Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center
Ninety Days Inside The Empire: A Novel by William Appleman Williams


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This constant shifting between the outer and the inner gives Williams the freedom to hide, for as a writer he occupies both the personal and detached perspectives: Ninety Days Inside the Empire draws on experiences during his Navy assignment to train as a pilot in Corpus Christi, Texas, which here becomes Galveston. The events took place in 1945-1946; Williams begins the action in the spring of 1948 so as to include President Truman’s executive order to integrate the armed forces and to create mirrored events in the military and civilian communities. Like millions of other veterans, he was moving from a life of following orders to one of making large choices: in his case, there was the predictable option of using his Annapolis degree and his connections to enter the military-industrial complex, or some other undefined option in an America whose definitions of community had been altered during the war: women and minorities had been moved by necessity into much broader areas of economic production and created a social context that called into question the old rules of exclusion. This time of self-discovery gave Williams both positive and negative messages—a back injury prevented him from successfully completing pilot training, but both the military flight line and the civilian community gave him larger options. Williams remembered his time in a brief memoir, “My Life in Madison”:

The southern city offered a classic example of the interrelationship among large corporations (industrial, agricultural, and energy), the military, a reactionary religious hierarchy, and local businessmen and politicians—all in the context of class, racial, and sexual confrontations among Chicanos, blacks, and whites. . . . Along with a handful of other Annapolis graduates . . . I became a political activist in support of the tiny black movement struggling for economic and social justice. It was unquestionably a major experience in my life.

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From the William Appleman Williams Papers, Special Collections, Oregon State University