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Ivo Komljen

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

Morale Management, Recreation and GI Cultures in the United States Military in the Korean and Vietnam War, 1950-73 (Dissertation Project)

Dissertation in History

Mentoring team:
First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Sebastian Jobs
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Thomas Mergel
Third supervisor: Prof. Jessica Gienow-Hecht PhD

Managing how soldiers spend their time when they are not working or fighting has been a matter of practical concern for military leaders seeking to maintain morale and discipline within the ranks. For the United States, the Cold War era gave rise to new challenges in this regard, particularly against the backdrop of new mass media and communications technologies, the emergence of consumerism and youth culture, as well as social upheaval and racial strife on the home front. The study in question sets out to examine the daily lives of ordinary soldiers and marines during the Korean War and the Vietnam War, with a particular focus on the relationship between strategies of morale management “from above” and obstinate GI cultures “from below”. Beyond tracing continuities and changes in these areas and assessing the impact and concomitant effects of official morale-related policies, it aims to explore the diversity of possible war experiences American soldiers could make during this period. For these purposes, a wide range of primary sources will be drawn upon, including administrative reports, internal studies, oral history interviews, personal letters, diaries, memoirs and novels. There are three interrelated and recurring themes deserving of particular attention: (1) increasing interconnectedness and significant changes in the relationship between the home front and soldiers abroad, (2) cultural encounters and conflicts among various groups of soldiers (including ethnic minorities and individual units), and (3) institutional learning processes pertaining to morale-related policies and strategies. The study’s guiding hypothesis posits that rather than creating a carbon copy of American society for soldiers in the warzone, official efforts to provide them with a “home away from home” effectively spawned a “third space” with divergent conditions of social interaction

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft