More than 60 years after its conclusion, World War II continues to be a subject for study and conjecture. In recent years, the subject has been enriched by oral histories from the men and women who served on the front lines and the home front.
A unique addition to this scholarship, “The Library of Congress World War II Companion,” by Margaret E Wagner, Linda Barrett Osborne and Susan Reyburn, has been published in association with Simon & Schuster. Edited and with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy, this comprehensive, one-volume, fact- and quote-filled resource documents the harrowing years from 1937 through 1945, when totalitarianism threatened to engulf the world.
In 12 informative and thought-provoking chapters—each covering a different aspect of this complex and brutal conflict, making the book far more than a military history of the war—Kennedy and the Library of Congress authors skillfully interweave descriptive narrative, eyewitness accounts, maps, tables, charts and more than 160 illustrations to present a vivid and engaging picture of this pivotal era in human history. While concentrating on the American experience, the book also includes ample material on all major Axis and Allied nations and events around the globe. Each chapter concludes with a comprehensive list of sources and suggested further reading.
Many of the American eyewitness accounts in the book are drawn from the World War II archives of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP), a congressionally mandated initiative that preserves personal narratives, correspondence and visual materials of U.S. veterans from World War I to current conflicts. The VHP has joined filmmaker Ken Burns and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in an outreach campaign to encourage World War II veterans to participate in the VHP. The campaign coincides with the broadcast of Burns’ new PBS series “The War,” which debuted on Sept. 23.
The “World War II Companion” also draws from the vast stores of World War II-related material within the Library’s overall collection of more than 134 million items. These include the papers of figures such as diplomat Averill Harriman, atom-bomb project director J. Robert Oppenheimer, and U.S. Army Air Forces commander Henry “Hap” Arnold; Hitler’s library; Japanese propaganda pamphlets; an international array of wartime books, posters, maps, photographs, drawings, films, and radio broadcasts; declassified intelligence reports; and postwar analyses of the conflict. From these unparalleled resources, Kennedy and the Library of Congress have created an indispensable volume for those wishing to understand the seminal World War II era and its continuing reverberations.
David M. Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University. He is the author of several highly acclaimed books, including “Over Here: The First World War and American Society,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1981, and “Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945,” winner in 2000 of the Pulitzer Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize. Kennedy will discuss “The Library of Congress World War II Companion” at the National Book Festival at 3:20 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, in the History & Biography Pavilion. He will be followed by Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward, co-authors of the PBS series, “The War.”
Margaret E. Wagner headed the Library of Congress team that worked with Kennedy to produce “The Library of Congress World War II Companion” and, along with Linda Barrett Osborne and Susan Reyburn, served as a principal author. Wagner, Osborne and Reyburn were also principal authors of “The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference.” The three senior writer/editors in the Library’s Publishing Office will discuss their latest work at the National Book Festival at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Library of Congress Pavilion.
Organized by the Library of Congress and hosted by Mrs. Laura Bush, the National Book Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, on the National Mall. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, go to www.loc.gov/bookfest
“The Library of Congress World War II Companion,” a 950-page hardcover publication featuring more than 160 black-and-white illustrations, is available for $45 in bookstores nationwide and in the Library of Congress Sales Shop, Washington, DC 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557. Online orders can be placed at www.loc.gov/shop