Remembering and Forgetting in the U.S. Army
“If you see obstacles ahead of you, it's time to draw strength from a team who's been overcoming them for almost 250 years.”—U.S. Army
Unfortunately, that 250 year history doesn’t appear to include the American Civil War. At least not in this recruitment video.
Make no mistake. This is most definitely not an oversight. A decision was made to leave out what was arguably the most important moment in the history of the U.S. Army. There would have been no WWI or WWII without the defeat of the Confederacy and the suppression of the “slaveholders rebellion.”
I suspect that recruiters don’t want to alienate anyone who is sympathetic, in some shape or form, to the Confederacy or the memory and “honor” of the Confederate soldier.
But if that’s the case it leaves you wondering what kind of people the U.S. Army is recruiting these days as well as the evidence of extremist views within the military. White nationalists and other right-wing extremists identify closely with the Confederacy and Confederate iconography and as a result of the January 6 Hearings and other investigations, we now know that these elements are present in the military.
From a NYTs op-ed in November 2022:
One of the most troubling facts about adherents of extremist movements is that veterans, active-duty military personnel and members of law enforcement are overrepresented. One estimate, published in The Times in 2020, found that at least 25 percent of members of extremist paramilitary groups have a military background….
For decades, police departments, the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs have known about the problem, yet they have made only halting progress in rooting out extremists in the ranks.
Jan. 6 changed that. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was so alarmed by the events of that day that he ordered all military commands to reinforce existing regulations prohibiting extremist activity and to query service members about their views on the extent of the problem. The Defense Department standardized its screening questionnaires for recruits and changed its social media policies, so that liking or reposting white nationalist and extremist content would be considered the same as advocating it. Service members could face disciplinary action for doing so. The department also began preparing retiring members to avoid being recruited by extremist groups.
I highly recommend Kathleen Belew’s insightful study on this subject for a broader and deeper historical analysis of the problem.
It’s a sad day when the U.S. Army is uncomfortable highlighting that time when it saved the nation.
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Heartbreaking. This could be a good question for Ty Seidule.
This is indeed troubling. They would rather feature the West Point football teams of the 1940s than the Union Army in their commercial. You are exactly right in saying the US Army in the Civil War probably provided its most valuable contributions to our history. I also agree that it probably wasn’t an accidental omission. A disproportionate percentage of the Army’s accessions are from the former confederacy, and with already historically poor recruiting numbers, I suppose they don’t want to alienate them and make it worse. That’s a problem.
In my experience in the Army, I knew of a disconcerting number of guys with sympathies of either rebels or Nazis. I found it strange and surprising they served in an army who fought and defeated both of those opponents. I was a cadre member of a cavalry initial training troop and our commander gave us all replica confederate army sabers as a memento of his time with us. I think I and another fellow were the only two who thought it weird.
I don’t know how relevant this is, but I think it is another example of extremism in the military. I am reminded of a post made on the official Facebook page of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps in December, 2019. The author of the post discussed a unit commander and all the difficulties he faced in the opening stages of the Battle of the Bulge. That commander was Joachim Peiper, commander German SS troops and convicted war criminal. That post neglected mention his troops role in the massacre of US ARMY TROOPS at Malmedy during that part of the battle. An Army officer called this out and it was soon deleted, but why was a Nazi featured? Why does the Army’s service in the Civil War get ignored? You raise important points and I hope my experiences add to this conversation.