Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Ronald L. Lewis.
To what extent are Appalachian stereotypes true and how much is pure fabrication? This study seeks to answer this question by examining the experiences of West Virginia soldiers during World War II. Appalachian hillbillies, believed to be culturally backward, uncivilized, isolated, and prone to violence, were often sent straight to the infantry because it was believed that their wild mountain heritage made them inherently better fighters. Using interviews, letters, and a collection of over 1,200 firsthand written accounts of Appalachian veterans collected by West Virginia University in 1946, this study traces the evolution of the cultural and individual identities of mountaineers throughout their time in the United States military. These West Virginia narratives are also compared and contrasted with those of other soldiers in the United States and around the world. Because every single ethnicity and race in the world fought and was exposed to many similar circumstances, the war itself is the ultimate litmus test for the validity of cultural stereotypes. If stereotypes associated with Appalachians are true, then their wartime narratives will reflect different reactions to soldiering and war based on their own inherent cultural traits. If not, then their reactions to war will be similar to those of other soldiers from different regions and nations. This study endeavors to demonstrate what the Second World War reveals about the changing identity of West Virginia soldiers, and more specifically, the culture and stereotypes associated with them.
Keeney, C. Belmont, "Soldiers and stereotypes: Mountaineers, cultural identity, and World War II" (2009). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 2936.