The Chaco War with Paraguay represented the largest undertaking by the Bolivian state up to that point and proved to be a definitive turning point in the country's social and political history. This article exposes how little we know about the conflict and examines anew how many fought, who these soldiers were, and the mechanisms by which the state recruited and disciplined them. My examination of wartime mobilization and desertion shows that the central government adopted a multipronged approach, ceding power to local actors to enact mobilization orders, negotiating with interest groups to ensure continued production and protect particular men from recruitment, and relying on violence to enforce a documentary regime. Drawing on new archival sources, most importantly the testimony from wartime military justice proceedings, the article concludes that the oligarchic state was surprisingly successful in mobilizing and retaining soldiers as it faced the formidable challenges of modern mass warfare.

You do not currently have access to this content.