THE LAST DAYS OF INNOCENCE by Meirion Harries

THE LAST DAYS OF INNOCENCE

America at War, 1917-1918
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A lively and persuasive history of America's experience in WW I, stressing the impact of that immense struggle on the nation's identity, by a prolific husband-and-wife writing team (Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army, 1992, etc.). America had assumed a crucial role in the war, the authors argue, long before a single American soldier reached the front lines. From 1914 on, America supplied the ``rifles, howitzers, shells'' desperately needed by the hard-pressed Allies. American money propped up the depleted treasuries of the French and British; all told, they note, the US spent the staggering sum of $50 billion on the war effort. The swift arrival of hundreds of thousands of American troops blunted and then broke the last German offensive and decided the war's outcome. During their relatively short but ferocious time on the front, American forces, earning a reputation for reckless courage, suffered a quarter million casualties, including 50,000 dead. The authors spend roughly half the book describing the home front, including the long, bitter debate over entering the war, growing labor and social unrest, and a resulting massive growth of government powers. Their descriptions of these matters, and of the experience of American soldiers in battle, are handled with clarity and force. The British and French, determined to impose their terms on Germany, relentlessly downplayed America's contribution to the war, and undercut President Wilson's attempts to insure the peace. Many Americans, feeling that America had been manipulated and misled by her allies, turned away from Europe. At home, unrest had created ``wide rents . . . in the social fabric. . . . Rudely, the war had thrust Americans into the uncertain future of the twentieth century.'' A sad, gripping account of one of the defining moments in our history.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-41863-6
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997