December 1941 traces, day-by-day, the most important 31 days in the history of America’s participation in WWII, which snuffed out the lives of millions and changed history forever.
From December 1, 1941, until the morning of December 7, 1941, America was at peace and—with the exception of the stubborn and persistent high unemployment of the Great Depression—was a relatively happy country. By the afternoon of the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, America was a radically changed country, forever. Its isolationist impulses evaporated, and both major political parties became more or less internationalist. The month also introduced food and gas rationing, Victory Gardens, scrap drives, a military draft, and the conversion of Detroit into an “arsenal of democracy.” From the moment of America’s entry into World War II, people of all kinds, but mostly women looking for work, flooded into the city. Instant apartment buildings sprang up, as did eating and drinking salons, all to the advantage of the massive increase in spending generated by the federal government.
I began this book back in November and was working my way through it (studying and absorbing each word) as the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor came about.
Here is some of what I wrote on that day:
On December 1st, 1941, America was still in the remnants of the Great Depression but things were starting to look up. Newspaper headlines were flooded with war news from across the world, but the Americans firmly stood in isolation aside from the Lend-Lease program and FDR’s other subtle programs that diverted resources to the British, who now stood nearly alone against the Nazi force.
Americans called the war across the seas as “the emergency.”
In 1941, Americans flocked to theatres to escape the trying times. Families dressed in their Sunday best to attend a movie. Movie tickets cost 10 cents. Sergeant York, The Maltese Falcon, A Yank in the RAF, Dive Bomber and Dumbo were released in 1941, along with the first tastes of film noir, Citizen Kane. On the radio, Bob Hope made millions laugh and Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller entertained with their big bands. Everyone smoked cigarettes everywhere. Football and baseball were the sports of choice and on their way to becoming national pastimes.
German U-boats had sunk an unarmed American freighter and Hitler even ordered U-boats to fire directly on American ships. But no one at the time really believed America would be going to war.
As I went through the rest of the book, I was amazed by the level of detail and the context that December 1941 provides. I’m a history nut and research addict to start with, so this book appealed to me on a variety of levels.
That said, it was a bit lengthy and tedious at times. I wished for more of a “storyline,” but that is the novelist in me. For the real-world feel of what happened in those 30 days that changed the world, December 1941 is a gem.
Highly recommended for anyone who wants to study America and its reaction to Pearl Harbor and the war in general.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program in exchange for my honest review.