Friday, December 1, 2006

'Thanks for the Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II' by Jane Mersky Leder

ISBN: 0275988791
Format: Hardcover, 240pp
Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
Edition Description: 1ST
Price: $39.95

Many Americans remember that famous 1945 V-J Day photograph in Life magazine of the sailor in blues kissing the nurse as she’s cradled in the crook of his arm. It’s always been a favorite of mine. The emotional moment moves from the photograph in waves, and for years it was my view of World War II: that one beautiful moment after the carnage of war.

Thanks for the Memories goes beyond what you might have learned from textbooks or what your grandparents might have shared around the dinner table. The Greatest Generation is disappearing, and their stories are dying with them. Jane Mersky Leder has now collected some stories you might not know about, along with those you might have heard somewhere along the way.

When the United States was plunged into World War II, the men stood up to be counted and enlisted - many of them only hours after the news was broadcast nationwide. When the men went to war so did the women, to the factories as well as the military in programs like WAVES and WAAC.

Subjects not covered in standard textbooks include prostitution near Army camps, venereal disease, and the man hours it cost the war effort; or the stories of lesbians and gays who enlisted and fought for our country. Ms Leder goes on to discuss female roles during the war and how this change laid the foundation for Women's Liberation in the 1960s.

Then there are the stories of young service wives who accompanied their husbands from base to base. They usually experienced wretched living conditions, and many couples were not allowed to live together. The men had to stay on the base while women were forced to find a place to live in nearby towns. Once the soldiers were shipped overseas, the long separations chipped away at their hasty marriages although for others, when they were reunited, it was as though no time had elapsed at all.

Thanks for the Memories is replete with captivating bits of history, wonderful personal stories, and a peek into a generation slipping away fast. It’s never dull as Ms Leder moves you swiftly through history, confidently and engagingly.

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