Book Review: Worshipping the Myths of World War II

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Four stars.

This book was written by a neighbor of a good friend, and our book club had the fortune of meeting the author to discuss his book, his life, and his insights into the world, that has changed so much in the past 70 years.

The myths he puts forth:

  1. The good war: is evil to abide the killing of innocents, by the nature of killing in World War II,
  2. The greatest generation: is disproved by the reality behind the war movie and novel. The generation that fought the war also helped defeat the hope for peace that swept the world at the end of World War II.
  3. We won World War II largely on our own: that the war would not have been one without our massive production of goods in material, our zeal for victory, in the battle skills and sacrifices of our troops. At the same time, we often tend to neglect the enormous contributions of other countries with a far longer war.
  4. When evil lies in others, war is the means to justice: Compromise and cooperation are always appeasement? Not true.

He dismantles each of these myths. He personally takes issue with books and movies of the War that sentimentalizes the war effort and that glorify battle. These myths we tell ourselves are harmful and set us and our future generations up for more bloodshed in the mistaken belief that War can be just.

CMIO’s take? We must resist our bloody ancestry, our hind-brain wiring and inclination to violent escalations of disagreement, and embrace the “better angels of our nature” (Lincoln). It is our collective cognitive power and creativity, not the artificial divides of geography, religion, resources, that define us and what we can achieve. The ease with which we can label and castigate the “other” is surprising.

I’ll still read books about war, I’ll still use and understand military references in strategy and tactics at work, I’ll probably see Dunkirk in theaters soon, but it will be with a different perspective.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, University of Colorado Health; Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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