Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Robert Gross


This dissertation charts the publishing history, marketing, packaging, authorship, and reviewing of WWII personal narratives, explores connections between wartime narratives and issues of censorship, rationing, and the use of books as propaganda, and closely examines the main themes of twenty-five of the nearly two hundred written between 1942 and 1945. The books being assayed offered an insider's view of combat from every theater of war and every branch of the service as well as the Merchant Marines.;An offshoot of the documentary impulse of the Thirties, the personal narrative became an American publishing phenomenon during the next decade's war. In general, the fundamental character of the American white male hero was portrayed in the trials and triumphs of the citizen-soldier of democracy. Narratives celebrated the transformation of the Thirties "common man" into the "giant in the earth" figure, cast simultaneously in an ordinary and epical mold.;In each decade, monumental challenges galvanized witnesses to provide insightful information about events which affected millions. to serve a different set of war-related needs, however, the WWII books recruited new writers, acquired new commercial sponsors, and drew upon Hemingway's concrete renditions of war. In order to sustain morale on the home front and in the armed forces, civilians obtained these war narratives (GI's received a different set of Armed Services Editions). For the publishers of personal narratives, patriotism and profits went hand in hand.;The war narratives performed crucial ideological work. They engaged issues that touched deep anxieties in the public. Amidst a vast military effort that mobilized millions for a far-flung international conflict, these books personalized the soldier thereby keeping alive the American ideal of the heroic individual, full of "can-do" spirit, committed to democracy, ready to sacrifice his life for a return to an American way of an American way of life. Romanticizing the individual, they reinforced deep-seated national myths.



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