The Citizen-Soldier in the American Imagination: Traces of the Myths of World War II in the "Army Strong" Recruitment Campaign

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Virginia Tech

The myth of the citizen-soldier resonates strongly in the American imagination and helps (re)construct America the nation. The construction of this myth in the historical context of World War II is especially prominent in contemporary American culture. The myth of the World War II citizen-soldier functions as an individualized discursive formation with specific rules of formation. I contextualize the construction of this individualized discursive formation within the historical era of World War II, and show how it excludes in direct contradiction to the ideals of civic nationalism that shaped the concept of national citizenship of that era. The United States military, which changed to an All Volunteer Force in 1973, functions as a neoliberal state apparatus in modern America. However, the United States Military still largely relies on the rules of formation and the ideals of civic nationalism in order to recruit volunteers for its forces.

Traces of the myths of World War II, particularly the myth of the citizen-soldier, can still be found in the United States Army's recruitment material in its current "Army Strong" campaign despite the contradictory ideals of civic nationalism and neoliberalism. I conduct a Critical Discourse Analysis of three recruitment television commercials from the "Army Strong" campaign aired in 2009. I explain how the United States Army uses both the ideals of civic nationalism and the characteristics of neoliberalism in order to encourage potential recruits to join its ranks.

Citizen-Soldier, Civic Nationalism, Critical Discourse Analysis, Military Recruitment, Myth, Nation, Neoliberalism, United States Army, United States Military, World War II