One Nation, Under Adjustment: How World War II Subverted American Individualism

Jan 01, 2016 | by
  • Description

As the Angeleno Motorcycle Club rumbled past his hotel, the proprietor Joel Bleeker viewed the spectacle with suspicion. Their flanking columns reminded him of vehicular formations he had witnessed while on his European tour of duty during the Second World War. The ex-lieutenant colonel "had always hated the way men surrendered their individuality to attain perfection as a unit. It had been necessary during the war but it wasn't necessary now." What good, he wondered, could possibly come of this "private Army"? In 1953 Hollywood translated this short story of a provincial California town raided by bikers to the big screen as The Wild One. But the film jettisoned the perspective of the skeptical proprietor in favor of the club's surly leader, Johnny Strabler, played by Marlon Brando. Still, both the movie and the short story portray a common struggle to resist unity and retain individuality. My book maintains that the war and the memories of war were not incidental to this struggle. Rather, they were essential.