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In The Good War Terkel presents the good, the bad, and the ugly memories of World War II from a perspective of forty years of after the events. No matter how gruesome the memories are, relatively few of the interviewees said they would have been better off without the experience. It was a central and formative experience in their lives. Although 400,000 Americans perished, In The Good War Terkel presents the good, the bad, and the ugly memories of World War II from a perspective of forty years of after the events. No matter how gruesome the memories are, relatively few of the interviewees said they would have been better off without the experience. It was a central and formative experience in their lives. Although 400,000 Americans perished, the United States itself was not attacked again after Pearl Harbor, the economy grew, and there was a new sense of world power that invigorated the country. Some women and African Americans experienced new freedoms in the post war society, but good life after World War II was tarnished by the threat of nuclear war.


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In The Good War Terkel presents the good, the bad, and the ugly memories of World War II from a perspective of forty years of after the events. No matter how gruesome the memories are, relatively few of the interviewees said they would have been better off without the experience. It was a central and formative experience in their lives. Although 400,000 Americans perished, In The Good War Terkel presents the good, the bad, and the ugly memories of World War II from a perspective of forty years of after the events. No matter how gruesome the memories are, relatively few of the interviewees said they would have been better off without the experience. It was a central and formative experience in their lives. Although 400,000 Americans perished, the United States itself was not attacked again after Pearl Harbor, the economy grew, and there was a new sense of world power that invigorated the country. Some women and African Americans experienced new freedoms in the post war society, but good life after World War II was tarnished by the threat of nuclear war.

30 review for The Good War: An Oral History of World War II

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ensiform

    A collection of reminisces and insights on the war. It's mostly American, but there are German, Japanese and Russian voices as well. Even so, the years 1939-41 are almost totally ignored, which is a surprising weakness is what is otherwise an immensely important book. The tales told here present hundreds of horrifying, bizarre and amazing images that linger on later. Perhaps the most memorable is the legless ex-GI, deformed from radiation and now become head of the National Association of Atomic A collection of reminisces and insights on the war. It's mostly American, but there are German, Japanese and Russian voices as well. Even so, the years 1939-41 are almost totally ignored, which is a surprising weakness is what is otherwise an immensely important book. The tales told here present hundreds of horrifying, bizarre and amazing images that linger on later. Perhaps the most memorable is the legless ex-GI, deformed from radiation and now become head of the National Association of Atomic Veterans, recounting his warm welcome in Japan and his treatments there, while the US government blocked all treatment at the VA hospital for fear of admitting negligence. And still he spouts patriotic sentiment. From the varied accounts – the bombers and the bombed, the journalists and grunts and top brass – four main themes emerge. The first is how utterly naive, with the exceptions of a few so-called Premature Anti-Fascists, Americans were in 1941. A war was going on and almost all of them ignored its progress, ignored the likelihood of attack. The second is the attitudes Americans had after the war: prosperity became a right, and confidence was very high, among women and blacks as well as veterans. The third is the pervasive and deep racism of the Army and the U.S. Apparently white GIs told the English that blacks had tails. Blacks were shot and hanged by white soldiers. And they were fighting fascism! The fourth theme is the distrust that Americans came to feel for their government. Vietnam is mentioned again and again; the Russians as allies-to-enemies is cited. And, since the book was compiled the '80s, there is a palpable sense of fatalism in many of the stories: a feeling the bomb can drop any moment. Another WWII legacy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    See there really ain’t anything especially noble about the US of A despite the oft heard fairy tales that might lead one to believe so. No, Americans can be as benevolent and as malicious as any other folk out there, and in the most unpredictable proportions. Mr. Terkel’s excellent work is a solid reminder of this truth, which would be just an interesting passing observation were it not for the many millions of lives so unfortunately and sorrowfully affected.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This was a really readable history of different aspects of World War Two, covering the European and Pacific theatres, through interviews with participants and eyewitnesses. While mostly oral histories with Americans, Turkel has also interviewed people from Japan, Germany and several other countries as well.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tommccoy26

