Tag Archives: Commemoration

Commemorating World War II at 70: Ethnic and Transnational Perspectives – An Introduction

Almost 70 years after it ended, World War II is still a lastingly shaping event in global public history. In the United States, the image of the “Good War” prevails, and the remembrance of the soldiers is marked by the display of national heroism, as the dedication of the National World War II Memorial on the Mall in D.C. in 2004 exemplifies as much as recent Hollywood films such as David Ayer’s Fury (2014) or George Clooney’s The Monuments Men (2014). This national narrative of unity and moral self-confidence, however, is counterpointed by the experiences—both within and after the war—of ethnic American individuals and groups.

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Keeping Time with the Good War

This essay suggests several ways to think about changing modes of commemoration of World War II in light of the arbitrary nature of calendars, the reasons we give to justify war, the role of bodies, and, the way we frame memory and history. It proposes an exceptionalist reading of the war and links its singular attributes to the unusual trajectory of its memorialization and commemoration. Finally, it turns to Mircea Eliade’s theory of “eternal return” as a conceptual framework to reconsider the relationship between the uses of history and memory in modern commemorative practices.

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Commemorating the Port Chicago Naval Magazine Disaster of 1944: Remembering the Racial Injustices of the ‘Good War’ in Contemporary America

On July 17, 1944, the largest homeland disaster that the United States experienced during World War II occurred at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine, a deep-water terminal thirty miles northeast of Oakland, California. Some 320 men, almost all African American sailors, were instantly killed when two ships being loaded with ammunition exploded. Initial responses to the disaster reflect the deep racial injustices of the era. This essay considers how contemporary recollections of the Port Chicago disaster both challenge and reify conventional narratives about World War II.

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