A Democracy at War: America's Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II

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Harvard University Press, 1995 - History - 480 pages
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As America fought to defend democratic ideals in Europe and Asia during World War II, our own democratic politics at home paradoxically created a far less than efficient war effort on both civilian and military fronts. While America's glorious triumphs in World War II are well known, the story of our country's failure to swiftly and effectively mobilize and energize our war machine is yet to be fully told. Now, in a broad-ranged domestic, military, and diplomatic history, William O'Neill tells the story of America's strengths and its weaknesses in fighting the Good War. The United States won its victory in World War II not, as legend has it, because of superior numbers and material predominance. Reluctant even to enter the war, the American government proceeded by costly half-measures even after committing to fight. Official reticence and bureaucratic bungling led to inferior and defective weapons, too few infantrymen, the squandering of GI's lives in strategically useless attacks, and other tragic mistakes. The Sherman tank was a deathtrap and the torpedoes of American submarines routinely malfunctioned. Afraid to alarm voters, Congress failed to act on many issues, such as the decision to increase military spending before the war, which could have brought the conflict to a faster end, with less bloodshed. O'Neill traces much of the official bungling to domestic politics and paradoxically to the democratic process itself, which limited Roosevelt's flexibility in wartime. Yet, despite these obstacles, the blood and valor of the men who fought and the strength and struggles of those who remained at home made up for an overly cautious and ambivalent democratic leadership. William O'Neillbrings this war generation to life to tell the story of the country which had long seemed willing to ignore the world but ultimately roused itself to defend it.
 

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A democracy at war: America's fight at home and abroad in World War II

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This book might well be subtitled "How We Won the Second World War in Spite of Ourselves.'' O'Neill, a professor of history at Rutgers University and the author of American High (Free Pr., 1989 ... Read full review

Contents

Day of Infamy
1
America in 1941
7
FDR and Lindy
33
The Force of Events
51
The Government Cannot Mobilize
75
Rout and Recovery
105
The People Are Willing
129
Operation Torch and the Great Debate over Strategy
153
Guadalcanal to Luzon
267
The Democratic Delusion
301
The GI
321
Overlord
333
Victory in Europe
361
The War Winds Down at Home
391
The Destruction of Japan
403
The Reckoning
429

The Sea of Dreams
177
The Politics of Sacrifice
201
The Transformation of Everyday Life
247
Notes
435
Index
463
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About the author (1995)

William Lawrence O'Neill was born in Big Rapids, Michigan on April 18, 1935. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he received a doctorate in history at the University of California, Berkeley. He taught at the universities of Pittsburgh, Colorado, and Wisconsin. He taught at Rutgers University from 1971 until his retirement in 2006. He was a historian who examined America's political radicals and its not always wise behavior in war. He wrote several books including The Last Romantic: A Life of Max Eastman, Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960's, A Better World: The Great Schism: Stalinism and the American Intellectuals, American High: The Years of Confidence 1945-1960, and A Democracy at War: America's Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II. He died from septic shock and pneumonia on March 29, 2016 at the age of 80.

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