    "The Good War" is advertised as an oral history of World War II as told by veterans and citizens on many fronts - which, technically, it is. However, Terkel seems to have taken a definite anti-war stance with this book. Rather than presenting a balanced view of World War II by telling both the positive and the negative, he has chosen to include interviews with a disproportionate number of veterans who were discriminated against or were treated poorly by their officers; people who were victims of "The Good War" is advertised as an oral history of World War II as told by veterans and citizens on many fronts - which, technically, it is. However, Terkel seems to have taken a definite anti-war stance with this book. Rather than presenting a balanced view of World War II by telling both the positive and the negative, he has chosen to include interviews with a disproportionate number of veterans who were discriminated against or were treated poorly by their officers; people who were victims of bombing campaigns; or war workers of questionable moral fiber who had no idea why we were fighting and were just in it for the money. In reading this book, one gets the impression that the average citizen was ambivalent about the war effort, and that anyone in the Army above the rank of private was a strutting martinet. While I don't doubt that any of the things that happened to these people are true, I have read enough books of similar premise to know that the vast majority of soldiers and citizens felt positive about what the Allies were doing, liked and respected their leadership, and wanted to contribute in a meaningful way to the war effort. Terkel seems to have chosen to interview the dregs and victims rather than the average citizen or soldier. In that respect, I think he fails to capture the true spirit of the era.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    World War II was the background of my childhood. I was 6 when it started and 10 at the end. At that age, what is, is. I accepted this setting for my young years and never thought about how strange it was to be in this situation. It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand. Here he interviews soldiers, sailors, marines, men, women, Americans, Germans, Japanese… A full panoply of the participants, no matter what age, no matter at home or in battle. Studs Terkel is a maestro of the intervi World War II was the background of my childhood. I was 6 when it started and 10 at the end. At that age, what is, is. I accepted this setting for my young years and never thought about how strange it was to be in this situation. It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand. Here he interviews soldiers, sailors, marines, men, women, Americans, Germans, Japanese… A full panoply of the participants, no matter what age, no matter at home or in battle. Studs Terkel is a maestro of the interview, and of editing it afterwards. His book Working has long been one of my favorites. He turns what must have been long, rambling interviews, full of stops and starts and repetitions, into smooth, easy, succinct reading. What strikes me most is how very many people speak of how WWII changed everything in the US. How we lost our innocence about the world and about war.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cal40

    My 89 year-old grandfather Joe fought in the war, and I know he's told me a few war stories before, but I'm sad that I can only remember one: Joe was the head of his infantry, and his little group had gotten their jeeps stuck in a muddy ditch outside of base. They had been pushing for at least an hour, but the mud was really thick. A general from base was calling for their men to report back for lunch in the mess hall. Joe was getting annoyed that it was taking this long for the men to free their My 89 year-old grandfather Joe fought in the war, and I know he's told me a few war stories before, but I'm sad that I can only remember one: Joe was the head of his infantry, and his little group had gotten their jeeps stuck in a muddy ditch outside of base. They had been pushing for at least an hour, but the mud was really thick. A general from base was calling for their men to report back for lunch in the mess hall. Joe was getting annoyed that it was taking this long for the men to free their jeeps and report to base, so he fired one of his guns into the air a few times when the men had their backs turned. The men were scared shitless, and apparently got their jeeps out of the mud in less than a minute after that. General McArthur walked over to him and told him that he really didn't need to do that, but since it worked, he commended him on a good job. I don't know how familiar you guys are with how important this guy was to WW2, but he was famous. Here's a link: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/General...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    An important, indispensable book that should be required reading. Terkel interviews a wide spectrum of people and gathers their reflections and experiences regarding World War II and the aftermath. The range of people is remarkable. We hear from GIs, Rosie the Riveters, scientists that helped make the A-Bomb, Japanese-Americans that were interred here in the U.S., and many, many other eyewitness accounts to history. Terkel does not paraphrase; the text retains the actual words of these individua An important, indispensable book that should be required reading. Terkel interviews a wide spectrum of people and gathers their reflections and experiences regarding World War II and the aftermath. The range of people is remarkable. We hear from GIs, Rosie the Riveters, scientists that helped make the A-Bomb, Japanese-Americans that were interred here in the U.S., and many, many other eyewitness accounts to history. Terkel does not paraphrase; the text retains the actual words of these individuals. The organization is basically chronological but felt a little scattered a times. I only wish there was a table of contents to allow for easier reference in the future. The dates of the interviews would also be helpful. Amazing reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    carl theaker

    Author Terkel made a radio career of interviewing and he did well continuing using the format of oral histories in books, which I think is an easy way to write a book, but there’s probably more to it than I suspect. In ‘The Good War’ he continues the genre with short interviews of anywhere from a couple paragraphs to 5 or so pages in length, short and potent, of what folks did during World War 2 or how it affected their lives afterward. Mostly Americans, but also a variety of all nationalities Author Terkel made a radio career of interviewing and he did well continuing using the format of oral histories in books, which I think is an easy way to write a book, but there’s probably more to it than I suspect. In ‘The Good War’ he continues the genre with short interviews of anywhere from a couple paragraphs to 5 or so pages in length, short and potent, of what folks did during World War 2 or how it affected their lives afterward. Mostly Americans, but also a variety of all nationalities and all walks of life. He talks to quite a few established people, that is, those whose professions are now columnists, writers, CEOs, professors etc. While those experiences are no less important, their stories are polished. I more enjoyed the talks with the ‘regular’ folks whose stories were a bit less organized, staccato remembrances, as if you could see them remembering as they spoke. I began reading as if this were a book of the usual form, but after breezing through story after story, I found I wasn’t giving the heartfelt tales their full appreciation, one over rode the previous one. So I adapted a strategy of reading only one or two at a time, letting them soak in a bit. At almost 600 pages, at this pace it can take a while to finish the book ! Published in 1984, the folks in ‘The Good War’ are about the age of my Grandparents, Uncles, later, some coworkers, so I often felt I was listening to their stories. The Good War is a Good Read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Juliana

