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Michael C. Adams, the Best War Ever: America and World War II, Book Review Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1198

Book Review

Section 1.

In the context of his book, The Best War Ever: America and World War II (Adams), Michael C.C. Adams attempts to demystify many of the ideas and views that have emerged as a result of America’s involvement in the Second World War. In doing so, Adams attempts to clarify the popularly held view that during the Second World War everything worked well and that everything the country and the military did was above criticism.

For instance, Adams take serious issue with how most history books have addressed the actions of Neville Chamberlain in the days leading up to the War. Most historians are highly critical of Chamberlain and blame his appeasement policies for the misfortune that became the Second World War and for the severe damage caused the British Empire. Adams argues, however, that in actuality Chamberlain’s actions assisted his country in eventually being able to withstand the German air attacks that plagued England during the Battle of Britain. At the time of Germany’s rise Chamberlain recognized that his country was not prepared militarily to fight Germany. Part of the rationale supporting Chamberlain’s appeasement policy was to afford England the necessary time to build up its land and naval forces. Additionally, Chamberlain possessed the foresight to understand how important airpower would be in any forthcoming war and he meticulously prepared to set up a state of the art radar net around the British Isles that ultimately allowed his country to withstand Germany’s air attack. These contributions by Chamberlain are seldom mentioned in most history books or articles about the War and, in the process, Chamberlain’s contributions are minimized.

Adams also attempts to clarify the contributions of the American soldiers during the War. He abandons the characterization of the brave, selfless soldier marching gallantly into battle. Instead, he points out that alcoholism, venereal disease and mental illness were actually prevalent among the American forces and that such problems added significantly to troop strengths during the War. In presenting these various problems present in the U.S. Army during the Second World War Adams points out that the popular image of the American military tends to overlook the realities of actual combat and puts into perspective that the generation of Americans who fought in the War were not some sort of super humans but as ordinary as any other generation in American history.

Finally, Adams also clarifies the effects that the War had on those who fought in it. There is a tendency to look at those who fought in the War as entering the conflict willingly and bravely and emerging at the end of the War as some form of enlightened individuals determined to build a new America. In Adams’ view this was true for a certain portion of those who fought in the War, however, for a significant number of veterans the War had a profound effect on them and continued to do so for the remainder of their lives.

In essence, Adams attempts to paint a far more accurate picture of the Second World War than the one too often depicted in history books and movies. Adams makes it clear that there is little about war that is romantic or beneficial and that attempts to paint such a picture are irresponsible. Adams suggests that those who write about war should do so with an idea toward realism and that both sides of the issue should be presented. Using the materials that have written about the Second World War, Adams points out the inaccuracies and how such inaccuracies have led to a glorification of the conflict that are ill deserved.

 

Section 2

What Adams attempts to do in a few number of pages is apply some form or perspective to America’s involvement in the Second World War. Without being highly critical of other historians and writers about the War, Adams identifies a number of specific situations where he feels an accurate picture of the War has not been presented.

One of the more obvious analogies that Adams addresses is the popular image projected through the persona of the actor of John Wayne. Adams points out that through characters played by Wayne Hollywood was able to glorify the role that the typical American soldier played in the War. Adams claims that the soldier played by the likes of John Wayne were not expected to openly express their feelings. This was considered a weakness. The John Wayne soldier was brave and gallant. He kept a stiff upper lift. He was never afraid and he also performed admirably in the field (Adams: p.149).

Adams even argues that two individuals who eventually became President of the United States actually played on this John Wayne imagery to project themselves into said office. Adams points out that “Reagan’s immense popularity as president rested partly on his remarkable talent to create a partial reality based on wishful thinking (Adams: p.15).” This wishful thinking is the based on America’s image of what life was like in the 1940s based on the characterizations presented in movies.

In one of Adams’ most gruesome examples he takes an aggressive stance regarding the glorification of the role of ball gunners that flew in the B-17 that the Army Air Force used throughout most of the Second World War. Ball gunners’ fatalities during the War were extremely high, yet, the United States government took an active part in glorifying the role of the ball gunner and many movies released during the War and thereafter did likewise. The realities of the position, however, were very seldom portrayed. Adams, however, used a poem by Randall Jarrell as an example of the actual situation faced by ball gunners. The poem, entitled The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, sets forth the gruesome death of the ball gunner during the War (Adams: p.17).

Adams takes a much different approach to discussing the Second World War than most other writers. Traditionally the Second World War is depicted as being that rare creature: a good war. The enemy was clearly identified. The entire country knew what it was fighting for and, for a nation fighting to escape a depression; it was good for the economy. It provided a new role for women and it was a clean war fought with tanks and airplanes and on open fields and not by some guerilla forces sneaking through the jungle. Unlike other wars, the country was united and everyone was proud of their country.

Adams, however, in his book presents a much different picture. He argues that the popular image of the Second World War is entirely misleading and that the reality is much different. Adams attacks many of the common assumptions of the War and that even if the country emerged from the War as the victors that the price of the War was much higher than it is often depicted. He argues that the effects of the War were disturbing and that too many historians and writers have chosen to ignore these effects. Although the book lacks some depth due to its brevity, Adams does a credible job of adjusting America’s attitudes towards its involvement in the Second World War.

 

Works Cited

Adams, Mchael C.C. The Best War Ever: America and W.W.II. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

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