The American people in World War 11 is among the latest books written by David Kennedy. Kennedy is often regarded as an American Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who has provided valuable knowledge of American History. When writing the book, Kennedy’s primary challenge was to craft a book that contained all the political, military, and economic developments within the U.S. Additionally, Kennedy sought to assemble all the pieces of American History into a comprehensive narrative that would be fascinating to the readers. In this book, Kennedy seems to be off-target by appraising the Americans’ strategy during the Second World War. Although this book has 433 pages compared to the first version that had around 858 pages, it is easier to read and summarize every aspect so that the readers can easily understand.
Summary of “The American People in World War 11”
In the book The American people in World war 11, Kennedy primarily offers a narrative of U.S. history. This book mainly covers events that took place from 1940 to 1945. Subsequently, the book summarizes its chapters with a detailed narrative concerning the Second World War. Although the book is paired with Kennedy’s first book on the American People in the Great Depression, it covers a much wider scope and a higher perspective. In this narrative, Kennedy does not pay attention to the American people but instead focuses on world leaders and the events during this period. Therefore, following this line of thinking laid a foundation for creating a mirror concerning the emergence of war in the U.S. from an inward focus. Additionally, using this technique enabled the U.S. to be separated from isolationism to a region of importance in the global arena.
A close look at freedom from fear part two reveals that Kennedy’s primary argument was to finish what he has started earlier in volume one. When writing the first volume, Kennedy upheld that the new deal’s real legacy was political since it lay a foundation of transforming how the federal governments viewed themselves. Additionally, the first volume noted that the new political ideals also offered a path of understanding how citizens viewed their relationships with the government. However, in the second volume concerning the American people in world war 11, World war is used in place of the New Deals and is the primary contributing factor to the continued transformation (Kennedy, 17). Kennedy provided his information chronologically in two different paths. The first part is a continuation of volume one, while the second part primarily focuses on the international aspects of conflicts happening overseas and high-level relations between different allied forces. When writing the book, Kennedy uses President Franklin Roosevelt as the main character.
The first chapter of this book kicks off with Roosevelt making different attempts to navigate the paths of neutrality between America: a nation that was still strongly upholding the isolationists and international allies growing into a state of desperation. Kennedy thus uses Roosevelt’s position to characterize him as the agony of neutrality. Using Roosevelt also creates an omnipresent political agony image since the American president makes several attempts to create a distinct course in positions that do not have a common ground (Kennedy 147). Although Kennedy spends much of his time documenting and narrating about military campaigns, the book’s actual value is mainly grounded in the struggles that most of the allied leaders faced during the Second World War. The book consists of three chapters consisting of the home front and the nation serving as their subjects. The last chapter of the book primarily focuses on narrations regarding the war theaters’ operations and the power struggles among the allied forces (Kennedy, 148).
Kennedy closes the American People in World war 11 with Roosevelt’s death: a republican congressman who had died while in power. The death of President Roosevelt resulted in the dismantling of the New Deal. However, Kennedy notes that some New Deals’ reforms were not tampered with during the conservative backlash. Some of the main aspects that were not changed in the new deal included farm supports, legislations concerning child labor, banking, and social security. The New Deals’ major facets remained intact since the federal government used its position to uphold security in place of a laissez-faire market (358).
An evaluation of Contents in terms of what is Regarded Particularly Important or Not
One important aspect included in the book concerns Americans’ struggles during the Great depression in the Second World War. Although the Americans had not healed from the agony that they were facing, the looming war ignited by Benito Mussolini put the American’s lives at stake for a second time. The Second World War outbreak claimed approximately 50 million lives and inflicted devastating punishments to numerous regions worldwide (Kennedy, 237). One of the catastrophic impacts that occurred during the war was the nuclear explosions that resulted in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The constant war laid a foundation for defining how the modern world was formulated (Kennedy, 240). The other long-term effect of the Second World War is that it wiped away the dangers of Fascism and Naziism. The emergence of this war wiped out the economic depression that had crippled the different activities within the U.S. The elimination of the economic depression in return brought in a half-century American prosperity and expansion of global economies.
Based on the incidences during the Second World War, this book has included all the essential elements, including various aspects of how the U.S. agonized about the role it had played in the conflict, the strategies used, and the reasons why the U.S. emerged victoriously. Subsequently, Kennedy carefully analyzes the primary determinants of America’s strategy, the painful choices that the commanders and statesmen had to make, and the pain that had been inflicted among innocent American citizens. Most Americans were also required to swallow their fear and face the battle using the skills they had. By Kennedy offering an account of these events, it lays a foundation for a reader to understand the path through which modern American society came into existence.
Before Roosevelt came in position, Herbert Hoover had made several attempts to solve some of the challenges facing the U.S.; he was unsuccessful. Such moves prompted the president to sermon the congress and discuss the ideal path to follow, including the Agricultural Marketing Act’s passage. Despite such moves being made during that time, Kennedy uses Roosevelt to show the significant steps he made in salvaging the U.S. from a state of Isolation (Kennedy, 253). After Roosevelt had assumed office in March 19333, he met with a highly competent team that made them reach an agreement regarding what the government was required to do. Although Roosevelt and his team agreed, Kennedy notes that transformations began being experienced in 1934-1935 when structured and durable social philosophies were crafted.
