After The Great War, the world pondered how to prevent such a large scale tragedy again. They came up with two primary solutions. The first, was the brainchild of President Woodrow Wilson and what would become the League of Nations (later the United Nations). The second was to severely punish Germany for escalating the conflict. In fact, they did this so well that Germany’s money became worthlessly inflated trying to pay war reparations, leaving them bitter and itching for another fight. Hitler was just the man to stir up that bitterness and fan it into another war that the League was too inexperienced to quell.
Still trying to recover from the Great Depression when Germany armed itself (going directly against the Treaty of Versailles’ conditions), the United States opted not to join the conflict. Unlike neutral Switzerland and Sweden, most of America maintained an “isolationist” mentality. Very, “let’s just mind our own business and take care of ourselves while Europe blows itself apart.” Except, as the conflict escalated, the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) thought they might benefit from opening up another front to distract the Allied Powers (Britain, Russia, France). And so, on the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese took the U.S. by surprise and bombed Pearl Harbor, crippling and sinking a good chunk of the US Navy. It was the 9/11 of the twentieth century.
The U.S. declared war on the Axis Powers in the wake of Pearl Harbor, opening up the Pacific Theatre as a new front of the war. America boys both volunteered and were drafted into the conflict. Foreign correspondents leapt across the pond to write home both patriotic propaganda and censored truth. And those left on the home front put their best foot forward. Women joined the work force in the absence of their men. Girls found patriotic outlets and ways to contribute such as the American Red Cross, Non-Combative service, and drives (metal, rubber and the like).
To help handle the reallocation of resources for the war effort, certain goods were rationed – everything from coffee to gasoline. “Do with less so they’ll have enough,” was the slogan. Many began growing “victory gardens” to supplement their pantries.
However, in light of Japan’s part in the conflict, Japanese-American’s were held in suspicion as potential threats or spies. Anyone up to 1/16 Japanese decent (most of whom were American-born) was sent to internment camps across the US where they remained for the duration of the war. The most notable being Manzanar in the Southern California desert.
After finally begin backed into a corner by the Allies, Hitler committed suicide, signaling and end to the conflict in Europe. The official end became known as V-E Day (Victory in Europe) May 8, 1945. The end in the Pacific came following the atomic bomb droppings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, known as V-J Day (Victory over Japan) September 2, 1945.
I could explain the different conflicts that the Americans were involved in, but instead I’m going to give you some books recommendations for that particular information (Especially because Military History is not my strong suit). There is a ton of great fiction that explains the Home Front – several in this list. For the Pacific Theatre, I highly recommend the Judith Pella’s Daughters of Fortune series. The second and third books (the first is listed here) Somewhere a Song and Toward the Sunrise give great perspective on the Bataan Death March and guerrilla warfare in the Philippines. Somewhere a Song delves into the Japanese Internment. Such great history. And then for any and all things American military and the European Theatre, I will point you towards any of Sarah Sundin’s books. She has everything from the Air Force to Navy to the Army. It’s all there. Even the WAVES and the Nightingales.
I hope you enjoy this stop on our historical tour. Next, we’ll be headed into the Cold War – which is actually an umbrella for a variety of events that spanned the late Forties into the early Nineties as the Red Scare shaped an entire generation.
1939 Saving Amelie – Cathy Gohlke
Increasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany―in the summer of 1939―will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline.
Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known.
Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young―a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally―who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives―and asking others to do the same―for those they barely know but come to love.
1941 Small Town Girl – Ann H. Gabhart
In the autumn of 1941, rumors of war whisper through Rosey Corner. The town practically vibrates in anticipation, as if it is holding its breath. But for Kate Merritt, it seems life is letting out a prolonged sigh. As Kate watches her sister marry the man Kate has loved since she was fifteen, her heart is silently breaking. And even the attentions of Jay Tanner, the handsome best man, can’t draw her interest.
