Matthew L. Basso
Meet Joe Copper
Masculinity and Race on Montana's World War II Home Front
University of Chicago Press 2013
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network November 9, 2013 Marshall Poe
In the United States, World War II is now called “The Good War,” as opposed to bad ones, I suppose, like Vietnam. Moreover, the Americans who fought in World War II are now called “The Greatest Generation,” as opposed to lesser generations, I suppose. Now most of the Americans of “The Greatest Generation” who fought in “The Good War” were men. What made them the “greatest” was that they had proved not only their willingness pro patria mori, but also their masculinity. They were, well, “real men.”
But what about those American men who, though of “The Greatest Generation,” did not actually fight in “The Good War?” There were millions of them. Early in the war Washington designated certain industries essential to the war effort and therefore exempted those who worked in them from the draft. These men “fought” on the Home Front, of course. But they knew very well that fighting on the “Home Front” was not the same as fighting on the actual front. As men of fighting age but not fighting, they were the object of a certain skepticism. “Why,” they imagined people asking, “weren’t they in uniform?” Maybe they weren’t “real men…”
In his path-breaking new book Meet Joe Copper: Masculinity and Race on Montana’s World War II Home Front (University of Chicago Press, 2013), Matthew L. Basso explores the ways in which American men on the “Home Front” protected their masculinity during the War, and the ways in which those efforts reverberated in the decades that followed it. It’s a fascinating story. Listen in.