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945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Reception: 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. | Event: 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
This event is free and open to the public. Register today to join us in person or to view the event online.
Join The National WWII Museum for a conversation with author G. Kurt Piehler, PhD, and Michael Bell, PhD, Executive Director of the Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy, about Piehler’s book A Religious History of the American GI in World War II, which breaks new ground by recounting the Armed Forces’ unprecedented efforts to meet the spiritual needs of the 15 million men and women who served in World War II.
Drawing on an extensive range of letters, diaries, oral histories, and memoirs, Piehler challenges the conventional wisdom that portrays the American GI as a nonideological warrior. American GIs echoed the views of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who saw a Nazi victory as a threat to religious freedom and recognized the antisemitic character of the regime. This study is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the social history of the American GI during World War II.
For Roosevelt and many GIs, religion remained a core American value that fortified their resolve in the fight against Axis tyranny. While many service members turned to their comrades for support, even more were sustained by prayer. GIs flocked to religious services, and when they mourned those lost in battle, chaplains offered solace and underscored the righteousness of their cause.
Official policies promoted a civil religion that stressed equality between Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and Judaism. Many chaplains embraced this tri-faith vision and strived to meet the spiritual needs of all servicemembers regardless of their own denomination. While examples of bigotry, sectarianism, and intolerance remained, the Armed Forces fostered the free exercise of religion that promoted a respect for the plurality of American religious life among GIs.
G. Kurt Piehler is a specialist in U.S. History with an emphasis on the 20th century. He received his bachelor’s degree from Drew University (1982) and his Ph.D. from Rutgers University (1990). Piehler has held academic positions at Baruch College of the City University of New York, Drew University, and Rutgers University. He held the National Historical Publications and Records Commission Fellowship at the Peale Family Papers, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (1988-1989). As founding director (1994-1998) of the Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II, Piehler conducted over 200 interviews with veterans of this conflict. He is also the current Director of the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at Florida State University.
Support from Baptist Community Ministries provides an educational endowment for the Museum’s presentation of the role of faith in World War II, including the Faith in Wartime Lecture Series.
A reception from 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. will precede the event, and Piehler will sign copies of his book following the presentation.
If you’re unable to make it to the Museum for this free event, it will be available to stream on Vimeo.
For additional information, please email Connie Gentry, Conference and Program Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.