A Nation Forged in War
How World War II Taught Americans to Get Along
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The University of Tennessee Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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The Second World War transformed America’s relationship with the world, and the United States emerged as one of the preeminent superpowers. After victory over the forces of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Americans embraced internationalism and the newly created United Nations. The Second World War reordered American...
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They are there, small tributes scattered across the country. Time has worn them away, pushed them into the gray routine of everyday life. They can be found in chapels in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Washington, Massachusetts, and New York, at the Pentagon and National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., at an elementary school...
1. The America They Left Behind
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Most of the time—in everyday life—America’s prejudices stay hidden. Americans pass their lives working, spending time with family and friends, trying to get through the days within a comfortable and accepted order of things. But those prejudices lurk just below the surface, and they emerge when that comfortable...
2. The Ethnic Army
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The U.S. Army came from American society. Its individual members harbored the same prejudices as any other Americans. In fact, many prominent military men were worse than the average American when it came to ethnic and religious tolerance. On the surface, there was no real reason to expect that the army would be the great engine...
3. Introduction to the Army
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They came by the millions—men and boys, married and unmarried, fathers and the childless; those who had worked long on professional careers, those who labored in fields and factories, and many who had just finished school. They believed in God, went to church or synagogue, or had little use for religion. The tall and the short came, the skinny and stocky, the strong and the weak, with blond, brown, and red hair...
4. Hours of Boredom
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Life continued amid the maelstrom. For all that happened in those epochal years, service in the army in World War II actually proved to be pretty boring most of the time. The boredom was especially acute after the shock and excitement of induction and training. Often the men did not train with a unit slated for regular service, so it was not until after basic that they would join their outfits for deployment overseas...
5. Instants of Excitement and Terror
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The World War II army experience was more than a mass excursion of young Americans to visit distant lands and meet different people. All of the tedium of everyday military life—the drilling, routine, scrounging for food, waiting for letters—could make it easy to forget that the army had to attend to serious business. There was a war to be fought, a war on two broad fronts against determined and lethal foes...
6. Coming Home, Taking Over
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America prepared for the returning veterans like no other time in its history. For once the country sought to learn the lessons from the aftermath of its earlier wars, especially World War I. The veterans of that conflict never felt they had been properly compensated for their efforts.1 They organized and filled veterans’ groups such as the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in part because they believed...
7. The New Consensus and Beyond
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If the veterans of World War II were to spread the lesson of tolerance throughout the country, they had to do it within the framework of the major events of the time. The Cold War, the great contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, cast a shadow over what should have been jubilant postwar years. World War II veterans had a strong group response to the threat, which led to them having a key position...
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Observant Americans in the 1950s noted the trend toward ethnic and religious tolerance, but they remained unsure of its depth and permanence. They knew the greatest possible test would be the nomination of a minority candidate, probably a Catholic...
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I accumulated a great many personal debts in the course of writing this book. A number of archivists and librarians made the process much easier with their hard work on my behalf. Especially helpful were Mark Renovitch and Alycia Vivona at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library; Randy Lee Sowell and Dennis Bilger...
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Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2010