G.I.: The American Soldier in World War II

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Lee Kennett provides a vivid portrait of the American soldier, or G.I., in World War II, from his registration in the draft, training in boot camp, combat in Europe and the Pacific, and to his final role as conqueror and occupier. It is all here: the "greetings" from Uncle Sam; endless lines in induction centers across the country; the unfamiliar and demanding world of the training camp, with its concomitant jokes, pranks, traditions, and taboos; and the comparative largess with which the Army was outfitted and supplied. Here we witness the G.I. facing combat: the courage, the heroism, the fear, and perhaps above all, the camaraderie—the bonds of those who survived the tragic sense of loss when a comrade died. Finally, when the war was over, the G.I.’s frequently experienced clumsy, hilarious, and explosive interactions with their civilian allies and with the former enemies whose countries they now occupied.
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Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Jun 16, 2014
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781476793139
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
History / Military / United States
History / Military / World War II
History / United States / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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"Cooke's examination of the Special Services and PX System during World War II, a subject previously overlooked by scholars, shows that these goods and services kept the armed forces' spirits up under the alienating conditions of global war."—Dennis Showalter, author of Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century

As World War II dawned in Europe, General George C. Marshall, the new Army Chief of Staff, had to acknowledge that American society—and the citizens who would soon become soldiers—had drastically changed in the previous few decades. Almost every home had a radio, movies could talk, and driving in an automobile to the neighborhood soda fountain was part of everyday life. A product of newly created mass consumerism, the soldier of 1940 had expectations of material comfort, even while at war. Historian James J. Cooke presents the first comprehensive look at how Marshall’s efforts to cheer soldiers far from home resulted in the enduring morale services that the Army provides still today.

Marshall understood that civilian soldiers provided particular challenges and wanted to improve the subpar morale services that had been provided to Great War doughboys. Frederick Osborn, a civilian intellectual, was called to head the newly formed morale branch, which quickly became the Special Services Division. Hundreds of on-post movie theaters showing first-run movies at reduced prices, service clubs where GIs could relax, and inexpensive cafeterias were constructed. The Army Exchange System took direction under Brigadier General Joseph Byron, offering comfort items at low prices; the PX sold everything from cigarettes and razor blades to low-alcohol beer in very popular beer halls.

The great civic organizations—the YMCA, the Salvation Army, the Jewish Welfare Board, and others—were brought together to form the United Service Organizations (USO). At USO Camp Shows, admired entertainers like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Frances Langford brought home-style entertainment to soldiers within the war zones. As the war heightened in intensity, the Special Service Companies grew to over forty in number, each containing more than one hundred enlisted men. Trained in infantry skills, soldiers in the companies at times would have to stop showing movies, pick up their rifles, and fight.

The Special Services Division, PX, and USO were crucial elements in maintaining GI morale, and Cooke’s work makes clear the lasting legacy of these efforts to boost the average soldier’s spirits almost a century ago. The idea that as American soldiers serve abroad, they should have access to at least some of the comforts of home has become a cultural standard.
World War II shaped the United States in profound ways, and this new book--the first in the Legacies of War series--explores one of the most significant changes it fostered: a dramatic increase in ethnic and religious tolerance. A Nation Forged in War is the first full-length study of how large-scale mobilization during the Second World War helped to dissolve long-standing differences among white soldiers of widely divergent backgrounds.

Never before or since have so many Americans served in the armed forces at one time: more than 15 million donned uniforms in the period from 1941 to 1945. Thomas Bruscino explores how these soldiers' shared experiences--enduring basic training, living far from home, engaging in combat--transformed their views of other ethnic groups and religious traditions. He further examines how specific military policies and practices worked to counteract old prejudices, and he makes a persuasive case that throwing together men of different regions, ethnicities, religions, and classes not only fostered a greater sense of tolerance but also forged a new American identity. When soldiers returned home after the war with these new attitudes, they helped reorder what it meant to be white in America.

Using the presidential campaigns of Al Smith in 1928 and John F. Kennedy in 1960 as bookend events, Bruscino notes a key change in religious bias. Smith's defeat came at the end of a campaign rife with anti-Catholic sentiment; Kennedy's victory some three decades later proved that such religious bigotry was no longer an insurmountable obstacle. Despite such advances, Bruscino notes that the growing broad-mindedness produced by the war had limits: it did not extend to African Americans, whose own struggle for equality would dramatically mark the postwar decades.

