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
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;