Friday, December 2, 2011

December 1941: The Month that Changed America and Saved the World

Asia and Europe were engaged in war. Japan had invaded china and was amassing a large army in Indochina, and Hitler held Europe and England in the throes of his climb to control the World. America was gradually climbing out of the Great Depression and there was a general up beat mood throughout the country.

The wars in which Asia and Europe were engaged had not escaped the attention of the American on the streets of large cities or of the mid-American farmer and average Joe. There were basically two sides to the coin in America. The America First anti-war organization believed that America should not become involved in Europe or Asia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt believed in internationalism and was inclined to commit American youth to the battlefields of other countries. 

December 1941 covers 31 days of news articles, confidential reports, and other sources that tell the story of America's involvement in World War II. "Never before or since has America been so unified." (Preface ix, December 1941) The book has extensive end notes.

The build up of a large Japanese military in Indonesia along with the rumor of Japan's amassing a large naval fleet in the Pacific caused intense tensions among American strategists, however talks with the Japanese envoys continued with smiles but neither side conceding.

December 7th brought the dawn of a new era to America and to the World. After the bombing of the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, there were virtually no more isolationists or America Firsters. America was rallied and America was at war.

President Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress on December 8 saying, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941- a date that will live in infamy - the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” (pg. 167, December 1941)
"........ I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire."  (pg. 168, December 1941)

Americans rallied in uniform strength to build the military. Americans' individual strength of purpose, industrial strength, and community determination eventually turned the tide in the Pacific and in Europe. The cost was great both in lives and finances.

Craig Shirley documents the immediate (31 days) of national anger and arousal at an enemy that dared to invade and devastate the American people's military might. He also shows the speed of response of a nation to rally to arms.

The gearing up of manufacturing to support the war effort and to replace destroyed planes and ships from Pearl Harbor. The required and accepted sacrifice of day-to-day "necessities" on the part of the American peoples to support the troops and the cause. All tell the story of a nation doing it's part in the fight for freedom.

Mr. Shirley uses research gleaned from major and small town newspapers from around the United States and from other sources of record. It tends to be difficult to follow if one is trying to research a particular subject. There is much, if not too much, information and it seems somewhat muddled to me. But then, that was a confusing time to the American public because there was so much going on and the involvement of the people was so widespread and intense. He captures the essence of the flow of life, the political scene, and the international tensions affecting life in America at the time.

This book will have limited market appeal in that it most likely will be a desired read or study tool for those heavily interested in history of the World War II period. The pictures included with the book are not the best of the period, but they are representative. I would have encouraged him to use more pictures to make the book more appealing but still avoid the look and feel of a period picture book. This is not a "coffee table" book. It is a lengthy and involved book.

Finally, I like that Craig Shirley ends December 1941 with President Roosevelt's calling for the peoples of America to pray (pg. 534, 535) - "...all churches throughout America would be open from early the morning of January 1, 1942, until well into the evening for prayer, communion, and supplication."
President Roosevelt's statement concluded with,

"In making this first day of the year 1942 a day of prayer, we ask for forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, consecration to the tasks of the present, and God's help in days to come.

We need his guidance that this people may be humble in spirit but strong in the conviction of the right; steadfast to endure sacrifices and brave to achieve a victory of liberty and peace."

I received this book free from BookSneeze for the purpose of review. I was not required to give a positive review.  Publisher: Thomas Nelson   ISBN: 1595554572 ISBN-13: 9781595554574

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