    Want to know how we fought Nazis since things are starting to look a little Nazi-like? Fearing a totalitarian regime and fascism? Want to know how Americans of all walks of life came together and what came out of that? This book is filled with their personal stories. Studs Terkel is the man, he won the Pulitzer for this, and you should read it at least once in your life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nofar Spalter

    A must read, although it's not a simple one. I learned so much about WWII as seen and experienced by people who lived and fought through it. So much sadly hasn't changed in the world, while so much (especially the threat of the bomb and the wars that the US fights) have. You hear from soldiers fighting in the European and Pacific theatre, women going to work outside the house for the first time, men who survived Pearl Harbor, POWs, resistance members, Holocaust survivors, conscientious objectors A must read, although it's not a simple one. I learned so much about WWII as seen and experienced by people who lived and fought through it. So much sadly hasn't changed in the world, while so much (especially the threat of the bomb and the wars that the US fights) have. You hear from soldiers fighting in the European and Pacific theatre, women going to work outside the house for the first time, men who survived Pearl Harbor, POWs, resistance members, Holocaust survivors, conscientious objectors, Red Cross and OSS (pre-CIA) operatives, Tuskegee airmen and Black soldiers in a segregated and racist army, Soviet and Japanese and German soldiers, Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, a pilot that dropped the bomb, scientists who made it, government functionaries, doctors and nurses, and children growing up under the threat of the bomb. Studs Terkel does a masterful job as usual, as he lets people speak in their own voices, and gathers them together in a whole narrative that is much larger than its parts. Highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Juffer

    Perfectly written, at times, laborious in meticulous detail. How can I fault that? Terkel had a true gift for describing what’s important and captivating the reader. The stories these individuals tell are absolutely necessary to explain our World’s history. I truly wish more people would read this book. History is not something that should simply slide from our memories. Everything detailed in this book is an example of human nature that continues to exist. Terkel has a profoundly talented way of ex Perfectly written, at times, laborious in meticulous detail. How can I fault that? Terkel had a true gift for describing what’s important and captivating the reader. The stories these individuals tell are absolutely necessary to explain our World’s history. I truly wish more people would read this book. History is not something that should simply slide from our memories. Everything detailed in this book is an example of human nature that continues to exist. Terkel has a profoundly talented way of exposing necessary truths and telling future generations why WWII was so important globally and personally. Fantastic read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: Talkin' World War III Blues Dylan's song, serious in its frivolous lyrics, was poetry. Terkel's oral transcripts of interviews about World War Two are poetic, but lyrical in their seriousness. And the magic of Terkel's oral histories is that while we know that the raw material must be just that--oral transcripts of interviews--the finished product feels both less edited somehow, like snatches of kitchen table conversations, and more profound because of it. By this point in his caree Review title: Talkin' World War III Blues Dylan's song, serious in its frivolous lyrics, was poetry. Terkel's oral transcripts of interviews about World War Two are poetic, but lyrical in their seriousness. And the magic of Terkel's oral histories is that while we know that the raw material must be just that--oral transcripts of interviews--the finished product feels both less edited somehow, like snatches of kitchen table conversations, and more profound because of it. By this point in his career (as a Chicago newspaper journalist) Terkel had established his style in a handful of other oral histories, mostly about the topic of ordinary American dreams desired and lost, for example in the Great Depression. Working, which would come after "The Good War", is perhaps the pinnacle his style, as he captured people talking about work and what it means to the people sitting around the kitchen table. Here, his topic is both more focused, and more universal. Writing years before Tom Brokaw would memorialize the Greatest Generation, Terkel puts his title in quotes, not to suggest irony or diminish the impact of the phrase, but in recognition that to all people in all times the phrase may not hold true. Certainly, defeating Hitler was a moral crusade even before we knew (or allowed ourselves to accept) of the death camps for Jews, and to most of the ordinary folks talking here the war was and remains a cause worthy to be called good, and one they would undertake again. But Terkel also talks to many who at the same time look hard at the issues of racism in the American response--Japanese Americans interred for the duration of the war, African Americans rejected for combat positions, ghettoized into menial positions, and treated as second class citizens with fewer rights than even the European prisoners of war they were guarding. While he talks to the combat troops you would expect, Terkel also talks to their wives and the other women about the home front and working in the newly booming industries, and he talks to soldiers and civilians on the receiving end of the Allied war effort. He includes military, political, and business leaders where appropriate, although none of the biggest names; perhaps he couldn't get access to them in the unfiltered way he wanted, or perhaps he felt they already had sounding boards in other forums, but it would add to the value of "Good War" as a historical record if he could have gotten those leaders around the kitchen table. He includes dissenters, both conscientious objectors then and those who came to reject the post war results of the Cold War, Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the nuclear arms race that turned the weapon that brought a seemingly miraculous end to the war into the Damoclean sword hanging over the human race. The sessions with Japanese bomb survivors and American soldiers who went into Nagasaki just hours after the bombs to do cleanup and recovery work are among the most poignant and hardest to read. Are Terkel's oral histories valuable as raw material for academic history? By the strictest standards of representation and sample size, no, but they carry perhaps an even greater value because of the voice they give to those whose unfiltered thoughts aren't often solicited or recorded as they gather at the kitchen table. And they make for compelling classics you want to devour and savor.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dave Loftus

