Of War and Men: World War II in the Lives of Fathers and Their Families

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

Fathers in the fifties tend to be portrayed as wise and genial pipe-smokers or distant, emotionless patriarchs. This common but limited stereotype obscures the remarkable diversity of their experiences and those of their children. To uncover the real story of fatherhood during this transformative era, Ralph LaRossa takes the long view—from the attack on Pearl Harbor up to the election of John F. Kennedy—revealing the myriad ways that World War II and its aftermath shaped men.

Offering compelling accounts of people both ordinary and extraordinary, Of War and Men digs deep into the terrain of fatherhood. LaRossa explores the nature and aftereffects of combat, the culture of fear during the Cold War, the ways that fear altered the lives of racial and sexual minorities, and how the civil rights movement affected families both black and white. Overturning some calcified myths, LaRossa also analyzes the impact of suburbanization on fathers and their kids, discovering that living in the suburbs often strengthened their bond. And finally, looking beyond the idealized dad enshrined in TV sitcoms, Of War and Men explores the brutal side of family life in the postwar years. LaRossa’s richly researched book dismantles stereotypes while offering up a fascinating and incisive chronicle of fatherhood in all its complexity.
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About the author

Ralph LaRossa is professor of sociology at Georgia State University and the author of several books, including "The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Political History".

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jun 1, 2011
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Pages
328
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ISBN
9780226470023
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
History / Military / World War II
History / United States / 20th Century
Social Science / Sociology / Marriage & Family
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Americans today harbor no strong or consistent collective memory of the First World War. Ask why the country fought or what they accomplished, and "democracy" is the most likely if vague response. The circulation of confusing or lofty rationales for intervention began as soon as President Woodrow Wilson secured a war declaration in April 1917. Yet amid those shifting justifications, Love and Death in the Great War argues, was a more durable and resonant one: Americans would fight for home and family. Officials in the military and government, grasping this crucial reality, invested the war with personal meaning, as did popular culture. "Make your mother proud of you/And the Old Red White and Blue" went George Cohan's famous tune "Over There." Federal officials and their allies in public culture, in short, told the war story as a love story. Intervention came at a moment when arbiters of traditional home and family were regarded as under pressure from all sides: industrial work, women's employment, immigration, urban vice, woman suffrage, and the imagined threat of black sexual aggression. Alleged German crimes in France and Belgium seemed to further imperil women and children. War promised to restore convention, stabilize gender roles, and sharpen male character. Love and Death in the Great War tracks such ideas of redemptive war across public and private spaces, policy and implementation, home and front, popular culture and personal correspondence. In beautifully rendered prose, Andrew J. Huebner merges untold stories of ordinary men and women with a history of wartime culture. Studying the radiating impact of war alongside the management of public opinion, he recovers the conflict's emotional dimensions--its everyday rhythms, heartbreaking losses, soaring possibilities, and broken promises.
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.

Between 1948 and 1955, nearly two-thirds of all American families bought a television set—and a revolution in social life and popular culture was launched.

In this fascinating book, Lynn Spigel chronicles the enormous impact of television in the formative years of the new medium: how, over the course of a single decade, television became an intimate part of everyday life. What did Americans expect from it? What effects did the new daily ritual of watching television have on children? Was television welcomed as an unprecedented "window on the world," or as a "one-eyed monster" that would disrupt households and corrupt children?

Drawing on an ambitious array of unconventional sources, from sitcom scripts to articles and advertisements in women's magazines, Spigel offers the fullest available account of the popular response to television in the postwar years. She chronicles the role of television as a focus for evolving debates on issues ranging from the ideal of the perfect family and changes in women's role within the household to new uses of domestic space. The arrival of television did more than turn the living room into a private theater: it offered a national stage on which to play out and resolve conflicts about the way Americans should live.

Spigel chronicles this lively and contentious debate as it took place in the popular media. Of particular interest is her treatment of the way in which the phenomenon of television itself was constantly deliberated—from how programs should be watched to where the set was placed to whether Mom, Dad, or kids should control the dial.

Make Room for TV combines a powerful analysis of the growth of electronic culture with a nuanced social history of family life in postwar America, offering a provocative glimpse of the way television became the mirror of so many of America's hopes and fears and dreams.
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