Best-selling author Craig Shirley celebrates the American spirit while reconstructing the events that called it to shine with rare and piercing light. By turns nostalgic and critical, he puts readers on the ground in the stir and the thick of the action. Relying on daily news reports from around the country and recently declassified government papers, Shirley sheds light on the crucial diplomatic exchanges leading up to the attack, the policies on internment of Japanese living in the U.S. after the assault, and the near-total overhaul of the U.S. economy for war.
Shirley paints a compelling portrait of pre-war American culture: the fashion, the celebrities, the pastimes. And his portrait of America at war is just as vivid: heroism, self-sacrifice, mass military enlistments, national unity and resolve, and the prodigious talents of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley aimed at the Axis Powers, as well as the more troubling price-controls and rationing, federal economic takeover, and censorship.
Featuring colorful personalities such as Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and General Douglas MacArthur, December 1941 highlights a period of profound change in American government, foreign and domestic policy, law, economics, and business, chronicling the developments day by day through that singular and momentous month.
December 1941 features surprising revelations, amusing anecdotes, and heart-wrenching stories, and also explores the unique religious and spiritual dimension of a culture under assault on the eve of Christmas. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the closest thing to war for the Americans was uncoordinated, mediocre war games in South Carolina. Less than thirty days later, by the end of December 1941, the nation was involved in a pitched battle for the preservation of its very way of life, a battle that would forever change the nation and the world.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
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About the Author
Craig Shirley is the author of two critically praised bestsellers about Ronald Reagan, Rendezvous with Destiny and Reagan's Revolution, as well as the New York Times best-selling history December 1941. He is the president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. Shirley and his wife live in Lancaster, Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
DECEMBER 194131 DAYS THAT CHANGED AMERICA AND SAVED THE WORLD
By CRAIG SHIRLEY
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Craig Shirley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE FIRST OF DECEMBER
"U.S. and Jap Negotiations Continue" Fitchburg Sentinel
"Britain Puts All Far East Areas on War Basis" Tucson Daily Citizen
"Nazis See Fall of Moscow Near" Idaho Times
"'Wise Statesmanship' Might Save Situation, Japs Tell Reporters" Bismarck Tribune
America's 1,974 daily newspapers were crammed with war news: Russian, German, British, Japanese, Italian, Free China, Vichy France, Netherland East Indies, and Serbian. Reports were thick with hostilities in the North Atlantic and the South Pacific, in Northwest Africa and Southeast Asia, in Western Europe and on the Eastern Front.
The Third Reich and the British Empire were engaged in massive tank battles along Africa's Mediterranean coastline. Marshal Henri Philippe Petain, the puppet head of the Vichy French government, was reportedly in meetings with Adolf Hitler as a final step toward including France as part of the Axis powers' "New Order." Several months earlier, in a bold military campaign that would have pleased the founder of the "First Reich," the Prussian king Frederick the Great, hundreds of thousands of German troops invaded Russia. Stalin cowered, and the maneuver looked like another brilliant offensive operation by Chancellor Hitler.
Maps of Asia, Africa, and Europe were frequently in the newspapers and magazines, showing American readers German thrusts and surges across Europe, along with counterattacks by Britain and the Russians. Other drawings showed new incursions by the Japanese into China and Indochina, their designs on Thailand and the Burma Road. Giant arrows slashed across continents.
In Shanghai and Hong Kong, the British were eyeing fresh movements by Japanese troops. British troops in Hong Kong were ordered to return to their barracks, and a state of emergency was declared in Singapore. The Philippines also watched the Japanese with concern.
War was raging on the high seas. German "Wolf packs" preyed upon helpless civilian vessels with shoot-on-sight orders from Adolf Hitler himself, and thousands of tons of hardened steel had already been sent to the bottom of the Atlantic. Berlin was also making plans to take Surinam, a strategically important outpost on the Atlantic side of South America. "Bundles" were dispatched to Britain, and Greek war relief funds were raised courtesy of American charity for those besieged countries.
To slow the inevitable German advance on Moscow, the Red Army burned the homes of Russian peasants by the thousands in hopes of denying Nazi forces any resources they might find in them. As a result, untold thousands of Russian citizens were left homeless in the blinding white cold.
