Leading WWI Scholars Come Together

The March 16-17 conference features a parade of academic and military experts on the first world war.

 

By Barbara Melendez

USF News

 

TAMPA, Fla. (Mar. 12, 2012) – Military schools, war colleges, historians, political scientists and war buffs can’t get enough of them and for good reason. 

The legendary battles of World War I continue to teach a great deal about modern warfare in ways that still hold surprises, according to preeminent World War I historian, Graydon Tunstall. 

"World War I was such an important turning point," says Tunstall, who serves as executive director of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society based at the University of South Florida. "When you understand that war, you have a foundation for understanding all the history that followed and that continues to this day."

He and colleagues in the Florida and Gulf Coast Chapter of the World War One Historical Association are presenting their annual seminar March 16 – 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Hilton Garden Inn Tampa North, 13305 Tampa Oaks Boulevard in Temple Terrace. The conference is free for USF students, who are not required to register, and it is open to faculty and the public who are requested to register. 

U.S. Army tanks travel to support French troops who worked with the American forces at the capture of the village of Juvigny in France during World War I. It is the first time the Americans show this type of tank in action. (AP Photo)

Over the two days, a stellar lineup of World War I experts will show how clashes at Gallipoli, Gorlice-Tarnov and the Balkan front were critical to the outcome of WWI, what life is like on the battlefields, details about the Paris Peace Conference, the impact of the infamous rivalry between Grand Duke Nicholas and General Vladimir Sukhomilinov and how early Russian historians treated the war.

"These are the heavyweights in military circles,” said Tunstall. “They are well-known and highly respected and both students and faculty would benefit from this opportunity to hear what they have to say and to ask questions.”

The experts include: Richard L. DiNardo, professor of national security at the Marine Corps Command & Staff College, Quantico; Brigadier General (r) Robert Doughty, former head of the history department at West Point who served in a variety of assignments in the United States, Europe and Vietnam;  Richard C. Hall, an Army veteran who taught at Ohio State, the University of Nebraska, Minnesota State (Mankato) and the Air War College and now teaches at Georgia Southwestern University in Americus; Sebastian H. Lukasik, assistant professor of comparative military studies and William Dean from the Air Command and Staff College; Peter Pastor, a history professor at Montclair State University; and Paul Robinson a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

There will also be a unique opportunity to hear from Charlotte Deschamps, a researcher and battlefield guide from Belgium. She is a founder of Varlet Farm, a bed and breakfast located in the heart of the Flanders battlefields which is a prime destination for Western Front tourists and students of The Great War. 

The conference wraps up with a presentation by Tunstall on a subject inspired by his book, Blood on the Snow and the subject of a new volume due out next year - Fortress Przemysl: The Verdun of the East.

Tunstall teaches courses on World War I in USF's History Department. He's called upon to share his knowledge around the nation and internationally as well. His landmark work, Blood on the Snow, on a neglected but critical WWI battle, has garnered praise from some of the most respected critics in the field.

Allied troops huddle in a trench around a tiny fire near Ypres, Belgium, during World War I in the Autumn of 1914. (AP Photo)

Mark Von Hagen wrote in Kritika, a journal of Russian and Eurasian History from Project Muse, "Just as I thought I could not read anything more about the inhumanity and recklessness of the military and political leadership of World War I, I found myself caught off guard by Graydon A. Tunstall's Blood on the Snow." Of this detailed account he singles out its "masterful descriptions of battles," and adds, "One important contribution of Tunstall's study is his implied questioning of the very nature of total war in mountain conditions."  A review in the journal Parameters stated, "The book is a detailed case study, based on extensive primary-source research, of an attempt to devise a viable strategy to meet drastically-changed, unforeseen conditions with impending crisis - and with an increasingly domineering ally. In the sense it is of interest to senior leaders today."

Blood on the Snow was accepted by the national Military and History Book Clubs. A paperback edition was published just last month. On the basis of this research Tunstall was invited to present a paper to the Australian General Staff and Field Officers at a meeting in Canberra, Australia and has lectured at the US Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and various universities around the country.

Tunstall is also at work on a manuscript for Cambridge University Press The Austro-Hungarian Army in World War I, due out in 2014. Columbia University Press is publishing a collection of essays on the First World War that he co-edited. Yet another project for Oxford University Press is an international bibliographical electronic source on the “Great War to end all wars.” In addition, he is compiling a list of over one hundred books in Russian, German, Hungarian and English and evaluating their academic merit for researchers.

When it comes to a subject he loves, all of this is less like work and more akin to pleasure.

“A hundred years really isn’t that long ago. There’s great joy in delving into the details and puzzle pieces, learning from colleagues and discovering connections that reveal still more. Untangling that story with all of its intended and unintended consequences should help the world steer clear of similar entanglements over time.”

For more information about the conference, contact Len Shurtleff (352) 379-3200 at lshurtleff@aol.com.