The United States in World War II

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“The United States in World War II”

History 373                Roger W. Lotchin

Spring Semester 562 Hamilton Hall
9:00 MWF, Greenlaw 101        My office phone 962-3946
                        History office 962-2115
                        Off. hrs: MWF 1:30-2:30,
                        & by appointment


    The spirit of the course will be skeptical.  The course will seek to consider the nature of this war, to determine how much change World War II brought, both in military and homefront matters, and to contemplate whether those changes were positive.  The principal theses of the course are that the military dimension of war is violent, unpredictable, uncontrollable, and morally complex.  It is also unusually responsive to heroic action.  Finally, despite many changes in the military dimension of war, the homefront did not change greatly.  It was marked by continuity.  In view of these givens, we will also investigate whether World War II was a good war, as so many historians have suggested.


All books are available at the University Bookstore; all articles and books will be on reserve at the Undergraduate Library.  One of the books (**) listed below is a historical novel: the rest are history books.

1.    Ambrose, Stephen.  A Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

2.    Chang, Iris.  The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II.
3.    Lyons, Michael J.  World War II: A Short History. (Text).
4.    Lotchin, Roger W.  The Bad City in the Good War: San
     Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego.
5.    **Remarque, Erich Maria.  A Time to Love, And A Time to Die.  Coursepack.
6.    Rubinstein, William.  The Myth of Rescue: Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews from the Nazis.
7.    Sides, Hampton. Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission.
8.    Wise, Nancy Baker and Wise, Christy. A Mouthful of Rivets: Women at Work in World War II.

C.     REQUIREMENTS: The requirements are structured so as to balance the importance of written, verbal, and factual skills so that students with different abilities will enjoy at least one congenial course advantage.  Those who write papers well will have the paper; those who write essays well will have the exams; those who absorb information well will have the IDs; and those with the gift of blarney will have class discussion.  Those who can do it all should have it made, as any World War II soldier would have put it.

1.    All students will be expected to read the Lyons text, plus Lotchin, The Bad City in the Good War, four of the six other books, and several articles.  One may use excused cuts on the days that we discuss the books one chooses not to read, or one may attend.
2.    Everyone must take a final exam and a mid-term exam, write a paper, and attend class discussions, with the exception of two excused cuts. The first exam will test everything covered in the course up to that time—text, other readings, class discussions, and lectures--and the final exam will take in everything covered after the first test.  THE FINAL EXAM IS NOT CUMULATIVE.  Both examinations will be two thirds essay (seven-page limit per essay) and one third identification (ID). The final exam will count one fourth of the grade, and the rest of the grade will be based on the mid-term exam, the paper, and class discussion in equal parts (1/4). THE CLASS DISCUSSION COMPONENT OF THE COURSE MUST BE COMPLETED WITH A PASSING GRADE.  Attending the discussions will ensure a passing grade (C-); anything beyond that will require actual participation in the discussions. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE FIRST EXAM WILL BE GIVEN FROM 2:00 TO 5:00 IN THE AFTERNOON.  A STUDENT WHO REGISTERS FOR THIS COURSE WILL BE AGREEING TO THIS EXAMINATION TIME.
3.    The course will include both lecture and discussion (2-1) and, with two exceptions, attendance at the discussion sections is required.  The excused cut may be taken for any reason, but you must keep your own record of the number of classes that you have missed.  Discussions will usually be held on Fridays.  Lecture attendance is optional, but the lecture material is usually different from that in the text and readings, so too many absences will certainly undermine good performance on the evaluations.
4.    The course paper will investigate the evolution of the presentation of World War II, through one of the principal American art forms, i.e., the movies.  Each student will view one movie from the historical period of World War II (usually defined as 1941-45) and two from later eras. The list of movies from which you may choose is appended below.  If you cannot find three movies from those listed below, we can discuss another selection.  If I can approve it, it is possible to substitute or supplement.  The written assignment will discuss the way in which movies have treated the conflict during World War II and in the years after 1945.  How much change over time has there been?  The paper should discuss any three of the themes listed below and then in the conclusion analyze them in relation to the concept of realism.  There are many important World War II issues, but this paper must concentrate on the evolution of the cinematic treatment of the following themes:
a.    Heroism.  How have Hollywood and other presentations of heroism changed over the years?
b.    Treatment of the enemy.  Do the movies stereotype or fairly represent the foe?
c.    Treatment of diverse population groups other than the enemy; whites, blacks, Asians, Irish, Jews, Poles, Italians, British, Aussies, Slavs, Hispanics, women, Africans, southern whites, etc.?  Are such other population groups pictured with bias or without?
d.    Patriotism.  How do the movies approach the subject of love of country?
e.    Treatment of war.  How does the cinema “discuss” the phenomenon of war?  Does it present a philosophy of war?  Does it portray strategy and tactics in a comprehensible manner?  How does it treat the subject of war?  Does it address the nature of war?
f.    Leadership style.  How are leaders on all sides portrayed?
g.    Special effects.  What are they and how sophisticated are they?
h.    Love, in a world aflame.

