Monday, October 28, 2013

Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie

An American Pie can be made in many different ways.  It can be made with a camera and actors to create a bad teen comedy that never seems to end, with a catchy Don McLean tune that you can’t seem to get out of your head, or my personal favorite--in the kitchen alongside a scoop of ice cream.  James Cooke makes his American Pie in a different way: a six pack of beer, cigarettes, personal hygiene products, chewing gum, and candy bars.  Cooke whips up fresh American Pie with his books American Girls, Beer, & Glenn Miller: GI Morale in World War II and Chewing Gum, Candy Bars, and Beer: The Army PX in World War II.  Relax, and cut yourself a slice of Cooke’s American Pie by reading the Cooke books below!  --Kimberly Ring, Intern, University of Missouri Press

As World War II dawned in Europe, General George C. Marshall, the new Army Chief of Staff, had to acknowledge that American society—and the citizens who would soon become soldiers—had drastically changed in the previous few decades. Almost every home had a radio, movies could talk, and driving in an automobile to the neighborhood soda fountain was part of everyday life. A product of newly created mass consumerism, the soldier of 1940 had expectations of material comfort, even while at war. Historian James J. Cooke presents the first comprehensive look at how Marshall’s efforts to cheer soldiers far from home resulted in the enduring morale services that the Army provides still today.

Veterans of World War II have long sung the praises of the PX—a little piece of home in far-flung corners of the world. Though many books on that war tell of combat operations and logistics in detail, this is the first to tell the full story of the Army Exchange System.  The AES was dedicated to providing soldiers with some of the comforts they had enjoyed in civilian life—candy, beer, cigarettes, razor blades, soap—whether by operating an exchange close to where they were fighting or by sending goods forward to the lines, free of charge.

In chronicling the history of the AES, James J. Cooke harks back to the Civil War, in which sutlers sold basic items to the Yankee troops for exorbitant prices, and to the First World War, when morale-building provisions were brought in by agencies such as the Red Cross. He then traces the evolution of the PX through World War II from the point of view of those who ran the service and that of the soldiers who used it, blending administrative history with colorful anecdotes and interspersing letters from GIs.

About the Author

James J. Cooke is a Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of many books, including Shamrock Battalion in the Great War (University of Missouri Press). He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

No comments:

Post a Comment