It was all just one more day in a new world war that had already been a fully involved inferno for over two years. And yet there was much more to come.
But there was no American war news. No Americans were fighting anywhere in the world, at least not under their forty-eight-star flag. Americans didn't want any part of this rest-of-the-world mess. They'd been through that thankless hell once before, in a previous global struggle that was supposed to make the world safe for democracy. Memories were still fresh of American doughboys fighting and dying in the trenches of European battlefields, only to result in the rise of distinctly undemocratic societies a generation later.
An entire world was truly at war, but the United States was sitting this one out.
On December 1, 1941, Americans simply referred to the unfolding hostilities as "the emergency" and went about their business, walled off from the clamor by two giant oceans. Christmas was coming, and the economy was showing signs of life for the first time in years. For over a decade, the country had staggered through the dark valley of the Great Depression, and it could finally see some sunlight. Americans planned to enjoy an uneasy peace and a modicum of prosperity.
The only place American troops could be found "fighting" was South Carolina in war games supervised by one-star Gen. George S. Patton Jr. Because of severe budget restrictions, the troops used fake ammo. The brass wanted to conclude these maneuvers quickly so they and 300,000 participating troops could make it home in time for Christmas. But the faux battle was described as a "sham" with fistfights breaking out as parachutists landed, while "on to the field," as Time reported in the language of the era, "charged grease-monkeys and Negro engineers" armed with "rifles and clubs." The army guaranteed they'd use real ammo for maneuvers scheduled in 1942.
The navy's materiel situation was just a bit more promising. Rolling off production lines in Maine and San Francisco were new destroyers, the Aaron, Buchanan, and Fahrenholt. Battleships in the works were the Indiana, Alabama, Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri, and the Wisconsin. They were bigger, armed with more powerful guns than the fifteen battleships already in the fleet. "Meanwhile, Navy men find a particular comfort in their completed plans: as far as they know, the Japanese are planning nothing like them." The plan was for a two-ocean navy, an overall addition of 17 new battlewagons, along with "eleven more carriers, 54 cruisers, 192 destroyers, 73 submarines." Also under development in Boston was a relatively small and light torpedo vessel known as a PT boat. Its development was "a military secret," but pictures and all the specifications were printed in detail in Time magazine complete with speed, armaments, length and construction, which was a plywood hull.
The weather across the country was cloudy that day, from Abilene to Washington, D.C., and so was America's clarity about the threat from the East.
"Americans do not even seem worried by the prospect of war with Japan," Life magazine reported. The reigning assumption was that if there was any action by the Japanese in the Pacific theatre, it would be directed against Great Britain and the empire's outposts there. As a result, the British were beefing up their naval presence in the region, having recently dispatched large warships including the Prince of Wales. The British in Hong Kong ordered their garrison there to move into an "advanced state of readiness," and their troops in Singapore and Rangoon had also been so warned. As a precaution, the U.S. Army and Navy in the area were "ordered on the alert." News photos of "Swarthy Punjabi sepoys"—Singapore soldiers manning 40-milimeter guns—appeared in some American papers. Some 75 percent of the tin imported by the United States came from Singapore, so Washington had at least a passing interest.
The American navy had been quietly moving munitions out of Honolulu and the tiny island of Palmyra to the British-held Fiji Islands and the Free French island of Caledonia to assist against possible Japanese strikes there. The Americans had strengthened their military operations on Samoa, but the Japanese government made clear they too had parochial interests in the Pacific and vowed to keep the shipping lanes between their home islands and South America open. For the average American, though, when they gave the Pacific a passing thought, it was only about palm trees and sandy beaches. The very word pacific meant tranquility, a peaceful nature.
Consequently, few in America paid any attention to an item buried deep in a United Press International story from the evening of December 1, dateline Manila: "Sixteen Japanese heavy cruisers and aircraft carriers were reported by Manila to have swung southward.... Japanese reinforcements were reported landing in Indochina where there already were an estimated 100,000 troops." Another unnoticed story, this one from INS news service, reported on the "precarious positions of the Philippines ... under command of Lieutenant Gen. Douglas MacArthur" who was being "subjected to a horseshoe encirclement by Japan." However, according to respected military analyst Dewitt MacKenzie, recent setbacks by the Nazis in Russia and Africa had led the Japanese to pull up because, he said, "Tokyo is anxious to evade conflict with America." Indeed, representatives of the Japanese and American governments were in ongoing peace talks to gain clarity and iron out their differences.
