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Victory City: A History of New York and New Yorkers during World War II

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From John Strausbaugh, author of City of Sedition and The Village, comes the definitive history of Gotham during the World War II era. New York City during World War II wasn't just a place of servicemen, politicians, heroes, G.I. Joes and Rosie the Riveters, but also of quislings and saboteurs; of Nazi, Fascist, and Communist sympathizers; of war protesters and conscienti From John Strausbaugh, author of City of Sedition and The Village, comes the definitive history of Gotham during the World War II era. New York City during World War II wasn't just a place of servicemen, politicians, heroes, G.I. Joes and Rosie the Riveters, but also of quislings and saboteurs; of Nazi, Fascist, and Communist sympathizers; of war protesters and conscientious objectors; of gangsters and hookers and profiteers; of latchkey kids and bobby-soxers, poets and painters, atomic scientists and atomic spies. While the war launched and leveled nations, spurred economic growth, and saw the rise and fall of global Fascism, New York City would eventually emerge as the new capital of the world. From the Gilded Age to VJ-Day, an array of fascinating New Yorkers rose to fame, from Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Langston Hughes to Joe Louis, to Robert Moses and Joe DiMaggio. In Victory City, John Strausbaugh returns to tell the story of New York City's war years with the same richness, depth, and nuance he brought to his previous books, City of Sedition and The Village, providing readers with a groundbreaking new look into the greatest city on earth during the most transformative -- and costliest -- war in human history.


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From John Strausbaugh, author of City of Sedition and The Village, comes the definitive history of Gotham during the World War II era. New York City during World War II wasn't just a place of servicemen, politicians, heroes, G.I. Joes and Rosie the Riveters, but also of quislings and saboteurs; of Nazi, Fascist, and Communist sympathizers; of war protesters and conscienti From John Strausbaugh, author of City of Sedition and The Village, comes the definitive history of Gotham during the World War II era. New York City during World War II wasn't just a place of servicemen, politicians, heroes, G.I. Joes and Rosie the Riveters, but also of quislings and saboteurs; of Nazi, Fascist, and Communist sympathizers; of war protesters and conscientious objectors; of gangsters and hookers and profiteers; of latchkey kids and bobby-soxers, poets and painters, atomic scientists and atomic spies. While the war launched and leveled nations, spurred economic growth, and saw the rise and fall of global Fascism, New York City would eventually emerge as the new capital of the world. From the Gilded Age to VJ-Day, an array of fascinating New Yorkers rose to fame, from Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Langston Hughes to Joe Louis, to Robert Moses and Joe DiMaggio. In Victory City, John Strausbaugh returns to tell the story of New York City's war years with the same richness, depth, and nuance he brought to his previous books, City of Sedition and The Village, providing readers with a groundbreaking new look into the greatest city on earth during the most transformative -- and costliest -- war in human history.

30 review for Victory City: A History of New York and New Yorkers during World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    More of a 3.5--an entertaining and interesting read with some really strong sections, especially on isolationism and fascist sympathizers in the city before Pearl Harbor, but overall it jumps around a lot and is a little lacking in a firm through line that draws conclusions about New York City's distinct role in World War II. More of a 3.5--an entertaining and interesting read with some really strong sections, especially on isolationism and fascist sympathizers in the city before Pearl Harbor, but overall it jumps around a lot and is a little lacking in a firm through line that draws conclusions about New York City's distinct role in World War II.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Graham

    If it is true that history that ignores the accomplishments of oppressed minorities is not complete history, what, then, is history that ignores the accomplishments of the majority? Not really history at all. It's polemic masquerading as history. The author excoriates Dr. Seuss for publishing "racist" cartoons of "Japs" in the wake of Pearl Harbor, but apparently thinks nothing of, himself, referring to the baseball players of a certain race of that era as "hicks". Elsewhere, the author apparentl If it is true that history that ignores the accomplishments of oppressed minorities is not complete history, what, then, is history that ignores the accomplishments of the majority? Not really history at all. It's polemic masquerading as history. The author excoriates Dr. Seuss for publishing "racist" cartoons of "Japs" in the wake of Pearl Harbor, but apparently thinks nothing of, himself, referring to the baseball players of a certain race of that era as "hicks". Elsewhere, the author apparently also believes that large American companies doing business in Germany during the 1930's were "pro-Nazi" and "playing both sides", rather than simply large American companies with long-time operations and investments in Germany. Apparently, assisting Germany in its post-Versailles recovery was pro-Nazi before there was even such a thing as Nazi. The author may (or may not) know a lot about Greenwich Village and music, but he apparently knows nothing whatsoever about business and economics. The author also apparently believes that it was within America's power to "save" the victims of the Nazi holocaust, but our leaders were simply not "concerned" about them. One wonders what "practical recommendations" the author would have suggested to American leadership to have our forces just saunter into occupied Europe in 1941-43 and rescue "millions". It might have been more honest had his subtitle been published as "A History of some New Yorkers during World War II whom I really like and others whom I really dislike." On the other hand, we don't know how the author feels about the majority of New Yorkers of that era -- people like Anthony Casamento, Michael Daly, Almond Fisher, Stephen Gregg, Thomas Kelly, Joseph Merrell, Joseph Muller, George Peterson, John Powers, or Kenneth Walsh because he doesn't bother mentioning them at all. But then again, these New Yorkers only won the Medal of Honor for their heroics in battle during World War II. Why would he mention them?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ritchie

