Frank Blazich

Frank Blazich


PhD, The Ohio State University, 2013
MA, North Carolina State University, 2008
BA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004

Research Specialties: 
  • American Home Front
  • World War II
  • Cold War-era Civil Defense and Fallout Shelter policies
  • Vietnam War
  • U.S. Navy
  • Prisoners of War
Professional Affiliations: 
  • American Historical Association 
  • Society for Military History
  • United States Naval Institute
  • United States Commission on Military History
  • Triangle Institute for Security Studies


"How Lucky I Am" The Words and Photography of Corporal William T. Perkins Jr. Marine Corps History 3, no. 2 (Winter 2017): 20-33.

Politically, the Vietnam War differed from other American conflicts through the juxtaposition and immediacy of television and communication satellites, enabling U.S. civilians to experience scenes of this conflict within hours from the serenity of their living rooms. Through the eye of the combat photographer, the ugly visage of battle could be tempered with the beauty of nature, cultural exchange, and innocence of youth. Sharing many of the same hardships as the fighters, the combat photographer's battle is to understand the situation and their subject matter, all to better capture in still or moving images a moment of clarity, compassion, valor, or humanity. One young American in uniform, Corporal William T. Perkins Jr., represented a typical 20-year old Marine in Vietnam. However, whereas most carried a rifle into battle, Perkins deployed to Vietnam as a combat photographer, armed with cameras to record his fellow Marines' efforts to support and defend the South Vietnamese people against the Communist Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. His photography is perhaps less notable compared to Perkins’ heroic actions which made him a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor, the only combat photographer so honored. Through his letters and personal photographs from the war, this article allows this young Marine’s voice to speak anew on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Perkins's own writings provide a critical opportunity to observe his transformation into a Marine and a photographer, but also to perhaps understand the reasoning behind his images and frame his ultimate act of selflessness.

History's Data for Tomorrow's Navy Center for International Maritime Security. (published April 25, 2017). 

In an era where the Navy is facing contested seas from challenges posed by China and Russia, history can unlock potential advantages with which to meet current and future threats. Gathering and preserving its operational records, in essence data, is critical. Unfortunately, in terms of such historical records, the Navy is in the Digital Dark Age. It retains only limited data and is losing access to its recent history – knowledge purchased at considerable cost. The Department of Defense and the Navy must consider a cultural and institutional revival to collect and leverage their data for potential catalytic effects on innovation, strategic planning, and warfighting advantages. This cultural transformation of collecting and preserving historical data within the Navy will be a long process, but leveraging its history to meet current and future problems will aid in maintaining global maritime superiority.

Ensign George H. Gay’s Fateful Day, June 4, 1942 Naval History and Heritage Command. The Sextant. (published May 24, 2017). 

Ensign George H. Gay, Jr. flew his TDB Devastator torpedo bomber into history on June 4, 1942 in the morning hours of the Battle of Midway.  Gay piloted one of 15 torpedo bombers of Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) which took off from the carrier Hornet (CV8) to strike a blow against the Imperial Japanese Navy's Carrier Battle Group. Due to a variety of factors, VT-8 went in on its attack run unescorted. Japanese fighter planes shot down Gay and all of his compatriots, with Gay becoming the sole survivor of the attack. Although he and his unit failed to strike a blow, their sacrifice upset the delicate opeations of the Japanese carrier battle. Forced to maneuver and reverse course to doge the American torpedoes, the Japanese lost valuable time in launching and recovering aircraft. These delays thwarted strikes against the American carrier force and provided a critical window for American dive bombers to strike fatal blows against three of the four Japanese carriers. Gay witnessed the attacks while floating and concealed from Japanese view.   

The Intellectuals Behind the First U.S. Navy Doctrine: A Centennial Reflection With Ryan Peeks. War on the Rocks. (published December 1, 2017).

On the centennial of the promulgation of the first doctrine in U.S. Navy history, this article explores the intellectual creation of this brief, seven-page doctrine statement and its relation to the Navy's current approach to doctrine and strategy. 

When the Piper Cub Roamed the Battlefield War on the Rocks. (published December 19, 2017).

Dr. Edgar Raines’s book, Eyes of the Artillery: The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, provides a solid foundation to explore the debate and circumstances surrounding the placement of aircraft within the Army ground forces and the contemporary role of light, fixed-wing aircraft over the battlefield. The book focuses on the institutional origins of the U.S. Army’s organic aviation in the field artillery’s Air-Observation-Post Program during World War II. During the war, organic aviation assigned to field artillery units provided observation for indirect fire missions, locating and targeting enemy forces beyond the visual range of ground-based observers. Organic aviation, however, was only established after a long period of bureaucratic infighting that reflected deeper disagreements between the Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces about the role of new technology on the battlefield. Today, these themes are echoed in the debate about the Air Force’s contract for the OA-X light observation/attack aircraft. Support for and against the OA-X is typically drawn from the service-specific pages of Air Force history, but perhaps the origins of the Army's organic aviation program may provide valuable perspective on the incorporation of light, relatively low-technology aircraft into a war zone with a combined arms approach.  

Bataan Survivor: A POW's Account of Japanese Captivity in World War II Edited by Frank A. Blazich, Jr. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2016.

The personal memoir of Colonel David L. Hardee, first drafted at sea from April-May 1945 following his liberation from Japanese captivity, is a thorough treatment of his time in the Philippines. A career infantry officer, Hardee fought during the Battle of Bataan as executive officer of the Provisional Air Corps Regiment. Captured in April 1942 after the American surrender on Bataan, Hardee survived the Bataan Death March and proceeded to endure a series of squalid prison camps. A debilitating hernia left Hardee too ill to travel to Japan in 1944, making him one of the few lieutenant colonels to remain in the Philippines and subsequently survive the war. As a primary account written almost immediately after his liberation, Hardee’s memoir is fresh, vivid, and devoid of decades of faded memories or contemporary influences associated with memoirs written years after an experience. This once-forgotten memoir has been carefully edited, illustrated and annotated to unlock the true depths of Hardee’s experience as a soldier, prisoner, and liberated survivor of the Pacific War.