Jonathan Ablard, History, presents paper in Berlin (remotely)

By Jason Freitag, August 3, 2022

Jonathan Ablard, History, presented "'Reports without basis in facts:' The Politics of Justice in the Argentine Navy during the 1920s and 1930s" to the "Military Justice in the Modern Era, 1850-1945" conference hosted by the Free University of Berlin.

This paper examined a series of Naval trials and investigations that took place between 1923 to 1935. The documents come from the collections of the Departmento de Estudios Historicos Navales and the Archivo General de la Armada Argentina, two of dozens military archives that were only opened to researchers in 2018.  Dr. Ablard visited those archives with support from an Ithaca College Summer Research Grant.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the conservative press in Argentina spilled a great deal of ink about the supposed pernicious influence of communism in all areas of the state, but especially the  infiltration of revolutionaries into the barracks and ships of the armed forces. The cases demonstrate that while civilian politicians from center and right parties and movements expressed anxiety that Communist and Anarchist elements were destroying military discipline and esprit de corps, military judges and investigators were far more skeptical about the threat posed by conscripts and non-commissioned officers. Paradoxically, these officials felt that stories about coordinated insubordination were not only usually false but defamed the honor and esprit de corps of the armed forces. These same officials were also cognizant that poor conditions aboard ship, the low educational and “cultural” level of the average conscripts, and the men’s relative short period to acculturate to life in the armed forces, made indiscipline and insubordination more likely. Naval officials, then, attempted to balance enforcing iron discipline on subordinates while also ensuring that the reputation of the service was not sullied by unflattering rumors about unfair justice or poor treatment.