Extensively documented, A Nation Forged in War is one of the few books on the social and cultural impact of the World War II years. Scholars and students of military, ethnic, social, and religious history will be fascinated by this groundbreaking new volume.
When the United States entered the Second World War, eighteen-year-old enlistees were routinely assigned temporary duties and not sent into battle until they turned nineteen. But as the fighting dragged on, America was eventually forced to draft younger men into combat to replace wounded troops--and following the Battle of the Bulge, more than 300,000 eighteen-year-olds were sent as replacements to the army's decimated divisions.

In The Eighteen-Year-Old Replacement, Richard Kingsbury brings an often-overlooked perspective to the annals of World War II. Torn from an ordinary teenager's life in the Midwest, young Dick was drafted six weeks after D-Day and rushed with other eighteen-year-olds to the Siegfried Line to bolster Patton's 94th Infantry Division. His reminiscence provides a moving, diarylike account of what he endured both physically and emotionally--and tells how he went from boyhood to manhood almost overnight.

In prose that is both succinct and evocative, Kingsbury recounts his experiences as a rifleman during the final bloody battles in Germany, giving readers a real feel for what combat was like for a raw recruit. He recalls his first night in a foxhole on the front line and the "unbelievable luxury" of sleeping in a barn's hayloft. He relives freezing cold at the Bulge, which permanently damaged his legs, and the pounding of enemy artillery during Patton's breakthrough of the German West Wall, which affected his hearing for life.

More poignantly, Kingsbury shares his anxieties over killing--as well as the distinct possibility of being killed as Wehrmacht tanks mercilessly blasted individual foxholes at Bannholz Woods. He vividly recalls Patton's attack on Ludwigshafen, on the west bank of the Rhine, where he took a German bullet in his chest--and where three of the six newly arrived eighteen-year-olds were killed.

Interspersed with the accounts of battle are letters between Dick and Mary Jo, his sweetheart back home, capturing the blossoming of romance that transcended both distance and bloodshed. His book casts a new light on war--and courtship--in an era when boys were rushed from the home front to the front lines. By showing how crucial the contribution of these young men was to the war effort, this book gives the eighteen-year-old replacements the recognition they have long deserved.

Winner of both the National Book Award for Arts and Letters and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory was one of the most original and gripping volumes ever written about the First World War. Frank Kermode, in The New York Times Book Review, hailed it as "an important contribution to our understanding of how we came to make World War I part of our minds," and Lionel Trilling called it simply "one of the most deeply moving books I have read in a long time." In its panaramic scope and poetic intensity, it illuminated a war that changed a generation and revolutionized the way we see the world. Now, in Wartime, Fussell turns to the Second World War, the conflict he himself fought in, to weave a narrative that is both more intensely personal and more wide-ranging. Whereas his former book focused primarily on literary figures, on the image of the Great War in literature, here Fussell examines the immediate impact of the war on common soldiers and civilians. He describes the psychological and emotional atmosphere of World War II. He analyzes the euphemisms people needed to deal with unacceptable reality (the early belief, for instance, that the war could be won by "precision bombing," that is, by long distance); he describes the abnormally intense frustration of desire and some of the means by which desire was satisfied; and, most important, he emphasizes the damage the war did to intellect, discrimination, honesty, individuality, complexity, ambiguity and wit. Of course, no Fussell book would be complete without some serious discussion of the literature of the time. He examines, for instance, how the great privations of wartime (when oranges would be raffled off as valued prizes) resulted in roccoco prose styles that dwelt longingly on lavish dinners, and how the "high-mindedness" of the era and the almost pathological need to "accentuate the positive" led to the downfall of the acerbic H.L. Mencken and the ascent of E.B. White. He also offers astute commentary on Edmund Wilson's argument with Archibald MacLeish, Cyril Connolly's Horizon magazine, the war poetry of Randall Jarrell and Louis Simpson, and many other aspects of the wartime literary world. Fussell conveys the essence of that wartime as no other writer before him. For the past fifty years, the Allied War has been sanitized and romanticized almost beyond recognition by "the sentimental, the loony patriotic, the ignorant, and the bloodthirsty." Americans, he says, have never understood what the Second World War was really like. In this stunning volume, he offers such an understanding.
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