18th century. In this manner, the paper highlights the role of intellectual property in the defense of liberty.

Presented By
Salvatore Gianino, Washington University

The Flying Evaluation Board: Democracy’s Role in the Army Air Forces in World War II

During World War II, a navigator on a bomb crew started feeling “panicky.” The symptoms were bad enough that during two consecutive missions, his team felt that they placed the navigator and themselves in grave danger. After the second mission, the navigator’s crew had had enough and confronted the navigator, which led him to divulge to his commanding officer that he was suffering from mental distress. The commanding officer “preferred charges,” or in other words, began a judicial process that would decide the flyer’s fate. He—and thousands of other airmen like him—had to appear before a Flying Evaluation Board that determined whether he would be punished or potentially expelled from the Army Air Forces (AAF). The Board required the airman’s crewmates to testify. Thinking that they were protecting their navigator, the crew’s testimonies proved detrimental to his case. Ultimately, the Board used the crew’s statements to conclude that the navigator “was qualified but unwilling.” Essentially, through a process that reflected a legal trial, the Board deemed the navigator a coward. This paper examines the importance of the Flying Evaluation Boards in the Army Air Forces during the Second World War. It argues that through the examination of these panels, we see American democracy at work in multiple roles, including approving diagnoses of psychological ailments, asserting claims of cowardice and malingering, removing an airman from flight status, and potentially separating him from the service altogether. The AAF, like the other branches of the military, did not have a strong understanding of psychological illness at this time. Much like the case above, when a flyer became incapacitated due to mental stress, oftentimes, administrative personnel—such as commanding officers—believed the airman feigned illness due to the absence of physical symptoms that might have disqualified him from duty. Medical staff, however, strove to find a medical diagnosis. To reach a consensus, officers required suffering men to stand before the Flying Evaluation Boards, which included four senior rated officers, two flight surgeons, and one officer with legal training. This Board’s mission was to gather all available evidence and to determine if the airmen were legitimately incapable of flying. Using testimonies from officers, flight surgeons, witnesses, and cross-examinations in a process much like a legal trial, the Boards then administered punishment if they deemed the flyer physically qualified to fly but unwilling to do so. This paper relies on archival sources such as official AAF regulations and medical records to demonstrate the function of the Flying Evaluation Boards in distinguishing mental stress, fear, physical disqualification, and cowardice. Not only did the Board affect these airmen’s lives while they were in the service, but their judgments also meted out consequences that some flyers would feel after their tenure in the service. If the panel concluded that a man should be eliminated from the service due to cowardice, they lost all benefits they would have received with an honorable discharge, including access to health care and the GI Bill. Therefore, little known to historians, these panels warrant more in-depth study because they played crucial roles in the Army Air Forces’ policymaking concerning mental health and the lives of those men who had to appear in front of them.

Presented By
Jorden David Pitt, Texas Christian University

Back to the Future: Complicating the Cold War Mindset of the Early Reagan Years, 1980–1982

Underneath the headline-grabbing transformations in U.S.–Soviet relations in the final decade of the Cold War lurked many of the central challenges that would dominate the post–Cold War world, particularly the growing and related threats of rogue states, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism. Looking at the 1980s as not the final decade of the Cold War world but rather the beginning of the post–Cold War world, this paper examines the formation and evolution of an international strategy in the early years of the Reagan administration as American officials and their European allies first began to grapple with understanding a new framework on which to build Western foreign policy as the bipolar Cold War order began to fracture. During its first years in office, the Reagan administration confronted a number of critical crises—too often overlooked by scholars—that complicated its early desire to double down on the anticommunist focus of traditional American Cold War foreign policy. Israel’s decision to preemptively destroy Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor through a bombing raid, the provocations of Libyan despot Muammar Qadhafi, and the invasion of Britain’s Falkland Islands by the Argentine military junta all challenged the Reagan administration’s assumption that American foreign policy should be decided primarily in terms of the Cold War struggle. These key crises challenged the intellectual environment in which the Reagan administration emerged and the administration’s and its allies’ strategic priorities and mindset upon entering office. The halting and uncertain American response to these emerging threats laid the contours for growing debates over what role the United States and its European allies should play in shaping and defending a new global order that would replace the Cold War world.

Presented By
Matthew A. Frakes, University of Virginia

Session Participants

Chair and Commentator: Jennifer Lyn Speelman, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Presenter: Matthew A. Frakes, University of Virginia

Presenter: Salvatore Gianino, Washington University

Presenter: Jorden David Pitt, Texas Christian University