    Since that sailor snogged the face off that woman on Times Square in 1945, it has been universally agreed that the Second World War was the human race’s finest hour. Even with seventy million deaths and enough Nazis to suit the most avid fan playing on your mind, you’d be hard-pushed to actually argue against those glorious six years, when the peoples of the world – including, almost certainly, some of your older relatives – stood up to the leviathan of pure evil with technical know-how and hum Since that sailor snogged the face off that woman on Times Square in 1945, it has been universally agreed that the Second World War was the human race’s finest hour. Even with seventy million deaths and enough Nazis to suit the most avid fan playing on your mind, you’d be hard-pushed to actually argue against those glorious six years, when the peoples of the world – including, almost certainly, some of your older relatives – stood up to the leviathan of pure evil with technical know-how and humble grit. Eventually, the good guys won and never again didst the souls of thine Lord do battle upon the face of the Earth. Except it wasn’t like that, was it? Nothing in history is ever that black-and-white. Probe even an inch below the surface and you’ll find an uncomfortable gaggle of questions gagging for air: Such as, how did a whole nation succumb to the idea of monumental racism in the first place? Why did America get so chummy with Nazi scientists in the post-war scrabble for the bomb? How did the Russians become foes so quickly? Why did Korea happen only five years after that aforementioned smooch? Was Nagasaki necessary? These questions – and a whole lot more – are what struck me most when I made my way through Studs Terkel’s compelling 1984 chronicle of recorded interviews, “The Good War.” By the way, those are his semi-sarcastic quotation marks hugging the title, not mine. This is a man who is fully aware of the other side of the story he is portraying. And what a story! Never have I come across a telling of World War Two so detailed and vibrant. Soldiers and survivors from all walks of life, from the lowliest grunt to the smarmiest White House official, had their voices recorded in the sixties, seventies and eighties and their words leap off the page at you. With history documentaries, there is always that danger of being too slick and too edited. Here, the interviewees – certainly all nearly dead by now – were approached by a microphone and told to just discuss what they like. Immediacy crackles in their tales as they reel off what they were doing when they heard about Pearl Harbor or how many girls they slept with on VE Day. For many Allied participants, the war, with its sense of righteous purpose and the unrivalled joy of its conclusion, is described as the highlight of their lives. Not for all, of course. One motif I found intriguing was that, roughly speaking and with towering predictability, the further someone was from combat, the happier their recollections tend to be. For instance, draft-dodgers, black marketeers and a man who, at one point, controlled all of D-Day’s toilet paper, gabble more freely than a sombre airman who watched Nagasaki burn. It’s not flawless, obviously. This is an American book after all. As such, the hostilities are bookended by Pearl Harbor in ’41 and the atomic bombings in ’45. The fact Europe had been slogging away since 1939 is only briefly mentioned and some other battles and theatres barely get a look-in. But then again, this is a tapestry of gut feelings and memories – not a text book and, really, nobody will ever grasp the true scale of those tumultuous, globe-changing, rollercoaster years. Not every nook and cranny of the war will ever truly be explored but “The Good War” comes closer to running the gamut than anything I’ve seen elsewhere. Is… is that a pang of envy? Am I jealous I wasn’t there? I’m definitely jealous of that sailor.

