Recent Books: Military, Scientific, and Technological: A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II/The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945/what Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France

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Military, Scientific, and Technological A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II BY MAURY KLEIN. Bloomsbury, 2013, 912 pp. $40.00.

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 BY RICK ATKINSON. Henry Holt, 2013, 896 pp. $40.00.

What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France BY MARY LOUISE ROBERTS. University of Chicago Press, 2013, 368 pp. $30.00.

These three books illuminate different aspects of World War II using diaries, letters, and memoirs to capture what the war meant for people caught up in it. Klein's monumental book focuses on what he calls "the greatest industrial expansion in modern history." As the war began in Europe in 1939, the armed forces of the United States were small and undernourished, and the public was wary of any involvement. President Franklin Roosevelt pushed U.S. industry to get ready for a war that he knew would come. Klein details the impact this had on Washington-the personality clashes, the interagency feuds, the tensions between government and big business-and also demonstrates the enormous social impact of mass mobilization on the rest of society. Labor unions were challenged to moderate their demands out of patriotic duty, and African Americans were drawn into the mainstream work force, leading to hostile reactions from some white workers and even race riots in Detroit. In effect, Klein's book narrates the birth pangs of the modern American state.

With The Guns at Last Light, Atkinson concludes his celebrated trilogy on World War II. The first two volumes covered the Allied campaigns in North Africa and Italy. In this one, Atkinson is on more familiar territory: the buildup to the Normandy landings and the drive to Berlin, with its frustrating setbacks. …