Mosier, John F. 1944–

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Mosier, John F. 1944–

PERSONAL:

Born July 9, 1944, in Bentonville, AK; son of Wilbur (an educator) and Helen (a writer and editor) Mosier; married Sarah Elizabeth Spain (an advertising executive), December 7, 1986; children: three. Education: Tulane University, B.A., 1964, M.A., 1966, Ph.D., 1968. Religion: Episcopal. Hobbies and other interests: Eating, drinking, and smoking cigars.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Loyola University, Department of English, P.O. Box 50, New Orleans, LA 70118-6195. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, film critic, and educator. Professor of English and film critic, 1985—. Loyola University, New Orleans, LA, assistant professor, 1967-68, assistant dean, 1969-71, executive secretary of academic affairs, 1971-74, associate director of the Film Institute, 1975-85, director, 1985-91, editor of New Orleans Review, 1980-92, professor of English, 1985—, department chair, 1989-91. Member of Camera d'Or jury, Cannes Film Festival, 1978-82.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Pulitzer Prize in history nomination, 2001, for The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War I.

WRITINGS:

(Compiler, with Dawson Gaillard) Women and Men Together: An Anthology of Short Fiction, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1978.

The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War I, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001, reprinted with an expanded preface, Profile Books (London, England), 2002.

The Blitzkrieg Myth: How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Grant, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2006.

Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine, 1918-1945, Henry Holt and Co. (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to journals, periodicals, and books, including World Cinema since 1945, Il Foglio e l'Albero: L'intelligenza artificiale e la sessualita, Handbook of Latin American Popular Culture, and Jane Austen on Film. Contributing editor to Americas (journal of the Organization of American States) and New Orleans Art Review.

SIDELIGHTS:

John F. Mosier is a professor of English, a film critic, and the author of a revisionist history titled The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War I. Spectator contributor Ian Ousby wrote: "How on earth did the Germans manage to lose the first world war? If Allied generals like Haig were as incompetent as popular legend would have it, and the battles they launched as disastrous, then the question needs to be asked." Mosier analyses the war on the Western Front from 1914 to 1918 and shows why the French and British were consistently defeated by the Germans, who suffered one-third to one-half the casualties of the Allied Forces. He documents how in 1918 the American Expeditionary Force, which ignored Allied advice and strategies, negotiated peace with the Germans, saving the Allies from defeat.

The study lists the ways in which information was manipulated by the Allies and explains the superiority of German weapons, training, tactics, and leadership. "Mosier finds that French and British generals ‘solved’ battlefield problems by throwing shells and bodies at them, then concealing the gruesome results from their governments and their people," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. A result of these tactics was the 60,000 British killed or wounded in less than two hours in the battle of the Somme, fought over a small amount of useless terrain. Mosier also analyses conflicts that usually go uncovered and shows why typical accounts of such major battles as Verdun are inaccurate. He discusses the leadership on both sides, including profiles of Joffre, Petain, Foch, Gallieni, French, Haig, Wilson, Moltke, Ludendorff, Falkenhayn, Mudra, and Pershing. Ousby wrote that Mosier "is consistently impressive in showing how, for lack of real information and real intelligence, Allied conduct of the war was all too often driven forward by its own lies."

Jim Doyle commented in Library Journal that "Mosier's original scholarship does offer a fresh perspective on an old theme." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "It is said that truth is the first casualty of war, and Mosier makes it clear that this aphorism is a tragic understatement when applied to [World War I]." The reviewer called the book "a compelling and novel reassessment of [World War I] military history." Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan wrote that "Mosier's masterful account is a welcome addition to the number of recent books that are reviving interest in World War I."

Mosier told CA: "I worked on [The Myth of the Great War] for about ten years. I started with the idea of writing a sort of guidebook for people interested in modern history. In the early 1980s, people were always asking me things like, ‘I saw Dachau, but what about the other camps, are they still there?’ There basically wasn't anything to answer those kinds of questions. I started with Verdun, because it was, I discovered, the largest intact battle site in Europe. So I was in one of the twenty-odd Verdun cemeteries, and I looked around, and all the grave markers said 1917. The wrong year!

"So I started trying to reconcile this with what I had read, and since I was in France, this meant reading French sources. It was like one of those stories where you're suddenly in a parallel universe. The more I dug, the more incredible it got, until I came to the stage where I said, well, you have to regard everything you've read as unproven, down to the point that I said to myself, prove there was really a battle of the Marne.

"As a result, I got tagged as one of the those ‘revisionist’ historians—the word ‘revisionist’ bothers me; it's a term used to characterize shifts of dogma in Bolshevik times; it implies differences in opinion about doctrine; I'm interested in facts. In myth I was really only interested in telling the story of the war as it had never been told before, since American and English readers are mostly unfamiliar with the fighting between the French and the Germans.

"I thought the idea that the United States played a decisive role in the war was a fairly obvious one, but it has produced real outrage in Great Britain. Old beliefs die hard, and there is an ancient tradition of shooting the messenger. Military history is too often an intellectually shoddy enterprise, in which fiction is substituted for history, folklore for fact, and parroted assertions for thought. As to my own qualifications, I bring an entirely new dimension to the study of war. Although I am a professor of literature, I have an extensive background in strategic planning and operations research. Consequently, I'm comfortable with quantitative arguments, with numbers. They lie, but occasionally they tell the truth.

