A Democracy at War: America's Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II / Edition 1

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As America fought to defend democracy in Europe and Asia during World War II, its own democratic politics both aided and impeded the war effort at home and the military campaigns abroad. Now, in a broad-ranging social, political, military, and diplomatic history, William O'Neill reveals how the United States won its victory despite its reluctance to enter the war, and despite proceeding by costly half-measures even after committing to battle.
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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review - George Q. Flynn
A distinct and splendid historical style...O'Neill writes with wit and clarity...He offers new and colorful treatment of such topics as immigration policy, women and the war, films and other entertainments, minorities, and labor relations. His chapter on "everyday life" is a minor masterpiece in which he repeatedly captures a new trend in a pithy phrase.
New Leader - John Patrick Diggins
An excellent book...perceptive and sensitive...bears resemblance to Tolstoy's great novel War and Peace, not as literature but as a humane perspective that juxtaposes the average soldier who fights on bravely and stoically to generals and political leaders who make a mess of things.
Borderlines: Studies in American Culture - Dianne Kirby
O'Neill has written, with passion and vivid clarity, a wide ranging social, cultural, political, military and diplomatic history which examines "how and why America won the war" despite its late entry, cumbersome political system and debilitating prejudices...The result of this ambitious project is a grand synthesis which draws on many of the scholarly texts, biographies and memoirs generated by this momentous period, as well as contemporary media accounts and published correspondence...Written with warmth and humour, indignation and outrage, and with a profound affection for America's democratic culture, O'Neill has produced an informative synthesis which raises important questions about American democracy and the relationship in it between popular opinion, electoral ambitions and policymaking.
Stephen E. Ambrose
Bill O'Neill is a master storyteller, and this is his biggest story in his distinguished career. He makes it into his masterpiece. This is the best single volume on the American experience in World War II that I have read.
E. J. Dionne
World War II not only transformed the world but also revolutionized America. It fundamentally changed work and family life, race relations, the economy, and the federal government's view of its responsibilities. It is thus a cause for celebration that William O'Neill has brought his large gift for evocative narrative and shrewd analysis-as well as his affection for America's democratic culture-to such a pivotal period in American history.
Houston Chronicle - Douglas Brinkley
A grand and sensitive synthesis of what the war meant to an entire generation and of how unity, valor, and victory came only after a period of profound unpreparedness, confusion, and reluctance. O'Neill writes with vivid clarity.
From Barnes & Noble
Contrary to the flag-waving mythology of World War II, America did not hurl herself wholeheartedly into the Allied war effort like some ferocious she-wolf defending her young. Emerging from the Great War a gun-shy, cautious, and fiercely isolationist country, the U.S. was deeply reluctant to enter this second war in Europe, even in the face of outrageous Nazi aggressions. It was only the blatant attack on Pearl Harbor that galvanized Congress into declaring war on Japan (and then, only after assurances that public opinion had changed). Once engaged, the American "war machine" was plagued by slow-grinding gears. At every turn, costly half-measures, political infighting, military bungling, slow mobilization, and other tragic mistakes nearly derailed the war effort. Nevertheless, the U.S. won great, decisive, victories on both fronts. This far-ranging domestic, military, and diplomatic history explains how. B&W photos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674197374
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 1,296,011
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

William L. O'Neill is Professor of History, Rutgers University.
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Table of Contents



1. Day of Infamy

2. America in 1941

3. The Lion and the Albatross: FDR and Lindy

4. The Force of Events

5. The Government Cannot Mobilize

6. Rout and Recovery

7. The People Are Willing

8. Operation Torch and the Great Debate over Strategy

9. The Sea of Dreams

10. The Politics of Sacrifice

11. Minorities and Women: The Democratic Failure

12. The Transformation of Everyday Life

13. Two Wars in the Pacific: Guadalcanal to Luzon

14. Air Power: The Democratic Delusion

15. The GI

16. Overlord

17. Victory in Europe

18. The War Winds Down at Home

19. The Destruction of Japan

20. The Reckoning

Notes Index

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