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Washington Goes to War Paperback – October 8, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (October 8, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034540730X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345407306
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This book of the just-retired newsman's reminiscences of Washington at the dawn of America's involvement in World War II is no mere historical curiosity shop. It's very instructive about the way Washington still works. For instance, Brinkley tells us that in September 1941, while FDR was still wavering about where to put the military's new headquarters building, an Army general told the contractor to get started. By the time Roosevelt found out about this a month later, the foundations for the Pentagon had already been put in place.

From Publishers Weekly

The city "boasted" 15,000 privies; you could walk through the White House gate without being questioned; the Army chief of staff, early in the war, at least, sent a handwritten note to the family of every serviceman killed in battle. Things were quite different in the WW II capital, and Brinkley (a radio reporter in Washington at the time) reveals the tempo of the town in a series of vivid character sketches and anecdotes connected by commentary both illuminating and entertaining. Among the wide variety of subjects dealt with: the bulging civilian and military bureaucracies; the housing crisis in a city "crowded to suffocation"; the pressures on black Washingtonians; the frivolousness of the town's high society (President Roosevelt publicly called them parasites); the effect on the citizenry of hordes of thrill-seeking servicemen in a city without much entertainment to offer them; the emotional wranglings of the wartime Congress; the thorny yet genial relationship between FDR and the press. This is a valuable record of a town and government coping with global responsibilities for which it was ill prepared. Photos. 175,000 first printing; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 25 customer reviews
Much of it is downright funny.
Michael Charton
In common with all of these others, David Brinkley, too, is an excellent writer who makes history lively and interesting.
HeyJudy
All together it's a fascinating and entertaining book.
William D. Saunders

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By HeyJudy VINE VOICE on January 13, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
By sheer coincidence, I read Ben Bradlee's memoir, A GOOD LIFE, Andy Rooney's MY WAR and David Brinkley's WASHINGTON GOES TO WAR in immediate succession.
Each of these books covers a different aspect of America's involvement in World War II. Taken as a grouping, these three may be the definitive report of the social history of the moment, as impacted by that War. Obviously, Tom Brokaw's book of individual reminiscences, THE GREATEST GENERATION, must be included with this list as well.
In common with all of these others, David Brinkley, too, is an excellent writer who makes history lively and interesting. As with each of the other books mentioned in this group, WASHINGTON GOES TO WAR can stand alone on its own merits. Yet each of these books gains synergistically by being read in tandem with the others.
This was a fascinating moment in modern history, and David Brinkley tells tales that most readers would have no other way of learning.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on April 17, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In 1940 Washington, DC was a town that hosted our national government. By the end of 1945 it was a city and the central focus of a government that managed the sixteen million men and women in uniform who fought the Second World War and the other millions who supported the effort at home.
This required office space, housing, entertainment and above all people, people, people. More people than anyone imagined could be supported in our ten mile square federal district.
David Brinkley saw the transformation first hand. People and buildings could literally not be deployed fast enough in our nation's capitol city to keep up with the demands of World War. The effort to accomodate this change is an interesting story told well by the author. The pace and magnitude of change is fascinating to behold. One wonders how the bureaucracy that took a 250,000 man fighting force from wooden training rifles to the millions who had 50,000 aircraft alone to deploy against our enemies were able to undertake this phenominal expansion in reasonably good order. As Brinkley tells it, it was part good old American "can-do" attitude coupled with a near unanimous belief in our mission and dedication to winning the war.
Somehow the City, and the people responsible for running its only true industry (government) managed the task and its transformation fairly well.
Brinkley is a good story teller, and his chronicle of how Washington changed during the war years is also the story of America coming of age. He brings a fresh descriptive narrative to what turns out to be a pretty interesting story.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am only 17 years old but when I was reading this book I felt like I really knew the world that Brinkley was talking about. Ashley in DC
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I found this book very interesting. As someone who is currently living in the D.C area, I was fascinated to travel back in time while reading this book and picture how D.C. has become what it is today. There is much to learn in this book especially about Roosevelt's presidency and the turmoil around the war and it is presented in a very fun, easy to read style. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn about the development of our nation's capitol.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Washington Goes to War" is an extremely insightful and interesting book. It provides a unique view of history. I learned things that I could never have found in a text book. The book often dealt with individuals and how they had an impact on the whole, rather than just explaining events. I learned a great deal about what Washington was like during the time surrounding WWII and how that connects to what is like today. I also learned a lot about WWII and how Roosevelt dealt with issues he was confronted with. I definitely recommend this book to people who want to see the personal side of history rather than just the facts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 5, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Living in DC, this book make you really think about what was once going on around the place where you live. This novel is about the mentality that people had during World War II, and what it meant to be living in the nations capital. The stories really let you into the minds of the characters, and how hard life could be sometimes. There was a lot going on in Washington, and it is amazing that such pure history can be so interesting to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Doug - Haydn Fan VINE VOICE on November 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Brinkley's well known dry wit here mixes with his delight in all things human to produce one of the finest books on wartime life 'back home'. Moreover, with the possible exception of Gore Vidal, few writers have given us a sharper look in any age at the doings within and around our nation's capital.

Brinkley was there when Washington left behind forever its previous role as a quiet government town living at a Southern pace, and morphed suddenly into a bustling wartime metropolis. Washington suddenly was engulfed in hundreds of thousands of new workers, all desperately seeking housing that simply didn't exist. This population explosion ceated a crazy shortage, where tens of thousands of newly hired government workers slept in different shifts in the same constantly used beds, inside row upon row of uncomfortable temporary thrown-up quarters.

Here is Brinkley on the fundamental changes air conditioning wrought;

"...by the late 1930's some members (of Congress) had discovered the comforts of the air conditioning in the Fox, the Capitol, the Earle and the RKO Keith movie theaters downtown. They asked to have cool air pumped into the House and Senate chambers and into their office buildings across the street. And so, in 1938, the United States Congress made a fateful decision that a few of the more canterkerous members said foretold the collapse of the Republic. It installed air conditioning. With its chambers and offices cool and pleasant, some predicted, Congress would stay in session all year and pass the additional time making even longer and more tiresome speeches, enacting more laws, spending more money and running the national debt still higher.
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