The Best War Ever: America and World War II

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Overview

Was it really such a "good war"? It was if popular memory is to be trusted. We knew who the enemy was. We knew what we were fighting for. The war was good for the economy. It was liberating for women. It was a war of tanks and airplanes - a cleaner war than World War I. Americans were united. Soldiers were proud. It was a time of prosperity, sound morality, and power. But according to historian Michael Adams, our memory is distorted, and it has left us with a misleading - even dangerous - legacy. Challenging many...
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1993 Hardcover Good Connecting readers with great books since 1972. Used books may not include companion materials, some shelf wear, may contain highlighting/notes, and may not ... include cd-rom or access codes. Customer service is our top priority! Read more Show Less

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Overview

Was it really such a "good war"? It was if popular memory is to be trusted. We knew who the enemy was. We knew what we were fighting for. The war was good for the economy. It was liberating for women. It was a war of tanks and airplanes - a cleaner war than World War I. Americans were united. Soldiers were proud. It was a time of prosperity, sound morality, and power. But according to historian Michael Adams, our memory is distorted, and it has left us with a misleading - even dangerous - legacy. Challenging many of our common assumptions about the period, Adams argues that our experience of World War II was positive but also disturbing, creating problems that continue to plague us today. Combat was so brutal and demanding that 98 percent of men in action continuously for more than thirty days suffered breakdowns. Some American tanks and submarines were inferior to Axis models. Despite heroic fighting by African-American units, officially sanctioned racism kept Army facilities rigorously segregated. At one point in the Italian campaign, VD cases outweighed battlefield wounds. But because Americans at home saw their boys as "pure," the military considered sex education a covert operation. Censorship was strict; if journalists didn't censor themselves, the government did it for them. In short, says Adams, World War II was everything that war is: violent, uncertain, costly, and an arena for the best - and the worst - of human behavior. "When nostalgia drives us to depict war as a golden age in our cultural development," Adams writes, "a time of unending cheerful production, team spirit, prosperity, and patriotism, we trivialize the event by slighting the real suffering that took place. And we lose sight of the fact that war is inherently destructive - wasteful of human and natural resources, disruptive of normal social development. We risk initiating human catastrophes in the questionable belief that history shows wars will cure our social problems and make us fee
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Argues that the US experience of World War II was not nearly so positive as contemporary reports and subsequent history would have us believe. Explores such taboo topics as the emotional breakdown of soldiers, institutional racism, equipment inferior to that of the enemy, the devastating toll of venereal disease, the reluctance of the government to provide sex education, and the high degree of censorship. Paper edition (unseen), $12.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

This book will be most valuable to students and general readers who have not given World War II serious study but who are interested in achieving a better understanding of America's experience in what Dwight D. Eisenhower called 'the Great Crusade.'

Reviews in American History

Adams... uses his demythologizing lens to provide a rich overview of American involvement in the war... [He] has a real gift for efficiently explaining complex historical problems.

Journal of Military History

Not only is this mythologizing bad history, says Adams, it is dangerous as well. Surrounding the war with an aura of nostalgia both fosters the delusion that war can cure our social ills and makes us strong again, and weakens confidence in our ability to act effectively in our own time.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801846960
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1993
  • Series: The American Moment Ser.
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael C. C. Adams is Regents Professor of History Emeritus at Northern Kentucky University. He is the author of Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War and The Great Adventure: Male Desire and the Coming of World War I.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps
Editor's Foreword
Preface
Acknowledgments
1 Mythmaking and the War 1
2 No Easy Answers 20
3 The Patterns of War, 1939-1945 43
4 The American War Machine 69
5 Overseas 91
6 Home Front Change 114
7 A New World 136
Afterword 156
Bibliographical Essay 161
Index 185
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