6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

The Good Occupation: American Soldiers and the Hazards of Peace

In the seven decades since World War II ended, Americans have come to regard their postwar reconstructive ventures in defeated Germany and Japan as shining examples of "nation building" at its best. The "good war" was, fittingly enough, followed by the "good occupation." But for millions of American service personnel, membership of an army of occupation was a perplexing, oftentimes dispiriting, experience. Drawing on hundreds of letters and diaries produced by uniformed men and women of every rank, Susan L. Carruthers explores the intimate phenomenology of postwar soldiering. This talk, based on her newly published book, The Good Occupation: American Soldiers and the Hazards of Peace (Harvard University Press, 2016) suggests a more fraught history of a surprisingly neglected topic: military victory.

Susan L. Carruthers is Professor of History (US & the World) at Rutgers University-Newark, where she has taught since 2002. Over the past decade, she has also held visiting fellowships at Harvard's Charles Warren Center (2006-07), the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2010-11) and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center at Princeton (2015-16). Her books include Cold War Captives (University of California Press, 2009); The Media At War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), and The Good Occupation: American Soldiers and the Hazards of Peace (Harvard University Press, 2016).
 
The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.

Speakers