Numerous newspaper reports and columns speculated on the intent of the Japanese government, and nearly all came to the conclusion that they had neither the will nor the industrial plant to move forward with any serious naval action in the Pacific. Furthermore, the Japanese navy was seemingly so weak the Nazis had deployed some of their ships to the Pacific to buttress their Axis ally. The Allies had lost track of a good portion of the Nazi navy—they couldn't find many of their ships.
When it came to the American ships, the conventional knowledge was that "[t]he Pacific fleet ... has a decided superiority over the Japanese.... The Japanese would be hard put to it to replace their losses because of the lack of raw materials which they obtained from the United States and other western democracies." Few in America worried about the Japanese navy, though there were signs they should. Chillingly, buried at the end of a piece, respected British correspondent Constantine Brown reported, "The Japanese have hinted ... that they do have some juicy surprises if we decide to accept their challenge in the Pacific." Part of the source of the irritation between Tokyo and Washington stemmed from the Japanese invasion of Free China. The Japanese had invaded China in 1937 and proceeded to conduct genocidal activities on the Mainland. The Chinese had a strong lobby in Washington and America, as well as many sympathetic supporters.
In retaliation, the Americans slapped a boycott on products headed for Japan, including precious scrap metal. For the boycott to be lifted, the State Department set out four conditions to the Japanese. First, they had to withdraw as a member of the Axis powers. Second, they had to withdraw their forces from French Indochina and the Mainland. Third, they had to renounce aggression, and fourth, they had "observe the principle of equal trade opportunity in the Pacific." Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, also offered the Japanese government $100 million if they would agree to switch from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy, but also sell war material to Russia in order to help Stalin fight Hitler.
While talks continued with Japan, most eyes in America were fixed on Europe and the North Atlantic, not Asia or the Pacific.
The night before, the Germans had downed eight British bombers on a mission over Hamburg. Over the previous weekend, the American merchant ship MacBeth was reported missing in the North Atlantic, presumed torpedoed. 21 U.S. ambassador to the USSR Laurence Steinhardt paid a worried visit to the White House to discuss the war in Europe with FDR; and Nazi propaganda minister Paul Joseph Goebbels gave a talk at Berlin University in which he predicted that it was too late for the United States to do anything to prevent England's eventual defeat. The plane of an American general, George H. Brett, head of the Army Air Corps, was shot at by Axis naval vessels as it crossed the Mediterranean. Privately, Franklin Roosevelt had been telling aides since 1939 he believed the Nazis were bent on "world dominance."
Not that America was ready for it.
Since dissolving its forces after 1919, there was little American military to speak of. The Army Air Corps had only 51,000 trained flyers as of June of 1940. On the other hand, the Royal Air Force had 500,000 pilots, and the German Luftwaffe had a million pilots. Both countries were far smaller than America in terms of population, and the U.S. planes were inferior to boot. American Curtiss P-40s were out-gunned and out-accelerated by the English Spitfires and the German Messerschmitts, and the P-40s couldn't achieve their altitude either. Still, the American military was quite proud that their tiny air force operated out of what they called "dispersion fields," meaning their geographically scattered planes would not be subjected to mass destruction as a result of aerial bombardment. They were also proud of their new glider schools.
Lt. Gen. Leslie J. McNair observed that against Germany, the U.S. Army could "fight effectively but losses would be unduly heavy." And he lamented about the poorly equipped troops. An army draft continued in America, but 1,400 American "boys" refused to report, declaring themselves as "conscientious objectors." They were sentenced to Civilian Conservation Corps work camps around the country, where they picked up trash, planted trees, and served their time, at least a year and in some cases, more. Most were religious pacifists, including Mennonites.
The army was also forcing 1,800 uniformed soldiers of the 29th Division out of service. All in excess of twenty-eight years old, they were deemed "overage." Maj. Gen. Milton A. Reckord protested that it would take "weeks to build the division back to its peak."
