War Time Hysteria, 1917: Senator Miles Poindexter, 'American-Ness,' and the Strange Case of Colonel Carl Reichmann
Posted: 5 Dec 2016 Last revised: 19 Jan 2018
Date Written: December 2, 2016
One hundred years ago, after the United States entered into World War I, Congress passed the Espionage Act and other significant limitations on basic freedoms. Several state governments likewise vigorously prosecuted alleged "subversives" under anti-syndicalism acts. The diminution of basic rights and the treatment of ethnic German minorities has been the subject of scholarship since. However, the treatment of German minorities in the armed forces has not been thoroughly studied, even though such a study could add to the broader field of civil-military relations. Nor has the wartime behavior of legislators in regard to the armed forces as well as their contribution to the popular prejudices of the day, and its effect on the national polity been the subject of analysis. This article, which presents a singular event, is a microcosm of civil-military relations and wartime hysteria during the period in which the United States participated in World War I. It is not my intent to focus on the accomplishments of Colonel Reichmann or argue that he was wrongly denied a promotion. Rather, it is my intent to examine how a singular senator who did not serve on a relevant committee was able to master a popular prejudice to manipulate legislative and executive processes to achieve political – albeit short lived – prominence.
Keywords: Civil Military Relations, World War I, Army, United States, Anti-German Prejudice, Congress
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