Book Review: The Year of Peril: America in 1942


by Tracy Campbell

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020. Pp. xviii, 386+. Illus., tables, notes, biblio., index. $30.00. ISBN: 0300233787

America’s First Year at War

Histories of the United States in the Second World War deal primarily with events around the conference tables, on the seas, in the air, and on the battle fields, usually omitting much reference to the Home Front. In this book Prof. Campbell (Kentucky) looks at what was happening as 1942 unfolded on the America Home Front, against the back drop of the fighting and everything else happening in the nation and the world.

So we get to see the public’s reaction to the news of the fighting, the government’s efforts to raise the money to help raise, train, and equip the armed forces, the rise of fear of “enemy aliens” as well as native-born Americans of foreign origins, public opinion and anxiety about how the war was going and whether it could be won, the complexities of organizing industry and labor for war production, and domestic politics. We also get looks at how the war changed the roles of women, African-Americans, and other groups in society and in the armed forces, debates over what to tell the children, how rationing was developed and the public’s reception to it, some executed German spies (and their present day admirers, p. 176), and much more.

Campbell does not cover these aspects of the nation at war individually. Rather she looks at how matters evolved in the course of the year, using a month-by-month basis. This offers a more integrated picture of the state of the nation as the year progressed.

This is a very different approach to the story of U.S. in the war, and, because Campbell throws light on many matters largely forgotten by the national memory of “The Good War” -- the “removal” of many Japanese-Americans” as well as some people of other background, and the ongoing horrors of Jim Crow – makes The Year of Peril a thought-provoking work.




Note: The Year of Peril is also available in paperback, audio-, and e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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