American Samurai offers an innovative approach to military history by linking battlefield dynamics of the Pacific War to cultural, social, and institutional myth among marines of the First Division. Although it has elements of each, the book is neither a detailed campaign history nor a traditional unit history. It moves in roughly chronological order, but is organised thematically to explore how myth and imagination shaped the marines' actions. It blends a humanistic approach of letting the actors speak for themselves in letters and memoirs with insights from the social sciences.
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(204mm x 159mm x 22mm)
Cambridge University Press
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
In a revision of his 1990 doctoral dissertation, Cameron (History/Old Dominion Univ.) attempts to anatomize the esprit of the 1st Division of the US Marine Corps on the basis of its performance during WW II and after. In aid of his implicitly pejorative inquiry, the author addresses ways in which "historically invisible" cultural beliefs, perceptions, traditions, and other band-of-brothers bonds related to the actual conduct of battle. After sketching in the limited pre-Pearl Harbor role played by the publicity-mined USMC in the American military, Cameron critiques its training regimens, frequently comparing them to those employed by the Waffen SS or other killer elites. Getting down to cases, the author offers anecdotal accounts (drawn largely from contemporary sources) of how shared ideology, myths, and self-images affected the 1st Division's campaigns against Japanese troops in the Pacific theater (Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Okinawa) and their subsequent clashes with other Asiatic adversaries in China and Korea. Among other things, cameron concludes that Marines not only demonized but denigrated their foes, frequently on racial grounds; and that they were encouraged further to consider themselves far superior to their counterparts in other branches of the armed services. Exactly what point the author's arguable findings have, though, is unclear. To illustrate, he implies without stating that the USMC's methods of preparing for and engaging in warfare were deplorable and need to be understood if they are to be set right (albeit in undisclosed fashion). The actual result if our armed forces were to modify the ways they ready themselves to fight remains another story - one Cameron avoids altogether. In brief, then, an academic's examination of a presumptive pathology, which will strike many readers as rotten to the Corps. (Kirkus Reviews)
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