This book is about the psychological and emotional culture of Americans and Britons during the Second World War. It is about the rationalizations and euphemisms people needed to deal with an unacceptable actuality from 1939 to 1945. And it is about the abnormally intense frustration of desire in wartime and some of the means by which desire was satisfied. The damage the war visited upon bodies and buildings, planes and tanks and ships, is obvious. Less obvious is the damage it did to intellect, discrimination, honesty, individuality, complexity, ambiguity, and irony, not to mention privacy and wit. For the past fifty years the Allied war has been sanitized and romanticized almost beyond recognition by the sentimental, the loony patriotic, the ignorant, and the bloodthirsty. I have tried to balance the scales.
I am indebted to many people for encouragement, information, and other help, and I must thank Kingsley Amis, William H. Bartsch, Harriette Behringer, James D. Bloom, John Bodley, Alfred Bush, James Cahill, Peter Conrad, Karen Crine, Matthew Evans, Gavin Ewart, Philip French, Betty Fussell, Edwin Sill Fussell, Tucky Fussell, Roland Gant, Paul J. Gartenman, Angeline Goreau, Robert Harper, Doris Hatcher, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Samuel Hynes, William Jovanovich, Arnold Johnston, George Kearns, John Keegan, Donald S. Lamm, H. P. Leinbaugh, Stanley Lewis, Isadore Lichstein, William McGuire, Michele Medinz, Bruce Meyer, Michael Miller, Margaret Mitchell, Reginald Moore, Anthony Powell, John Scanlan, Victor Selwyn, William Skaff, Joseph L. Slater, Humphrey Spender, Roderick Suddaby, Eileen Sullivan, Jeff Walden, Kay Whittle, Michael Willis, Eugene K. Wolf, and Nancy Wilson Ross Young. For permission to quote from manuscript