The “Good War” in American Memory
John Bodnar. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. 320 pp. Intro. Illus. Notes. Bib. Index. $40.
Reviewed by James Carey
This book is a meditation on how Americans, individually and institutionally, have chosen to remember World War II. In comparison with more morally ambiguous wars, World II is generally understood to have been a “good” war, indeed the good war. The United States was thrust into war when Japan attacked without warning and Germany declared war without provocation. The German and Japanese regimes were anti-democratic, aggressively imperialist, and racially chauvinistic. Their armed forces treated the peoples they conquered harshly, often with unspeakable brutality. During World War II, the American people had little difficulty envisioning their cause as just. Since then we have had little difficulty remembering it as just.