PRINT January 1990


Liberals at War

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 330 pages, 18 black and white illustrations.

ACCORDING TO PAUL FUSSELL, the picture of frontline life in World War II that was piped back to the Allied homelands was a massive snow job. A vast separation was enforced between what the fighting felt like, smelt like, and what the American and British publics were led to imagine about it. The received information, the censorings and distortions that were pop-fed to the folks at home, in the name of some kind of ideological correctness, are only now becoming clear, 50 years after the conflict’s start—and this enrages Fussell (who fought in France), just as, he argues, it enraged the other soldiers who felt that their lives as combatants would never truly be known and therefore never understood. “In unbombed America

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