Thanks for the Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II

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The collective consciousness of World War II revolved around the virtues of bravery, sacrifice, and commitment. Members of the “Greatest Generation” toed political and social lines in hopes of winning the war. They fell into lockstep, not asking many questions and breaking few social and sexual mores. Or did they? In fact, World War II, like all wars, was an era of sexual experimentation and a general loosening of morals. During this time of conflicting emotions and messages, of great sacrifice, and of discovery, some groups, especially women, experienced a relaxing of bonds that had kept them in check. Thanks for the Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II is the true story of how that generation responded to the fervor of war and how those passions changed their lives—and the relationships between the sexes—forever. But this book is more than that. As Jane Mersky Leder writes, “Thanks for the Memories opens the hearts and memories of a generation that is dying, by one estimate, at the rate of more than 1,000 a day.” It not only exposes the Greatest Generation’s sexual and romantic escapades, it underscores how those four war years revolutionized relationships (including those between gays) and helped set the stage for the second wave of the women’s liberation movement. “Many who never thought their stories mattered,” Leder writes, “now feel the pull of limited time, and the importance of leaving an accurate account for their children and grandchildren of what it was like to be a young man or young woman during World War II. This is their collective story.”
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Written with great sensitivity and skill, this book makes the greatest generation more real to the succeeding generations; it exposes the young men and women of that time as being both stronger and more vulnerable than either history books or overly romantic movies sketch them."


"Jane Mersky Leder pricks the notion that men and women of the 'Greatest Generation' were all God-fearing….She writes well; the book is a good read."


"Her book — a very readable psycho-sociological study — explores how the war and people's reaction to the times set in motion such things as the second wave of the women's movement."


Historical Text Archive

"In her lively, highly readable new book, Thanks for the Memories, Leder details the upheavals, personal and social, that began as the country mobilized to fight. In that upended society, she finds the beginnings of the many rights movements — civil rights, women's liberation and gay rights."


Evanston Review

"Jane Mersky Leder is the author of a terrific book about an overlooked area in history - the sex lives of the greatest generation."


Fayetteville Observer

"Thanks for the Memories is replete with captivating bits of history, wonderful personal stories, and a peek into a generation slipping away fast. It's never dull as Ms. Leder moves you swiftly through history, confidently and engagingly."


TCM Reviews

"Thanks for the Memories is one of those rare books that one can either read quickly or savor slowly. At times it is fun and witty; at other ties it is poignant and thought-provoking."


The Detroit Jewish News

"[W]WII as a time of bawdy sexual experimentation? That might take a little getting used to. Jane Mersky Leder understands our reluctance. Four years ago, as she began to unravel surprising stories about the Greatest Generation, she was reluctant to believe them, too. But the men and women she interviewed, who are dying at a rate of approximately 1,000 a day, encouraged her to tell the more complete story, naughty though it may be….Her book is diligently researched and footnoted, and her sources spoke freely and candidly….At the height of the war, 19 million women were keeping the home front running. And it was that taste of independence - physical and economic - that Leder and many other cultural observers believe set the stage for the women's movement 20 years later. French shores on D-Day into the enthusiastic embrace of waiting mesdammes. French women, he told Leder, go about sex like American women go about knitting."


Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

"Freelance writer and journalist Mersky examines the impact of WWII on relationships between men and women. Focusing on the areas of love, sex, and marriage, she describes how the war's disruption of ordinary home life and the subsequent entry of women into the workforce allowed for a relaxing of the social restrictions that had formerly kept women in check. The personal stories of ordinary people single, married, military, and civilian are interwoven throughout the narrative."


Reference & Research Book News

"Through engaging stories and recollections, Leder paints a vivid picture of the love lives of the members of the Greatest Generation, from the service wives who followed their husbands around the country during their stateside training to the khaki-wackies and Victory girls who gave servicemen a roll in the hay in exchange for a Coca-Cola or movie, to the women, African Americans, and gays and lesbians who defied society to enlist in the military. Always enlightening and never prurient, Thanks for the Memories illuminates an untold chapter in World War II history—a chapter that resonates today in the continual redefining of gender roles and race relations."


America in WWII

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597972772
  • Publisher: Potomac Books
  • Publication date: 6/30/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 186
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Mersky Leder is a freelance writer and journalist. She is the author of the award-winning book Dead Serious: A Book for Teenagers About Teen Suicide, as well as Brothers & Sisters: How They Shape Our Lives and Grace & Glory: A Century of Women in the Olympics. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Psychology Today, the Chicago Sun-Times, and American Heritage. She lives in Evanston, Illinois.
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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Prologue: To My Parents-Morris and Shirley Mersky xix

Chapter 1 Derailed Dreams 1

Chapter 2 "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" 15

Chapter 3 "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for Tomorrow We May Die" 31

Chapter 4 Discrimination in the Ranks 51

Chapter 5 An Army of Service Wives 75

Chapter 6 Waiting Wives and Home Front Popular Culture 93

Chapter 7 "Over Sexed, Over Fed, Over Paid, Over There" 115

Chapter 8 "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" 133

Chapter 9 Babies, Suburbia, and the Seeds of Change 155

Selected Bibliography 169

Index 175

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2006

    Great History

    This book is full of captivating bits of history, wonderful personal stories, and a peek into a generation that is disappearing day by day. It is never dull and Jane Mersky Leder moves you quickly through the history with a confident and engaging writing style. Pick this book up and take a look at what you don¿t already know about World War II and the Greatest Generation.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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