Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

By Paul Fussell | Go to book overview

urally we won. As Admiral Halsey said in his victory message to his fleet when the Japanese surrendered, "The forces of righteousness and decency have triumphed."42


10
The Ideological Vacuum

For most of the troops, the war might just as well have been about good looks, so evanescent at times did its meaning and purpose seem. The puzzlement of the participants about what was going on contrasts notably with the clarity of purpose felt, at least in the early stages, by those who fought the Great War. For many, that war promised not merely the repression and punishment of Hunnish barbarism. It offered the prospect of a healthy adventure, starting with a body-building vacation at a holiday camp. Great outdoor fun--that's what the First World War seemed to promise at its outset, as well as the chance to dress up in neat officers' uniforms with Sam Browne belts, the costume of the attractive young in the early fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Katherine Anne Porter, and Willa Cather. The British style of joyous anticipation was perhaps more dignified and literary than the American, but fully as intense. Rupert Brooke found cause for actual thanksgiving toward (in those days) an actual Deity who, in the generosity of His heart, had provided the war as an occasion for British youth to wake up and cleanse itself. Like the beneficent proprietor of a great moral laundry, God had intervened in time, plucking the young from filth and corruption and trivial flirtations and cleansing them by means of His Grace. Or, as Brooke put it in his famous sonnet "Peace,"

Now, God be thanked who has matched us with His hour
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping;

-129-

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Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Other Books by Paul Fussell *
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xi
  • 1: From Light to Heavy Duty 3
  • 2: "Precision Bombing Will Win the War" 13
  • 3: Someone Had Blundered 19
  • 4 - Rumors of Wa 35
  • 5 - School of the Soldier 52
  • 6 - Unread Books on a Shelf 66
  • 7 - Chickenshit, an Anatomy 79
  • 8 - Drinking Far Too Much, Copulating Too Little 96
  • 9 - Type-Casting 115
  • 10: The Ideological Vacuum 129
  • 11: Accentuate the Positive 143
  • 12: High-mindedness 164
  • 13: With One Voice 180
  • 14 - Deprivation 195
  • 15 - Compensation 207
  • 16 - Reading in Wartime 228
  • 17 - Fresh Idiom 251
  • 18: The Real War Will Never Get in the Books" 267
  • Notes 299
  • Index 321
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