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The Forgotten Generation: American Children and World War II, by Lisa L. Ossian

Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri, 2011. Pp. xviii, 174. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0826219195.

Perhaps lost between the honors accorded their parents, the “Greatest Generation”, and the doting attention showered upon their younger siblings, the “Baby Boomers”, are the experiences of the approximately 38 million American children who lived through the Second World War, and the 100,000 lost a parent to the war, a youthful cohort which for the first gets its due in The Forgotten Generation.

It must be said that Prof. Ossian (Des Moines ACC) does this “Forgotten Generation” a good turn in her survey of their war.  She discusses how the war affected infants and toddlers, elementary school kids, and teenagers.  The book touches upon such matters as how the war affected parenting guidance (how to explain war, and the absence of a father), education (the drop-out rate rose sharply, as teens left school to work, or enlist, even if underage), health and nutrition (war industries often had very generous health care or baby sitting arrangement), and the mobilization of children to support scrap drives, bond sales, and other war-related civilian activities, not to mention toys, which became more warlike.  Ossian draws not only upon wartime documents and studies, but also the writings of those who experienced a wartime childhood, including poems and essays written during the conflict, as well as memoirs done in later years. 

The Forgotten Generation is a very good book for those interested in the Home Front, the history of childhood, or how a democratic society fights a major war.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


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