Review of The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel

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The book The Good War – An Oral History Of World War Two is a 1984 nonfiction experience that is sourced through a wide range of clashing interviews that Studs Terkel collected. Terkel writing style is more conservative than journalistic when it comes to the interviews stored in the book although every story claims a point of view that is an educational piece about the real experience of WW2 a hard war. Terkel compacting a wide range of conflicts from the war gives a great gift of first hand accounts.

Terkel’s writing in this book flows with the theme of partisanship. When reading his layout of four books, each with a couple titles within one demonstrates a strong arguments from both sides of a conflict. Terkel provides some stories that would be unpopular providing many perspective. Through the book covers a tremendous amount of sources than just soldiers at war, he capture witnessing of the war from high ranking officials, children, different social classes, races, and professions.

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Terkel only interviewed the American side.

The issue of only reading American residence on the war leaves out the attitudes of other countries. The book does cover multiple attitudes of the war being negative, for example the title “Tales of the Pacific,” in Book one haves a soldier called Maurice E. (Jack) Wilson who was captured by the Japanese and suffered many losses including his legs functioning. Although some titles provide positive experiences. In the title “A Chance Encounter” a soldier named Robert Rasmus interview shows the amazement and excitement he had during the war.

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Rasmus was marveled at the architecture of other countries and had great comrades leaving a positive impression. Terkel’s book being a nonfiction piece really agrees with the overall theme of WW2 when compared to other great titles in the same category like “Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose” detailing the battles of the war and the depressing conflicts.

Terkel’s interviews created a single source of many topics that one book would struggle in including.. The historical details from this book isn’t dictated by an author that has rewritten a story enable to entertain and educate their readers. Terkel writes his books with including multiple interviews on historical American conflicts, usually making them all verbally conversative like his book Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression. The idea of having almost only first hand, first person sources to rely on makes this book adequate enough to trust.

Though he did have the control of ending the stories. In the title “Sunday Morning” Mayor Tom Bradley story was not even a full page length of an experience after Pearl Harbor, Bradley explains the chaos in Los Angeles leaving very little detail when story cut. The stories gives an alternating flow in the book. Terkel uses this tactic to rise questions up that only the reader’s own opinion can answer. Terkel’s organization can be viewed being a little messy. The titles being of some guide in each book help navigates the ideal of what each interview are going to focus on.

Although trying to connect some of the titles with one another based on their stories can get complicated. Terkel conversations show how each experience is not the same. During this time in America racism was still being legally upheld by the Jim crow law so many blacks had separate camps and factories than the whites. When the book have interviews of minority Americans, Terkel provides the argument of how America is not any different from Germany when it comes to racism and stripping the minority in a country from their rights. Furthermore, reading is comprehensible for the average reader.

Terkel writes in a way that it shows he is in a conversation rather than having questions set up like a journalist. The books structure shows how WW2 was never a good war, how it had traumatic experiences in it and mistreated people around the nation.

Though it was a necessary war, Terkel shows this when viewing the interviews about the fears American soldiers and citizens had after pearl harbor and the axis corrupted views on politics. Terkel as well shows the reader the background untold stories that weren’t focused on during WW2, and he shows the struggle of being a nurse for burnt soldiers or being a single mother during war times.

The book is written like a film documentary other than a history textbook, as he teaches how affective the war was to everybody in America breaking the clique of the glamours kinda rough war America usually shows in happy bonding soldier books. Terkel provides views of people in America supporting Mussolini and Hitler, something that isn’t a popular image and those viewpoints is what makes this read interesting. Terkel provides the reality of WW2 through conversation. The stories he had presented was breaking the beautiful action movie of a one good sided war. Terkel provided the reality of racism, anti-patriotism, and brutality of the war. This book truly shows the humanity in the great Allies that is needed to be recognized.

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Review of The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel. (2023, Feb 23). Retrieved from

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