The Forgotten Generation: American Children and World War II (review)
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The Forgotten Generation: American Children and World War II. By Lisa L. Ossian. (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 2011. Pp. xvi, 174. $25.95 cloth)

The Forgotten Generation is a slender addition to an expanding set of works on children in World War II. While it is not nearly as broad in scope or as detailed as William Tuttle's path-breaking Daddy's Gone to War, it nonetheless is a significant contribution. Ossian has added important details to our understanding of the internment of Japanese-Americans during the World War II and makes clear that the internment itself was a major event in the lives of the children who were transported to remote areas (Ossian focuses on Wyoming) and confined to camps surrounded by barbed wire.

Ossian also treats the attack on Pearl Harbor, the ways in which schools mobilized children to support the war through patriotic activities and propaganda aimed at younger pupils. She devotes a chapter to various salvage drives and another to children's fascination with uniforms and other things relating to the military. Another contribution of Ossian's work is her detailed chapter on the participation of children and youth in the workforce. We have long known that women took up defense work during the war, but the extent to which child labor, both on the farm and in factories, expanded during the war has not been discussed extensively. There was little objection to child labor in this context, because the acute shortage of labor occasioned by the expansion of the U.S. military during the war. This expansion of child labor is documented by the decline of school enrollment. During the period from 1940 to 1944, the enrollment of students aged fifteen to eighteen declined by 24 percent. Of course, some of this decline was owing to military service, but a great many children left school to go to work.

More familiar topics such as the mobility of the civilian population during the war, serious housing shortages near defense plants, and the need for child-care services for young mothers working in factories are also briefly discussed here. In addition there is a short [End Page 499] chapter on children's responses to the death of a parent during the war. In this respect, Forgotten Children joins Daddy's Gone to War in documenting the tremendous impact the war had on American society, an impact some would say is still being felt.

Buttressed by extensive illustrations throughout and the use of some less-well-known archives, for example the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming and the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ossian's book extends our knowledge of the impact of the war on American children and families. As it is a short work, it could be used as supplementary reading in a variety of college courses, and because the style is graceful and straightforward it could also be used in high school classes.

Joseph M. Hawes

Joseph M. Hawes is now retired from the history department at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee. He is the author of Children between the Wars: American Childhood, 1920-1940 (1997) and other works about children and childhood in the United States.

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