Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness

Farrar. Nov. 2021. 368p. ISBN 9780374219925. $28. POL SCI
In her latest book, Samet (English, West Point; No Man's Land) argues that many of the myths about the Second World War, especially the notion of the "greatest generation," have a negative influence on the American psyche. Indeed, she makes a compelling case that nostalgia for the war serves to promulgate an image of a national golden age to which those experiencing doubt about American exceptionalism "can always retreat." Utilizing a variety of primary sources, Samet effectively demonstrates that this nostalgia has permeated popular culture throughout the 20th century and up to the present day. She makes the intriguing assertion that there is a direct link between World War II propaganda and the U.S. Civil War; for example, she writes that imagery of Abraham Lincoln was more often used in WWII propaganda than images of George Washington--an interesting point for discussion. Her contention about the connection between World War II and the Civil War in the popular consciousness, however, seems informed more by current conversations surrounding collective memory.
VERDICT A thought-provoking, thoroughly researched work that asks readers to reconsider World War II mythology. Samet's analysis, solidly based in pop culture, will be welcomed in public library collections and will appeal to readers of military history.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing