Someone else who has problems with World War II…

Ted Grimsrud—April 20, 2012

As I have been working on my research and writing project that I am now calling, “The ‘Good War’ That Wasn’t—And Why It Matters,” I have drawn a great deal of inspiration from a book from several years ago that also expresses deep skepticism about the moral legitimacy of this war. I posted the following reflections on this book almost four years ago when I first started my site. I think it’s worth a revisit as I put the finishing touches on my book.

As could be expected, Nicholson Baker’s  Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (Simon & Schuster, 2008) has received mostly hostile reviews both in the mainstream media and among academic historians. I think it is a terrific book, though. It was one of the most absorbing 400+ page books I have ever read.

Describing the lead up to World War II

The book is made up of hundreds, probably close to 1,000, short vignettes that trace the events leading up to World War II and its prosecution until the end of 1941 (which, for the U.S., marked our country’s entry into the War).

These vignettes are mostly simple, descriptive statements; only rarely is Baker’s voice apparent. An example of an editorial comment, though, may be found on page 452: A December 10, 1941, Gallup poll had shown that two-thirds of the American population would support the U.S. firebombing Japanese cities in retaliation for Pearl Harbor. “Ten percent—representing twelve million citizens—were wholly opposed. Twelve million people still held to Franklin Roosevelt’s basic principle of civilization: that no man should be punished for the deeds of another. Franklin D. Roosevelt was not one of them.” Continue reading “Someone else who has problems with World War II…”