Paying with Their Bodies

American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran

John M. Kinder

John M. Kinder

368 pages | 41 halftones, 3 line drawings, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Cloth $30.00 ISBN: 9780226210094 Will Publish March 2015
E-book $18.00 ISBN: 9780226210124 Will Publish March 2015
Christian Bagge, an Iraq War veteran, lost both his legs in a roadside bomb attack on his Humvee in 2006. Months after the accident, outfitted with sleek new prosthetic legs, he jogged alongside President Bush for a photo op at the White House. The photograph served many functions, one of them being to revive faith in an American martial ideal—that war could be fought without permanent casualties, and that innovative technology could easily repair war’s damage. When Bagge was awarded his Purple Heart, however, military officials asked him to wear pants to the ceremony, saying that photos of the event should be “soft on the eyes.” Defiant, Bagge wore shorts.

America has grappled with the questions posed by injured veterans since its founding, and with particular force since the early twentieth century: What are the nation’s obligations to those who fight in its name? And when does war’s legacy of disability outweigh the nation’s interests at home and abroad? In Paying with Their Bodies, John M. Kinder traces the complicated, intertwined histories of war and disability in modern America. Focusing in particular on the decades surrounding World War I, he argues that disabled veterans have long been at the center of two competing visions of American war: one that highlights the relative safety of US military intervention overseas; the other indelibly associating American war with injury, mutilation, and suffering. Kinder brings disabled veterans to the center of the American war story and shows that when we do so, the history of American war over the last century begins to look very different. War can no longer be seen as a discrete experience, easily left behind; rather, its human legacies are felt for decades.

The first book to examine the history of American warfare through the lens of its troubled legacy of injury and disability, Paying with Their Bodies will force us to think anew about war and its painful costs.
Michael Sherry, Northwestern University
“Kinder convincingly shows the stubborn persistence of American discourses about disabled soldiers despite the extraordinary variations in the wars that produced those soldiers. He resists unduly flattening things out—things do change as the wars change. But anyone following discourses about the disabled of post-9/11 wars will find much that is familiar, and much that is powerful, in this account.”
Jay Winter, Yale University
"For the wounded soldier, the shadow of war extends long after the shooting stops. By placing the disabled soldier at the center of the history of American warfare since the Civil War, John M. Kinder has provided a disturbing and important account of this country’s engagement with war."
Joanna Bourke, University of London
"We hear a lot about the 'human cost of war,' but Kinder’s book not only exposes us to its dismembering horror, but also asks us to follow disabled service-personnel back into the civilian world after the war, where they struggle to reinvent their lives. It is a compassionate account of terrible suffering, which many veterans don’t survive. The big question remains: why have we still not learnt the lesson of war?"
Mary L. Dudziak | author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences
“Kinder has written a powerful and essential history of how disabled veterans came to be seen as a ‘problem.’ His unflinching accounts of battlefield injuries illuminate the social costs of war. The impact of disability—from Civil War amputations to World War I ‘shell shock’—was driven not only by changes over time in combat, but also by the way injuries were viewed at home. War injury was drawn upon in both pro- and anti-war political struggles, and scandals over veterans’ care periodically rocked Washington. Veterans organizations like the American Legion divided over whether veterans with disabilities needed paternal care or self-empowerment. Ultimately the ‘problem’ of disabled veterans went beyond the need for services. They embodied war’s ongoing impact, complicating cultural and political efforts to leave war behind. An important contribution.”
List of Illustrations

Part I. The Industrialization of Injury

Thomas H. Graham
1. “To Bind Up the Nation’s Wounds”: How the Disabled Veteran Became a Problem

Arthur Guy Empey
2. “The Horror for Which We Are Waiting”: Anxieties of Injury in World War I

Part II. The Aftermath of Battle

Elsie Ferguson in “Hero Land”
3. “Thinking Ahead of the Crippled Years”: Carrying On in an Age of Normalcy

Sunday at the Hippodrome
4. “The Cripple Ceases to Be”: The Rehabilitation Movement in Great War America

Part III. Mobilizing Injury

The Sweet Bill
5. “For the Living Dead I Work and Pray”: Veterans’ Groups and the Benefits of Buddyhood

Forget-Me-Not Day
6. “For the Mem’ry of Warriors Wracked with Pain”: Disabled Doughboys and American Memory

James M. Kirwin
7. “What Is Wrong with This Picture?” Disabled Veterans in Interwar Peace Culture

Part IV. Old Battles, New Wars

Harold Russell
8. “The Shining Plate of Prestige”: Disabled Veterans in the American Century

Tammy Duckworth
Epilogue: Toward a New Veteranology

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