Useful Captives

The Role of POWs in American Military Conflicts

Edited by Daniel Krebs and Lorien Foote

Useful Captives: The Role of POWs in American Military Conflicts is a wide-ranging investigation of the integral role prisoners of war (POWs) have played in the economic, cultural, political, and military aspects of American warfare. In Useful Captives volume editors Daniel Krebs and Lorien Foote and their contributors explore the wide range of roles that captives play in times of conflict: hostages used to negotiate vital points of contention between combatants, consumers, laborers, propaganda tools, objects of indoctrination, proof of military success, symbols, political instruments, exemplars of manhood ideals, loyal and disloyal soldiers, and agents of change in society.

The book’s eleven chapters cover conflicts involving Americans, ranging from colonial warfare on the Creek-Georgia border in the late eighteenth century, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great War, World War II, to twenty-first century U.S. drone warfare. This long historical horizon enables the reader to go beyond the prison camp experience of POWs to better understand the many ways they influence the nature and course of military conflict.

“Offering insights into both the P/W experience and evolving U.S. policy about prisoners-of-war, these papers open a new front in the study of this rather neglected side of military history.

—New York Military Affairs Symposium Review

“This book is a masterpiece of contemporary scholarship. It does what Daniel Krebs and Lorien Foote say it is intended to do: examine the less-traveled roads with new understandings/visions of the American POW experience. No one can ask for more than that. I recommend it for every collection of American POW history.”

—Robert C. Doyle, author of Voices from Captivity: Interpreting the American POW Narrative

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Useful Captives shows the vital role that prisoners of war play in American warfare and reveals the cultural contexts of warfare, the shaping and altering of military policies, the process of state-building, the impacts upon the economy and environment of the conflict zone, their special place in propaganda and political symbolism, and the importance of public history in shaping national memory.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction, Daniel Krebs and Lorien Foote
I. Cultural Contexts of Warfare
1. Border Captives: Prisoners of War on the Creek-Georgia Border, 1770-1800, Joshua S. Haynes
2. Down, but Not Out: Manhood and the American Prisoner-of-War Experience in World War I, Brian F. Feltman
II. Military Policies in Warfare
3. "Citizen for Citizen": The Problem of Political Prisoners during the American Revolutionary War, T. Cole Jones
4. Forgotten Prisoners: Communist Prisoners of War during Vietnam's American War, Marcel Berni
5. Abandoning Traditional Concepts of Prisoners of War: Military Captives in the Twenty-First Century, Paul J. Springer
III. State-Building and Warfare
6. Blue or Gray? Taking Advantage of the Civil War Prisoner System, Earl J. Hess
7. Sowing the Seeds of Democracy: A Comparative Examination of American Efforts to Reeducation German and Japanese Prisoners of War in the United States during World War II, Adam S. Rock
IV. Economic and Environmental Dimensions of Warfare
8. Carceral Footprints Left in the Civil War North: Trappings of the Camp Douglas and Elmira Prison Environs, Michael P. Gray
V. Political Symbols in Warfare
9. "The Nation Cannot Now Be Entrusted to Hands Reeking with the Blood of Loyal Victims": Prison Propaganda, Hard War, and the Politics of Criminalization, Daniel Farrell
10. "As Happy a Man as Ever Wore 'Confederate Grey'": Confederate Former Prisoners of War and Their Narratives of Imprisonment, 1877-1890, Angela M. Riotto
VI. Public Conversations and Narratives about Warfare
11. Prisoners of the Public: The National Park Service Interprets the Prisoner-of-War Experience, Adam H. Domby and Christopher W. Barr

About the Author

Daniel Krebs is associate professor of history, University of Louisville, and, during the 2020–2021 academic year, Harold K. Johnson Chair in Military History, U.S. Army War College. He is the author of A Generous and Merciful Enemy: Life for German Prisoners of War during the American Revolution.

Lorien Foote is the Patricia and Bookman Peters Professor in History at Texas A&M University and is the author of The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series