The story of the intrepid young women who volunteered to help and entertain American servicemen fighting overseas, from World War I through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The emotional toll of war can be as debilitating to soldiers as hunger, disease, and injury. Beginning in World War I, in an effort to boost soldiers' morale and remind them of the stakes of victory, the American military formalized a recreation program that sent respectable young women and famous entertainers overseas.
Kara Dixon Vuic builds her narrative around the young women from across the United States, many of whom had never traveled far from home, who volunteered to serve in one of the nation's most brutal work environments. From the "Lassies" in France and mini-skirted coeds in Vietnam to Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe, Vuic provides a fascinating glimpse into wartime gender roles and the tensions that continue to complicate American women's involvement in the military arena. The recreation-program volunteers heightened the passions of troops but also domesticated everyday life on the bases. Their presence mobilized support for the war back home, while exporting American culture abroad. Carefully recruited and selected as symbols of conventional femininity, these adventurous young women saw in the theater of war a bridge between public service and private ambition.
This story of the women who talked and listened, danced and sang, adds an intimate chapter to the history of war and its ties to life in peacetime.
Kara Dixon Vuic is the inaugural LCpl. Benjamin W. Schmidt Professor of War, Conflict, and Society in Twentieth-Century America at Texas Christian University, an endowed position honoring a Texas Marine killed in Afghanistan. She is the author of Officer, Nurse, Woman: The Army Nurse Corps in the Vietnam War, which won the Lavinia L. Dock Book Award from the American Association for the History of Nursing and the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award in History and Public Policy, and was Finalist for the Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award. She advised and appeared in the PBS documentary USO: For the Troops, and the TLC series Who Do You Think You Are? and created an oral history collection for the Vietnam Center & Archive at Texas Tech University.
An important and timely book by a first-rate historian who is also a superb storyteller. Vuic richly captures the often contradictory demands made on women who volunteered for overseas troop support programs: to embody home-front domesticity but provide sensual entertainment; to be attractive but not too beautiful; to be friendly but not too close. Yet her book also underscores the women's deep belief in the work as a genuine contribution to the war effort.--James Wright, President Emeritus, Dartmouth College, and author of Enduring Vietnam
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