Speaking of Annihilation Response Paper Write a two-page “response paper (double space) (follow the requirements for writing a response paper )Reading Edm

Speaking of Annihilation Response Paper Write a two-page “response paper (double space) (follow the requirements for writing a response paper )Reading Edmund Russell, “Speaking of Annihilation: Mobilizing for War Against Human and Insect Enemies, 1914-1945” Journal of American History (1996) “Speaking of Annihilation”: Mobilizing for War Against Human and Insect Enemies, 19141945
Author(s): Edmund P. Russell
Source: The Journal of American History, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Mar., 1996), pp. 1505-1529
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of Organization of American Historians
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2945309
Accessed: 13-10-2016 01:38 UTC
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted
digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about
JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

Organization of American Historians, Oxford University Press are collaborating with JSTOR to
digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of American History
This content downloaded from on Thu, 13 Oct 2016 01:38:13 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
“Speaking of Annihilation”:
Mobilizing for War against Human
and Insect Enemies, 1914-1945
Edmund P. Russell III
In 1944 and 1945, two periodicals with very different audiences published sim
images. Both showed half-human, half-insect creatures, talked of the “annihila
of these vermin, and touted modern technology as the means to accomplish th
end. One piece, a cartoon in the United States Marines’ magazine Leatherneck,
showed a creature labeled “Louseous Japanicas” and said its “breeding grounds
around the Tokyo area . . . must be completely annihilated.” (See figure 1.) A
month after the cartoon appeared, the United States began mass incendiary bombings of Japanese cities, followed by the atomic blasts that leveled Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. Although the Leatherneck cartoon was surely intended to be humorous
and hyperbolic, calls for annihilation of human enemies had, by the end of the
war, become realistic.
So too with insect enemies. The second cartoon, an advertisement in a chemical
industry journal, promoted perfumes to eliminate insecticide odors. (See figure
2.) Tapping the rhetoric that pervaded World War II, the text began, “Speaking
of annihilation.” The accompanying image showed three creatures with insect
bodies, each with a stereotypical head representing a national enemy. The Italian
creature lay on its back, an allusion to Allied victory over the Italian army. The
German and Japanese creatures remained standing, as guns blasted all three with
chemical clouds. Like human enemies, the advertisement implied, insect enemies
could and should be annihilated. That possibility, too, had come within reach
by the end of World War II. The Allies killed disease-bearing lice and mosquitoes
over wide areas using a powerful new insecticide called DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), and entomologists called for the extermination of entire species.
Edmund P. Russell III is assistant professor of technology, culture, and communication at the University of Virginia.
I am grateful for comments by Susan Armeny, Brian Balogh, Amy Bentley, Amy Bercaw, Paul Boyer, Alan
Brinkley, Craig Cameron, W. Bernard Carlson, Pete Daniel, Thomas Dunlap, Paul Forman, Brett Gary, Barton
Hacker, Pamela Henson, Michael Holt, Linda Lear, Gerald Linderman, Allan Megill, David Nord, Peter Onuf,
Katherine Ott, John Perkins, Beverly Rathcke, Terry Sharrer, Merritt Roe Smith, David Thelen, Richard Tucker,
John Vandermeer, Earl Werner, Donald Worster, Susan Wright, an anonymous reviewer, and scholars who
attended presentations at the 1993 meeting of the Society for the History of Technology, the Johns Hopkins
University, the University of Virginia, and the Smithsonian Institution. I am also grateful for a predoctoral
fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution and grants from the University of Michigan and the National Science
Foundation (SBR 9511726). I thank Paul Milazzo for help with research. This article draws on Edmund P. Russell
III, “War on Insects: Warfare, Insecticides, and Environmental Change in the United States, 1870-1945” (Ph.D.
diss., University of Michigan, 1993).
The Journal of American History March 1996 1505
This content downloaded from on Thu, 13 Oct 2016 01:38:13 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
1506 The Journal of American History March 1996
Louseous Japanicas
The first serious outbreak of this lice epidemic was officially noted on Dmber 7,
1941, at Honolulu, T. H. To the Marine Corps, especially trained in combating this
type of pestilence, was ased the gigantic task of extermination. Extve e riments on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Saipan have shown that this louse inhabits coral
atolls in the South Pacific, particularly pill boxes, palm trees, caves, swamps and jungks
Flame throwers, mortars, grenades and bayonets have proven to be an effective edy. But before a complete cure may be effected the origin of the plague, the bredin
grounds around the Tokyo area, must be completely annihilated.
