This is kind of a combination post; book review and additional thoughts. Scroll down past the legal disclaimer to read the rest.
December 1941 traces, day-by-day, the most important 31 days in the history of America’s participation in WWII, which snuffed out the lives of millions and changed history forever.
From December 1, 1941, until the morning of December 7, 1941, America was at peace and—with the exception of the stubborn and persistent high unemployment of the Great Depression—was a relatively happy country. By the afternoon of the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, America was a radically changed country, forever. Its isolationist impulses evaporated, and both major political parties became more or less internationalist. The month also introduced food and gas rationing, Victory Gardens, scrap drives, a military draft, and the conversion of Detroit into an “arsenal of democracy.” From the moment of America’s entry into World War II, people of all kinds, but mostly women looking for work, flooded into the city. Instant apartment buildings sprang up, as did eating and drinking salons, all to the advantage of the massive increase in spending generated by the federal government.
December 1941 is a fascinating and meticulously researched look at the American home front—her people, faith, economy, government, and culture.
“Craig Shirley’s December 1941 is a riveting narrative history of America in the crucible of the Second World War. A real page turner. Highly recommended.” –Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and New York Times bestseller of The Wilderness Warrior.
This is not the book for people who are short on time or just want an overview of the events of December 1941. To date, this title took me longer to read than any other book I can remember. Ever.
Normally, I’m not keen on books that drag on and on and take significant amounts of time to get through. This was not a title that kept me hanging on the edge of my seat- I assume this is because we already know what happened that horrible month, so there wasn’t a push to stay up and find out what happened next.
In hindsight, I would have really loved having this book as a hard copy. I thought I was making bookmarks on my Kindle, but apparently none of them stuck. And that is really disappointing, because there is some really good stuff in there!
What’s unique about this book is the scope. The author literally took headlines from newspapers and publications from around the world, and infused the them and content exerpt into this book. The result is a comprehensive look at the world at the time; rich with anecdotes, like
“Americans dressed up in suits and ties and dresses to go to the movies. Everyone wore hats, and they always put on their “Sunday best” to go to church, out to dinner, to take a train or an airplane. The whole idea was to make people think better of you as an individual;”
“FM radio was not unheard of in 1941, just very expensive; an FM radio could cost as much as $390, more than most people’s wages in one month; ”
“Everyone smoked cigarettes in 1941, and everybody smoked cigarettes everywhere. In the movie theaters, in restaurants, on airplanes, in trains, at sporting events, at the office, even in the classrooms, Americans smoked ‘em if they had ‘em……………The average American in 1940 consumed 2,558 cigarettes, double that of ten years earlier, ”
“A cartoon in the Greeley (Co) Daily Tribune women’s page depicted a beat-up young woman, one eye blackened, head bandaged, and sporting a broken arm as she cheerily told three friends, “My boyfriend always starts a little spat just before Christmas.” But dozens of tamer cartoon strips were enjoyed by American parens and children. “Li’l Abner,” about a hayseed in Dog Patch; “Alley Oop,” a cave man in present times; “Blondie,” a ditsy wife and her equally ditsy husband Dagwood; “Prince Valiant,” a knight of the Round Table; and “Bringing up Father,” about Jiggs and Maggie, two socialites seemingly caught up in the time warp of 1922.”
Can you see why I got hooked? I honestly don’t remember the last book I read that I sank so completely into. I can’t imagine the amount of time it took the author to research this, but the end result was well, well worth it.
Some have said that this felt like a sports cast, with a play-by-play being announced. I won’t go that route, but I will say the comprehensive look at what was happening in the US and around the world left me feeling like *I* was in a time warp, and had been transported to that time.
The research that went into this book is simply astounding. Each chapter was a day of the month, and as I was nearing the end of the month, I was still only about 60% of the way through the book. Fully 35% of this title was reference and footnotes. That’s what I’m talking about, when I say this is a comprehensive overview of the world at-large during this month. Astonishing!
Because there were some editing issues, I don’t feel like I can give this book 5 out of 5 stars. I’m going to settle on 4.5 stars, though, because the content is just that good. If you love history like I do and want to be thoroughly immersed and engrossed in a title, this is the book for you. Be sure to pack your rations, though, because you’re going to need them!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
As you know by now, I am a somewhat of a history buff. I firmly believe that knowing history- REALLY knowing it and understanding it- is the key to avoiding repeating the same mistakes over again. History is one of the easier things to manipulate, because as generations pass, it can be re-written and no one is around to remember and complain. (if you think I’m joking about this, open your kids’ history books and read about these events with a critical eye, from an American point of view……)
Folks that were around on 9/11 have a frame of comparison to the attack on Pearl Harbor; December 7, 1941, a “day that will live in infamy.” (FDR)
I am blessed to know a survivor of the USS Arizona. His twin brother, also on the Arizona, died that day.
If you have the opportunity to get to know a WWII veteran, take it. Spend some serious time with him/her, and record the memories. You will not regret it, I promise.
This was the first attack on US soil. There were lots of other firsts going on, too. FDR was the first president elected to 3 terms. The US was emerging from the first economic depression.
US war bonds were being issued for the first time, and Daylight Savings was put into effect for the first time, to accommodate a work day punctuated by nightly black-out periods, so the enemy flying overhead couldn’t see cities. Women went to work in factories for the first time, doing more than secretarial duties, mostly because of the draft.
And yet, despite these striking differences in generations and technology, I can’t help but to see the parallels in the government today, with the exception of unity and patriotism.
Read the book. Then come back and leave me your thoughts.