First World War-based ex-servicemen’s organisations found themselves facing an existential crisis with the onset of the Second World War. This book examines how two such groups, the British and American Legions, adapted cognitively to the emergence of yet another world war and its veterans in the years 1938 through 1946. With collective identities and socio-political programmes based in First World War memory, both Legions renegotiated existing narratives of that war and the lessons they derived from those narratives as they responded to the unfolding Second World War in real time. Using the previous war as a "learning experience" for the new one privileged certain understandings of that conflict over others, inflecting its meaning for each Legion moving forward. Breaking the Second World War down into its constituent events to trace the evolution of First World War memory through everyday invocations, this unprecedented comparison of the British and American Legions illuminates the ways in which differing international, national, and organisational contexts intersected to shape this process as well as the common factors affecting it in both groups. The book will appeal most to researchers of the ex-service movement, First World War memory, and the cultural history of the Second World War.
Table of Contents
1. "Do Everything Possible to Keep the Peace": Veterans’ Duty in the British Legion, 1938–1939
2. "There Is a Great Deal We Can Do About America": Veterans’ Duty in the American Legion, 1938–1941
Part 1 Conclusion: Veterans’ Duty and Service: Comparing the British and American Legions
3. "A New Legion … of Millions": Trans-Generational Comradeship in the British Legion, 1939–1941
4. Toward a "Two-War Legion": Trans-Generational Comradeship in the American Legion, 1942–1944
Part 2 Conclusion: Trans-Generational Comradeship: Comparing the British and American Legions
5. "Never Again": The Social Contract and Post-War Planning in the British Legion, 1940–1946
6. "What Will We Win?": The Social Contract and Post-War Planning in the American Legion, 1944–1946
Part 3 Conclusion: The Social Contract and Post-War Planning: Comparing the British and American Legions
Ashley Garber teaches history and works as an independent scholar in London. She earned her DPhil in history from the University of Oxford in 2019.