When Soldiers Fall: How Americans Have Confronted Combat Losses from World War I to Afghanistan

Hardcover | January 16, 2014

bySteven Casey

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Call it the Vietnam Syndrome or Black Hawk Down blowback. It's the standard assumption that Americans won't tolerate combat casualties, that a rising body count lowers support for war. But that's not true, argues historian Steven Casey; even worse, this assumption damages democracy. Fearing abacklash, the military has routinely distorted its casualty reports in order to hide the true cost of war. When Soldiers Fall takes a new look at the way Americans have dealt with the toll of armed conflict. Drawing on a vast array of sources, from George Patton's command papers to previously untapped New York Times archives, Casey ranges from World War I (when the U.S. government first began to reportcasualties) to the War on Terror, examining official policy, the press, and the public reaction. Not surprisingly, leaders from Douglas MacArthur to Donald Rumsfeld have played down casualties. But the reverse has sometimes been true. At a crucial moment in World War II, the military actuallyexaggerated casualties to counter the public's complacency about ultimate victory. More often, though, official announcements have been unclear, out of date, or deliberately misleading - resulting in media challenges. In World War I, reporters had to rely on figures published by the enemy; in World War II, the armed forces went for an entire year without releasing casualty tallies. Casey discusses the impact of changing presidential administrations, the role of technology, the dispersal of correspondents to covermultiple conflicts, and the enormous improvements in our ability to identify bodies. Recreating the controversies that have surrounded key battles, from the Meusse-Argonne to the Tet Offensive to Fallujah, the author challenges the formula that higher losses lower support for war. Integrating military, political, and media history, When Soldiers Fall provides the first in-depth account of the impact of battlefield losses in America.

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Call it the Vietnam Syndrome or Black Hawk Down blowback. It's the standard assumption that Americans won't tolerate combat casualties, that a rising body count lowers support for war. But that's not true, argues historian Steven Casey; even worse, this assumption damages democracy. Fearing abacklash, the military has routinely distort...

Steven Casey is Reader in International History at the London School of Economics. His books include Cautious Crusade and Selling the Korean War, which won the Truman Book Award.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:January 16, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199890382

ISBN - 13:9780199890385

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Censorship annd the First Casualty Controversy: World War I, 1917-19182. Bad News in the "Good War": World War II, 1941-19433. The Price of Victory: World War II, 1944-19454. Partisanship and the Police Action: The Korean War, 1950-19535. Vietnam: The Escalating War, 1961-19686. Vietnam: De-Escalation and Defeat, 1969-19897. Gulf Wars: Iraq and Afghanistan, 1990-2011ConclusionNotesBibliography