Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

"No Place to Go, See": Blindness and World War II Demobilization Narratives

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2009), 3, (2), 163–182.

Abstract

This article examines the social, medical, and military contexts that shaped the cycle of World War II demobilization films released in the United States between 1946 and 1951. The focus is primarily on the ways in which loss of sight, experienced through combat, was dramatized and narrativized in demobilization films. The discussion specifically concerns two films at either end of the demobilization cycle, Pride of the Marines (1946) and Bright Victory (1951), both of which were adapted from literary texts. Written accounts of war injuries were frequent as sources for demobilization films, partly to lend authenticity to the narratives, but also, in the case of these two films, to offer symbolic freight through which the ontological and medical dimensions of blindness could be explored. The article discusses the ways in which cases of blindness highlighted the problematic of place and home in the mid-1940s. Although the narrative trajectory of many demobilization films moves toward the reintegration of the blinded veteran in post-war society, the article argues that this does not simplify the representation of the troubling medical and social experiences of many World War II soldiers.

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Yahraes, Herbert. What Do You Know About Blindness? New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1947. What Do You Know About Blindness? Google Scholar

Brill, Norman Q., and Gilbert W. Beebe. A Follow-Up Study of War Neuroses. Washington, DC: National Research Council, 1955. Google Scholar

Butterfield, Roger. Al Schmid, Marine. New York: Norton, 1944. Al Schmid, Marine Google Scholar

Cholden, Louis. "Some Psychiatric Problems in the Rehabilitation of the Blind." Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 18.3 (1954): 107. Google Scholar

Crowther, Bosley. "Clarity through Films." New York Times, 15 April (1945): X1. Google Scholar

de Man, Paul. Rhetoric of Romanticism. New York, Columbia UP, 1984. Google Scholar

Dick, Bernard F. The Star-Spangled Screen: American World War II Film. Lexington, KY: UP of Kentucky, 1996. The Star-Spangled Screen: American World War II Film Google Scholar

Doherty, Thomas. Projections of War: Hollywood, American Culture, and World War II. 1993. New York, Columbia UP, 1999. Google Scholar

Fyne, Robert. The Hollywood Propaganda of World War II. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow P, 1994. The Hollywood Propaganda of World War II Google Scholar

Gerber, David A. "Heroes and Misfits: The Troubled Social Reintegration of Disabled Veterans in The Best Years of Our Lives." American Quarterly 46.4 (1994): 545–574. Heroes and Misfits: The Troubled Social Reintegration of Disabled Veterans in The Best Years of Our Lives. American Quarterly 46 545 574 Google Scholar

Godden, Richard. William Faulkner: An Economy of Complex Words. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2007. William Faulkner: An Economy of Complex Words Google Scholar

Jones, Edgar, and Simon Wessely. Shell Shock to PTSD: Military Psychiatry from 1900 to the Gulf War. Hove: Psychology P, 2005. Shell Shock to PTSD: Military Psychiatry from 1900 to the Gulf War Google Scholar

Kendrick, Baynard. Bright Victory. 1945. New York: Bantam, 1951. Bright Victory. 1945 Google Scholar

Koestler, Frances A. The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States. New York: D. McKay, 1976. The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States Google Scholar

Michel, Sonya. "Danger on the Home Front: Motherhood, Sexuality, and Disabled Veterans in American Postwar Films." Journal of the History of Sexuality 3.1 (1992): 109–128. Danger on the Home Front: Motherhood, Sexuality, and Disabled Veterans in American Postwar Films Journal of the History of Sexuality 3 109 128 Google Scholar

Norden, Martin. Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1994. Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies Google Scholar

Polan, Dana B. "Blind Insights and Dark Passages: The Problem of Placement in Forties Film." The Velvet Light Trap 20, Summer (1983): 27–33. Google Scholar

Roffman, Peter, and Jim Purdy. The Hollywood Social Problem Film: Madness, Despair and Politics from the Depression to the Fifties. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1981. The Hollywood Social Problem Film: Madness, Despair and Politics from the Depression to the Fifties Google Scholar

Rosner, A. A. "Neuropsychiatric Casualties from Guadalcanal." American Journal of Medical Science 207, June 1944: 770. Google Scholar

Schutz, Alfred. Collected Papers II: Studies in Social Theory. Ed. Arvid Brodersen. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964. Google Scholar

"Veterans Get Jot on Business Hopes." New York Times, 29 April, 1945: S4. Google Scholar

Waller, Willard. The Veteran Comes Back. New York: The Dryden P, 1944. The Veteran Comes Back Google Scholar

War Blinded Veterans in a Postwar Society: A Social Work Follow Up of Rehabilitations Measures for Blinded Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities. Washington, DC: Veterans Administration, 1953. Google Scholar

Wittkower, E. "The War-Disabled: Their Emotional, Social, and Occupational Situation." British Medical Journal 28, April (1945): 587–590. Google Scholar

Yahraes, Herbert. What Do You Know About Blindness? New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1947. What Do You Know About Blindness? Google Scholar

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Author details

Halliwell, Martin

Halliwell, Martin