A succinct account of America's wide-ranging involvement in WW II from a distinguished duo. Eschewing a chronological format, James (Military History/Virginia Military Institute) and his longtime collaborator Wells (Refighting the Last War, 1992, etc.) provide discrete perspectives on how and where the US was engaged. To begin with, they assess the prePearl Harbor preparedness of America's armed forces and the industrial complex that soon became (in FDR's felicitous phrase) ``the arsenal of democracy.'' Covered as well are such other aspects of home-front activities as the effective conscription of scientists who worked on weapons-related projects, domestic race relations, the remote camps established for Axis POWs, rationing, and the Servicemen's Readjustment Act (a.k.a. the GI Bill of Rights). The authors go on to deliver concise briefings on the major campaigns in which US airmen, marines, sailors, and soldiers participated. Starting with the Battle of the Atlantic, they review all of the important Allied offensives in the European and Mediterranean theaters, which by the spring of 1945 resulted in Nazi Germany's capitulation. James and Wells then examine how American naval and ground forces turned a series of initial defeats into a decisive triumph over the Japanese across the vast reaches of the Pacific. At the close, they offer a moving tribute to the enlisted men who did most of the fighting and dying on foreign fields. In a final reckoning of costs and casualties, moreover, the authors insist that WW II was not, as popularly supposed, a good or glorious war but the most brutal and murderous conflict in the blood-soaked annals of a weary world. As inclusive and compact a rundown as general readers are likely to get any time soon. The consistently absorbing text has 11 useful maps, an index, and a savvy discussion of sources.