  14. 4 out of 5

    ferrigno

    Some time ago I read "World War Z: An oral history of the zombie war" by Max Brooks, a novel built as a collection of interviews with veterans of the war against the zombies. I discovered that the author was inspired by Terkel's "The Good War", so I decided to read this one too. I was afraid of discovering that World War Z was derivative with respect to The Good War, though: get a great classic of the New Journalism, change names, substitute "World War II" with "World War Z", zombies instead of Some time ago I read "World War Z: An oral history of the zombie war" by Max Brooks, a novel built as a collection of interviews with veterans of the war against the zombies. I discovered that the author was inspired by Terkel's "The Good War", so I decided to read this one too. I was afraid of discovering that World War Z was derivative with respect to The Good War, though: get a great classic of the New Journalism, change names, substitute "World War II" with "World War Z", zombies instead of the Nazis and there you are served the book. Of course, The Good War too is a collection of interviews with survivors or vets from the World War II. The book is very broad, inclusive. The war is told from individual perspectives, but helps to assemble the big picture. Imagine talking with several tens of vets, for months. A huge amount of tales. Men of every backgroundy and nationality. Terkel introduces each interview with a brief description of the subject, but the reader gets acquainted with the character by what he tells, by the linguistic register he uses. Each of them tells how he went to war, or how he survived, or what he did. How did he make money with the war, how did he find or lose love, children, parents, friends. The strange encounters he made, the improbable ones. Many of the characters are witnesses of history in the very making: the end of the depression, the economic boom, the beginning of the Cold War, the cover-up of the effects of radiation after Hiroshima, the beginning of McCarthyism, the Spanish civil war; many others tell no more than their own intimate experience. I finished this book with the feeling of having read an extraordinary book. Then I consolidated the belief that Brooks did a great and original job: World War Z is not derivative. Brooks created a multitude of situations, and these situations have much to do with the XXI century than with the XX. Brooks is a novelist, Terkel is a journalist. The flaw of this book? Perhaps it is redundant. Maybe the cutting of some stories and insignificant characters would be beneficial. I understand that Terkel might not have had the courage to do it, and maybe that's better this way.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    An absolute must-read. These personal accounts show the varied tapestry of a war - make it something you can relate too. So many years in history classes left me with no real sense of the war - and I certainly couldn't be bothered to remember if the Battle of the Bulge was after D-day or what... no, this book has me understanding the war, knowing its important events and many, many unimportant ones. The black soldier fired on by white soldiers in a US base on US soil - because they suspected thei An absolute must-read. These personal accounts show the varied tapestry of a war - make it something you can relate too. So many years in history classes left me with no real sense of the war - and I certainly couldn't be bothered to remember if the Battle of the Bulge was after D-day or what... no, this book has me understanding the war, knowing its important events and many, many unimportant ones. The black soldier fired on by white soldiers in a US base on US soil - because they suspected their was going to be a demonstration against jim crow laws on the base - had me shaking with anger and indignation, demanding "Why is this the first I've heard of this?" The Florida housewife making a candy dish out of shrapnel - so poignant, indescribable. The man who bombed Frankfurt and the woman who lived there, now friends - the depth of human forgiveness. So many acts of bravery and kindness, against the backdrop of so much inhumanity. And oddly, the pervasive fears of the cold war - these oral histories were recorded in the early 80s - lends another perspective to me, reading now, in a world without "the red threat" - I so want to go back in time, cry to them (and my younger self included) It's not necessary! It's not what they tell you! The former aid worker knew how little the Russians were a threat to us - it was there for anyone to see, but we all "Couldn't know". Much like the Jewish boy, growing up in Hollywood after his family fled Europe, didn't bother to find out where all the Japanese kids in class disappeared to. He grew up to write a documentary about ordinary people in France reacting to the German occupation. The real lesson is; these were ordinary people. We are responsible to keep seeing with our own eyes. So I think just about everyone should read this book. Wow. It was an experience to read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    briz

    Like all good history books, it was a TOME and took forever to read. However, it is indeed a VERY good history book, up there with The Hindus, or American Prometheus (about Oppenheimer, so relevant here), or A History of Contemporary Italy. Oral histories are also particularly affecting: shit gets really emotional, and it's hard not to shed a tear or two. It's also often AMAZING. God, the lives some people have had. It's just amazing. Highly recommended. I'm looking forward to reading more of St Like all good history books, it was a TOME and took forever to read. However, it is indeed a VERY good history book, up there with The Hindus, or American Prometheus (about Oppenheimer, so relevant here), or A History of Contemporary Italy. Oral histories are also particularly affecting: shit gets really emotional, and it's hard not to shed a tear or two. It's also often AMAZING. God, the lives some people have had. It's just amazing. Highly recommended. I'm looking forward to reading more of Studs Terkel's work now, too.

