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Spooky special edition
Text analysis of Military Review for key terms
Today is Halloween, so the Harding Project is scraping Military Review’s archives for spooky content. Across more than 100 years of Military Review, Halloween and related words get only 13 mentions.
Of note, making this post was surprisingly laborious, as back issues of Military Review remain archived by issue. To pull these numbers, I searched CARL’s archive of Military Review for the keywords, downloaded each issue, searched within each issue for the keyword, and then had to determine whether the word was appropriate. While Halloween is unmistakable, “witch” sits inside words like “switch.” Identifying usages is pretty labor intensive, but will be more straightforward once the Army archives by article.
Below, I explore the mentions related to Halloween and witches.
The one mention of “Halloween” in Military Review comes from the March-April 1996 issue. In it, MG House, MAJ Piers, and LTC(R) Grau recount the 1st Infantry Division training alongside the Russian 27th Guards Division. As the article opens, they set the stage with a spooky vignette:
The helicopters rose into the air and over the rolling Kansas plain. The north wind rocked and buffeted the helicopters as they flew. The soldiers shouted out conversations as the adrenaline rush kicked in. A US Army specialist was trying to explain to a Russian junior sergeant that today was Halloween and what significance that held for Americans.
Witches get more mentions than Halloween. In this accounting, I consider “witch”, “witch doctor”, “witch hunts”, and “witchcraft” as close enough for consideration. Recently though, the use of “witch” has fallen out of fashion, last being mentioned in 1979 by General Westmoreland.
Mentions of witchy things:
In September of 1955, “First Requirement” describes the early days of the Korean War as a sort-of tactical decision exercise, where “Lieutenant Colonel Practically Nobody” (the reader, you) had to make decisions. Late in the piece, the authors advise how to prevent “witch hunts” in the case of sudden enemy attacks.
In February of 1961, British Major M.J.M. Wright published “Principles of War” which explains that military leaders’ art of war must be informed by the science of war, or else “he would have to adopt trial-and-error methods like a witch doctor.”
In November of 1970, an article titled “Ethnic Weapons” detailed how curare, a paralytic used for anesthesia, was originally “the carefully guarded secret of tribal witch doctors” (7).
In April of 1964, the “Human Dimensions of Insurgency” explored how rapidly modernizing societies may lose their guiding traditional values without rapidly adopting a suitable replacement. As part of a string of rhetorical questions, the author asks “If modern medicine cures, what happens to a peasant’s faith in the witch doctor?” (38).
In April of 1958, the article “The Barefoot Girl from Domremy” explores Joan of Arc’s success, mentioning “witchcraft” five times and “witch” just once. The article explains that “her victories were achieved not by witchcraft, as charged, but by sound military principles applied with foresight, initiative, and inspired leadership” (3-7).
In January of 1979, General Westmoreland published “Vietnam in Perspective.” In that article, Westmoreland offers his lessons learned from failure in that conflict, but also clearly states that he does “not propose any more witch hunts” (42).
Is it time for more spooky articles in professional journals? Probably not, but you can try to sneak a mention in when you submit your next piece.