Ww2, the Good War

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The not-so “Good War”

The Second World War is often remembered as the “Good War” for the American’s heroic stand against the Nazis and the Japanese, but the moniker overly simplifies what many consider “history’s greatest catastrophe.” Images of heroic American soldiers bravely sacrificing their livelihoods and breath to bring freedom to Europe were plastered across the 1940’s media to rally support for the War, perhaps cementing the “Good War” characterization in American memory. However, the sixty years that have followed WWII have uncovered many American behaviors that undermine the ‘goodness’ of the War and question the “Greatest Generation.” Stories of Japanese internment camps, racial and gender inequality, and the horrific atomic bombings of Japanese cities call into question the validity of the American fight for liberty and democracy so valiantly portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. However, the undeniable heroism and sacrifice of the American soldiers and the nation’s economic successes upon returning home have deservedly earned these monikers. In that sense, the “Good War” and “Greatest Generation” characterizations are convenient but inaccurate simplifications of a conflict that contained many hypocritical and disturbing actions and cost millions of lives.

Many of the factors that contributed to support for the war in the 1940’s helped cement WWII’s present-day legacy as the “Good War.” American appeal for the War came only after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, when Americans felt unsafe at home and rabidly supported retaliation. Following Roosevelt’s declaration of war on December 8, 1941, the American participation in the war was deliberately framed as a war for democracy, freedom and world peace, with young American servicemen responding to the call by the hundreds of thousands. Propaganda of the time portrayed the Germans, Italians and Japanese as ‘evil’ and ‘wrong’, a distinction Brokaw points to as most poignant to Americans...
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