History of Memorial Day: Free research on American soldiers in major wars

History of Memorial DayDo you know the history of Memorial Day? Founded in 1868 under the name Decoration Day, the first Memorial Day was intended to honor those soldiers who had fought in the American Civil War by decorating their graves. Since then, the event has expanded to honor veterans of any wars fought by American soldiers. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday and scheduled for the last Monday of May. In honor of American soldiers and Memorial Day, we at Questia are sharing five free resources for the top research topics about American soldiers. You can also check out Questia’s other sources on the U.S. Revolutionary War, the U.S. Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War.

A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763-1789

Authors: James Kirby Martin and Mark Edward Lender

In this 2006 edition of the book originally published in 1982, Martin and Lender discuss the soldiers of the American Revolution beyond the national mythology of the farmers serving as soldiers to found a new nation. The authors focus on the history of the Continental army as an important part of the nation-making process that helped to form the United States. Rather than discussing just the battles and tactics of the martial conflicts in which the army served, the authors look at the broader historical context shaped by those martial actions. The second edition adds several new illustrations, a Note on Revolutionary War History and Historiography, and a fully revamped Bibliographical Essay.

The Civil War Soldier: A Historical Reader

Editors: Michael Barton and Larry M. Logue

Starting in 1943, the study of not just military actions, but the lives of the everyday soldier during the U.S. Civil War launched scholarship that has been compiled in this anthology by editors Barton and Logue. The book features resources from the 19th century in which a soldier gives a detailed account of his life, as well as more modern publications that investigate the women who disguised themselves as men in order to join the army. Published in 2002, the book looks at a number of provocative questions about the U.S. Civil War: What were the differences between Union and Confederate soldiers? What were soldiers’ motivations for joining the army their “will to combat”? Is there a basis for comparison between the experiences of Civil War soldiers and those who fought in World War II or Vietnam? How did the experiences of black soldiers in the Union army differ from those of their white comrades? The numerous perspectives on what life was like for the men and women who fought do not answer all of these questions, but they do provide points of view on which to begin forming those answers.

Doughboy War: The American Expeditionary Force in World War I

Author: James H. Hallas

In 1917, America did something U.S. presidents had long promised not to do: sent soldiers to fight on the ground in Europe. Celebrating their nickname, the Doughboys, Hallas takes a look at what life was like for the soldiers on the ground in this book, published in 2000. Though some became legends — such as Marine Sergeant Dan Dailey who famously inspired his fellows and cried, “Come on you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?” — many were just soldiers trying to do their jobs, stay alive, and come home. Hallas looks at those lives and posits that they have something to tell even modern readers about what it means to be American.

The Comanche Code Talkers of World War II

Author: William C. Meadows

Among the allied troops that came ashore in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, were thirteen Comanches in the 4th Infantry Division, 4th Signal Company. Under German fire they laid communication lines and began sending messages in a form never before heard in Europe–coded Comanche. For the rest of World War II, the Comanche Code Talkers played a vital role in transmitting orders and messages in a code that was never broken by the Germans. This book, published in 2002, tells the full story of the Comanche Code Talkers for the first time. Drawing on interviews with all surviving members of the unit, their original training officer, and fellow soldiers, as well as military records and news accounts, Meadows follows the group from their recruitment and training to their active duty in World War II and on through their postwar lives up to the present. He also compares the Comanche Code Talkers with their Navajo counterparts who served in the Pacific, as well as other Native Americans who used their languages for secret communications.

A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam

Author: Keith Walker

Fifteen thousand women served in the Vietnam War, but for years, the numbers were obscured, in part due to a change in record keeping, and in part because the media had little to say about the women who had served, and the aftermath the action had on their lives. After a 1983 interview with an emergency room nurse who had served in Cu Chi and Da Nang, Walker set out to discover more about those women who had been so close to the war zone, despite official U.S. policy that, at the time, said women were not supposed to be in life-threatening situations. Despite the difficulties of convincing these women to discuss their experiences, Walker eventually compiled the stories of 26 women who opened their hearts — and their lives — to him in hopes of helping others reconcile their feelings about and experiences in Vietnam.

Visit Questia for even more research on U.S. Military History.

How do you think the lives of American soldiers put larger military actions in perspective?

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