Joshua Akers

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PhD Student
jkakers@live.unc.edu

Major Field: Military History
Advisers:
Jerma A. Jackson and Joseph T. Glatthaar

BA North Carolina Wesleyan College, 2011
Undergraduate Honors Thesis: “The Exigencies of Combat Leadership: A Comparative Analysis of Junior Officers in the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan Wars”
MA James Madison University, 2013
MA Thesis: “Limited War, Limited Enthusiasm: Sexuality, Disillusionment, Survival, and the Changing Landscape of War Culture in Korean War-era Comic Books and Soldier Iconography”

Research Interests

My dissertation will draw on my master’s and undergraduate theses to examine enlistment motivations among Vietnam War veterans during the 1960s. Between 1950 and 1970 television, movies, comic books, popular literature, magazines, and other cultural objects saturated American culture with images of warfare. Much of this culture constructed images of the ideal masculine soldier, whose manliness was defined through heroic acts of valor on the battlefield. Whether it were imagery of John Wayne disembarking—and eventually sacrificing his life—on Iwo Jima, or the comic book character Joe Yank massacring North Korean and Chinese enemies, these images collectively represented an ideal fighting man that Americans could depend on in a time of crisis. These cultural representations, the oratories of political leaders, and the living memory of World War II veterans all shaped collective memories of World War II and the Korean War during the Second Indochina War. As I embark on this project, I primarily ask how the collective memory of World War II and Korea affected young men on the eve of the Second Indochina War. Was service during the conflict for these men a rite of passage to manhood? Did they embody or reject the masculine identity offered by popular culture? I will anchor my dissertation on oral histories and visual culture during this period to answer these questions.

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