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The Good War

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  3,405 ratings  ·  218 reviews
In The Good War Terkel presents the good, the bad, and the ugly memories of World War II from a perspective of forty years of after the events. No matter how gruesome the memories are, relatively few of the interviewees said they would have been better off without the experience. It was a central and formative experience in their lives. Although 400,000 Americans perished, ...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published November 1st 2004 by New Press (first published 1984)
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Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, non-fiction
A collection of reminisces and insights on the war. It's mostly American, but there are German, Japanese and Russian voices as well. Even so, the years 1939-41 are almost totally ignored, which is a surprising weakness is what is otherwise an immensely important book. The tales told here present hundreds of horrifying, bizarre and amazing images that linger on later. Perhaps the most memorable is the legless ex-GI, deformed from radiation and now become head of the National Association of Atomic ...more
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military
This was a really readable history of different aspects of World War Two, covering the European and Pacific theatres, through interviews with participants and eyewitnesses. While mostly oral histories with Americans, Turkel has also interviewed people from Japan, Germany and several other countries as well.
Sep 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
"The Good War" is advertised as an oral history of World War II as told by veterans and citizens on many fronts - which, technically, it is. However, Terkel seems to have taken a definite anti-war stance with this book. Rather than presenting a balanced view of World War II by telling both the positive and the negative, he has chosen to include interviews with a disproportionate number of veterans who were discriminated against or were treated poorly by their officers; people who were victims of ...more
Nov 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
World War II was the background of my childhood. I was 6 when it started and 10 at the end. At that age, what is, is. I accepted this setting for my young years and never thought about how strange it was to be in this situation. It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand.

Here he interviews soldiers, sailors, marines, men, women, Americans, Germans, Japanese… A full panoply of the participants, no matter what age, no matter at home or in battle.

Studs Terkel is a maestro of the intervi
carl  theaker
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
Author Terkel made a radio career of interviewing and he did well continuing using the format of oral histories in books, which I think is an easy way to write a book, but there’s probably more to it than I suspect.

In ‘The Good War’ he continues the genre with short interviews of anywhere from a couple paragraphs to 5 or so pages in length, short and potent, of what folks did during World War 2 or how it affected their lives afterward.

Mostly Americans, but also a variety of all nationalities
Jan 13, 2012 is currently reading it
My 89 year-old grandfather Joe fought in the war, and I know he's told me a few war stories before, but I'm sad that I can only remember one:

Joe was the head of his infantry, and his little group had gotten their jeeps stuck in a muddy ditch outside of base. They had been pushing for at least an hour, but the mud was really thick. A general from base was calling for their men to report back for lunch in the mess hall. Joe was getting annoyed that it was taking this long for the men to free their
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An important, indispensable book that should be required reading. Terkel interviews a wide spectrum of people and gathers their reflections and experiences regarding World War II and the aftermath. The range of people is remarkable. We hear from GIs, Rosie the Riveters, scientists that helped make the A-Bomb, Japanese-Americans that were interred here in the U.S., and many, many other eyewitness accounts to history. Terkel does not paraphrase; the text retains the actual words of these individua ...more
Want to know how we fought Nazis since things are starting to look a little Nazi-like? Fearing a totalitarian regime and fascism? Want to know how Americans of all walks of life came together and what came out of that? This book is filled with their personal stories. Studs Terkel is the man, he won the Pulitzer for this, and you should read it at least once in your life.
Todd Stockslager
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Review title: Talkin' World War III Blues

Dylan's song, serious in its frivolous lyrics, was poetry. Terkel's oral transcripts of interviews about World War Two are poetic, but lyrical in their seriousness. And the magic of Terkel's oral histories is that while we know that the raw material must be just that--oral transcripts of interviews--the finished product feels both less edited somehow, like snatches of kitchen table conversations, and more profound because of it.