  17. 4 out of 5

    James

    Studs Terkel is the definitive oral historian, and this is one of the most masterful works on the Second World War ever written. A detail often missed is the fact that he put "The Good War" in parentheses in the title, to reflect that there is no such thing as a good war, no matter how necessary this war was - and it may have been the most necessary in human history - or how much reminiscences may often gloss over the bad parts. In this work he follows the experiences of Americans in the war fro Studs Terkel is the definitive oral historian, and this is one of the most masterful works on the Second World War ever written. A detail often missed is the fact that he put "The Good War" in parentheses in the title, to reflect that there is no such thing as a good war, no matter how necessary this war was - and it may have been the most necessary in human history - or how much reminiscences may often gloss over the bad parts. In this work he follows the experiences of Americans in the war from Pearl Harbor to the war's end, interviewing people who experienced every part of the most total of total wars ever fought.

  18. 4 out of 5

    victoria.p

    Really 4.5, but I think the ending - the bits with the baby boomers and then the kids - were less interesting to me (it's also really interesting to compare the world in the early 80s, when this was written, and now; the economic problems persist, but I don't think we fear full-on nuclear war in the same visceral way). There also wasn't a lot from before the US entered the war. But overall, a genuinely moving read. Really 4.5, but I think the ending - the bits with the baby boomers and then the kids - were less interesting to me (it's also really interesting to compare the world in the early 80s, when this was written, and now; the economic problems persist, but I don't think we fear full-on nuclear war in the same visceral way). There also wasn't a lot from before the US entered the war. But overall, a genuinely moving read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shane Gower

    These first hand accounts from all walks of life is a comprehensive overview of people who lived through World War Two. Almost every account challenges the idea of the war as the good war, thus the quotes in the title. Everything from a conscientious objector, to women who worked in factories, POW's, Bomber pilots, Japanese-Americans who were in the camps and more. You'd be hard pressed to find a voice not included here. Great for helping to understand society during the war. These first hand accounts from all walks of life is a comprehensive overview of people who lived through World War Two. Almost every account challenges the idea of the war as the good war, thus the quotes in the title. Everything from a conscientious objector, to women who worked in factories, POW's, Bomber pilots, Japanese-Americans who were in the camps and more. You'd be hard pressed to find a voice not included here. Great for helping to understand society during the war.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mike Kabongo

    Truly excellent oral history. This is a collection of skillfully elicited accounts of the World War Two stories covering the lives of men and women from all walks of life. Studs Terkel was just an amazing historian and interviewer. These histories will give a personal touch to your knowledge of the war to end all wars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dana Gynther

    I was fascinated by this book-- so much depth, so many points of view. A must-read for anyone interested in WWII (or American History). Too bad Studs T. wasn't around throughout history to cherry-pick interviews with major and minor players-- wouldn't it be fascinating to read real oral histories of Napoleon's wars, Roman invasions, etc? I was fascinated by this book-- so much depth, so many points of view. A must-read for anyone interested in WWII (or American History). Too bad Studs T. wasn't around throughout history to cherry-pick interviews with major and minor players-- wouldn't it be fascinating to read real oral histories of Napoleon's wars, Roman invasions, etc?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I am not objective about the late great Studs Terkel. I miss him. Why couldn't he have stuck around another 50 years or so? Here is another example where Terkel lets the voices of other people shine through. I am not objective about the late great Studs Terkel. I miss him. Why couldn't he have stuck around another 50 years or so? Here is another example where Terkel lets the voices of other people shine through.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tamsyn

    A rather excellent book, gives you a look at the staggering amount of different ways that WWII affected people. It was a bit US-centric, but did have a few other perspectives.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steven Hull

