Myth Of Wwii Essay, Research Paper
The Myth of World War II
Michael C. C. Adams? book, The Best War Ever: America and World War II, attempts to dispel the numerous misconceptions of the Second World War. As the title suggests, Americans came out of the war with a positive view of the preceding five turbulent years. This myth was born from several factors. Due to the overseas setting of both theaters of the war, intense government propaganda, Hollywood?s glamorization, and widespread economic prosperity, Americans were largely sheltered form the brutal truth of World War II.
Even to this day, the generation of World War II is viewed as being superior in morality and unity. The popular illusion held that ?there were no ethnic or gender problems, families were happy and united, and children worked hard in school and read a great number of books.? (115) It was a golden era when all Americans set aside their differences and united for a common cause which everyone put above all other priorities. The United States Army was thought of as more advanced in fighting ability, weapons, and supposedly held to a higher standard of ethics on the front. Americans that did die, died in ?an antiseptic, clean, neat way . . . gloriously.? (100) Soldiers weren?t blown apart into pieces, they died honorably and nobly.
Many factors had to be in place for such a distorted myth to come about. The central one being that the entire war was fought on foreign land with the exception of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With the conflicts on the other sides of the oceans, Americans would not witness the brutality, destruction, and suffering of civilians and soldiers alike. ?Only the United States was not both a destroyer and a victim of the destruction in the war.? (73) The civilians of the United States, therefore, relied on other sources to shape their view of World War II. ?Ads implied that if you bought a war bond your sacrifice was on par with that of the man in the front lines.? (74) The US government and industry played on Americans? sense of patriotism in order to get them to support the war or buy their products. However, ?it [advertising] is by nature emotional, rather than intellectual; it sells feelings rather than ideas.? (73) Government propaganda and business advertising were not the only factors in forming the inaccurate myth of the Second World War. Hollywood made films where ?people get blown up with their clothes and fall gracefully to the ground.? (100) Through the realism of motion pictures, Americans were falsely led to believe in ?glorified war.? (100) The other major factor in allowing the war to be dubbed as ?the best war ever? was the economic prosperity. ?The U.S. gross national product increased 60 percent during the war.? (114) Such contrast to the depression years of the 1930?s further implied this was a golden era.
The reality under the cover of myth was repulsive. ?. . . the coast was littered with shattered boats, tanks, trucks, rations, packs, buttocks, thighs, torsos, hands, heads.? (101) Americans never witnessed the carnage. To add insult to injury, when soldiers on leave told of these horrors, they were considered cowards and victims of ?momism.? Contrary to popular belief, US soldiers were not as ethical in their behavior and tactics as believed. ?GIs fathered tens of thousands of illegitimate children? and ?took advantage of women?s desperate need for food, cigarettes, and even clothing to trade them for sex.? (93-94) Surely such immoral behavior was not depicted in the movies and neither was the horror that led soldiers to lose all respect for human life on the battlefield. ?Garbage was dumped on the enemy dead, and men urinated into their mouths.? (112) The truth behind the home front was equally distorted. Many couples married only so the husband could avoid the draft. The idea that children were better behaved when so many fathers were overseas and mothers in the production lines was quite illogical. ?Fathers and elder brothers were often away at war, so important role models were lost. If the mother worked too, the stage seemed set for wildness among unsupervised children.? (124) ?The war?s most serious impact on the young was through prosperity and enhanced job opportunities. . . [that] created teen culture? which in the end ?skewed the high school from a seat of learning into a social center.? (126) The complaints of the youth are strikingly similar to the ones heard today. ?The seeming immaturity of adolescent society and its disrespect for age were also bewildering and troubling.? (127) Another fact often overlooked when thinking of that golden age was that ? ?more girls got pregnant and the venereal disease rate rose.?? (124) Racism continued to thrive in the army and in the states. Thousands of Japanese-Americans were sent to detention centers simply on the basis of their looks. In one of the more degrading ironies of American soldiers, ?in the South, black soldiers had to sit behind German prisoners of war, who were accorded the rights of white men.? Black soldiers were given the more dangerous and grim tasks of the war and on top of that segregation in the army continued throughout the war. These imperfections of the World War II generation were quickly cast aside. ?Selective recall? filtered our memories over the years, further contributing to the myth of the best war ever. (115)
The most tragic aspect of the myth of ?the best war ever? is the lack of reverence devoted to the men who died and survived horror of the battlefield. To simply point to the economic prosperity sparked by the war is utterly ignorant. The cost of so much blood is much too high to justify with material goods. The picture at home was not perfect, nor did it even approach perfection, as so many believe. The dilemmas were much the same as they were before and after the war. However, we should also not forget that despite the myth, that was the generation which saved the world from tyrannical military dictators.