Few American towns went untouched by World War II, even those in remote corners of the country. During that era, the federal government forever changed the lives of many northern Arizona citizens with the construction of the U.S. Army ordnance depot at Bellemont, ten miles west of Flagstaff. John Westerlund now tells how this linchpin in the war effort marked a turning point in Flagstaff's history. One of only sixteen munitions depots built between 1941 and 1943, the Navajo Ordnance Depot contributed significantly to the city's rapid growth during the war years as it brought considerable social, cultural, and economic change to the region.
A clearing in the ponderosa pine forest called Volunteer Prairie met the military's criteria for a munitions depot—open terrain, a cool climate, plentiful water, and proximity to a railroad—and it was also sufficiently inland to be safe from the threat of coastal invasion. Constructing a depot of 800 ammunition bunkers, each the size of a 2,000-square-foot home, called for a force of 8,000 laborers, and Flagstaff became a boom town overnight as construction workers and their families poured in from nearby Indian reservations and as far away as the Midwest and South. More than 2,000 were retained as permanent employees—a larger workforce than Flagstaff's total pre-war employment roster.
As Westerlund's portrait of wartime Flagstaff shows, prosperity brought unanticipated consequences: racism simmered beneath the surface of the town as ethnic groups were thrown together for the first time; merchants called a city-wide strike to protest emerging union activity; juvenile delinquency rose dramatically; Flagstaff women entered the workforce in unprecedented numbers, altering local mores along with their own plans for the future; meanwhile, hundreds of sailors and marines arrived at Arizona State Teachers College to participate in the Navy's "V-12" program. Whether recounting the difficulty of 3,500 Navajo and Hopi employees adjusting to life off the reservation or the complaints of townspeople that Austrian POWs-transferred to the depot to ease the labor shortage-were treated too well, Westerlund shows that the construction and maintenance of the facility was far more than a military matter.
Navajo Ordnance Depot remained operational to support wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, and today Camp Navajo provides storage for thousands of deactivated ICBM motors. But in recounting its early days, Westerlund has skillfully blended social and military history to vividly portray not only a city's transitional years but also the impact of military expansion on economic and community development in the American West.
A decorated World War I veteran, Federal Judge Robert P. Patterson knew all too well the needs of soldiers on the battlefield. He was thus dismayed by America’s lack of military preparedness when a second great war engulfed Europe in 1939–40. With the international crisis worsening, Patterson even resumed military training—as a forty-nine-yearold private—before being named assistant secretary of war in July 1940. That appointment set the stage for Patterson’s central role in the country’s massive mobilization and supply effort which helped the Allies win World War II.
In Arming the Nation for War, a previously unpublished account long buried among the late author’s papers and originally marked confidential, Patterson describes the vast challenges the United States faced as it had to equip, in a desperately short time, a fighting force capable of confronting a formidable enemy. Brimming with data and detail, the book also abounds with deep insights into the myriad problems encountered on the domestic mobilization front—including the sometimes divergent interests of wartime planners and industrial leaders—along with the logistical difficulties of supplying far-flung theaters of war with everything from ships, planes, and tanks to food and medicine. Determined to remind his contemporaries of how narrow the Allied margin of victory was and that the war’s lessons not be forgotten, Patterson clearly intended the manuscript (which he wrote between 1945 and ’47, when he was President Truman’s secretary of war) to contribute to the postwar debates on the future of the military establishment. That passage of the National Security Act of 1947, to which Patterson was a key contributor, answered many of his concerns may explain why he never published the book during his lifetime.
A unique document offering an insider’s view of a watershed historical moment, Patterson’s text is complemented by editor Brian Waddell’s extensive introduction and notes. In addition, Robert M. Morgenthau, former Manhattan district attorney and a protégé of Patterson’s for four years prior to the latter’s death in a 1952 plane crash, offers a heartfelt remembrance of a man the New York Herald-Tribune called “an example of the public-spirited citizen.”
