Robert Humphrey, a holder of a doctoral degree in history studies, employs various themes to explain his book’s main objectives. The narrative’s topics revolve around the USA’s patriotism, internal divisions, and unity of purpose, as demonstrated through the 99th infantry battalions in World War II.1 Additionally, through class, culture, and racial bigotry, the author effectively elaborates his intentions in clarifying the splits in the 99th infantry troops. Altogether, the author showcases how the USA is always at war with itself, capitalism defeating democracy.
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The author uses language, military training, dangers of diseases in the camp, and emotions as tools that united the 99th infantry battalion. The book presents these tools as the necessary events that have always united the USA’s capitalistic differences.2 The work evaluated explicitly demonstrates that the author possesses extensive knowledge of this topic and a precise understanding of the main aspects of human communication. The author’s historical background is supplemented by additional education in communication studies, a vital subject necessary to outline the unification process.
Humphrey’s target audience is the general public, as the book seeks to unify citizens and reinstates the American democratic spirit. In this context, the author’s use of class wars to define the troop’s differences and language to unify the 99th infantry proves the writer’s successful strategy in conveying his message. This paper will cover an analytical review of the book Once Upon a Time: The 99th Division in World War II based on the themes described.
The Bigotry of Class, Race, and Culture
As Japan and Germany’s external warring ideas blossomed, the Americans had to prepare for war by enlarging their military base and recruiting more men into the army. In this segment, Humphrey effectively portrays how the divided military recruits who thronged the mines of Pennsylvania, New York Streets, and the farm grounds of Iowa prepare to undergo militaristic training formed on patriotism.3 The author exposes the divisions of race, class, and cultural segregation, explaining the main reasons behind the soldiers’ disputes.
The diverse cultures of the South and the North played an important part in the history of this battalion. The nicknames “Coon” and “Negro” were commonly used by the confederate state citizens to abuse the blacks in their platoons, which became an issue for the northern whites. 4 For instance, intense arguments arose between the northern and southern white populations regarding the black people sitting arrangements on the bus.5 Humphrey excellently illustrates the southerners’ collective identity of the “Rebel,” which became a cause of further division.
The issue of education presented an additional challenge for the division. The unlearned, segregated military personnel commonly feared the educated soldiers.6 The book provides classical and practical historical evidence that, at that time, out of ten white people, only four were educated, and out of ten black Americans, only two received proper schooling. This ratio led to more in-battalion combats, their numbers eventually exceeding the American-German encounters. Overall, the USA’s ideas of class and racial segregation, as well as educational difficulties, originated the division between the northern and southern individuals.
Unity and Patriotism: The Cost of Victory
Regardless of the tensions between the troops, the military training was still to be completed. Thus, patriotism was utilized to fulfill the objective to battle against the common enemy, resulting in enhanced unity, as described by Humphrey’s interviews with the veterans.7 The author supplies the reader with an understanding that patriotism and the military environment were the origins of unity’s emanation. The need to beware of dangerous diseases within the military barracks united the people, as everyone, irrespective of their origin, had to focus on hygiene and keep their neighbors safe from syphilis and lynx diseases. Additionally, language and emotional psychology are used as components that led to the bonding and unity of different members.8 The use of vulgar words united them, creating a platoon under the spirit of patriotism and general interest in fighting the German troops.
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The overall goal of the book becomes evident when reading the examples discussed. Humphrey brilliantly describes the process of unification, stating that various cultural and social differences can be overcome when facing the dangers of war. The potential audience of this work, such as people of later generations unaware of the historical events, are offered an explanation that the war entails complications, which can only be successfully resolved through cooperation. When faced with death, disease, and hunger, individual disparities become less crucial, forcing people to collaborate. All of these topics are essential to convey to the younger populations, as well as the close relatives of the war veterans.
Analyzing the main aspects of this work, it is evident that the main thesis follows the understanding that the scenarios experienced by the troops were especially gruesome, influencing their original beliefs. The evidence gathered by Humphrey from the representatives of the 99th battalion, the remaining war veterans, strongly suggests that a person’s views can be changed while under extreme pressure. The use of this data is exemplary, as large amounts of knowledge are transcribed and presented in a consecutive, understandable format.
The writer uses primary sources to construct a detailed story of the platoon, from the point of its formation to the end of its existence. Individual stories pertaining to the emotional hardships endured during the military service form the most vital part of the factual information presented to support the main idea. Thus, the narrative carefully pursues the historical progression of the events. Humphrey clearly expresses the origins of his sources to further strengthen the main arguments of his book.
Even though the narrative presented is exceptionally inspiring and informative, several issues regarding its accuracy still exist. Some authors state that the veterans’ recollections should be evaluated with special care, as memories tend to fade or even change over significant periods.9. For example, some of the military equipment described in the book is misused, while specific statements do not correlate with the official versions of the events.10. Nonetheless, this data’s significance is tremendous even considering the factual faults, as it comprises over 350 personal impressions, which are now commemorated on account of Humphry’s examination.
Humphrey’s book reveals how the 99th Infantry Battalion grew with heavy cultural, race, and class differences. Classical evidence related to how language, emotional psychology, and military training united the platoon members is provided. This work can be incredibly useful to any individuals interested in the recollections of the World War II veterans. Altogether, this work serves as a remarkable statement regarding the emotional and physical struggles that unified the soldiers on the 99th battalion despite the striking social and cultural differences.
Humphrey, Robert E. Once Upon a Time in War: The 99th Division in World War II. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014.
McManus, John C., and Harding A. Ganz. “Once Upon a Time in War: The 99th Division in World War II.” The Journal of Military History 74, no. 1 (2010): 204–207.
McManus, John. The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in World War II. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2007.
- Robert E. Humphrey. Once Upon a Time in War: The 99th Division in World War II (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014), 1-322.
- Humphrey, Once Upon a Time in War, 7.
- Humphrey, Once Upon a Time in War, 13.
- Humphrey, Once Upon a Time in War, 15.
- Humphrey, Once Upon a Time in War, 15.
- Humphrey, Once Upon a Time in War, 14.
- Humphrey, Once Upon a Time in War, 24.
- Humphrey, Once Upon a Time in War, 150.
- John C. McManus and Harding A. Ganz. “Once Upon a Time in War: The 99th Division in World War II.” The Journal of Military History 74, no. 1 (2010): 204–207.
- John McManus. The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in World War II (New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2007), 314.