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The Darkest Year: The American Home Front 1941-1942 Paperback – December 8, 2020
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The Darkest Year is acclaimed author William K. Klingaman’s narrative history of the American home front from December 7, 1941 through the end of 1942, a psychological study of the nation under the pressure of total war.
For Americans on the home front, the twelve months following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor comprised the darkest year of World War Two. Despite government attempts to disguise the magnitude of American losses, it was clear that the nation had suffered a nearly unbroken string of military setbacks in the Pacific; by the autumn of 1942, government officials were openly acknowledging the possibility that the United States might lose the war.
Appeals for unity and declarations of support for the war effort in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor made it appear as though the class hostilities and partisan animosities that had beset the United States for decades ― and grown sharper during the Depression ― suddenly disappeared. They did not, and a deeply divided American society splintered further during 1942 as numerous interest groups sought to turn the wartime emergency to their own advantage.
Blunders and repeated displays of incompetence by the Roosevelt administration added to the sense of anxiety and uncertainty that hung over the nation.
The Darkest Year focuses on Americans’ state of mind not only through what they said, but in the day-to-day details of their behavior. Klingaman blends these psychological effects with the changes the war wrought in American society and culture, including shifts in family roles, race relations, economic pursuits, popular entertainment, education, and the arts.
“A fascinating look at the home front during a pivotal moment in time.” ―New York Post
"This expansive survey paints an extraordinary portrait of America’s home front during the first year of WWII...Klingaman uses media, literature, journals, and letters to illustrate the year, and the resulting history is riveting." ―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"The appeal of The Darkest Year is in enabling readers to feel the immediacy of well-known historical events as they unfolded. [It] successfully evokes a sense of what life was like during an anxious time."―Christian Science Monitor
"In this fast-paced narrative of the American home front during the first year of the country's participation in World War II, Will Klingaman demonstrates a marvelous knack for placing the reader in the middle of the chaotic mobilization of the economy and armed forces of a nation unprepared for war. Shortages, rationing, and confusion in the conversion of industry to war production gave only fitful promise in 1942 of America's eventual emergence as the arsenal of democracy."―James M. McPherson, Professor of History Emeritus, Princeton University, and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
"Klingaman deftly navigates the ensuing roller-coaster of unease and complacency that characterized home front sentiments during the first year of U.S. involvement in World War II. This thoroughly researched and accessible text will prove elucidating to anyone curious about social history, World War II, or the rhetoric of a country in crisis."―Library Journal (starred review)
"So many of us learned in high school that the misery of the Great Depression was defeated by the victory of World War II. Missing from that overview, however, was the moment when many Americans were afraid that we might lose to Hitler, and that our country would cease to exist. The Darkest Year reveals that soul-stirring moment in all its detail." ―Craig Nelson, author of Rocket Men and Pearl Harbor
"In stitch and scope, Klingaman's vast tapestry depicts in a swift narrative Americans' struggles as they came to grips with the demands and terror of World War II. This is the book to start with to understand how total war transformed a once-reluctant home front into a launch pad for victory."–Marc Wortman, author of 1941: Fighting the Shadow War
"[A] vigorous narrative.The author is good at teasing out small but telling detail...[and] also delivers entertaining anecdotes. A welcome study of an aspect of wartime history that is little known among those too young to have experienced it."―Kirkus reviews
About the Author
- Publisher : St. Martin's Griffin (December 8, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250765765
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250765765
- Item Weight : 13.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.95 x 1.03 x 8.99 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #421,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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This work was the third of a self constructed trilogy of my own. First I read "Japan 1941" by Eri Hotta. This book gave a non fiction account of Japan's homefront in 1941 from a sociological and political viewpoint. Again this was NOT primarily a military history. I found that book most illuminating. Second, I read "December 7, 1941" by Gordon Prange. This book gave many first person accounts of that date from the standpoint of both Americans and Japanese. Finally I read "The Darkest Year". I found reading these three books in that order to be a most educational and satisfying reading and learning expereince.
As far as this book, "The Darkest Year", is concerned, the period after Pearl Harbor reminded somewhat me of America during the 2020 Covid experience in regard to rationing of food and gasoline, and the accompanying restrictions on Americans ability to move about. Clearly these are two different situations but it ws nonetheless very interesting.
I was somewhat surprised to find how many Americans were willing to cheat on rationing of various items. Additionally many Americans seemed to put their self interest ahead of the country even while members of our military were being killed, wounded, and taken prisoner abroad. Of course there was also incidents of social injustice that I was already familiar with. I have studied the modern American Civil Rights movement a good deal and remian convinced that many seeds of the modern Civil Rights movement were cast in American Society at this time.
I purchased this book on Kindle with an accompanying audiobook. Both were excellent. I don't wish to be too snitty, but the cover of the Kindle Book shows the seeming construction of a bomber. That is a British Bomber. I was intriqued by this as I had no knowledge whatsoever of British Bombers being built within American during World War II, other that American Bombers furnished to the British. I wanted to study that. Well... I am still looking. It seems amazing to me that a publisher of a history book about The American Homefront would place on the cover what appears to me to be British subjects building a British Bomber. I can easily picture a non history person making that mistake. But a publisher of history books, It seemed an odd error, especially considering the quality of the work. I don't know, maybe that is too granular.
In any event I was very satisfied with this work. I looked up a lot of the people named in the book and also did parallel study. I learned a lot. Speaking for myself, I was really pleased with this book as the third work of my personally constructed trilogy described above. Thank You for taking the time to read this review.
The Darkest Year by William K. Klingaman
The Darkest Year: The American Home Front 1941-1942
by William K. Klingaman
RJ Newhouse's review
Jul 14, 2021 · edit
The Darkest Year takes place between the Pearl Harbor attack and its first year anniversary. With the depression over & well paying jobs in the defense industry, people had plenty of money to spend, and spend, they did, on new homes, road,train & air travel, clothes, cars, liquor, racetracks, baseball games, and all were looking forward to a materialistic Christmas.It was a time when everything represented a defense motif-ads, cards, toys, magazines. There was even a V for Victory lipstick.
But Americans were not happy with the restrictions of war -food, gasoline, tires, just about everything, eventually. The West Coast hated Japanese residents, wanted them deported or separated from society. Gov't was not truthful about preparedness or the war going badly, and it hyped up small wins to make people think otherwise. Workers left jobs to work for defense job wages, but then, with enlistments and the draft, production was cut. Enter women workers-as long as they dressed modestly. On the East Coast, U Boats could be seen blowing up merchant ships; thousands of sailors died.
It is with this background that every page is filled with examples of daily life and activities of Americans across the land. Needing steel, prisoners offered to contribute their bars ; ), housing was impossible in defense towns; men paid to sleep in chairs. Needing cotton, wool for army use, men wore victory suits - no trouser cuffs, pleats, shoulder pads, patch pockets. Empty toothpaste tubes were returned. Highway speed was cut to 35/40 mph to conserve gas/rubber tires. Bikes sold out. Congressmen demanded unlimited gas, voted themselves large pensions (things never change, do they?) until threatened with fines and prison. (People sent them used razors, false teeth, old clothes,etc.) Racetrack betters spent $2M on a race, while a war bond booth took in only $200.
Such examples are the essence and interest of this book. Surely, Klingaman is the ultimate researcher. (I personally knew a woman born in Japan that was sent back there at the beginning of the war and remained throughout before returning to the US. She was certainly no spy.)