The navy was undermanned as well. Enlistments were so poor that Secretary of War Frank Knox mused publicly that he might have to impose a draft for the blue-water service, something that had never been done before. The admirals thought the deficiency could be made up with better newspaper advertising campaigns and by "relaxation of health standards." That might have explained why the navy called back seventy-seven-year-old Jesse "Pop" Warner as a chief boatswain's mate in San Diego. Warner had already served fifty-seven years in the navy, had a recent physical, and with the exception of upper and lower dental plates, was pronounced "fit for sea duty." He had originally enlisted in 1884.
Americans were understandably gloomy or indifferent about world affairs, but things were bothersome at home too. The country was still feeling the effects of the Great Depression, and after the economy had made a gentle comeback several years earlier, it had slid back and had only recently perked up again. Unemployment hovered around 10 percent, though war production had begun to stabilize the economy.
Despite their vow to stay out of "it," a war effort had been underway for a while now—allegedly only to aid the Allied powers. The "Arsenal of Democracy" was reserved exclusively for friends of America, but there was some promising if slightly ironic upside to the early efforts. Just as Germany had pulled itself out of its own depression with a military buildup, so too was the United States. In California, for instance, industrial factories supporting the war effort numbered over 2,000 as of December, and wages were as high as $193 per week, although many employees were still scraping by on less than $40.
It was a shaky and uncertain recovery. The stock market on December 1 was mixed, and Wall Street was mildly surprised that investors had not reacted more favorably to news of the Russian counteroffensive and of the Japanese desire to continue talks with Washington to try to effect a political solution to their disagreements. The market was at its lowest point since 1938, but there was no market averaging yet. Stocks were broken down between railroads and industrials. In 1926, railroad stocks had been trading at over $102 per share, but by 1941, they were at $23 per share.
Senator Sheridan Downey of California proclaimed that the 2 percent payroll tax was enough to fund the Social Security retirement system, which in 1941 provided a pensioner at age sixty with $36 per month for the rest of his life. With the tax scheduled to go to 4 percent in 1943, the trust fund would have more than enough to pay for the retirement of all Americans over retirement age. But, Downey told a congressional committee, rather than depositing the taxes collected into Treasury bonds, it would be "more humane" to provide pensions for those elderly who were "slowly decaying and starving" on welfare rolls.
Excerpted from DECEMBER 1941 by CRAIG SHIRLEY Copyright © 2011 by Craig Shirley. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 THE FIRST OF DECEMBER....................1
CHAPTER 2 THE SECOND OF DECEMBER....................21
CHAPTER 3 THE THIRD OF DECEMBER....................44
CHAPTER 4 THE FOURTH OF DECEMBER....................63
CHAPTER 5 THE FIFTH OF DECEMBER....................87
CHAPTER 6 THE SIXTH OF DECEMBER....................108
CHAPTER 7 THE SEVENTH OF DECEMBER....................127
CHAPTER 8 THE EIGHTH OF DECEMBER....................154
CHAPTER 9 THE NINTH OF DECEMBER....................183
CHAPTER 10 THE TENTH OF DECEMBER....................209
CHAPTER 11 THE ELEVENTH OF DECEMBER....................227
CHAPTER 12 THE TWELFTH OF DECEMBER....................250
CHAPTER 13 THE THIRTEENTH OF DECEMBER....................269
CHAPTER 14 THE FOURTEENTH OF DECEMBER....................286
CHAPTER 15 THE FIFTEENTH OF DECEMBER....................302
CHAPTER 16 THE SIXTEENTH OF DECEMBER....................318
CHAPTER 17 THE SEVENTEENTH OF DECEMBER....................332
CHAPTER 18 THE EIGHTEENTH OF DECEMBER....................347
CHAPTER 19 THE NINETEENTH OF DECEMBER....................361
CHAPTER 20 THE TWENTIETH OF DECEMBER....................375
CHAPTER 21 THE TWENTY-FIRST OF DECEMBER....................388
CHAPTER 22 THE TWENTY-SECOND OF DECEMBER....................400
CHAPTER 23 THE TWENTY-THIRD OF DECEMBER....................413
CHAPTER 24 THE TWENTY-FOURTH OF DECEMBER....................428
CHAPTER 25 THE TWENTY-FIFTH OF DECEMBER....................441
CHAPTER 26 THE TWENTY-SIXTH OF DECEMBER....................453
CHAPTER 27 THE TWENTY-SEVENTH OF DECEMBER....................465
CHAPTER 28 THE TWENTY-EIGHTH OF DECEMBER....................478