"I found this book extremely painful to write, and I struggled for a long time about some of the judgments it seemed to me the facts demanded. Goethe said that without judgment all the knowledge in the world is nothing, but some of the judgments bothered me a great deal. All wars have painful stories, but this one … I mean, in the Bois D'Ailly, there's an ossuary, and there's a little plaque at the side that was put up. It says something like, ‘To our dear Pappa, who disappeared in these woods in April of 1915.’ And I'm saying that his death was probably needless; it was the result of bungling.

"So the moral questions trouble me a great deal. As Treblinka survivor Samuel Rajzman said, ‘The facts speak for themselves.’ So I tried to do that, and I would stand in some cemetery with five thousand graves, and tell myself, I want to be able to face those men, regardless of what side they fought on, face them and say, ‘This is what I think happened; it's as close to the truth as I could get.’"

Mosier followed up The Myth of the Great War with another myth-busting look at World War II titled The Blitzkrieg Myth: How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II. This time the author offers bold reinterpretations of some of the most decisive battles of World War II. Because of advances in military technologies such as the tank and the airplane, new theories of war were emerging prior to the outbreak of war. These theories surmised that mas- sive airplane and tank attacks would cause enormous breakthroughs on the battlefield, demoralizing the enemy and leading to surrender in a matter of weeks. Mosier, however, presents evidence that the breakthrough approach, or blitzkrieg, which seduced generals for both the Allies and Germany, was in fact a myth and that outcomes had less to do with military technology and blitzkrieg tactics than with old-fashioned warfare.

"Mosier certainly presents his case well," wrote David Roy on the Curled Up with a Good Book Web site. "The Blitzkrieg Myth is meticulously researched, with extensive notes where the author not only quotes his sources but often also tells how accurate those sources are. He is not afraid to quote sources he doesn't agree with, and then present facts to show why he disagrees with these sources." In addition to reexamining the quick German victories in Poland in 1939 and France in 1940, the author reinterprets German Colonel Erwin Rommel's North African campaigns, D-Day, the Normandy campaign, American General George Patton's attempted breakthrough into the Saar and Germany, and British General Bernard Montgomery's flawed breakthrough at Arnhem. Mosier also analyzes Germany's last desperate breakthrough effort to Antwerp in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. "This fascinating book will bring out the military traditionalists in full force," wrote Ed Goedeken in Booklist, pointing out that they will certainly attack Mosier's theories.

With his biography titled Grant, the author turns his attention from World War II to the Civil War. Mosier focuses on Grant's military career, especially his success as a general in the Civil War. Mosier discusses Grant's ability to form strategy and looks at his military legacy as a uniquely effective general in the Civil War who outshone his many accomplished peers on both sides. "This latest biography on General Grant is well worth reading," noted Thomas G. Meara in Military Review, adding later in the same review: "Overall, Mosier does an excellent job explaining Grant's genius for the art of war. He attributes Grant's success to the general's near-encyclopedic knowledge of military history, his ability to think abstractly, and his propensity for issuing clear, concise orders." Gena Moore, writing in the Library Journal, called Grant "an engaging biography of Ulysses S. Grant as general that will appeal to a popular audience."

A contributor to Publishers Weekly called Mosier's next book, Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine, 1918-1945, "a stimulating overview of a war machine incorporating both outstanding capacities and tragic flaws." Once again the author offers an alternative to standard military history accounts. Focusing on a German military culture that provided the German forces with an advantage over the Allies, the author examines how Germany was successful until the United States entered the war. In the process, Mosier offers a reevaluation of the French withdrawal, the Russian contribution, and Hitler as a military strategist. "At least as controversial as his earlier works, this book will further cement Mosier's position among military historians," wrote Brendan Driscoll in a review of Cross of Iron in Booklist.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War I, p. 1660; June 1, 2006, Brendan Driscoll, review of Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine, 1918-1945, p. 12; June 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Grant, p. 28.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2001, review of The Myth of the Great War, pp. 389-390.

Library Journal, April 15, 2001, Jim Doyle, review of The Myth of the Great War, p. 115; December, 2003, Ed Goedeken, review of The Blitzkrieg Myth: How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II, p. 138; June 1, 2006, Gena Moore, review of Grant, p. 131.

Military Review, January-February, 2007, Thomas G. Meara, review of Grant, p. 119.

Publishers Weekly, April 16, 2001, review of The Myth of the Great War, p. 55; April 3, 2006, review of Cross of Iron, p. 55; May 1, 2006, review of Grant, p. 54.

Spectator, June 30, 2001, Ian Ousby, review of The Myth of the Great War, p. 41.

ONLINE

Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (June 30, 2008), David Roy, review of The Blitzkrieg Myth.

Department of English, Loyola University New Orleans Web site, http://cas.loyno.edu/english/ (June 30, 2008), faculty profile of author.

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/reviews/ (June 30, 2008), Robert L. Bateman, review of The Blitzkrieg Myth.