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1942: The Year That Tried Men's Souls Paperback – Bargain Price, April 3, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Forrest Gump novelist Groom offers another of his nonfiction labors of love, centering his story of a pivotal year on the war against Japan. No revisionist, Groom delivers the traditional worshipful portrait of General MacArthur while admitting he made several key blunders that doomed the Philippines in the year's early months. In May the two fleets met in the Coral Sea. While the Japanese came out ahead, they abandoned their invasion of New Guinea, and Groom follows the standard account of calling it an American victory. He adds that brains and luck win more battles than courage, providing a perfect illustration in Midway, fought in June 1942. Having broken Japan's naval code, American forces surprised a vastly superior Japanese fleet and sank all four of its carriers. In August, the First Marine Division was deposited on an obscure island, Guadalcanal, then hastily retreated. For the next four months, in what is the book's highlight, the marines fought with epic heroism against repeated efforts to expel them. Almost as an afterthought, Groom shows American forces taking their first step against Germany, landing in North Africa in November and quickly bogging down. Heroism was not in short supply, but much of it occurred in 1943. A talented writer, Groom has written a page-turner; readers needing an introduction will love it. Agent, Theron Raines. (May)
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

The first few months of 1942 saw perhaps the greatest threat in history to the survival of liberal democratic societies. In the Pacific, the American fleet had been devastated at Pearl Harbor, Singapore had fallen, and Japan seemed invulnerable behind a military screen stretching for thousands of miles. In Europe, Hitler had established Fortress Europe. But by the end of the year, the tide had clearly turned. The Japanese advance had been halted at Midway and the Coral Sea, the Afrika Corps had been defeated at El Alamein, and German forces were bogged down at Stalingrad. Groom is both a celebrated novelist (Forrest Gump, 1994) and historian, and he brings his skills as a master storyteller to chronicle the great events and the men, both powerful and ordinary, who pulled our societies back from the abyss. Groom sets the stage by showing both the confusion and bravery as Americans were defeated at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, and his account of the subsequent death marches is heartbreaking. In recounting the steady recovery and then advances of Allied arms, Groom intersperses experiences of individual soldiers and sailors with the broader strategic picture. This is a superb work of popular history that is a worthy addition to World War II collections. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (April 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802142508
  • ASIN: B0057DCL7A
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 8.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,158,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mitch Reed on May 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book, the style it was written, and they way Groom presents the story. One fact that I noticed and liked is that Groom checked his facts and used multiple sources to corroborate the facts he presents to the reader. The book focuses on many different levels of the conflict, from the strategic to the tactical level and also details the events that lead to the climate of 1942. Yes the book is written from an American point of view, but the scope of world events are woven into the story. I like how Groom takes the time to briefly point out some if the issues that have raised questions in 1942 and since. This is where Groom's use of various sources comes in handy; and He gives us his opinion which he is entitled to. The book flows excellently and portrays the events in this hectic year in great detail. As an avid reader of history I did find the book very interesting because of Groom's insight and how he is not afraid to insert a personal opinion. If you enjoyed 1942, I recommend "A Storm in Flanders" very highly.
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Format: Hardcover
Best known for his novel Forrest Gump, Winston Groom is also the author of Shrouds of Glory (1995), an account of Gen. John Bell Hood's Tennessee campaign, culminating in the battles of Franklin and Nashville, the last significant Confederate offensive of the American Civil War.

In 1942: The Year That Tried Men's Souls, Groom combines a historian's careful attention to substance with the novelist's flair for style to produce an impressive account of the first year of World War II.

While Groom includes the requisite facts and figures of a historical chronicle, his forte is storytelling. Avoiding the boring presentations of many academic textbooks, he presents a vivid and suspenseful narrative filled with graphic descriptions of horrendous events.

In every sense of the word, 1942 is a page-turner.

In the first months of 1942, the outlook for the Allies was grim. The Japanese had captured Wake, Guam, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Manila, and Thailand. Following the fall of the Philippines, Japanese atrocities increased in intensity during the infamous 65-mile Bataan Death March.

"The Japanese octopus continued to crawl all over the Pacific," writes Groom. There seemed to be nothing to stop its tentacles from reaching out in every direction.

"Following the Pearl Harbor disaster [Dec. 7, 1941]," Groom continues, "America was in grave military danger. Most of our Pacific fleet and air force no longer existed and the Japanese were running amok all over that ocean and in the Far East, banging at the very gates of Australia and India and even invading U.S. territory in Alaska.

"America was almost totally unprepared for war and would not be fully equipped for another year.
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Format: Hardcover
Winstom Groom has written a terrific book around the subject of the year 1942. After laying some WWII groundwork (cause/effect), he shows the devastation that our country faced after Pearl Harbor. A country of isolationists became a country set on justice, but found themselves without the tools to fight the war. He develops how we as a country rose to the challenge of a World War, working with our allies to defeat the Axis.

Groom delves into the popular details, along with the "nooks and crannies" of the war. He does not present the facts in dry detail as some historians do, but makes history come alive with human details.

As to the remarks of a previous reviewer regarding the fact that Groom presents no new facts, perhaps he should have read the introduction where the author tells his readers that this book is not for the WWII buff who knows everything, but for the common person who desires a better understanding regarding the events that made this war the defining event of the 20th century.
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Format: Hardcover
Winston Groom is perhaps best known as the author of the novel Forrest Gump, which eventually became Tom Hanks's Oscar-winning title role in the movie of the same name. For whatever reason, though, Groom's decided to turn himself into a military historian, and his last three books are in that field: one book each on the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.

1942 is different from the other two books in one very large sense: the other two books attempted to illuminate for Americans two campaigns that (to Americans anyway) are obscure. Groom openly was trying to change that with those first two books. This current book isn't about an obscure campaign: it's instead a retelling of America's role in World War II during 1942, our first full year of participation.

Groom doesn't attempt any ground-breaking research, here. The bibliography mentions only secondary sources and autobiographies of participants. If he consulted any archives or documentary sources he doesn't mention it. Instead, he's distilled what must be a couple of hundred books into 400 pages of entertaining prose, covering American participation in the war over the course of a year.

Since the year he chose to cover is 1942, the book mostly deals with battles in the Pacific against the Japanese. Pearl Harbor, the Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal are the heart of the book's narrative, and in these he largely succeeds in doing what he's trying to do: explain what American participation in the war meant, and how it was fought. He also includes a considerable number of anecdotes and personal accounts of various stages of the war, from American females spies to the guy who escaped from a POW camp in China and walked 700 miles to freedom.
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