By this point in his caree
Jun 26, 2013 added it
Since that sailor snogged the face off that woman on Times Square in 1945, it has been universally agreed that the Second World War was the human race’s finest hour. Even with seventy million deaths and enough Nazis to suit the most avid fan playing on your mind, you’d be hard-pushed to actually argue against those glorious six years, when the peoples of the world – including, almost certainly, some of your older relatives – stood up to the leviathan of pure evil with technical know-how and hum ...more
Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Some time ago I read "World War Z: An oral history of the zombie war" by Max Brooks, a novel built as a collection of interviews with veterans of the war against the zombies. I discovered that the author was inspired by Terkel's "The Good War", so I decided to read this one too. I was afraid of discovering that World War Z was derivative with respect to The Good War, though: get a great classic of the New Journalism, change names, substitute "World War II" with "World War Z", zombies instead of ...more
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An absolute must-read. These personal accounts show the varied tapestry of a war - make it something you can relate too. So many years in history classes left me with no real sense of the war - and I certainly couldn't be bothered to remember if the Battle of the Bulge was after D-day or what... no, this book has me understanding the war, knowing its important events and many, many unimportant ones.

The black soldier fired on by white soldiers in a US base on US soil - because they suspected thei
Shane Gower
Sep 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
These first hand accounts from all walks of life is a comprehensive overview of people who lived through World War Two. Almost every account challenges the idea of the war as the good war, thus the quotes in the title. Everything from a conscientious objector, to women who worked in factories, POW's, Bomber pilots, Japanese-Americans who were in the camps and more. You'd be hard pressed to find a voice not included here. Great for helping to understand society during the war.
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Really 4.5, but I think the ending - the bits with the baby boomers and then the kids - were less interesting to me (it's also really interesting to compare the world in the early 80s, when this was written, and now; the economic problems persist, but I don't think we fear full-on nuclear war in the same visceral way). There also wasn't a lot from before the US entered the war. But overall, a genuinely moving read.
Mike Kabongo
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Truly excellent oral history.
This is a collection of skillfully elicited accounts of the World War Two stories covering the lives of men and women from all walks of life. Studs Terkel was just an amazing historian and interviewer. These histories will give a personal touch to your knowledge of the war to end all wars.
Dana Gynther
I was fascinated by this book-- so much depth, so many points of view. A must-read for anyone interested in WWII (or American History). Too bad Studs T. wasn't around throughout history to cherry-pick interviews with major and minor players-- wouldn't it be fascinating to read real oral histories of Napoleon's wars, Roman invasions, etc?
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I am not objective about the late great Studs Terkel. I miss him. Why couldn't he have stuck around another 50 years or so? Here is another example where Terkel lets the voices of other people shine through.
Jun 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
A rather excellent book, gives you a look at the staggering amount of different ways that WWII affected people. It was a bit US-centric, but did have a few other perspectives.
Steven Hull
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book came out in 1984. I remember it. Although I like the history of World War II, I didn’t read it. I was in the middle of raising three children with my wife and building a stable work career. Yet, I cannot remember why I didn’t read the book. I wish I had.
The book is a collection of oral histories in roughly chronological order. Included are a number of recognizable individuals, but most are just common, average people. All were caught up in the war. In most cases it was involuntary.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-non-fiction
Five stars... If you are interested in ww2 history and/or the effects of war on people and society, this book is great. It covers a staggering spectrum of wartime life - spies, soldiers, factory workers, military police, children, singers, generals, sailors, logistics workers, conscientious objectors, nuclear bomb survivors and prisoners of war. Their stories are as varied as you can imagine. American, Russian, French, Belgian, Japanese. Men and women. Young and old. For and against. You see all ...more
Thomas Anstett
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The Good BOOK" The late, great author Studs Terkel's Pulitzer Prize winner contains an enlightening account World War II, seen only through survivors' eyes. The accounts contain information that illustrates the war's necessity, the war's empathy, the war's inhumanity. Such an oral history provides an appreciation for the reader of the significance of this time in history and its effects on culture today. Written in a rather chronological order, the book's accounts surface from people of all ran ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Barbarism, sacrifice, misery, kindness - this book holds a repertoire of what mankind is capable of doing. It is a compilation of hundreds of experiences from WW2 survivors, on how they shaped the war, or how the war shaped their lives. Soldiers. Generals. Intelligence. Cartoonists. Prisoners of War across the world. The physicists who made the atomic bomb. The scale is just unbelievable, and what you are left with is a sense, that is deeply unsettling at times and indicative of what wartime is ...more
Erika Babineau
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is well-written and it will give you a clearer and better perspective on a subject you probably learned about in the last 3 weeks of history class in high school. The stories will resonate with you and many times I had to stop reading and pick up another book or magazine because I felt the emotional impact that strongly. This forces us to remember that everyone who is our "enemy" was once someone's baby, someone's father, brother, uncle, lover, cousin..etc. There are real people with re ...more
Tom Santopietro
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary book and richly deserving of its Pulitzer Prize.