CHAPTER 29 THE TWENTY-NINTH OF DECEMBER....................490
CHAPTER 30 THE THIRTIETH OF DECEMBER....................505
CHAPTER 31 THE THIRTY-FIRST OF DECEMBER....................520
About the Author....................641
What People are Saying About This
“Craig Shirley’s December 1941 is a riveting narrative history of America in the crucible of the Second World War. A real page turner. Highly recommended.” - Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and New York Times bestseller of The Wilderness Warrior
""As ever, Craig Shirley has given us a compulsively readable history of great sweep and startling detail. The month in 1941 he has chosen to chronicle did indeed change the way we live now, the way we will live as long as liberty is the organizing principle and animating spirit of America."" - Jon Meacham, best-selling author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston
“It is terrific . . . tremendous report on that decisive month which changed America and the world.” —Newt Gingrich
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
So everyone knows what was going on over in Europe between the Axis and Allies, but what was going on in our own country? December 1941 tells a day by day account about what was going on in our country before we entered WWII. If you love Military and World History you will love this book. Every fact in this book is accurate and true and trust me, you will not be able to put this book down once you start reading it.! December 1941: the Month that Changed America is a must buy for everyone.
Only a skilled writer and researcher could pen so many pages that enthrall readers. With information from hundreds of sources, Craig Shirley relates events of the six days before and the three weeks following Japan¿s unexpected bombing of Pearl Harbor. A major question was ¿How did Japan destroy so many ships, airplanes and lives without anyone suspecting in advance the terrible attacks?¿ Mr. Shirley tells of every day lives, political and historical events, and world leaders¿ actions. Pearl Harbor galvanized intense patriotism among Americans. So many men and women volunteered to fight that military recruiters could barely process the applications. Thousands of women volunteered to fight or supported military personnel. Many women took over men¿s jobs manufacturing war materials or in political offices. For months Japan whipped Allied forces and relentlessly advanced throughout the Pacific area. Americans quickly produced battle equipment and few doubted we¿d defeat the enemy. But no one realized how long and disastrous the fighting would be. American culture changed forever as a result of Pearl Harbor. This attack and the war resulted in the USA becoming a super power in the world. Our politics also changed. This book tells younger readers about life in 1941. Older people will remember those days. December 1941 is well worth the hours of reading. A decorated former contact agent for the CIA, Mr. Shirley has written best-sellers. A sought-after speaker and commentator, he writes for major newspapers and magazines.
I'll admit to having a bit of a fascination with World War II. It was "before my time", but as a veteran, I am fascinated by the history and magnitude of that war. That's one of the reasons why I was looking forward to reading December 1941 by Craig Shirley. While the book goes day-by-day through the month of December 1941, it did not seem to drag (like you might expect). It was full of details, yet didn't get bogged down in them. It examines all aspects of American life in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor--people, faith, economy, government, and culture. I found the book to be immensely enjoyable. Of course, we all know how it turned out. And many of us have studied this subject in school (however long ago that may have been!). But this book doesn't seem like "required reading" on the topic. While the book is published by Thomas Nelson, it does not have nearly the religious focus as many of their other books. This should widen the appeal of the book. (I received this book at no cost from the published in exchange for an honest review.)
This well written account by Craig Shirley takes the reader as close as one can come to experiencing this historic month.The book is broken up into chapters, with each chapter retelling the story of one day of the month. What I found to be fascinating is the way that the book not only tells the stories of what is happening in the war, and overseas, but it tells so much of what the mindset of the American people at home was. I enjoyed this book so much that I gave it to a WW2 veteran friend of mine and he is enjoying it as well.