    (2-1/2 stars) This book, though apparently well-researched, is a bit of a mess. First of all, the subtitle is highly misleading. I was expecting a book about New York City, its people, its shops, its theaters, its police and criminals, and how they all made it through wartime. We get very little of that. When we do, the book comes to life briefly. Mostly, though, what we get are strings of mini-biographies of people involved in the war at national political and military levels. Lots of FDR, Harr (2-1/2 stars) This book, though apparently well-researched, is a bit of a mess. First of all, the subtitle is highly misleading. I was expecting a book about New York City, its people, its shops, its theaters, its police and criminals, and how they all made it through wartime. We get very little of that. When we do, the book comes to life briefly. Mostly, though, what we get are strings of mini-biographies of people involved in the war at national political and military levels. Lots of FDR, Harry Hopkins, Robert Moses, Mayor La Guardia, and Wild Bill Donovan; very little about average New Yorkers, actors, shopkeepers, bartenders, tourists, etc. Aside from a generally chronological structure, there's not much of a through line here. It feels like the author was overwhelmed by his research (lots of it but fairly surface) and ended up with a general history of the political side of the war in America (not necessarily just New York). The book is easy to read and I was interested enough to read to the end, but as a social history of New York City in WWII--which is what the title promises--this is a washout.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Monical

    Surprising in depth, this book about New York and New Yorkers was an engrossing read. I forgot that FDR was a New Yorker, and much of his brain trust derived from his New York connections. And there were an amazing zillions of New Yorkers-- many of them very famous-- involved in the run up to the war and beyond. This book also has me looking up a number of other books that were cited. The author did lean on other books a bit too much for his research, I thought, and the name-dropping got a bit t Surprising in depth, this book about New York and New Yorkers was an engrossing read. I forgot that FDR was a New Yorker, and much of his brain trust derived from his New York connections. And there were an amazing zillions of New Yorkers-- many of them very famous-- involved in the run up to the war and beyond. This book also has me looking up a number of other books that were cited. The author did lean on other books a bit too much for his research, I thought, and the name-dropping got a bit tiresome after a while (not too many "little people" noted!). The book starts out with a bang, and then drags a bit until the US enters the war. There is an introductory section about FDR's counters to the depression which didn't seem very well connected to the World War II part of the story until you find that many of the same influential actors switch to war work of various sorts once the war is imminent and after war is declared.

  5. 4 out of 5

    saranimals

    I had to give up on this book about a third of the way through, unfortunately. It was essentially an avalanche of mini-biographies of all the "important" people in the city- government officials, business moguls, society types, etc. It was just too choppy for me. I had been hoping for more of a macrocosm perspective, chronicling the experiences of all the groups in the city during the war. More of an "average New Yorker" take. That would certainly have been more relatable. I also would have appr I had to give up on this book about a third of the way through, unfortunately. It was essentially an avalanche of mini-biographies of all the "important" people in the city- government officials, business moguls, society types, etc. It was just too choppy for me. I had been hoping for more of a macrocosm perspective, chronicling the experiences of all the groups in the city during the war. More of an "average New Yorker" take. That would certainly have been more relatable. I also would have appreciated more about the actual wartime itself- a third of the way through the book, the time period is still 1938 and everything I've read thus far has been about the Great Depression and the World's Fair. Pearl Harbor seems eons away. I slogged through part one of the book, hoping that the author was merely using the choppy format in order to set up the context for the main body of the story, but what I read of part two was more of the same and I just couldn't endure. Though I can't deny that the book is incredibly well-researched and objectively well-written. It is perhaps my own personal preferences that kept me from enjoying the book more fully. Others who are interested in either WWII history or the history of New York may find this an enjoyable and certainly informative read. It should be noted as a disclaimer that I received this book as a goodreads giveaway, a beautiful hardbound edition. I really, really *wanted* to like this book. Perhaps I will revisit it at a later time and find that I have an easier time reading it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Marge

