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Taken By Force

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  • Posted July 16, 2011

    Sorely needed but sadly flawed research

    TAKEN BY FORCE: Rape and American GIs in Europe during World War II, by J. Robert Lilly, would be better served with a more accurate title - one that acknowledges that this study is limited to two premises: (1) that some members of the Greatest Generation did, indeed, rape, pillage and plunder their way across the WWII European Theatre of Operations; and, (2) that, when caught, tried and convicted, African-American troops were more likely to receive harsher sentences and fewer commutations and reductions of those sentences. Based on a limited sample [c. 730 rape victims, 871 rapists, and 436 convictions], Lilly extrapolates that between 14,000-17,000 rapes were committed between 1942 with the build-up of the invasion forces in England and through the 1945 surrender and occupation of Germany. Lilly's analysis shows that in the progressive deployment of troops in England through France to Germany, the military posting of the rapists shifted from 100% Support personnel in England to a 2 to 1 ratio of Infantry to Support personnel in Germany. The number of rapes increased progressively, as well. To me, Lilly's analyses and possibly, his conclusions, fail in significant areas. The first is an absence of comparative data. I'd've liked to know the number of rapists arrested, tried and convicted per capita, by age and race, during the period [1942-1945] for: [1] the United States; [2] all military personnel, deployed and non-deployed; [3] active duty military service in the European Theatre of Operations; and [4] the standard deviation of and correlation coefficient among these populations. Such variance and dependency analyses would have allowed an adjustment for, and discussion about, the degree to which increasing numbers of men, by themselves, were a factor in the increasing number of rapes. I'd've appreciated an appendix providing details on Lilly's baseline data. He draws most of his information from JAG [Judge Advocate General] and BOR [Board of Review] records. We do not know the total number of available records from each source for the period, nor the number related to rape, and the number sufficiently complete to include in his analysis. A perfect rendering would have included a breakdown of these records, and the US Crime Statistics for the period, by type of crime, so that the crime of rape could be measured against its actual and/or social predominance. Lilly's heavy reliance on and systematic use of percentages to define very small populations created, for me, more confusion and obfuscation than clarity, and it detracted from - even left questionable - some of his conclusions. Most of his tables of percentages do not provide the base number upon which the % is computed. What is needed is a straightforward numerical presentation of the numbers convicted, by sentence [execution, imprisonment, etc.], by race; and, tabulated against the number of sentences carried out, commuted and reduced, by sentence, by race. Lastly, while Lilly asserts that one object of his study is to 'give voice to the victims', his emphasis is on exposing the practical differences in military justice as applied to African-American and Caucasian rapists for the same degree of vengeance, brutality, and inhumanity committed upon the woman or child raped. Lilly seems to argue for equally rendered commutation and reduction of sentences. To 'give voice to the victims' cries for harsher, albeit more fairly, justly and equally applied, punishment.

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