A Nation Forged in War
How World War II Taught Americans to Get Along
University of Tennessee Press 2010
Prior to 1945, the United States was still largely a collection of different ethnic and racial communities, living alongside each other in neighborhoods, villages, and towns. There was only a faint “American identity.” In his new book A Nation Forged in War: How World War II Taught Americans to Get Along (University of Tennessee Press, 2010), Thomas Bruscino argues that the act of military service in the Second World War changed created such a unified identity. As individual men from thousands of small homogenous communities across America entered the military in wartime, they were compelled to work together, sleep together, train together, and if need be, fight together against a common foe. Over the course of the war these representatives of their own unique ethnic enclaves came together to create a new American identity – a mutually accepted unilateral form of whiteness transcending existing racial hierarchies that were a legacy of the nineteenth century. Yet while this new consensus went on after the war to promote a new sense of tolerance that created post-war prosperity and stability, sadly it also remained tied to the color line, as African-Americans and other non-whites learned as they sought equal access to the fruits of American democracy. Bruscino’s book is a valuable and insightful study of how tightly intertwined war, society, and identity are in the American experience.