So remember that one movie must be chosen from those made during the years December 7, 1941 and September 2, 1945, in other words, during American participation in the struggle.  It is very much in the interest of students to choose movies within a single category of film coverage of the war, that is, the air war, the ground war, the submarine war, and so forth.  Such a selection will enhance the comparability of the films.  The papers should be ten typewritten pages long, with pagination, and will be due on April 2, 2004, three weeks before the end of the semester.  Papers should be turned in after class on that day in the regular classroom.

5.    Everyone should fill out the white information card, giving your name, local address, telephone number, email address, year in school, major, and grade point average.  IF THE LATTER IS PRIVILEGED, OMIT IT. When filling out your cards, please put the days of the week at the top and the hours on the side. (See below)  We will not have discussion rooms until at least January 23, so the first two Friday classes will be lecture.
M.        T.        W.        Th.        F.
8        X                X                X
9                X                X
10        X                X                X
11                X                X
1        X                X                X

D.    Assignment schedule.

1.  Textbook: chapters 1-4, 12-14, 20, 24-26 for first exam; chapters 5-11, 15-23 and “Aftermath” for the for the final exam.
2.  Other readings:
1-9-2004    Lecture.
1-16-2004    Lecture.
1-23-2004    Chang, The Rape of Nanking.
1-30-2004     Sides, Ghost Soldiers.
2-6-2004    Tami Davis Biddle, “Allied Air Power: Objectives and Capabilities,” Martin Gilbert, “The Contemporary Case for the Feasibility of Bombing Auschwitz,” and David Wyman, “Why Auschwitz Was Never Bombed.”
2-13-2004    Rubinstein, The Myth of Rescue, second half.
2-20-2004    Wise and Wise, Mouthful of Rivets, pp. 1-147.
2-23-2004 or 2-25-2004 Mid-Term Exam at 2:00-5:00 in a room TBA.
2-27-2004    TBA
3-5-2004    Wise and Wise, Mouthful of Rivets, pp. 148-274.
3-8 through 3-12, 2004, Spring Break (Optional).
3-19-2004    Remarque, A Time to Love and a Time to Die, pp. 1-191.
3-26-2004    Remarque, A Time to Love…, pp. 192-372.
4-2-2004    Lotchin, The Bad City in the Good War.
4-16-2004   Ambrose, A Band of Brothers, pp. 1-164.
4-23-2004    Ambrose, A Band of Brothers, 165-307.  Last day of class.

Movie List:  Movie guides are available at the Nonprint section of the Undergraduate Library.  These guides will aid you in choosing your movies.  Be sure to begin looking for movies early in the semester even though the paper is not due until April 7.  An early search will enable you to order movies from sources other than local ones if that is necessary.  Not all of these movies are at Nonprint at UNC, so students will have to depend on the commercial video stores as well.  Nonprint has good guides in case you cannot find what you are interested in on this list.  The web site for Nonprint is  If the movie is not at Nonprint or the commercial outlets, it may be available through Interlibrary Loan at the reference Desk at Davis Library, or Nonprint can purchase the film for their permanent collection.  If you need to purchase, see the instructor.  I have to initiate the purchase.