Brian Waddell, an associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, is the author of The War Against the New Deal: World War II and American Democracy and Toward the National Security State: Civil-Military Relations during World War II.
In a Segregated Military, the African American Armored Unit That Helped Patton Check the German Advance, Close the Rhine Ring, and Spearhead a New Postwar Army
Known primarily for being the first African American armored unit to see combat in World War II and as future baseball star Jackie Robinson’s onetime outfit, the 761st Tank Battalion was forged in a devil’s cauldron of heat and prejudice at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Here, most viewed the tankers as tokens in a racial experiment, rather than as fellow American soldiers who would actually be deployed to fight a common enemy. Led by a small cadre of white and black officers, the 761st trained to the pinnacle of its craft. The Black Panthers, as they soon were called, proved their battle prowess against other units bound for combat on the parched Texas training fields. For this, they earned a coveted assignment to fight under General George S. Patton and go head-to-head with the best of Hitler’s arsenal. Moving to the front in November 1944, trial by fire soon shook the unit to its core. Ambushed by a veteran German force, the 761st suffered heavy casualties in the confusion as they cut their way out of the trap. But the men rallied to overcome self-doubt and vindicate their losses. Quickly battle hardened, the tankers saw intense combat through November and when Germany launched its last-ditch offensive through the Ardennes in December, the 761st fought side-by-side with Patton’s Third Army. Moving swiftly, the unit helped check the German advance, cut resupply routes to the forces surrounding beleaguered Bastogne, and drove the enemy back, recapturing towns crucial to the final defeat of Germany.
In The Black Panthers: A Story of Race, War, and Courage—the 761st Tank Battalion in World War II, historian Gina M. DiNicolo tells the full and unvarnished history of this important American fighting force. Relying on extensive archival research, including documents that had not been consulted in previous accounts, and interviews with surviving soldiers and family members, the author describes the unit’s training, deployment, combat, and individuals, such as Sgt. Ruben Rivers, one of only seven African American men awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II heroism. The professionalism, dedication, and courage of the 761st and other non-white units made clear that the strength of the American army in the future lay with integration—one of the enduring accomplishments of these servicemen.
From World War II to the war in Iraq, periods of international conflict seem like unique moments in U.S. political history—but when it comes to public opinion, they are not. To make this groundbreaking revelation, In Time of War explodes conventional wisdom about American reactions to World War II, as well as the more recent conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Adam Berinsky argues that public response to these crises has been shaped less by their defining characteristics—such as what they cost in lives and resources—than by the same political interests and group affiliations that influence our ideas about domestic issues.
With the help of World War II–era survey data that had gone virtually untouched for the past sixty years, Berinsky begins by disproving the myth of “the good war” that Americans all fell in line to support after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The attack, he reveals, did not significantly alter public opinion but merely punctuated interventionist sentiment that had already risen in response to the ways that political leaders at home had framed the fighting abroad. Weaving his findings into the first general theory of the factors that shape American wartime opinion, Berinsky also sheds new light on our reactions to other crises. He shows, for example, that our attitudes toward restricted civil liberties during Vietnam and after 9/11 stemmed from the same kinds of judgments we make during times of peace.
With Iraq and Afghanistan now competing for attention with urgent issues within the United States, In Time of War offers a timely reminder of the full extent to which foreign and domestic politics profoundly influence—and ultimately illuminate—each other.
My Father’s War tells the compelling story of a unit of Buffalo Soldiers and their white commander fighting on the Italian front during World War II.
The 92nd Division of the Fifth Army was the only African American infantry division to see combat in Europe during 1944 and 1945, suffering more than 3,200 casualties. Members of this unit, known as Buffalo Soldiers, endured racial violence on the home front and experienced racism abroad. Engaged in combat for nine months, they were under the command of southern white infantry officers like their captain, Eugene E. Johnston.
