Throwbacklist Thursday

It is no surprise that World War II, the most massive war in human history, receives the most attention from the publishing industry. Biography on figures like Churchill and FDR crowd the bookstore table, as do studies by military historians delving into the minute details of battles and campaigns, to say nothing of all the Nazis.

Less likely to turn up are works concerning the people most affected by war. You know, regular soldiers and civilians. UIP saves space on the shelf for that great majority of human beings shunted into the background of the so-called epic histories.

kahnBetween Tedium and Terror: A Soldier’s World War II Diary, 1943-46, by Sy M. Kahn
In the vein of classic memoirs like With the Old Breed, this war diary gives readers a ground-level account of a bookish nineteen year-old’s introduction, and adjustment, to the realities of war.

Often writing in tents by candlelight, in foxholes, or on board ships, Sy M. Kahn documents life during four campaigns and over three hundred air attacks, a life filled with backbreaking labor, suffocating heat, debilitating tropical diseases, and a terrifying string bombings, accidents, casualties, and deaths. A detailed record of the daily cost of war, Between Tedium and Terror reflects one man’s road to maturity and a brutal coming of age representative of thousands of young Americans who served.

liEchoes of Chongqing: Women in Wartime China, by Danke Li
These twenty oral histories tell the personal stories of twenty Chinese women who lived in the wartime capital of Chongqing during China’s War of Resistance against Japan during World War II.

Danke Li presents the lives of women came from different backgrounds and experienced the war in a variety of ways. Some took part in the communist resistance. Others tried to support families or pursue educations. The War of Resistance had two faces: one presented by official propaganda and characterized by an upbeat unified front against Japan, the other a record of invisible private stories and a sobering national experience of death and suffering. The accounts of how Chinese women coped, worked, and lived during the war years in the Chongqing region recast historical understanding of the roles played by ordinary people in wartime and give women a public voice and face that, until now, have been missing from scholarship on the war.

thurstonThe People’s War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union, edited by Robert W. Thurston and Bernd Bonwetsch
Americans often forget the Soviet Union fought and suffered immensely during the Great Patriotic War. But the nation’s ultimate triumph in World War II remains a vivid part of the Russian national narrative even with communism consigned to the dustbin of history.

Drawing on a wealth of archival and recently published material, the contributors show us Russians at war in ways seldom, if ever, discussed outside the country. Chapters detail the calculated destruction of a Jewish town by the Germans and present a chilling picture of life in occupied Minsk. Another looks at the relative freedom from Stalinist oppression enjoyed by intellectuals. Still others discuss women’s myriad roles in combat and other spheres of activity. The People’s War is a frank investigation of civilian life that puts the Soviet people back in their war—and restores the range and complexity of human experience to one of history’s most savage periods.