Historian's new book considers America's all-volunteer Army

Historians in the News

As President Barack Obama announces his new blueprint for the war in Afghanistan, which includes an increase of up to 30,000 U.S. troops, it can be easy to take for granted that those troops come from an all-volunteer force.

It has been a full 37 years since President Nixon fulfilled his campaign promise and ended the draft in 1973, shortly after the last American combat troops returned from Vietnam. In America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force, Temple historian Beth Bailey tells the story of America’s all-volunteer force (AVF) and in the process offers a history of America in the post Vietnam era. According to Bailey, the Army — more so than other institutions — has had to directly confront the legacies of the social change movements of the 1960’s.

At first glance, it might seem like a stretch for Bailey, a social and cultural historian, to tackle a military topic. Her last book, Sex in the Heartland: Politics, Culture, and the Sexual Revolution (Harvard University Press, 1999) argued that the sexual revolution was forged in towns and cities alike, as “ordinary” people struggled over the boundaries of public and private sexual behavior in postwar America.

But, explained Bailey, “I have always been interested in the question of who belongs, of who counts in American society and on what terms. Military service is one of ways that people claim the full rights of citizenship in this country.”

comments powered by Disqus