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Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation's Troubled Homecoming from World War II Paperback – Bargain Price, May 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Conventional impressions of WWII's aftermath—wild celebration, triumphal return, ebullient prosperity—hide a grimmer reality, according to this somber history of postwar discontents. University of Pennsylvania historian Childers (In the Shadows of War) uses contemporary statistics and press reports to sketch the hardships returning veterans faced, including unemployment and homelessness; resentment at the years wasted in the war; alienation from family, friends and civilian life in general; and physical and psychological wounds that never healed. He builds his account around biographical narratives of three veterans: an infantryman who lost his legs to an enemy shell; an airman taken prisoner by the Germans; and Childers's father, who spent the war relatively safe in England but whose life and marriage, the author contends, were subtly darkened by the conflict. Childers's beautifully written, novelistic profiles movingly convey his subjects' wartime travails and their twilight struggles with disability and post-traumatic stress. His attempt to blame decades of dysfunction on the war sometimes overreaches; his subjects' failed marriages, business reversals and unfulfilling jobs often seem like the ordinary quiet desperation of men's lives. Still, Childers's absorbing study offers an important corrective to sanitized tributes to the Good War's legacy. Photos. (May 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Childers turns from the moving account of his uncle’s death in action only days before the German surrender in 1945 (Wings of Morning, 1995) to his father’s and two other American veterans’ post–World War II experiences. Examining their adjustments to civilian life, Childers expands their stories by analyzing contemporary popular literature that advised a primarily female readership about how to receive home men who, absent for years, had changed who-knew-how. The social anxieties of this material, reflected in the film The Best Years of Our Lives and borne out in the late 1940s by a divorce-rate spike and a veterans’ protest movement, belie current society’s rather gauzy memory of happy homecomings; and the immediacy of Childers’depiction of his three central characters packs a tremendous emotional wallop. Superficially, the men made successful transitions to civilian life. But alienation and unarticulated anger stalked their resumptions of normal relations with wives and family. Childers’ literary acuity in evoking their travails yields a powerful work of social history that readers will stay with to the last page. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547336926
  • ASIN: B004KAB7HQ
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,885,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

THOMAS CHILDERS is the Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of five previous books on the Third Reich and World War II, most recently, Wings of Morning and In the Shadows of War.

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Peter Baird on May 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Soldier From The War Returning is a powerfully written and vividly detailed account of how three members of "The Greatest Generation" returned from World War Two and how difficult and painful their homecomings turned out to be, not just for themselves but also for their families and, by implication, for future generations. As Professor Thomas Childers demonstrates with an historian's eye and a humanist's instinct, wars do not end when the last shot is fired. This is a book that must be read by everyone and, most particularly, by those of us whose lives were forever shaped and sometimes shattered by the generational impact of World War Two.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By DMS on June 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Should be required reading for every child and grand child of a WWII veteran. Emotionally moving, transporting, and cathartic. Despite the heavy subject matter, Childer's prose is somehow uplifting and keeps the pages turning quickly. Highly recommended.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Robert Manzar on December 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thomas Childers has captured a moment in history many have over looked. Beneath all the glory and flag waving at the end of WW2, many returning G.I.'s with psychological wounds were swept away by the jubilance of victory. What later became know as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), effected hundreds of thousands of young WW2 veterans and their families for a life time. Virtually unrecognized at the time, psychoneurotic disorder (now known as PTSD), and with no known treatment plan, left many veterans to face a future of alcoholism, unemployment, homelessness, divorce, nightmares and suicide. It was not until the late 1970's, as a direct result of the Viet Nam War, that PTSD became a treatable diagnosis. Now we can begin to understand why, "Grandpa", was so moody, drank too much and spent a lot of time at the VFW, AMVETS or American Legion.

I recently had the opportunity to meet one of the soldiers from this book through my envolvement with, Operation Vet2Vet, at the VA medical center in Providence, R.I. Mr. Michael Gold is a retired doctor who volunteers his time to assist the latest generation of warriors in their adjustment to civilian life. With his years of coping with and over coming the effects of PTSD in his daily life, Mr. Gold dispenses his wisdom, offering hope for a better life to our returning heroes from Iraq and Afganistan.

Through his extensive research, Professor Childers has answered the question why grandfathers, fathers, husbands, uncles and the "Crazy" ole man down the street, were never the same after the war. Suffering in silence and often condemned, our veterans, who experienced the horrors of combat, deserve our love and understanding (Even though belated), in their struggle to, "Fit In".
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By P. J. K. Hendrikx on July 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With the war over for 65 years now, and the generation that fought in it dying at an alarming rate of old age, the current mood is that only the good things that came from the war are remembered. Be it the 'greatest generation', the camaraderie, the co-operation, the universal sense of purpose and discipline and that everyone did their share. It seems it must have been the best timespace in history, and the community will never be as good as it was back then.
Childres book describes painfully clear that many veterans, either with or without physical wounds, were scarred by the experience of war. They and their families suffered for many years, often up to this day.
This book is highly recommended for everyone who likes the books by Stephen Ambrose, but is willing to look at the more painful side of the war. Also families of veterans will draw strength from the experiences masterfully described in this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Chapati VINE VOICE on February 18, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tom Brokaw coined the now-famous term "The Greatest Generation" - referring to the men and women who grew up during the Great Depression, lived through World War II and then raised families through the tumultuous period of the 1960s. As a country, we have whitewashed the entire generation to be one that put up with hardship and made the best of the little they had. But this is not fair- yes, they went through a lot, but they were not perfect and it is a disservice to act as though they lived Camelot-like lives. Childers wrote this book in an attempt to share with readers how difficult it was for men and women after WWII- how hard it is to settle back into a normal life.

Childers chronicles three families in this book. Willis Allen and his crumbling marriage to Grace after he returns from the war with no legs. Mildred and Tom Childers (the author's own parents) who are unable to re-establish trust in each other after recriminations of infidelity and the death of Mildred's beloved brother in Germany. Michael Gold and his long-term PTSD that would cause him to break out in violent rages and jeopardize his medical career. It's a fascinating, intimate and ultimately very revealing book that brings home the fact that when you've lived through a war, for you, it never ends. Even those who succeeded in coming home and starting fresh were haunted by dreams or "temper tantrums" and divorce rates for veterans skyrocketed after the war ended. The men came back angry, the women didn't trust them, and both sides struggled to form deeper connections.

This is not a happy book. The people who populate it are desperately unhappy much of the time, going through the motions of a Norman Rockwell existence that never materialized for them.
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