Meghan Tibbits-Lamirande, a PhD candidate in the Department of English, has an article forthcoming in a 2024 issue of American Quarterly. “‘Death before Reenlistment’: Vandalism and Sabotage onboard the USNS General John Pope” traces an alternative history of the USNS General John Pope, which had ferried troops across the Pacific throughout WWII and the Korean War and was reactivated in August 1965 as a civilian-manned ship of the Military Sea Transport Service (MSTS). While official histories of The Pope evoke a sense of pride, discipline, and martial prowess, 400 vandalized canvas bunk beds taken from the ship and preserved by Texas Tech University’s Vietnam Graffiti Project tell an altogether different narrative of the years from 1965-1970. In this essay, Tibbits-Lamirande argues that GI tagging and vandalism onboard The Pope not only functions as a subterranean archive of soldiers’ war experience, but also falls in line with a larger pattern of soldiers’ resistance, which mobilized quotidian practices to sabotage military infrastructure and produce bonds of solidarity in the concomitant traditions of racial and working-class struggle. Ultimately, this work claims vandalism both as a form of revolt and a critically understudied resource for historical scholarship.

Image from the periodical Up Against the Bulkhead used under a Creative Commons licence.