Figure 1. In 1945, United States Marine Sgt. Fred Lasswell praised efforts to annihilate
“Louseous Japanicas.” Fred Lasswell, “Bugs Every Marine Should
Know,” Leatherneck, 28 (March 1945), 37.
Printed with permission of Leatherneck magazine.
Most Americans welcomed technology that brought “total victory” over national
and natural enemies. They felt grateful for a bomb that saved the lives of American
soldiers and for a chemical that enabled people to “bomb” insect pests. As time
passed, however, many came to wonder whether human beings had struck a Faustian
bargain. Did “weapons of mass destruction” threaten, rather than promote, human
welfare? Opponents of chemical and nuclear weapons thought so. Had the ability
of human beings to conquer nature surpassed some limit, threatening not only
human well-being but the planet itself? After Rachel Carson published Silent
Spring in 1962, many feared that DDT exemplified this threat.’
Although war and concerns about the impact of human beings on the environment have been among the most important forces shaping the twentieth century,
scholars have tended to analyze these issues separately. Several historical fields
illustrate this tendency. Military historians have pushed beyond studies of battles
and armies to examine the impact of military institutions on society, politics,
and economics- but rarely on the environment. Environmental historians have
emphasized the role of nature in many events of our past – but rarely in war.
Historians of technology have analyzed the impact of military technology on
‘ Rachel Carson, Silent Sping (New York, 1962).
This content downloaded from on Thu, 13 Oct 2016 01:38:13 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
War against Human and Insect Enemies 1507
Wa~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~7 ….. …..

* ‘ ‘ !;. ‘ . , j . ……………. i. :, : ; i .; : .~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~. . …. ..
tiid. slay the. kiln agent presto and
quiety departo Ikekiti spent No wasb is.
* .:..:::
.; : . – . . . ‘! . . .~~~N -i N. Y.’ :
– we – -to hew PM
whet weumhwdw a pet.
Figure 2. This 1944 advertisement, which appeared in a journ
Association of Insecticide and Disinfectant Manufacturers, t
that national and insect enemies required annihilation. R
Soap and Sanitary Chemicals (April 1944), 92.
society -but rarely on the environment. Cultural histo
impact of war on interactions among people-but ra
interactions with the environment.2
2 Although war and military institutions are different, I follow the practice among British historians and use
the former term to encompass the latter. For a sample of works in military, environmental, technological, and
cultural history, see Peter Paret, “The New Military History,” Parameters, 21 (Autumn 1991), 10-18; William
H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000 (Chicago, 1982);
Carolyn Merchant, ed., Major Problems in American Environmental History (Lexington, Mass., 1993); Jeffrey
K. Stine andJoel A. Tarr, “Technology and the Environment: The Historians’ Challenge,” Environmental History
This content downloaded from on Thu, 13 Oct 2016 01:38:13 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
1508 The Journal of American History March 1996
The tendency to separate war from environmental change (or military from
civilian affairs) has deep roots. Isaiah’s metaphor, “They shall beat their swords
into plowshares,” suggests that people have long seen one of the most important
ways they change the environment – agriculture – as the opposite of war. In Carte-
sian philosophy, relations among human beings belong to a separate sphere from
relations between human beings and other species. Observers have argued that
Americans in particular “are inclined to see peace and war as two totally separate
quanta. War is abnormal and peace is normal and returns us to the status quo ante. ” 3
Historians of insecticides have shown, however, that efforts to control human
and natural enemies have not proceeded independently. Between them, Emory
Cushing, Vincent Dethier, Thomas Dunlap, and John Perkins have pointed out
that manufacturing of explosives in World War I produced a by-product called
PDB (paradichlorobenzene), which entomologists then developed into an insecticide; that entomologists often used military metaphors; that World War II stimulated development of DDT; and that some insecticides were related to nerve gases.
