US writer Paul Fussell, who died in 2012 was a well-respected academic military historian.


Fussell is unusual for an academic in that he also served in WW2 as an infantry Lieutenant. His best-known book, The Great War and Modern Memory, provides a picture of the horrors of WW1. Key points:

  • He outlines the cold stupidity of WW1 leaders.

  • And looks at the different myths, themes and literature of WW1.

  • Argues that romanticising the war ended up creating a sense of disillusion and distrust of authority.

  • He was influenced by his own experiences in WW2 where, on his first morning on a battlefield, he awoke surrounded by corpses.

  • Wounded, awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

  • Convinced only those who had experienced battle could write military history.

  • The Great War and Modern Memory has parallels with the Vietnam War.

  • One of his most famous essays is: Thank God for the Atom Bomb.

  • During WW2, Fussell's unit had fought through Germany and suffered considerable casualties.

  • His unit had been warned out for deployment to the Pacific to prepare for the invasion of Japan.

  • Such an invasion was expected to result in enormous casualties for American troops and British troops. 

Other works from Fussell include: