A war all our own: American rangers and the emergence of the American martial culture
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The Ranger is the original American soldier, predating the existence of the United States. By tracing and analyzing the Ranger from the earliest American colonial beginnings into modern American history it is evident that this individual and his peers are a central signifier of both the American martial culture and the American identity as a whole. The American Ranger has existed in some identifiable form since the 1620’s, making him one of first ‘Americans’ as he distinguished himself from his British colonial heritage. Therefore as one traces the Ranger, one is tracing the American experience in its rawest and simplest form. This project argues that the Ranger is one of the original American identities and the basic identifier of an American martial culture. By viewing the Ranger as a constant and singular identity with a thematic definition, this dissertation will be able to comment on each successive period in American history succinctly and in-depth. The Ranger is foremost a volunteer who is characterized by being both adaptable and violent and whose existence is both provisional and evolutionary within the American military experience. Using these key characteristics this dissertation will define an American martial culture and trace its evolution from the colonial era to the present. The absolute link between this military culture and the broader American culture will allow this project to use the Ranger to define and analyze one of the most simple and instinctual American identities, ignoring many complicating factors like race and gender. The simplicity of the Ranger allows a broader idea of an American identity to emerge, as the Ranger serves as an inherent link between an American culture and its martial values. In addition to these wide reaching goals, this dissertation will also create the first total narrative of the US military’s history of specialized units, as the Ranger exists at the center of this story. The evolution of the military’s relationship with specialized units can be followed by looking at the relationship between the Ranger and military establishment. Through an examination of military and government documents, newspaper article, memoirs, journals and interviews this project will attempt to re-create the most complete image of the American Ranger possible. This study takes the approach of new military history and cultural history and reaches into a spectrum where a basic American identity and its martial culture will be defined alongside its protracted history.
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