This is a fascinating book in many ways. The details of life in America at the transition from the Great Depression into World War II are well written and it's an easy read. There are things about the time that will be new insights to many 21st Century readers. Should the attack on Pearl Harbor have been such a surprise? No. Could it have been prevented? Probably not. The stories of the "America First" people who sought to keep the U.S. out of the war in Europe may be new to some. The descriptions of people, habits and customs, and events of these critical days help set the context of America's entry into World War II. The "but..." in the review title has to do with two things. At least the e-book version is in need of re-editing; typographical errors abound, and many sentences are repeated verbatim or slightly altered throughout the book. The other caution is that as fascinating and insightful as this book is, the author's personal political perspectives sometimes cloud the objectivity of an otherwise great read. Despite the caveats, it's well worth reading.
This is an excellent book. The author covers each day in December 1942 with broad strokes as well as candid close-ups on things happening that particular day in our history. This chillingly forecasts, some of the things that have happened recently, with our government’s attempts at over reaching into private lives to improve our life. Having people suggest how many clothing or food you should buy sounds like today’s news to us. In this case, it was people trying to make things work “better” for the war effort. Or, simply because the government agencies could make suggestions or issue directives, because of the war’s starting. Brings to mind the statement, “Never let a good crisis get by unused?” His portraits of events and people are very vivid, and accurately reveal things I’d only heard about from my parents, who lived through the time. Or, from my relative’s description’s, of either their day to day lives or the occurrences they lived through during that time. The Pearl Harbor attack, especially the things which lead the Japanese air forces to have such an easy time with our air defenses, are especially telling. From the ignored radar sightings, to the parking of aircraft wingtip to wingtip to make them easier to protect from sabotage, to the lack of a ready force even though they’d been warned of imminent hostile actions make the people in charge look (as they were) really stupid. Then he points out US forces did the very same thing in Manila, as well. Which makes it very hard to understand how, General MacArthur could have made the same mistakes, only days later. UNLESS, the Navy and Army brass didn’t share with him details of the Pearl Harbor attacks. Which is wholly possible, though not answered herein. His story covers the entire world in so far as the story goes. Not just from a US standpoint, but also from the standpoint of the British Empire’s positions at the time, to the Axis leadership and forces, and to hone in on the Japanese actions and thoughts. He even asks the obvious questions, and then tries to answer them: 1. Why was Hitler so dumb to declare war on the US? 2. Why didn’t the Japanese carriers, send a second strike to take out the fuel dump and dry docks, as urged by the flight leaders? 3. What was the relation between Churchill and Roosevelt? 4. How was broad strategy set by the allies? 5. AND: Why doesn’t someone continue this book – I’d buy it! – throughout the entire war? The descriptions of events and day to day life in cities all over the USA were very interesting. Highly detailed and closely footnoted as well. Making it possible to go back and find more information on places and people at the time. Presenting a wide ranging picture of how the US reacted to the attack, responded to sudden crisis, and moved to help individual across the US. This book is much different than just a political or military history of the time. In all honesty, brought tears to my eyes more than once, reading of the spirit of individuals trying to help each other and the country. It was hard to put the book down once I’d started it. I bought copies for both of my sons so they could better understand our history. After hearing me rave about it, my wife (not exactly a history buff) devoured the book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history and especially history of World War II. I'd recommend it to all.
A remarkable, detailed account of the dark days of December, 1941, the first seven days, prior to Pearl Harbor, and of course what happened after the attack.... A must book for those who love modern history and those who love stories about how World War II started....
I must say this book took me longer to read and get through. December 1941 by Craig Shirley take you through each day of december and give you an account of the days events. Days before the tragic events at Pearl Harbor the country was at peace. Thanksgiving had just ended a couple weeks back, the Christmas season was upon them and they thought all was well in the USA. They know and understood that the World was not at peace. Little did they know that Japan had already set sail for Hawaii and 7 days into the last month of the year the USA would change and change for good. This book is well written, Yes it is a little long but thinking back on it I not sure how you could not have put the information in there that Mr. Shirley did. As a advit fan of the WWII era, this book is a must have and one that I recommend to those that love to study WWII history. I thank Thomas Nelson for my free copy and in return I was asked only to give my honest review of this book.
I was 7 years old on Dec 7, 1941 and wanted to read the book to see how much I could remember and what I missed. With a day by day report, basically from newspapers, it was fascinating to read the daily accounts. Have recommended it to all my friends as a must read.
You wouldn't think that so much could go on in 31 days but the book is very interesting. It really holds your attention. Can't put it down!