Reading the perspectives and histories of such a wide assortment of men and women- from admirals to an Andrews Sister, from relief workers to African-American soldiers who suffered racial discrimination- it all makes history come alive in a way it should but seldom does.

As Kipling said: "If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."
Dipra Lahiri
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, war
Oral histories of a varied cast of characters participating in WW2. Brings out the human perspective in the retelling of history. The overarching conclusion is that war, regardless of scale, is senseless.
Tim Ganotis
Good overall, but much too long. It's as if this guy set out to everyone in the world and talk about the war. Could easily have been edited down by 100 pages without losing much. Lots of repetitive stories. Interesting, but too much.
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read 50%, great content but longer than I was looking for.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Interviews with about 100 Americans and about a dozen foreigners about the Second World War. These run the gamut from ordinary GIs and deported Japanese Americans to, for example, John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist who implemented price controls and fought inflation during the war, and Telford Taylor, the chief American prosecutor at Nuremberg. When people in their 60s reminisce about their 20s, there are bound to be mistakes; an American soldier who met the Russians at the Elbe mentions a he ...more
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An indispensable work. A straightforward oral history of World War II, from the grunts to the top brass, from women at the factories to women at home, from Japanese-American internees to war profiteers, from FDR's bureaucrats to Red Cross workers.

The quote marks around "The Good War" are not accidental. To wit:

For the old Iowa farmer, it was something else. Oh yes, he remembered the Depression and what it did to the farmers: foreclosures the norm; grain burned; corn at minus three cents a bushe
Nama Studs Terkel baru saja saya kenal. Dari buku Tahun yang Tak Pernah Berakhir, saya menemukan namanya di catatan kaki nomer 4 pada Bab Pengantar.

Buku Tahun yang Tak Pernah berakhir sudah 80% saya baca. Pengantarnya khusus saya print agar saya bisa lebih leluasa mencorat-coret. Ketiga editor buku Tahun yang Tak Pernah berakhir, John Roosa, Ayu Ratih, dan Hilmar Farid menuangkan beberapa persoalan metodologis dan teknis tentang sejarah lisan. Pembukaannya mengungkap hal yang tak biasa, "Sejarah
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Louis "Studs" Terkel was an American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster. He received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985 for "The Good War", and is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago.

Terkel was acclaimed for his efforts to preserve American oral history. His 1985 book "The Good War: An Oral History
“I’m sure that in Germany people also took an oath of secrecy. We know what that eventually led to. If it works that way with us, the sanctions for breaking the secrecy are nothing compared to the sanctions there could be if we’re silent. All” 2 likes
“What about Hitler? He was one person. They were all doing what Hitler said. What do all prisoners do? They do what the warden says. The only power Hitler had was the power the people gave him. I felt the whole world had gone absolutely mad,” 1 likes
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