Carolyn Ross Johnston draws on her father’s account of the war and her extensive interviews with other veterans of the 92nd Division to describe the experiences of a naïve southern white officer and his segregated unit on an intimate level. During the war, the protocol that required the assignment of southern white officers to command black units, both in Europe and in the Pacific theater, was often problematic, but Johnston seemed more successful than most, earning the trust and respect of his men at the same time that he learned to trust and respect them. Gene Johnston and the African American soldiers were transformed by the war and upon their return helped transform the nation.
Fathers in the fifties tend to be portrayed as wise and genial pipe-smokers or distant, emotionless patriarchs. This common but limited stereotype obscures the remarkable diversity of their experiences and those of their children. To uncover the real story of fatherhood during this transformative era, Ralph LaRossa takes the long view—from the attack on Pearl Harbor up to the election of John F. Kennedy—revealing the myriad ways that World War II and its aftermath shaped men.
Offering compelling accounts of people both ordinary and extraordinary, Of War and Men digs deep into the terrain of fatherhood. LaRossa explores the nature and aftereffects of combat, the culture of fear during the Cold War, the ways that fear altered the lives of racial and sexual minorities, and how the civil rights movement affected families both black and white. Overturning some calcified myths, LaRossa also analyzes the impact of suburbanization on fathers and their kids, discovering that living in the suburbs often strengthened their bond. And finally, looking beyond the idealized dad enshrined in TV sitcoms, Of War and Men explores the brutal side of family life in the postwar years. LaRossa’s richly researched book dismantles stereotypes while offering up a fascinating and incisive chronicle of fatherhood in all its complexity.
The People's War lifts the Stalinist veil of secrecy to probe an almost untold side of World War II: the experiences of the Soviet people themselves. Going beyond dry and faceless military accounts of the eastern front of the "Great Patriotic War" and the Soviet state's one-dimensional "heroic People," this volume explores how ordinary citizens responded to the war, Stalinist leadership, and Nazi invasion.
Drawing on a wealth of archival and recently published material, contributors detail the calculated destruction of a Jewish town by the Germans and present a chilling picture of life in occupied Minsk. They look at the cultural developments of the war as well as the wartime experience of intellectuals, for whom the period was a time of relative freedom. They discuss women's myriad roles in combat and other spheres of activity. They also reassess the behavior and morale of ordinary Red Army troops and offer new conclusions about early crushing defeats at the hands of the Germans–-defeats that were officially explained as cowardice on the part of high officers.
A frank investigation of civilian life behind the front lines, The People's War provides a detailed, balanced picture of the Stalinist USSR by describing not only the command structure and repressive power of the state but also how people reacted to them, cooperated with or opposed them, and adapted or ignored central policy in their own ways. By putting the Soviet people back in their war, this volume helps restore the range and complexity of human experience to one of history's most savage periods.
What were the catalysts that motivated Mexican American youth to enlist or readily accept their draft notices in World War II, Korea, or Vietnam? In Soldados Razos at War, historian and veteran Steven Rosales chronicles the experiences of Chicano servicemen who fought for the United States, explaining why these men served, how they served, and the impact of their service on their identity and political consciousness.
As a social space imbued with its own martial and masculine ethos, the U.S. military offers an ideal way to study the aspirations and behaviors that carried over into the civilian lives of these young men. A tradition of martial citizenship forms the core of the book. Using rich oral histories and archival research, Rosales investigates the military’s transformative potential with a particular focus on socioeconomic mobility, masculinity, and postwar political activism across three generations.
The national collective effort characteristic of World War II and Korea differed sharply from the highly divisive nature of American involvement in Vietnam. Thus, for Mexican Americans, military service produced a wide range of ideological reactions, with the ideals of each often in opposition to the others. Yet a critical thread connecting these diverse outcomes was a redefined sense of self and a willingness to engage in individual and collective action to secure first-class citizenship.
From 1942 to 1945, a small, influential group of media figures willingly volunteered their services to form the Writers' War Board (WWB), accepting requests from government agencies to create propaganda. Members included mystery writer Rex Stout, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck, novelist and sports writer Paul Gallico, Book-of-the-Month Club editor and popular radio host Clifton Fadiman, and Broadway lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. The WWB mobilized thousands of other writers across the country to spread its campaigns through articles, public appearances, radio broadcasts, and more.