Inside of me ate book
Craig Shirley's "December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World" is a powerful account of the days leading up to, and the days immediately after, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent entry of the United States into World War II. This 500+ page book (600 if you count the notes) has a very simple format: it devotes one chapter to each day of the month of December 1941. The chapters describe the events of each day, either directly or indirectly related to the coming war. Of all the things I learned, I was especially surprised that, prior to December 7, the mindset of many Americans was not in favor of the United States entering the war. We are used to such things regarding the Vietnam war and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the image we tend to get of 1940's America is that of solidarity. In fact, the national mood changed quite a bit as of December 7, but even then, it wasn't a case of undisputed unity. The stories and information in "December 1941" are excellent. I received a copy of this book for free for review purposes, with no obligation to deliver a positive assessment. Still, I highly recommend it for anyone interested in history, especially World War II buffs.
A friend introduced me to a new phrase this week: ¿narrative non-fiction.¿ She was using it in categorizing non-fiction as written by Erik Larson, author of Devil in the White City. I¿d categorize December 1941 as non-narrative non-fiction. It¿s history minus a true narrative, a scrapbook of facts and quotations from newspaper stories (the ¿rough draft of history¿) of the time, woven together by the author¿s transitions and ¿ in the case of December 1941 ¿ more than a few opinions and, occasionally, overwrought verbiage stating the obvious. A book that relies on ¿facts¿ for its very existence needs to be carefully copy edited, fact-checked and indexed. December 1941 wasn¿t. And the bibliography was very carelessly thrown together. To categorize December 1941 as ¿history¿ would do a disservice to real historians upon whose writing readers can rely. Despite all these caveats and complaints, I still found December 1941 somewhat interesting. For the most part, I read a single chapter per day, each chapter devoted to a day of the month. That gave me a feeling about the atmosphere of the times: the rumors that were swirling around, the fears and anxieties. How was it going in the Pacific? Where exactly were those islands in the news? Details that people were thinking and talking about: shortages, the Selective Service Act and enlistments, new regulations, new powers for the president. In its own way, December 1941 was much like the news of that pivotal month in American history: disjointed, fragmented and unreliable.
This book was written from day-to-day relating the newspaper articles published on each day. A lot of sporting events were covered for each day, which I found to be a bit boring. It also seemed that it took several days for Pearl Harbor to be featured in the book. I also thought the book had a lot of typos and spelling mistakes. After reading the description of the book I thought that it had some promise however, I was not impressed with it.
I like the concept -- tell the story of the first month the US is in World War II via what is reported in the newspapers. One of the things I'd like to see more of in wartime history is what life is like for those not in the military.Unfortunately, this book is not an example of good writing. Proofreading and editing are non-existent, and the author does too much editorializing and not enough analysis. A fellow World War II buff has described this book as the "biggest waste of forest products ever" -- I think that's a bit of an overstatement, but it's certainly on the right track.
Disappointing after positive reviews. Too much detail, not enough analysis. Tending towards the scrapbook approach, "history as one damn thing after another". Weak compared to another "1 month in history" book I read recently, May 1865, which has more in depth portraiture, explanation and - yes - even the author's opinions.Didn't read to the end as the period is fairly familiar to me.
Excellent book!!! Takes you back to December 1941 in a magnificent way and you have the feeling and the taste of the time while you go through day by day. Love it and warmly recommend it to everyone!
Engrossing and disappointing. Definitely a different and engaging view of this crucial month in out nation's history. While I thought the content first class, the proofreading was decidedly third class at best. The are numerous errors of syntax, punctuation and spelling that detract from a smooth read. Nonetheless, I would recommend it to anyone interested in WWII history.
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Some of the information in this book is good, especially descriptions of the reactions of everyday Americans to the nation suddenly being a war footing. The main problem with the book, as other reviewer here have noted, is it is full of factual errors. For example, FDR did not order MacArthur to chase the Bonus Army from their camp, it was Hoover. FDR and Churchill did not in the middle of the Atlantic, they met in Placentia Bay in Newfoundland, hardly the middle of the ocean This is what happens when you get amateur historians writing about the past and saving money by using the author's son, who's a college undergraduate, as the principal researcher..