Historians of chemical weapons, too, have noted this last point.4
These events were, I believe, part of a larger pattern. The ability of human
beings to kill both national and natural enemies on an unprecedented scale, as
well as fears about those abilities, developed in the twentieth century partly because
of links between war and pest control. This article focuses on three such links:
science and technology, institutions, and metaphor.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the science and technology of pest
control sometimes became the science and technology of war, and vice versa.
Chemists, entomologists, and military researchers knew that chemicals toxic to
one species often killed others, so they developed similar chemicals to fight human
Review, 18 (Spring 1994), 1-7; Merritt Roe Smith, ed., Military Enterprise and Technological Change: Perspectives
on the American Experience (Cambridge, Mass., 1985); Barton C. Hacker, “Military Institutions, Weapons, and
Social Change: Toward a New History of Military Technology,” Technology and Culture, 35 (no. 4, 1994), 768834; Elaine Tyler May, HomewardBound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York, 1988); and Paul
Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Ltght: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (New
York, 1985).
On war and the environment, see Susan D. Lanier-Graham, The Ecology of War: Environmental Impacts
of Weaponry and Warfare (New York, 1993); Seth Shulman, The Threat at Home: Confronting the Toxic
Legacy of the U.S. Military (Boston, 1992); J. P. Robinson, The Effects of Weapons on Ecosystems (Oxford,
1979); Arthur H. Westing and Malvern Lumsden, Threat of Modern Warfare to Man and His Environment:
An Annotated Bibliography Prepared under the Auspices of the International Peace Research Association (Paris,
1979); Avner Offer, The First World War: An Agrarian Interpretation (Oxford, Eng., 1989); and Alfred W.
Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (New York, 1986).
3 Isa. 2:4; Joseph A. Wildermuth to editor, Washington Post Book World, Feb. 20, 1994, p. 14. See also
Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: A History of the Modern Sensibility (New York, 1983). For the
suggestion that neoclassical economics (which views the military as an “externality”) and “the peculiarly American
blindness to the presence of the military” contribute to the view that civilian and military enterprises are separate
endeavors, see David F. Noble, “Command Performance: A Perspective on the Social and Economic Consequences
of Military Enterprise,” in Military Enterprise and Technological Change, ed. Smith, 329-46, esp. 330-31.
4 John H. Perkins, Insects, Experts, and the Insecticide Crisis: The Quest for New Pest Management Strategies
(New York, 1982), 4-10; John H. Perkins, “Reshaping Technology in Wartime: The Effect of Military Goals
on Entomological Research and Insect-Control Practices,” Technology and Culture, 19 (no. 2, 1978), 169-86;
Thomas R. Dunlap, DDT: Scientists, Citizens, and Public Policy (Princeton, 1981), 36-3 7, 59-63; Emory C.
Cushing, History of Entomology in World War II (Washington, 1957); V. G. Dethier, Man’s Plague? Insects
and Agriculture (Princeton, 1976), 112; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, The Problem of
Chemical and Biological Warfare: A Study of the Historical, Technical, Military, Legal, and Political Aspects
of CBW, and Possible Disarmament Measures, vol. I: The Rise of CB Weapons (New York, 1971), 70-75.
This content downloaded from on Thu, 13 Oct 2016 01:38:13 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
War against Human and Insect Enemies 1509
and insect enemies. They also developed similar methods
to poison both.
Ideas and hardware moved between civilian and military spheres partly because
of institutional links. The two world wars stimulated nations to mobilize civilian
and military institutions to achieve military victory. They also catalyzed the founding of new organizations that coordinated civilian and military efforts. Peace also
catalyzed links among institutions. When guns fell silent on battlefields, military
and civilian institutions worked together to apply military ideas and technology
to farm fields as a way to survive and meet their institutional goals.
Shared metaphors helped military and civilian institutions shape and express
the way people experienced both war and nature.5 As figures 1 and 2 show,
publicists described war as pest control, pest control as war, and the two endeavors
as similar. On the one hand, describing war as pest control transformed participation
in war from a potentially troubling moral issue to a moral virtue. Comparing
chemical weapons to insecticides made it easier to portray poison gas as natural
and humane. (Ironically, opponents of poison gas used the same metaphor to
argue that chemical warfare was inhumane because it treated human beings like
insects.) On the other hand, describing pest control as war helped entomologists
portray nature as a battlefield, elevate the status of their profession, and mobilize resources.
