The latest entry in the publisher’s War Culture series, this one from a veteran cultural historian who writes that “since early childhood America’s wars [have] been defining historical periods in my life.”
Following his years as an Air Force navigator and intelligence officer and consequent support of American wars, Franklin (Emeritus, English and American Studies/Univ. of Rutgers-Newark; The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America, 2007, etc.), now in his mid-80s, has established a reputation as an anti-war scholar. After his military service, the author got a doctorate in English and taught literature at Stanford University (where he was fired for inciting anti-war protests) and Rutgers. Gradually, he and his wife became immersed in pacifist politics as they learned searing truths about U.S. military involvement in Vietnam despite government lies meant to obscure the duration of the war, the body counts, and the actual objectives of American foreign policy. Franklin sagely notes how U.S. involvement in Vietnam actually began during the 1940s rather than the 1960s. As a result, he writes, the country he used to love uncritically has been at war abroad without interruption since World War II—truly a “Forever War.” President Harry Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki vastly increased the stakes of the forever war reality. Franklin’s own military service allowed him access to pertinent information about mistakes with nuclear weaponry that could have resulted in massive death tolls and radiation sickness, and he ably conveys this to readers. In addition to revelations about the Vietnam War, the author offers a persuasive alternative account of U.S. military and civilian wrongdoing in the Korean War. Although he could have adopted a shrill tone given his upsetting evidence, the author writes in a low-key, graceful style, teaching clearly along the way.
A compelling memoir mixed with original historical research leading to fresh interpretations of the permanent war culture.