    I was really looking forward to engaging this account of NYC accounts preceding and during WWII, but in all honesty I found its presentation extremely annoying as it lacked an organization/focus that held my attention vs. jumped around like a gathering of disjointed snippets. Obviously Strausbaugh thoroughly researched his topic, but maybe it was just too big and rather than trying to cover such breadth, he needed to opt for depth and narrow the focus of this very important, complex topic to, fo I was really looking forward to engaging this account of NYC accounts preceding and during WWII, but in all honesty I found its presentation extremely annoying as it lacked an organization/focus that held my attention vs. jumped around like a gathering of disjointed snippets. Obviously Strausbaugh thoroughly researched his topic, but maybe it was just too big and rather than trying to cover such breadth, he needed to opt for depth and narrow the focus of this very important, complex topic to, for example, a very narrowed time period.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    A very interesting book, full of all kinds of interesting history from that era, including lots of personalities of the time. One of my favorites was Mayor LaGuardia. I enjoyed the scholarship in the book, but at times the organization felt a little jerky and the ending was particularly abrupt without a summation to pull it all together. It was fascinating to learn about the people back home and how their lives changed during the War, particularly in one of the most important cities in the world A very interesting book, full of all kinds of interesting history from that era, including lots of personalities of the time. One of my favorites was Mayor LaGuardia. I enjoyed the scholarship in the book, but at times the organization felt a little jerky and the ending was particularly abrupt without a summation to pull it all together. It was fascinating to learn about the people back home and how their lives changed during the War, particularly in one of the most important cities in the world at the time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mary Smith

    Some interesting stuff here and some not so much. First part is lead up to war; we get to meet those folks who will become highly meaningful after 1941. This is where I learned that Mayor LaGuardia was Italian, yes, on father's side; BUT Jewish on mother's. His sister and family ended up in Budapest during war where they were trapped. Sometimes when you learn much about famous people from eras before your, you might be not faulted for wondering how we ever won...... Some interesting stuff here and some not so much. First part is lead up to war; we get to meet those folks who will become highly meaningful after 1941. This is where I learned that Mayor LaGuardia was Italian, yes, on father's side; BUT Jewish on mother's. His sister and family ended up in Budapest during war where they were trapped. Sometimes when you learn much about famous people from eras before your, you might be not faulted for wondering how we ever won......

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    An amazing compendium of the Big Appleā€™s role in the war. Strausbaugh focuses on the city itself to show how its ethnic layout influenced what was to come. I learned about Camp Siegfried, how many isolationists resisted U.S. involvement, the role of Mayor La Guardia, Nazis living in New York, and the Rosenbergs. Well researched and index. Almost reads like a novel.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Keeley

    I received this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway There were many sections in this book that were slow for me. It jumped around a lot and I found myself getting lost in places. Other sections were very interesting and enjoyable. Overall, not my favorite book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jack Laschenski

    Fantastic accounting of NYC from 1931 to 1945. Hitler lovers, Mussolini lovers, isolationists, traitors + The Roosevelts, Harry Hopkins, Fiorello, Lehman. The most amazing fact: Standard Oil of New Jersey (headquartered in NYC) provided avgas to Germany and Japan all through the war!!!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    It is full of interesting information, but it kept skipping around and it was difficult to follow.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Fred

    Very interesting account of the City's role in the war. I enjoyed all the biographies of all the New Yorker's and learned a great deal about this great city. Very interesting account of the City's role in the war. I enjoyed all the biographies of all the New Yorker's and learned a great deal about this great city.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Wide focus, shallow depth. Often reads like a cast of characters rather than a narrative. The earliest chapters on the background of the war resemble an intelligent tenth grader's history report. Wide focus, shallow depth. Often reads like a cast of characters rather than a narrative. The earliest chapters on the background of the war resemble an intelligent tenth grader's history report.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mr. Book

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  17. 5 out of 5

    David N. George

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Schkrutz

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dufrau

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carter Smith

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ernesto

  22. 4 out of 5

    Liv Worthen

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anna Murra

  24. 5 out of 5

    bettina

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ed

  26. 5 out of 5

    Thad Zajdowicz

  27. 4 out of 5

    AJ

  28. 5 out of 5

    mike watson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Canalmichele

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mike

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