HOMEFRONT by Catherine Lutz

HOMEFRONT

A Military City and the American Twentieth Century

KIRKUS REVIEW

Anthropologist Lutz (Univ. of North Carolina) analyzes the effects of Fort Bragg on its host city, concluding that the US Army can cause plenty of damage domestically, as well as abroad.

The fortunes of Fayetteville, North Carolina, had been less than rosy when its town fathers welcomed the Army into the city in 1918. Even then, newly developed long-distance weapons required wide-open spaces that could be used for artillery ranges, and Fayetteville, declining in population and hungry for federal largesse, fit the bill. But the camp radically changed the city’s character, bringing soldiers from around the country into a sleepy southern town. And during WWII, camp population went from 5,400 to 159,000, with the soldiers bringing all the social problems of the country they served. Racial tensions grew, and segregated black soldiers consigned to noncombat duty were constantly blamed for the brawls that sprang up at the congested base. During Vietnam, antiwar activists, including soldiers and veterans, ruffled local conservative feathers. Most disliked by civilians, whatever the era, is the honky-tonk district that entertains the soldiers. It’s the center of local crime, its gin joints and brothels giving the town its nicknames of “Fatalville” and “Fayettnam.” Lutz clearly isn’t sympathetic toward the military, but she does back up her arguments with interviews and hard research. The base has actually harmed the region’s economy, she writes, rendering it victim not of business cycles but of war cycles. She notes also that what the base needs from the town creates mainly just service-oriented jobs that pay low wages. The mental toll on town life is also documented. During the Cold War, troops staged simulated battles, running through the region hunting out concealed mock-Communists. These exercises, argues Lutz, created a bunker mentality that reinforced the town’s sense of dependence on the base.

An excellent study with an unusual take on the heart of the military-industrial complex.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8070-5508-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001




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