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When Dreams Came True: The Gi Bill and the Making of Modern America Hardcover – September, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The G.I. Bill has been hailed as the Marshall Plan for America. It offered to pay college expenses for military veterans returning from World War II, making it a stairway to the middle class that was soon utilized by millions. The result was a social revolution leading to suburbia and even to our present information age. Author Bennett, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter (Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke, St. Martin's, 1987), feels that the huge education bill not only prevented a return to the Great Depression but suggests it actually headed off a Marxist surge in America. Bennett examines with journalistic verve the forces that made the great social experiment necessary and the political maneuvers that made it possible. With enthusiasm he relates how university faculties at first disdained the surging vets but soon came to cherish their pragmatic determination, which democratized higher education forever. Bennett offers an enthusiastic and detailed study of a necessary area. Recommended for public and academic libraries.?Raymond L. Puffer, U.S. Air Force History Prog., Edwards AFB, Cal.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A rarely told story: how the GI Bill loosed great unseen forces that helped to transform America from the working-class, largely agricultural society of the Great Depression and the New Deal into a largely middle-class society. Bennett, a former reporter for the Boston Herald and the Detroit News, begins by tracing the origins of the bill and the fight to make it law in 1944. The American Legion was particularly influential: Members who had fought in WW I remembered the shabby treatment they had received when they came home. The heart of the book, though, is Bennett's study of the ways in which the law helped transform postwar American life. It provided opportunities for education unavailable to previous generations, as well as low- priced home mortgages that helped fuel new suburbs and emptied ethnic ghettos. Mature, world-traveled GIs, most of them from the urban and rural working class, stormed college campuses in record numbers, filled honor rolls and deans' lists, raised student performance levels, and shook up the old, gentlemanly college culture. Millions of erstwhile blue-collar, rent-paying workers turned into professionals of every calling, as well as prosperous, skilled entrepreneurs and home-owners. This silent army, Bennett suggests, created a revolution in American life; GIs used the money they got to do vital if seemingly ordinary things and in the process created a more abundant and egalitarian society. The total postwar cost of $14.5 billion was an investment that returned manyfold more in revenue as veterans earned more and paid more taxes. Bennett believes that the GI Bill was the most successful government program since the Homestead Act. A refreshing look at a time of optimism, sacrifice, hard work, and achievement (despite the Cold War) when the American dream finally became a reality for millions. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Brassey's Inc (September 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574880411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574880410
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,293,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Bennett set twin goals for himself: " . . . to make scholars realize how significant the GI Bill was in shaping American society over the past fifty years, and to tell a great story for not only those who benefited from the bill but also their children and grandchildren". Bennett chose the right target audience and he masterfully achieved his two goals.
As the war was nearing its end, America's leaders began to contemplate the domestic challenges that peace would bring. GI Joe would be leaving the battlefields of Europe and the beaches of the Pacific. He fully intended to cast off the chains of the depression and regain his rightful place on the assembly line, at the check out, in the classroom, and behind the plow.
Many in the Administration and Congress recognized that this transition might not be an easy one. Years of global conflict had already altered America. GI Joe had marched off to war in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Pre-war America was predominantly agrarian, isolationist, and rural. Post-war America was victorious, increasingly industrial, worldly, and urban. The post war changes in the U.S. would be dramatic. When Dreams Came True details the pivotal role that the GI Bill played in that metamorphosis.
Bennett relates the tortuous path of the act from inception to enactment. The American Legion, editor Walter Howey, publisher William Randolph Hurst, Representatives Edith Rogers and John Rankin, and Senator Bennett Clark, were unlikely companions on the road to passage of the GI Bill.
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Format: Hardcover
Michael Bennett's When Dreams Come True is a great in-depth study of the history around the creation of the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944. He includes a great historical look at the support (or lack of support) that veterans received prior to World War 2 and then continued with a detailed study of the political process that ultimately led to the creation of the GI Bill.
The book is easy to read, but very detail in nature. Those looking for a quick, general read might look elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are many books available on the GI Bill, each with its own strengths. This is the best that I have read to date. It is comprehensive in its treatment of the subject, exploring not just the minute details of the bill's passage and the terms of its provisions, but looking as well to the larger historic and cultural implications of the act.

In Peter Drucker's view the GI Bill was the most important event of the twentieth century because of its wider implications: it ushered in the information age and the information society. Bennett is aware of views such as this and he presents the bill in the context of its related events: the growth of suburbia, the creation of the interstate highway system, the expansion of the middle class and the permanent alteration of American higher education. He even explores such details as the resulting growth in the number of medical specialists (since there were more general practitioners than were needed after the war, doctors turned to other opportunities and other areas of interest).

Bennett is a reporter not an academic historian, but he combines the academic historian's tenacity in searching for the elusive detail with a journalist's desire to write a good story with human `interest'. This is not so much a journalist's book as a historian's, since Bennett takes the long view and positions his subject within larger contexts. It does, however, have the freshness and lucidity of the best journalistic writing.

The GI Bill changed America in a host of ways; Bennett explores them very ably.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This is without question one of the best books on the history of the GI Bill and its impact on America. I found it to be well researched and an enjoyable read. Clearly, the secret to the success of the GI Bill is that it was an earned benefit that changed the social dynamics of America by creating "middle-class" America, creating "suburbia", putting veterans' back into the workforce, and opening the doors of colleges to a population of citizens that would have never received a college education. One of the greatest pieces of social legislation ever enacted. Leaves readers with one unanswered question: "Why aren't today's veterans worthy of the same benefits?"
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An eye opening on the struggle for veteran's rights and what can be accomplished when we set our minds to accomplish it. Good narrative and chronology. A must read.
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