cover image The Darkest Year: The American Homefront, 1941–1942

The Darkest Year: The American Homefront, 1941–1942

William K. Klingaman. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-13317-5

This expansive survey from historian Klingaman (The First Century: Emperors, Gods, and Everyman) paints an extraordinary portrait of America’s home front during the first year of WWII as it was buffeted by political, social, and economic upheaval. No part of America was untouched by the war, from big cities—H.L. Mencken raged about “filthy poor whites from Appalachia” coming to work in Baltimore’s factories—to small towns like Dana, Ind., where a munitions factory signaled to war reporter Ernie Pyle “the end of the close-knit, simple, honest community” he’d known. Racial tensions escalated: there was widespread distrust of the war among blacks, and every day between March and May 1942 an average of 3,750 Japanese-Americans were escorted under guard to “assembly centers.” Across the nation, there were shortages of sugar, tin, tires, nurses, and coffee. College enrollment dropped, as did manpower in factories, where women came to account for 20% of the workforce. That year, New York Times editor Hanson Baldwin wrote, Americans came to the grim realization that “no nation is unbeatable, that liberty is purchased only at the price of pain, that even the resources of the United States are limited.” Klingaman uses media, literature, journals, and letters to illustrate the year, and the resulting history is riveting. Agent: Dan Bial, Dan Bial Literary Agency. (Feb.)