    This book came out in 1984. I remember it. Although I like the history of World War II, I didn’t read it. I was in the middle of raising three children with my wife and building a stable work career. Yet, I cannot remember why I didn’t read the book. I wish I had. The book is a collection of oral histories in roughly chronological order. Included are a number of recognizable individuals, but most are just common, average people. All were caught up in the war. In most cases it was involuntary. This book came out in 1984. I remember it. Although I like the history of World War II, I didn’t read it. I was in the middle of raising three children with my wife and building a stable work career. Yet, I cannot remember why I didn’t read the book. I wish I had. The book is a collection of oral histories in roughly chronological order. Included are a number of recognizable individuals, but most are just common, average people. All were caught up in the war. In most cases it was involuntary. These interviews are fascinating. There are themes that come through among the diversity of the participants, but in the final analysis each individual had unique experiences and perspectives. The title of the book is ironic. This is not an early precursor of Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation”. Terkel and these interviewees are not star struck being part of the Great Crusade. They tell it like it is, and with war, most of what happens is not good. Of course in the final analysis it all depended where and when your war occurred. If you were young, single, not draftable, mobile, and lived in the United States, the war brought adventure, companionship, good money, and a sense of worth. If you were Jewish, lived in Germany or in Nazi occupied Europe, the war meant starvation and death. These themes persist throughout the book: *The war was disruptive no matter where you lived. *Allied propaganda demonizing the Axis powers was highly successful. This is not surprising given the death and destruction they caused. *Many participants took a different view of the war in 1980 than the one they had during the war. There was more sorrow knowing how many had suffered and died. The enemies of 1941, now friends, tended to be viewed as just plain people caught up in this massive tragedy. *War, and even this ‘good war’ were seen as a scourge on humanity. *Considering the course of the Cold War, the 1950s Red Scare, Vietnam and other international events, most were disappointed that the world had not evolved into a better place after 1945. *Despite many regrets, people were proud of their contributions to the war effort. *Most recognized America was relatively untouched by the war’s killing and destruction. *The war permanently altered lives in good and bad ways. Opportunities were created that would not have otherwise existed. Wounds and injuries shortened lives. The U.S. government’s poor treatment of veterans was decried. *The dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan became more controversial as the years progressed. Veterans tended to support the bombings because they ended the war quickly. The trade off of the deaths and the coming of the nuclear age for the ending of the war were questioned by most. If you have a tendency to view World War II through rose colored glasses, this is a worthwhile read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Constance Siobhán

    It is hard to imagine a way to truly review this collection of people’s remembrances. World War 2 is the stuff of legend, but now the people who lived through it are falling to history’s most constant marker: the gravestone, which stands in silence. This book keeps their voices alive in all their astonishing diversity, and the history they relate is both deeper and richer than most could imagine. It is often a very difficult book to read. The stories are frequently poignant, stark, heartbreaking. It is hard to imagine a way to truly review this collection of people’s remembrances. World War 2 is the stuff of legend, but now the people who lived through it are falling to history’s most constant marker: the gravestone, which stands in silence. This book keeps their voices alive in all their astonishing diversity, and the history they relate is both deeper and richer than most could imagine. It is often a very difficult book to read. The stories are frequently poignant, stark, heartbreaking. Many cast a harsh but needed light on the ugly side of the US, its citizens and military, while many show the humanity that shone brightest then. No one is spared having to face the deep scars of racism and bigotry, but one also sees the effort to overcome and transcend such depths, all with the war in the background in its garish, nightmarish, interminable churning course, from its roots in Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the Spanish Civil War to the inception and birth of the Cold War and the falling of the Iron Curtain on one side, and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki followed by the tests of the hydrogen bomb in the Marshall Islands on the other. The scope is breathtaking, the picture that develops is profound. The question that you are left with is complex and uncomfortable: Did we learn anything from the war? If so, was it for good or ill? Certainly, if we forget what really happened over the war years, then only evil follows. I think it’s fair to say that we are morally obligated to learn this history.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric Bettencourt

    I can't get into any of the stories. It's just too much and there's way too many. From front cover to back cover it's simply too damn much to take in or summerize. Even though part of me becomes hopelessly fatigued by these accounts a more tenacious side can't look away. Basically I'm addicted to reading real-life accounts the people who lived through extraordinary real-life situations like WWII. It's better than any fiction out there and you can learn amazing lessons from nearly every story. If I can't get into any of the stories. It's just too much and there's way too many. From front cover to back cover it's simply too damn much to take in or summerize. Even though part of me becomes hopelessly fatigued by these accounts a more tenacious side can't look away. Basically I'm addicted to reading real-life accounts the people who lived through extraordinary real-life situations like WWII. It's better than any fiction out there and you can learn amazing lessons from nearly every story. If these stories don't bring into focus just how great we have it right now then you are hopeless. Millions upon millions of people lived though this hamburger-grinder like conflict like no other version of living was possible. 27 Million in Russia alone died. Almost every reach of this planet was affected in some horrible way by this war. Some earthlings were closer than others to the action but an insane amount of them had no other version of normal. I JUST CAN'T IMAGINE WHAT THAT'S LIKE! What a different world they lived through... to wake up day after day under the threat of bombings from the air... for example... and now it's like no one remembers or talk about the valuable lessons that were learned or even the lessons we refused to learn. Of which there were many. Actually, no one seems to really care about knowing about it. From where I sit in year 2020 it feels like it never happened. Given this level of dismissiveness and blind-eye turning it seems reasonable to think it's bound to all happen again.

