“World War II and the Depression are now nearly as far back as we can go in living memory, and so the loom large in our active folk story. And many who lived then were too young to understand it in its depth; they remember only that the war was a great victory” (Adams 115). In Michael C. C. Adams’ The Best War Ever America and World War II, the author explains and clarifies the truth about the many myths in and about the war. There are many reasons as to why the war was seen as something positive and as a “good” thing for our nation.
Motives such as the media and Hollywood’s glamorization of the war, economic growth within the nation after the Great Depression, and government agenda all had part in this crazy misconception we all know as “The Good War”. Even to this day, the war and life in America during the war is known as a problem free time of unity. In this paper I am going to depict a few of the myths unveiled in Adams’ book and analyze them and find ways in which they are connected to each other. “World War II began when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939” (Adams 43).
What we have been taught about WWII was that it was the golden age where the people all came together to help fight the war and made each other their top priority. It was a time when the US army was allegedly the strongest but in a sense most moral out of any army front in the world. Our strength and weapons outlasted and outshone causing for a glorious victory with very few deaths. On page 74 of The Best War Ever, it implied that as a civilian, if you purchased a war bond, your sacrifice was equivalent to that of a man serving overseas (Adams 74).
The government made sure to advertise in a sense that gave someone with purchasing power a sense of patriotism. If the idea of someone dying on the front ever arose, it wouldn’t be in a bloody, drawn out horrible death. American soldiers died honorably, in a fast, clean, ‘famous last word’ kind of way. American citizens did not have to witness any of the wars outcomes on the front. There was no sight of merciless deaths, bombs, or napalm- all destruction was out of sight out, of mind. So what did the people have to rely on for coverage of the war? They relied on Hollywood to tell of WWII’s heroic stories.
The movie industry had taken over this generation as we became less of an intellectual and relied more on visual effects and entertainment for information. In the movies, viewers were lead on to believe that most wars scenes were about killing the evil bad guy and reigning in patriotic glory. While the “bad guys” got blown into oblivion, American soldiers rarely died, got injured, even bled for that matter. But not only did the movies warp how American’s viewed war, but the media had a twisted input on it as well. “But the news wasn’t manipulated only by censors.
John Steinbeck, a tough minded writier who exposed human misery during the Depression, admitted that as a war reporter he deliberately slanted his stories to omit anything that might shock civilians. He didn’t report on the rotten conditions suffered by the infantry… (Adams 9). Eisenhower even said that “public opinion wins wars” (Adams 10). The news was altering the truth, and reporting it back to their loyal audiences all across America. Magazines like the Reader’s Digest boomed in the 1930’s with short and sweet stories that offered optimistic views towards the war (Adams 11).
Keeping citizens in the dark may not have been a completely terrible thing to do though. Even though the soldiers were fighting for our country, many of them did not even know why they were fighting the war they were in. And although we viewed them as hard working, patriotic soldiers, what you see is definitely not what they got. Reported what was done to the enemies is almost too much to bear. Soldiers would often become lazy, bored, or just too exhausted to tend to prisoners. So what did they do? They shot them.
Officers later “admitted that prisoners sometimes tortured, even killed, to extract information” (Adams 111). The men were stationed at war, away from the things they loved the most- friends, family, love, but most importantly, women. “Sexual relations are a problem whenever any nation’s soldiers are away from home” (Adams 93). Many of the sex deprived men took advantage of the local women. From selling food, clothing, and other amenities for sex, many of the men from war had “fathered” and left behind children of their own.
Another major factor into these myths was based upon the economy’s success during the war years. The nation had just gotten out of the Great Depression in which the nation’s unemployment level “stood at 8. 9 million” (Adams 114). And upon just getting out of some of the darkest years in the United States, the nation had a huge economic growth spurt due to the war. The book states that “By 1945, The United States owned two thirds of the world’s gold reserves, half its shipping, and more than half its manufacturing capacity” (Adams 114).
But although employment was on the rise, many other businesses went under. “The war massively altered the face of American society. Small farmers and storeowners went under, while big businesses became great corporations” (Adams 8). But the contrast in the economy was so drastic that when looking at the Country as a whole, it really did help the cause of the golden years. World War II’s myths seem to be all connected through one main idea- hiding the truth. The media, Hollywood, the government, and even the soldiers hid what was actually going on with the war.
America may try to be kidding themselves, but facts don’t lie, body counts don’t lie, and history definitely doesn’t lie. And with that, I want to end with a quote from Michael C. C. Adams’ book: “Looking back, we might say that the history of the period does not reflect particularly well on any of the major players. Yet their actions are at least intelligible in context. Who is to say that, if the world as we know it collapsed, as it did for millions after World War I and again in the Great Depression, we should act more wisely or be any better at finding lasting solutions? ” (Adams 42)