In This Review

The Girls Next Door: Bringing the Home Front to the Front Lines
The Girls Next Door: Bringing the Home Front to the Front Lines
By Kara Dixon Vuic
Harvard University Press, 2019, 392 pp

From 1918 until the end of the Vietnam War, every time young American men were sent to fight overseas, they would be joined by small groups of young women who would serve drinks and snacks, put on shows, and offer (platonic) friendship to the soldiers. The women were chosen for their good character and attractive appearance, and their presence was meant to remind the men of the ideal of womanhood for which they were fighting, raise soldiers’ morale by providing them with feminine company, and discourage them from seeking out prostitutes. By the end of the Cold War, the practice had died out, as U.S. forces were made up of volunteers rather than draftees and feminism was on the rise. Women began serving as soldiers rather than entertainers. In this fascinating history, Vuic largely lets the women speak for themselves. They signed up out of a desire for overseas adventure, to support the war effort, and out of sympathy for lonely and fearful young men who missed their families. Vuic explores the sexual politics of frontline forces, as the women tried to find the appropriate codes of dress, dating, and maintaining distance to avoid raising expectations they could not meet. The issues of race and segregation also inevitably loom large in her account.