Then suddenly, Pearl Harbor changes everything. Kate’s friends are rushing to get married before the boys go off to war. The newspapers talk of women making airplanes and bombs. Everyone in town begins rolling bandages, planting victory gardens, collecting scrap metal. Kate finds herself drawn to Jay in surprising ways, and when he enlists she can hardly breathe worrying about him getting killed. Could she truly be in love with him? And if she is, will she ever see him again?
In her gentle and textured style, Ann Gabhart tells a timeless story of love, sacrifice, and longing that will grip the heart and stir the spirit. Fans of Angel Sister will be thrilled to see Kate Merritt all grown up. New readers will find that Ann Gabhart weaves in Small Town Girl a beautiful story that will touch their hearts and win their loyalty.
*This is a sequel to Angel Sister from the last post. But could be read as a stand alone.
For fans of scrupulously researched historical fiction, Tricia Goyer releases Dawn of a Thousand Nights. Following on the heels of Goyer’s From Dust and Ashes and Night Song, readers journey with Dan Fletcher and Libby Conner, both U.S. pilots fighting in WWII’s Pacific Theater. Fletcher is captured by the Japanese and is forced to endure the horror of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. It is here that he encounters Natsu Hidiki, a guard whose nagging conscience won’t let him ignore the human degradation in which he is participating. Libby Conner is a WASP (Women’s Air Force Service Pilot), who ferries military planes between Hawaii and the South Pacific. By the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, she has turned the head of Fletcher in no small way. Readers will be captivated by this tale of dignity and honor triumphing in the midst of a very dark time in history.
1941 Written On The Wind – Judith Pella
Book 1 of the Daughters of Fortune series. Cameron Hayes’ determination to distance herself from her famous father and establish herself as a journalist finds her back in her beloved Russia, now threatened by Hitler’s greed. In Moscow she meets Dr. Alex Rostov, a once-prominent US surgeon who has been forced to return to his Russian homeland. Anger over the politics of war brings Alex and Cameron together, but will tragedy ultimately drive them apart? Cameron’s sisters, Blair and Jackie, have each set out on paths certain to dismantle a family already fragmented by turmoil, within and without. Long-held secrets shimmer just beneath the surface of a family united only in name…will the trauma of war be the catalyst for peace?
*Part of a series that spans four books and all three fronts of the war, leading into the beginnings of the Cold War. A continuation, featuring some of her characters from The Russians series.
1942 Canteen Dreams – Cara Putman
In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Nebraska schoolteacher Audrey Stone wants to support the war effort in any way she can. When her community starts a canteen at the train station, Audrey spends nearly every spare moment there, offering food and kindness to the soldiers passing through. She never expected to fall for a local boy…or face the challenges of budding love in the face of war.
Rancher Willard Johnson admires Audrey’s passionate nature, but when his brother is killed in action, he feels he must avenge by enlisting himself. His father insists he stay, but Willard knows he must go. Reality intrudes, and he never expected the jealousy he experiences when he sees those in uniform.
Can Willard’s budding relationship with Audrey weather the storms of war? Or will one of the other soldiers at the canteen steal her heart?
1942 A Distant Melody – Sarah Sundin
Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval–even marry a man she doesn’t love. Lt. Walter Novak–fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women–takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives. As letters fly between Walt’s muddy bomber base in England and Allie’s mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?
A Distant Melody is the first book in the WINGS OF GLORY series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.
*All of Sarah Sundin’s books are set during WWII and feature an American perspective from at least one of the main characters. Her Waves of Freedom series delves into the Naval Perspective leading up to American entry into the war. And her new series, Sunrise at Normandy addresses D-Day, which was a turning point, leading up to Victory in Europe.
After losing her fiance in the war, Rosalie throws herself into her riveting work at the local Boeing plant. When a handsome reporter dubs her “Seattle’s Own Rosie the Riveter,” she finds herself a reluctant national hero. Fear of a second heartbreak is a powerful opponent…but will it claim victory over love?
1943 While We’re Apart – Lynn Austin
In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie’s wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary.
But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse. Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected–and ultimately discovering truths about God’s love…even when He is silent.