In the American People in World War 11, Kennedy organizes the social narrative history that prompted the occurrence of the great depression and Second World War, including contributions made by Lorena Hickok. According to Lorena, her findings indicated that approximately 33 million individuals were unemployed, and those who had a chance of working had their working hours drastically reduced.
Although Kennedy progresses to evaluate the significance of the New Deals, his evaluation can be considered moderate. Although the New Deal was not linked to recovery and redistribution of wealth, it was associated with different individuals’ economic security. Additionally, the new deal was related to various social reforms, which led to many immigrants being brought into the public domain. Lastly, the New Deal also increased labor unions and increased the number of Black Americans serving in different federal positions. Although major strides were made in U.S. history, the changes would not have emerged if it were not for the Second World War.
In the last section of the book, Kennedy describes the Second World War’s details step by step. According to Kennedy, none of the involved countries, including Great Britain, Germany, Japan, or the Soviet Union, had an understanding of foreign policies (Kennedy, 378). This aspect was attributed to the fact that most policy advisors constantly argued among themselves in the respective Capitals. By the time the axis powers decided to engage in the war, the U.S. was also slowly sanctioned into the war. Although most of the policies were neutral, the U.S. started sending the British troops further into the Atlantic.
Kennedy offers a detailed narrative concerning the U.S.’s unique and brilliant strategies in the Second World War. Additionally, Kennedy describes the miscalculations, international teamwork, petty snipping, and the daily boredom experienced by the troops and the leaders during the war. During the war, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin constantly disagreed concerning the timing of the western front and within the facets of the American military. During the war, the British hoped to win the war by shooting and killing their enemies (Kennedy, 379).
According to Kennedy, during the war, the troops would battle on land, sea, and air. Based on these aspects, Kennedy has done an outstanding job by probing other long-running controversial topics, including the central question regarding what the Americans knew about the Nazi persecution, an aspect that resulted in the systematic genocide of the Holocaust. During the second wear, different groups went through adverse forms of harassment; thus, Kennedy pays attention to the 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were forced on internment and the Italian-Americans who went through lesser forms of harassment (Kennedy, 379).
The home front marked an important component of the Second World War. As a result, Kennedy offers a detailed analysis of the long-term impacts of opportunities that the war provided to women. During the early days of World war two, Roosevelt’s efforts seemed clumsy hence the need to reorganize the federal bureaucracy in coping up with the demands of the war, including using the effort of women. Before the outbreak of this war, women had an ambiguous position in the workforce. On most occasions, they were the first ones to be released from duties since men were believed to be the primary providers in their families. All these aspects were attributed to the Jim Craw regime that deprived women of their basic rights. However, the emergence of this war offered different employment opportunities for women.
According to a statement made by General Dwight, he noted that “one thing that might help us in this war is to get someone to shoot.” (Kennedy, 380). On the contrary, the U.S. primarily strived to reduce the causality rates among civilians through precision bombing. However, the U.S. finally adopted the area-bombing, and these efforts were directed mainly towards Tokyo, Dresden, and Berlin. The use of this technique was influential since it laid a foundation for shuttering all the enemies’ morale. During the war, most of the enemies used airplanes to fly and fight; however, this technique was not very successful since approximately 49,000 allied airmen perished in combat with Europe. Additionally, 36,000 accidents were also reported (Kennedy, 383). Based on these aspects, Kennedy has done a commendable job in his book by noting the strategies used by the U.S. in emerging victorious. Having this information is pivotal since it helps different individuals learn about the Second World War and its influence on American History.
Nature of The Author’s Sources and How He Used Them
Kennedy has used a rich body of scholarship in writing this second part of freedom of fear. Most of the sources used are secondary sources from different sources. In his preface, Kennedy notes to have used the pioneering work about the New Deal era from various scholars such as John Morton Blum, James MacGregor, Kenneth Davis, and Arthur Schlesinger. According to Kennedy, although he disagreed with these scholars’ emphasis and evaluation, their work laid a foundation for developing his book on World war 11. Kennedy also learned more from veterans regarding world war 11 when he traveled with them on battlefields, including Solomon Island, Italy, and Normandy. Kennedy has thus used information from these sources in developing a detailed narrative concerning World war two in America.
Additional Comments of Praise or Criticisms
In this book, Kennedy has done a commendable job, “The American People in World War 11”. Based on my analysis, Kennedy’s most recurring theme involves the aspects where President Roosevelt is captured between two camps in a conflict as he tries to launch different efforts to prepare for the impending war. His slow steps in preparation for the war, including moving the pacific fleet to Pearl Harbor, does not please anyone, including the isolationists, interventionists, the military, and the republicans. An analysis of the book reveals that Kennedy is harsh in characterizing Roosevelt’s maneuvers since he believes they are evasions, hesitations, and misinterpretations to the general public (42). Kennedy cites polling data that he believes would have been used by the general public in supporting an interventionist position. Although such data may be good, it would not have supported the roadblock imposed by an isolationist Coalition. Kennedy also notes that before the war, the U.S. National position before the war was not solely based on the president’s doing but was founded on the national wish and will. All these aspects indicate how Kennedy conducted a detailed search before finally writing his book.
Kennedy, David M. The American People in World War II: Freedom from Fear, Part Two. Oxford University Press, 2003, 1-433.