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‘WWII Ethos: Military Myth Making’

Cody Finney / The Arbiter

On Tuesday, the presentation “WWII Ethos: Military Myth Making” was given in the Student Union Building.
It focused on how plays done on the military bases created a false image for Americans during the second World War and consisted of a lecture and then time after for questions.

“Amateur military theatricals during World War II happened at every base, post and camp across the globe,” said Riley Caldwell-O’Keefe, who gave the presentation and is a professor at Boise State. “They had a huge impact on our conception of American identity and the centrality of the military to our sense of being American.”

Caldwell-O’Keefe said these plays were part of a morale program issued by the government to help boost troop morale. The problem was the mass of these plays were intended only for white men enlisted in the army.

This created censorship on bases and pushed for the creation of special shows made for women soldiers and special shows made for African-American soldiers.

In her presentation, Caldwell-O’Keefe used specific examples of each and also analyzed the different information she has found in her research.
Caldwell-O’Keefe said the idea for this presentation began when she was in school.

“The original exploration about amateur military theatricals started with my dissertation in graduate school,” Caldwell-O’Keefe said. “As I finished my dissertation I could see that the next questions I needed to pursue were along the lines of fleshing out the evidence I had about the performances by women and people of color.”

She also said the research for it required a lot of digging.

“The shows by and for white men were much easier to locate,” Caldwell-O’Keefe said. “The military prioritized what they found important to archive and, predominantly, the women’s shows and shows by African-Americans were not determined important enough to be archived so it’s harder to locate the evidence and put the pieces together of that particular story.”

Caldwell-O’Keefe hopes after her presentation the learning will continue.

“I would hope that people who came and listened would continue to engage in discussions about recovering incomplete histories and that studying history can give us a more full and rich understanding of who we are today,” she said.

The presentation was hosted and funded by the Arts & Humanities Institute. For more information on this and upcoming Arts and Humanities events visit