  27. 4 out of 5

    SP

    Five stars... If you are interested in ww2 history and/or the effects of war on people and society, this book is great. It covers a staggering spectrum of wartime life - spies, soldiers, factory workers, military police, children, singers, generals, sailors, logistics workers, conscientious objectors, nuclear bomb survivors and prisoners of war. Their stories are as varied as you can imagine. American, Russian, French, Belgian, Japanese. Men and women. Young and old. For and against. You see all Five stars... If you are interested in ww2 history and/or the effects of war on people and society, this book is great. It covers a staggering spectrum of wartime life - spies, soldiers, factory workers, military police, children, singers, generals, sailors, logistics workers, conscientious objectors, nuclear bomb survivors and prisoners of war. Their stories are as varied as you can imagine. American, Russian, French, Belgian, Japanese. Men and women. Young and old. For and against. You see all walks of wartime life from the mundane to the violent to the exciting and everything in between. The book is also easy to read because it moves quite quickly - each voice gets about 15 pages maximum - and each story is unique and important in its own way. Factory workers talk about their changed economic fortunes and the boom and bust of their war-economy towns. Spies talk about how much money was spent wining, dining and protecting defectors and informants. Soldiers talk about why, where and how they fought. Singers talk about hospital visits. The list goes on. The author's commitment to the subject and the breadth and depth of his work shine through in this unique version of historical recollection. In this book you will hear genuine stories of wartime told in the voices of those who lived through it. It's refreshing, moving and authentic through and through.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jak Krumholtz

    I started reading this at the beginning of my corona quarantine to remind myself how easy I have life. Terkel’s books are best read with just a couple people’s stories a day, not straight through like a novel. Think less like reading and more like being a good listener. I wish I kept a pencil with me to mark passages, some stories in here are moving and the collection as a whole is historically important. — — — — — — — — — — On the fifth of May, Americans surrounded the camp and the guards were no I started reading this at the beginning of my corona quarantine to remind myself how easy I have life. Terkel’s books are best read with just a couple people’s stories a day, not straight through like a novel. Think less like reading and more like being a good listener. I wish I kept a pencil with me to mark passages, some stories in here are moving and the collection as a whole is historically important. — — — — — — — — — — On the fifth of May, Americans surrounded the camp and the guards were not able to escape. I was inside the camp. I was not able to walk, but I was feeling happy inside. If only I had some strength to welcome’s the Americans. There was a captain. He saw all this. I could see his face. (Cries.) He said, “How can it happen? What did they do to you?” People look as starved as people in concentration camps. You could have counted my bones. He was so horrified. All the SS were prisoners. They had their hands behind their heads. The captain said to us, “I am going to withdraw for a while. I give you two hours. You can do anything you want with them. I will not see anything.” I am very peaceful. I would not hurt anybody. But that day, I did. - French parish priest Jacques Raboud — — — — — — — — — —

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tom Anstett

    "The Good BOOK" The late, great author Studs Terkel's Pulitzer Prize winner contains an enlightening account World War II, seen only through survivors' eyes. The accounts contain information that illustrates the war's necessity, the war's empathy, the war's inhumanity. Such an oral history provides an appreciation for the reader of the significance of this time in history and its effects on culture today. Written in a rather chronological order, the book's accounts surface from people of all ran "The Good BOOK" The late, great author Studs Terkel's Pulitzer Prize winner contains an enlightening account World War II, seen only through survivors' eyes. The accounts contain information that illustrates the war's necessity, the war's empathy, the war's inhumanity. Such an oral history provides an appreciation for the reader of the significance of this time in history and its effects on culture today. Written in a rather chronological order, the book's accounts surface from people of all rank, race, ethnicity, and geographical area. This organization lends balance to the individual portraits and helps readers make their own judgments. A small sample: "This neighbor told me that what we needed was a damn good war, and we'd solve our agricultural problems. And I said, 'Yes, but I'd hate to pay for it with my son. Which we did.' He weeps. 'It's too much of a price to pay.' "

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda Mcadams

    This book left me thinking outside the classroom history books from years ago. It is WW2 from a different perspective. That being from those interviewed after the war, some as many as 40 years later. Those interviewed included citizens, veterans, and the families of those who did not return. They were from Russia, Germany, Japan, and yes the USA. It was quite different hearing it from their individual viewpoint(s). These were farmers, shop keepers, etc. many of whom weren't aware of the Nazi atro This book left me thinking outside the classroom history books from years ago. It is WW2 from a different perspective. That being from those interviewed after the war, some as many as 40 years later. Those interviewed included citizens, veterans, and the families of those who did not return. They were from Russia, Germany, Japan, and yes the USA. It was quite different hearing it from their individual viewpoint(s). These were farmers, shop keepers, etc. many of whom weren't aware of the Nazi atrocities or concentration camps. Within these countries they were forced to fight for causes that they did not support to protect their families from brutal repercussions. What they gave up was through force. They rationed food like here but to the extreme. This book proves that you don't know what you don't know which includes people.

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