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Chapters 6 and 7 address the government’s attempts to give pensions to Revolutionary War veterans, although it didn’t occur until after the War of 1812. Before legislation granting pensions to Revolutionary veterans was passed, Congressman Bloomfield believed that only 34 veterans would apply for pensions. How shocked he (and much of the government officials!!) must have been when over 32,900 people applied for these pensions. Unfortunately, there were many cases of fraud–men would apply under the names of dead men and receive their benefits. Despite what many in power thought, it was the wealthier veterans who were more likely to deceive the government, not the poor. These chapters also describe how picky the government was when it came to awarding pensions. Veterans could be denied for any reason: only fighting out of self-defense, enjoying one’s time in the army, or just being too young. It does not surprise me that the government looked for any excuse not to pay their veterans.
Chapter 8 discusses the Mexican War. I knew there was discrimination against Irish Catholics and other immigrants during this time in America, but I have never really thought about its impact on wartime America. All immigrants were treated terribly, but Irish Catholics were especially despised. What I found interesting was the way that the Mexicans, who were Catholic, published pamphlets in order to get Catholic soldiers on the American side to desert. This chapter really made me think about the terrible treatment of so many men who served our nation heroically, despite being discriminated against, and yet they still had a bad reputation because ‘native’ Americans chose to exaggerate the rare stories of bad behavior.
Chapter 13 addresses the terrible diseases and treatment the soldiers and veterans of the War with Spain faced. Soldiers contracted typhoid, yellow fever, malaria, and dysentery while fighting in Cuba, and the conditions on ships, such as the Concho made conditions much worse. Men did not receive adequate treatment, and water and food were scarce. Once they returned to America, they were placed in ill-prepared camps. I was horrified by the conditions at Camp Wikoff in Montauk. So many men were dying every day from these diseases, and yet President McKinley and Secretary of War Alger turned a blind eye. Alger, even after visiting Wikoff, refused to take any of the blame for the terrible conditions and blamed everything and everyone but himself. Alger, even once he had seen the men dying horrible deaths in muddy tents, thought that they were “very cheerful” (206).
Chapter 14 describes the War of Philippine Insurgency. I found many of the incidents discussed in this chapter similar to what we have read about Vietnam. The American soldiers did not know what Filipino civilian was there enemy–children and women even carried arms. I was especially horrified when I read all the accounts of the water torture and brutal murders American soldiers committed–and what was worse was the lack of punishment they received. I don’t think I have ever heard about any of this in any of my history classes, and I am so ashamed.
All I can say about Chapters 21 and 22 is that I am absolutely shocked. It is ridiculous that so many degraded returning soldiers from Korea and accused them of being communists. What is even more disgusting is the way Mayer accused those who died in POW camps of being weak and not trying to escape. I cannot believe that someone would say such things, let alone that so many Americans, especially those in power, would agree so quickly.