The evolution of a word used for both human and insect enemies, exterminate,
suggests that these metaphors appealed to long-standing values. The Latin root
meant “to drive beyond the boundaries.” People and insects that did not respect
the boundaries of nations, farms, and homes were enemies, this meaning implied,
and could or should be driven out. Often, however, twentieth-century publicists
used exterminate with a connotation that emerged in the fourth century: “to
destroy utterly,” or annihilate. Since people had previously imagined (and sometimes succeeded in) annihilating enemies, what set the twentieth century apart?
The scale on which people could plan and carry out killing stands out. Technology,
industry, and governments grew large enough to enable us to wage “total war” not just against armies, but against insects and civilians. People could plan, carry
out, and (even when it did not come to pass) fear annihilation on a breathtaking
scale across geographic and phylar boundaries. Zygmunt Bauman has suggested
that modernity aimed to make the world into a garden in which some organisms
belonged and from which others, which did not belong, were extirpated. The story
told here complements his argument. Warfare resembled gardening, gardening
resembled warfare, and both were attempts to shape the world to long-standing
human visions.6
I Military metaphors have been used to describe a variety of civilian endeavors, so the events described here
are part of a larger pattern. I use the term metaphor to include simile, analogy, and imagery. On the role of
metaphor in thought and communication, see David E. Leary, “Psyche’s Muse: The Role of Metaphor in the
History of Psychology,” in Metaphors in the History of Psychology, ed. David E. Leary (New York, 1990), 1-78;
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago, 1980); and Mary B. Hesse, Models and
Analogies in Science (Notre Dame, 1966).
6 Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., s.v. “Exterminate.” On imagination, technology, and the expansio
of war in the twentieth century, see Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Ithaca, 1989); Crai
Cameron, American Samurai: Myth, Imagination, and the Conduct of Battle in the First Marine Division,
This content downloaded from on Thu, 13 Oct 2016 01:38:13 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
1510 The Journal of American History March 1996
This article explores only some aspects of the topic
among institutions than on conflicts, more on instit
ics, more on harms than on benefits, and more on s
Noting similarities does not mean equating. In World War II, for example,
Germans, Americans, propagandists, and entomologists all talked of annihilating
enemies. However, the actions of the United States and entomologists differed
in critical moral ways from those of Germany and of the architects of the horrors
of the Holocaust.
This story prompts two reflections about the ways we write history. First, we
often talk about the impact of one aspect of life (war, science, politics) on another
(the state, culture, the environment). This framework tells us a great deal, but
is it complete? Few forces are monolithic, and two-way interactions may be more
common than one-way impacts. War changed the natural environment, and the
environment changed war. Metaphors shaped human understanding of the material
world, and the material world shaped metaphors. Second, we may tend to tell
stories of progress or decline, but life is a mixture of the two.7 For some people
insecticides and chemical weapons were blessings; for others they were curses; and
for some they were both. The world gets both better and worse, and we have yet
to exterminate either good or evil.
World War 1: Chemistry and War, 1914-1918
On April 22, 1915, Germany initiated a new chapter in the evolution of war.
That day, Allied troops huddled in trenches near Ypres, France, found themselves
enveloped in a greenish yellow cloud of chlorine gas released by German troops.
Allied soldiers futilely tried to outrun the cloud, which reportedly killed 5,000
soldiers and injured 10,000 more. German military leaders lost the initial advantage
when they failed to mount a large-scale attack, but they succeeded in demonstrating
the military power that flowed from knowledge and control of nature.8
Knowledge about nature came in many forms, including scientific understanding
of molecules, and Germany’s preeminence in chemistry underpinned its initial
success with chemical weapons. This preeminence depended both on the brilliance
of civilian scientists such as Fritz Haber, the chemist who oversaw development
of chemical weapons at the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft (institute) in Berlin, and
1951 (New York, 1994); and Michael S. Sherry, The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon
(New Haven, 1987).
7 For examples of the impact of the weak on the strong, see Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The
World the Slaves Made (New York, 1974); and James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of
Purchase answer to see full

"Order a similar paper and get 100% plagiarism free, professional written paper now!"

Order Now