The WWB received federal money while retaining its status as a private organization that could mount campaigns without government oversight. Historian Thomas Howell argues that this unique position has caused its history to fall between the cracks, since it was not recognized as an official part of the government's war effort. Yet the WWB's work had a huge impact on the nation's wartime culture, and this fascinating history will inform contemporary thinking on propaganda, the media, and American society.
The Thousand-Mile War, a powerful story of the battles of the United States and Japan on the bitter rim of the North Pacific, has been acclaimed as one of the great accounts of World War II. Brian Garfield, a novelist and screenwriter whose works have sold some 20 million copies, was searching for a new subject when he came upon the story of this "forgotten war" in Alaska. He found the history of the brave men who had served in the Aleutians so compelling and so little known that he wrote the first full-length history of the Aleutian campaign, and the book remains a favorite among Alaskans.
The war in the Aleutians was fought in some of the worst climatic conditions on earth for men, ships, and airplanes. The sea was rough, the islands craggy and unwelcoming, and enemy number one was always the weather--the savage wind, fog, and rain of the Aleutian chain. The fog seemed to reach even into the minds of the military commanders on both sides, as they directed men into situations that so often had tragic results. Frustrating, befuddling, and still the subject of debate, the Aleutian campaign nevertheless marked an important turn of the war in favor of the United States.
Now, half a century after the war ended, more of the fog has been lifted. In the updated University of Alaska Press edition, Garfield supplements his original account, which was drawn from statistics, personal interviews, letters, and diaries, with more recently declassified photographs and many more illustrations.
For Americans World War II was “a good war,” a war that was worth fighting. Even as the conflict was underway, a myriad of both fictional and nonfictional books began to appear examining one or another of the raging battles. These essays examine some of the best literature and popular culture of World War II. Many of the studies focus on women, several are about children, and all concern themselves with the ways that the war changed lives. While many of the contributors concern themselves with the United States, there are essays about Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, and Japan.
The recent dedication of the World War II memorial and the sixtieth-anniversary commemoration of D-Day remind us of the hold that World War II still has over America's sense of itself. But the selective process of memory has radically shaped our picture of the conflict. Why else, for instance, was a 1995 Smithsonian exhibition on Hiroshima that was to include photographs of the first atomic bomb victims, along with their testimonials, considered so controversial? And why do we so readily remember the civilian bombings of Britain but not those of Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo?
Marianna Torgovnick argues that we have lived, since the end of World War II, under the power of a war complex—a set of repressed ideas and impulses that stems from our unresolved attitudes toward the technological acceleration of mass death. This complex has led to gaps and hesitations in public discourse about atrocities committed during the war itself. And it remains an enduring wartime consciousness, one most recently animated on September 11.
Showing how different events from World War II became prominent in American cultural memory while others went forgotten or remain hidden in plain sight, The War Complex moves deftly from war films and historical works to television specials and popular magazines to define the image and influence of World War II in our time. Torgovnick also explores the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, the emotional legacy of the Holocaust, and the treatment of World War II's missing history by writers such as W. G. Sebald to reveal the unease we feel at our dependence on those who hold the power of total war. Thinking anew, then, about how we account for war to each other and ourselves, Torgovnick ultimately, and movingly, shows how these anxieties and fears have prepared us to think about September 11 and our current war in Iraq.
We Are a College at War weaves together the individual World War II experiences of students and faculty at the all-female Rockford College (now Rockford University) in Rockford, Illinois, to draw a broader picture of the role American women and college students played during this defining period in U.S. history. It uses the Rockford community’s letters, speeches, newspaper stories, and personal recollections to demonstrate how American women during the Second World War claimed the right to be everywhere—in factories and other traditionally male workplaces, and even on the front lines—and links their efforts to the rise of feminism and the fight for women’s rights in the 1960s and 1970s.