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THE TASTE OF WAR by Lizzie Collingham


World War II and the Battle for Food

by Lizzie Collingham

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59420-329-9
Publisher: Penguin Press

A comprehensive evaluation of the crucial role of the global food economy in the waging of war.

The starvation policy of the Nazi occupiers and the wartime exigencies that effectively transformed the diet as we know it are only two important aspects to this fascinating, authoritative work on food and war. In order to keep an army running smoothly and the civilian population pacified, writes Collingham (Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerers, 2006, etc.), a government had to control the food supply. This was equally true of Britain, Germany, Japan and the U.S., though it played out very differently during World War II. Creating a National Socialist empire relied on becoming self-sufficient, especially after the legacy of hunger and defeat wrought by World War I. According to Herbert Backe’s Hunger Plan, occupation of the Ukrainian breadbasket would deliver the resources to Germany only if the flow of food could be shut down to Russian cities, thus starving 30 million Soviet citizens (also Jews, indigenous inhabitants and prisoners of war). In the throes of an agricultural crisis, Japan was more reliant on imports from its colonies Formosa and Korea and later suffered starvation during the American blockade; moreover, the white-rice–based diet provided insufficient protein for the Japanese troops, and a more Chinese and Western diet was adopted. Britain relied heavily on its colonies to feed the wartime appetite, as well as on U.S. lend-lease supplies, only suffering from want during the winter of 1940–41 because of the U-boat blockade. Indeed, American farmers supplied the bounty of global wartime needs and also offered ample food at home. Collingham's study casts a staggeringly large net. She examines terrible famines in Bengal and Greece, the Soviet ability to withstand starvation, the role of the black market and how nutritional science reshaped the diet of soldiers and civilians.

A definitive work of World War II scholarship.