Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

God and Uncle Sam: Religion and America's Armed Forces in World War II

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

God and Uncle Sam: Religion and America's Armed Forces in World War II

Article excerpt

God and Uncle Sam: Religion and America's Armed Forces in World War II. By Michael Snape. (Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer. 2015. Pp. xxiv, 704. $50.00. ISBN 978-1-843-83892-0.)

Michael Snape is the Michael Ramsey Professor of Anglican Studies at Durham University in England and the author of numerous articles and books on religion in the British Army. In God and Uncle Sam, he discusses the pervasive religiosity' that characterized America's armed forces during World War II. His book is based on an incredible variety of published and archival material, including newspapers and periodicals, U.S. Army and U.S. government publications, and hundreds of other primary and secondary sources.

Snape is quite forthright in challenging historians such as Paul Fussell who declared World War II "a notably' secular affair" (qtd. on p. 599) and emphasized American soldiers' indifference regarding religion. Snape reveals the great number of individuals and groups promoting religion among the troops during that war. Army and Navy chaplains, as well as an overwhelmingly Protestant officer corps emphasized the importance of religious preaching as a means of building soldiers' military morale. Civilian America agreed that religious belief was a vital component of military might. Almost every denomination or faith group in the nation spent huge sums of money sending religious tracts, magazines, and other publications to both chaplains and soldiers. Snape also points out that warfare itself aided the promotion of soldiers' religious faith. In one of the most interesting chapters in the book, on "foxhole religion" (pp. 317-95), he explains how the threat, experience, and aftermath of combat stimulated religious belief and practice among the troops. Another chapter shows how both soldiers and leaders of America's armed forces "were strongly inclined to understand their enemies and their allies in religious terms," depending on whether they felt a "sense of religious commonality or difference" (p. …

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