A journalist portrays World War II as a grand theatrical production.
Lande (The Life and Times of Homer Sincere, 2010, etc.), former director of TIME World News Service and executive producer for CBS and NBC, conceives the war as theater, complete with costumes (soldiers’ uniforms), sets (Nazi extravaganzas, for example), and “theatrical entrepreneurs, writer-directors who wrote, enacted, and implemented their own scripts.” These were “Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin.” “Governments,” writes the author, “used oratory and entertainment to establish a framework that would support their respective wartime finales both in the theater of warfare and the theater surrounding and supporting this war, to inspire the home front audience.” Drawing on standard histories of the war, Lande reprises a familiar sequence of events, but his persistent view of these events as theater trivializes their gravity. He characterizes Hitler as having a “dramatic orientation,” assembling a huge cast “to play in the theater of war,” and deems Germany’s invasion of the demilitarized Rhineland “an out of town tryout.” In praising Churchill’s oratorical skills, the author sees the “theater dark, the lighting effects of the theater were dim until the British lion roared, and now the British had a wartime leader for whom dramaturgical techniques came easily.” Britain’s need for civilian participation resulted, Lande writes, in “a ‘casting’ call” for players to do “what was necessary to effect the final outcome as scripted by their leader.” Of a soldier who died heroically, the author writes that he became “another member of a cast that never had a chance to take a final bow.” Lande offers a detailed look at “black propaganda”: disinformation that the Allies sent to demoralize Germans and persuade them “to intentionally deviate from Hitler’s script.” After Roosevelt’s death, Truman was “custodian of the final script”; Eisenhower followed his own “production plan,” and Patton played a “Hero General,” as if out of central casting.
Military history unfortunately propelled by the author’s insistent imagery.