1.      “A Bridge Too Far,” 1977.    Ground war.
2.      “Desert Fox, 1951.
3.      “Breakthrough,” 1978.
4.      “Cross of Iron,” 1977.
5.      “Hell is for Heroes,” 1962.
6.      “Saving Private Ryan” ***
7.      “Battle of the Bulge,” 1965.
8.      “Young Lions,” 1958.
9.      “Patton,” 1970.
10.      “Sahara,” 1943.
11.      “Big Red One,” 1980.
12.      “Desert Rats,” 1953.
13.      “Red Ball Express, 1952.
14.      “Five Graves to Cairo,” 1943.
15.      “Code Talker,”???  (Nicholas Cage)
16.      “Sands of Iwo Jima,” 1949.  Amphibious war
17.      “The Longest Day,” 1962.
18.      “Anzio,” 1968.
19.      “To the Shores of Tripoli,” 1942.
20.      “Run Silent, Run Deep,” 1958 Sub war
21.      “Crash Dive,” 1943.
22.      “Destination Toyko,” 1943.
23.      “Das Boot (The Boat),” 1981.
24.      “The Enemy Below,” 1957.
25.      “Torpedo Run,” 1958.
26.      “Action in the North Atlantic,” 1943.
27.      “Tora, Tora, Tora,” 1970    Pac. naval war
28.      “The Sullivans,” or “The Fighting Sullivans,” 1944.
29.      “Midway,” 1976.
30.      “Pearl Harbor.”
31.      “PT 109,” 1963.
32.      “They Were Expendable,” 1945.
33.      “The Fighting Seebees,” 1944. Island war
34.      “Bataan,” 1943.
35.      “Thin Red Line,” 1964.
36.      “Thin Red Line,” recent version
37.      “In Harm’s Way,” 1965.
38.      “All through the Night,” 1942.
39.      “Guadalcanal Diary,” 1943.
40.      “Sink the Bismarck,” 1960. Atlantic naval war.
41.      “In Which We Serve,” 1942.
42.      “Fighting Coast Guard,” 1951.
43.      “Where Eagles Dare” 1968.     Commandoes/Guerillas
44.      “Commandos Strike at Dawn,” 1942.
45.      “Force 10 From Navarone,” 1978.
46.      “The Guns of Navarone,” 1961.
43.  “Merrills Mauraders,” 1962.
47.      “The Great Escape,” 1963.    Prisoners
48.       “Hart’s War,” 199?
49.      “Bridge over the River Kwai,” 1959.
50.      “Stalag 17,” 1953.
51.      “Battle of Britain,” 1969.     Air war
52.      “Bombardier,” 1943.
53.      “Wings of the Navy,” 1939.
54.      “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo,” 1944.
55.      “Twelve O’Clock High,” 1949.
56.      “Command Decision,” 1948.
57.      “Flying Leathernecks,” 1951.
58.      “Flying Tigers,” 1943.
59.      “Winged Victory,” 1944.
60.      “Memphis Belle,” 1990.
61.      “Purple Heart,” 1944.
62.      “The Tuskeegee Airmen,” 1995.
63.      “Casablanca,” 1942.    Home fronts
64.      “To Have and Have Not,” 1944 (Remade as the “Breaking Point” and the “Gun Runners.”)
65.      “A Bell for Adano,” 1945.
66.      “Tea House of the August Moon,” 1956.
67.      “Since You Went Away,” 1944.
68.      “Swing Shift,” 1984.
69.      “.
70.      “Mrs. Miniver,” 1942.
71.      “I Was an American Spy,” 1951. (“High Pockets”) Espionage
72.      “The Saboteur, Code Name Morituri,” 1965.
73.      “Saboteur,” 1942.
74.      “Across the Pacific,” 1942.
75.      “My Favorite Spy,” 1942.
76.      “Foreign Correspondent,” 1940.
77.      “Eye of the Needle,” 1981.
78.      “Shining through” 1992.
79.      “The House on 92nd Street,” 1945.
71.    “Mother Night,” 1996.
71.    “Counterfeit Traitor,” 1996.
72.    “Halls of Montezuma,” 1950. Miscellany
73.    “One of Our Aircraft is Missing,” 1942.  British AC crew escapes from Holland.
74.    “Till the End of Time,” 1946
75.    “Life Boat,” 1944.

*** Anyone choosing “Saving Private Ryan,” must view 4 movies instead of 3.

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