As John Jeffries observes in his new and cogent history of America during World War II, our view of the war has been shaped by two widely accepted perspectives: as a watershed in American history, as a “Good War” of national unity, virtue, and success. Searching for the reality behind these catchphrases, Mr. Jeffries finds a richer and more varied portrait of America at war, one that defies easy interpretation. If great changes came to American life, thy were not necessarily brought by the war; if the struggle seemed one of moral unity, not all Americans were equally wedded to the cause. In considering the nation's political economy and the effects of mobilization; the social and cultural mobility of wartime; the experiences of minority groups; the strains of domestic politics; and the influence of propaganda, Mr. Jeffries paints a picture of a people emerging from the Great Depression and eager for a better life, yet often reluctant to abandon the touchstones of their past. His succinct, informative history is a welcome contribution to our understanding of this crucial moment in the American experience.
John W. Jeffries teaches American history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He has also written Testing the Roosevelt Coalition and is co-author of Why Soldiers Fought.