Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the…

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (original 1989; edition 1996)

by Paul Fussell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
523819,336 (3.99)4
Title:Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War
Authors:Paul Fussell
Info:Oxford University Press, USA (1990), Paperback, 330 pages
Collections:Read and owned, Your library
Tags:read and owned

Work details

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War by Paul Fussell (1989)



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 4 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
For North Americans, WWII took place off-stage. Only Services personnel and a small number of media people actually saw the killing part of it. For many it was related to their first job, and the first period of prosperity since 1929. Paul Fussell tries to share the home front for Americans. I think he succeeds. Also, one should read "Whistle" by James Jones. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Oct 21, 2013 |
distressing, but informative, view of the unknown and unsuspected effects of wartime, in particular, WW2 -- on sexuality, language, advertising, literature
  FKarr | Apr 10, 2013 |

This is my second attempt to write a responsible, but emotionally honest review of this powerful and important book.

Paul Fussell was an American Infantry Lieutenant, and a combat veteran of World War II.

This is the book that put Paul Fussel on the map for me. And, although The Great War and Modern Memory is Fussell's most acclaimed work, and is deservedly an excellent book; this book is a far greater work, in my own opinion.

He published this book in 1990 at the beginning of the (too frequently called) “Celebrations” of the 50 year anniversaries of that war in this country, more properly, called “Commemorations” or “Memorials” in other countries. My guess is that the timing of this publication was intentional. Paul Fussell was no fan of World War II, nor America's fatuous glamorization nor sanctification of that war. Paul Fussel, like his fellow writers and WWII combat veterans [author:Kurt Vonnegut|2778055] and [author:Howard Zinn|1899] was not at all impressed with the political piety that has come to represent that war in place of actual, accurate memory

Wartime is his extended analytic essay or collection of essays. These essays bluntly relate the on-the-ground experiences, the grotesque and demeaning experiences of those people (military and civilian) unfortunate enough to find themselves at the physical center of World War II's mass warfare. It is not a picture, which renders that experience as anything but brutal and meat-grinding. It is not a picture to inspire “Celebration”

The word "fatuous" is one that I learned from Paul Fussell. And there is no fatuous flag waving celebration of our "Greatest Generation" in this book..

Fatuous is his description of the arrogant mindless pride of those 95% American veterans who were behind the front lines and therefore ignorant of actual battle conditions. And fatuous are those flippant, self-satisfied Americans who experienced the war in their living rooms during or after the war. Fatuous were those "patriots" who did not see fellow combatants or civilians decapitated by flying body parts nor experience the horror of wading through pools of decaying human flesh saturated with tropical maggots.

Fussell pulls no punches as he deconstructs the experience of World War II as experienced by those who fought it or those who found themselves directly in its path.

This book should be required reading for any "fan" of World War II history.

Quote from the book:

"Chickenshit refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige; sadism thinly disguised as necessary discipline; a constant 'paying off of old scores'; and insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances....Chickenshit can be recognized instantly because it never has anything to do with winning the war." ( )
  pajarita | Jan 6, 2013 |
Paul Fussell brings both hard won experience as a World War II veteran and well-honed intellect as a veteran academic to this survey of the “psychological and emotional culture of Americans and Britons during the Second World War.” He also brings to the subject a well-established and frequently acerbic point of view on war, warfare, military institutions, and the socio-political systems and groupings that support and make possible the sins of human conflict. Dr. Fussell won a Bronze Star and earned a Purple Heart while serving as an officer in the US Army in France, and after the war earned his doctoral degree at Harvard University. His post-war teaching career included stints at Rutgers, King’s College-London, the University of Heidelberg, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Over the length of the book’s 18 chapters, Paul Fussell examines the many elements of wartime daily life as experienced by civilians at home as well as those in the American and British armed services. Fussell has read and studied widely in the literature, diaries, memoirs, and histories of the period and draws on this body of material for his sources and his examples. He discusses life in the armed forces heavily burdened with the “chickenshit” recognizable to any military veteran; the language and changing vocabulary of the period (especially the most popular and ubiquitous obscenities found in the forces); the apparent dependence upon whatever alcoholic drink was available as well as the (in his view) unavailability sexual activity including pornography; relations between and attitudes towards different races and nationalities, among other aspects of wartime life. This approach brings the reader from the home front to the military front and through the wartime rear areas in order to appreciate how and what Americans and Brits experienced, wore, ate, drank, and what jobs they did (and sometimes how they did them).

This was not entirely the book I expected since, for example, the author spends comparatively little time on matters of rationing on the home front as compared to the impact of the war on literature and the arts – and especially cites the latter in support of his discussion of wartime attitudes on a wide range of issues. Paul Fussell’s generally acerbic and almost hypercritical attitude towards much of the subject matter can be wearing were it not for the fact that I know it is almost entirely justified based upon my own experiences with the military (both in and working alongside) and during my three decades in government service. While the author leans heavily upon a discussion of wartime literature and general reading habits, I greatly valued his knowledgeable comments upon journals, periodicals, poetry, novels, and other publications of the period. I have a small collection of wartime poetry and some wartime novels and his discussion of these was extremely informative. The book is a great resource on the ephemeral culture of the war period and I would recommend it as one of the must-reads for anyone interested in better knowing what wartime was like for those who lived through it. ( )
  RobertMosher | Dec 8, 2009 |
Fussell is half the literary critic here and half reporting what soldiering meant to the ordinary average soldier. He is particularly equipped for this task as both a scholar and a WW II soldier. The book has its value as both a literary work and a popular culture analysis.
  gmicksmith | Jun 7, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
To the memory of my mother and father, who sent socks and books
First words
Watching a newsreel or flipping through an illustrated magazine at the beginning of the American war, you were likely to encounter a memorable image: the newly invented jeep, an elegant, slim-barrelled 37-mm gun in tow, leaping over a hillock.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195065778, Paperback)

Paul Fussell, a distinguished literary historian, served as an infantry officer during World War II, and the experience has haunted him ever since. It has also informed his books, among them The Great War in Modern Memory and Wartime, a book that is part memoir, part cultural-critical study, and that is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of conflict. Fussell conjures the small details of battlefield experience -- the way a bird's song falls silent just before an artillery barrage, the curious plunking sound a spinning bullet makes, the drift of smoke over an obliterated village; he also evokes the Zeitgeist of the war years, an era when hometown grocery stores bore signs like this one: "Did you drown a sailor today because YOU bought a lamb chop without giving up the required coupons?"

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:23 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
15 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (3.99)
1.5 1
2 3
3 10
3.5 7
4 21
4.5 3
5 20

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,230,813 books! | Top bar: Always visible