The Best War Ever: America and World War II / Edition 1

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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

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.'

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 (
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: 9780801846977
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1993
  • Series: The American Moment Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 207,754
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (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.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps
Editor's Foreword
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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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2012

    Tell your teacher not to assign this book

    This book is poorly written, factually flawed, revisionist garbage. It is put out by theJohns Hopkins University Press. Is that really the prestigious university or is it some fake place, like buying a Rolex and finding out it is fake because it is spelled Rollex on the dial. The author uses a lack of knowledge about world war two and attempts to make points that are all over the place logically, in order to make the United States look bad. He assumes that everyone in the country was brainwashed by Hollywood, and that we are too stupid to know that mistakes, and some bad behavior by our soldiers and politicians occurred. Most intelligent people already know that our veterans suffered throughout their lives from what they saw, and had to do to survive the war.

    The thing to remember if forced by your college/high school teacher into reading this book, is that many of his facts aren't facts at all. For instance he states the US had 300,000 fatal casualties during the war. Look it up, most sources state between 410,000 and 425,000. He also states that the US had the 45th largest army at the start of the war. We had around 195,000 regular army and 200,000 national guard when the war started. True, we were coming out of the depression and had a relatively small army, but the truth is that our army was around the 15th biggest army when the war started depending on your source. If you think this author makes any sense, try and come up with 44 countries that you think had a bigger army than the US. Remember, we were/are the third most populous country in the world. You get to Lichtenstein pretty fast. I point these few of many such errors, not because the actual number matters to points he is poorly making, but to show that: How can his arguments be any good, if he can't do the simple research (or have a graduate student do it for him!) that you would flunk for if you turned this in.

    He also tries to make the point twice in the book (for some unknown reason) that the Japanese were foolish because they didn't understand the importance of striking our carriers at Pearl Harbor and Midway. This can be proven wrong two ways. First read any Japanese accounts of these battles and they are full of gut wrenching disappointment that our carriers weren't at Pearl Harbor, and that despite using submarines and search planes at Midway, they were unable to locate our carriers till it was too late. (Remember, we had broken their code, and had a huge advantage.) The second way that you can prove the author wrong is that these Japanese who, according to him, didn't know the importance of aircraft carriers were standing on aircraft carriers! The Japanese had more aircraft carriers than any nation at the start of the war.

    If forced to read this book, I suggest you read it near some world war 2 source material written by actual historians. Look up the "facts" used in the authors arguments. Learn more about the battles/history involved. You will quickly realize this author is more about distorting what your Grandmother and Grandfather sacrificed for this country and the world than being a real "history professor." If you are lucky enough to know a WWII veteran ask them about what happened, don't trust a college professor.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

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