A Sampling of Related
World War II is extensively treated on the web, but very
little of that history addresses what was happening beyond the field of combat
or the transition to a postwar world (except as it relates to antecedents of the
Cold War). Beyond the combat-related sites (which seem to be among the best funded
sites on the web), there are a number of interesting sites that try to address
some of the human issues on the home front. However, these sites are almost invariably
enclosed chronologically by the attack at Pearl Harbor and VJ day.
Sites like World War II and the Human Experience,
for instance, do an interesting job of capturing the human experiences of a number
of military service people and their families. This site, sponsored by the History
Department at Florida State University, has a pretty impressive amount of depth,
even though it is fairly clear this only the thin surface of a much deeper collection
of documents and oral histories at the FSU archive. The site provides an interesting
collection of visual artifacts on the human dimension in the warletters,
cartoons, and the art created by servicemen in photographs and decoration of aircraft.
However, with the war's end, the coverage essentially stops. It is rather unclear
how long they have been working on this site, and how much further they plan to
extend it, but my queries to the director of the project went unanswered.
similar to that site in terms of its temporal and military focus is the World
War II Multimedia database. This site contains an intensely rich selection
of materials from the war (1,850 photos, 93 video clips, and a virtual radio,
according to the introduction). However, it again limits the events of the war
largely to the battlefield, and relegates the postwar issues to its own separate
section, which shares the new start perspective of the historiography about the
postwar world. To the author's credit, however, this was done as a student project
for two courses at Fordhamwhat a novel idea. As a project done by a single
person, it shows remarkable sophistication and depth, and uses a fairly wide array
of multimedia materials.wav, .mpeg, and cgi-based slide shows. Like so many
other sites, however, since he posted it in November 2000, the author tells me
he has only been able to make a couple of additions to it.
Two other sites
that I found interesting as an effort to highlight that life didn't stop back
home, were the The
World War II Homefront Site, done by ThinkQuest for a group of high school
students, and What Did You
Do During the War Grandma? done seemingly as a joint project between the Brown
University history department and a number of local high school students. The
Homefront site is the more visually appealing, but it lacks significant depth.
This was particularly evident in the most interesting part of the sitea
"simulation" section, which invites the reader (presumably a student) to imagine
themselves in the position of a family during the period and do journal entries
based on a somewhat random series of "fates." From a pedagogical standpoint, I
found this quite interesting, although I don't think the site has enough depth
to provide the student with enough contextual information to write a substantive
journal entry. The What Did You Do During the War Grandma? site provides more
of the depth I have in mind, by including a number of interesting oral history
interviews with women who lived and worked in an exceptionally wide variety of
capacities during the war. I was particularly impressed that they didn't just
search for the mythic Rosie the Riveter, but included women who stayed at home
and were attending college back then. The site also contains a nice series of
brief contextual essays by historians, and a large number of oral history transcripts.
the war years, however, there is very little out there about the postwar world
that describes it as having much of a start before 1950. Not surprisingly the
History Channel web site typifies the sort of settled chronology that I would
envision this site as complicating. Like the other sites above, the war is framed
almost entirely in military subjects and terms. The postwar world is relegated
to an exhibit on "The
Fifties," which takes barely a backward glance to the war, except insofar
as the defeat of Nazism and the rise of the Soviet Union prompted a certain paranoia
about American ideals. And many of the topics that were being addressed in the
G.I. pamphlets during the war seem to spring newborn from the earth in 1950, as
they note, "throughout the decade, the U.S. enjoyed a swelling prosperity, in
marked contrast with the hardships of World War II. The baby boom was in full
roar, and Americans settled down to raise families, build stable homes, and pursue
respectable careers. The population of the inner cities dwindled as Americans
fled to the suburbs and the comfort of backyards, driveways and tree-lined streets."
site that certainly most comparable to the site I have in mind is the Powers
of Persuasion site at the National Archives, which uses propaganda posters
from the war to reflect on the issues of culture on the home front. The design
of the site represents the sort of minimalism that I think is ideal, and makes
it very easy to print. It consists largely of a fairly narrow band of images and
text, but the images are quite striking and the text does a superb job of contextualizing
each of the posters, and indicating both their authorship and their cultural impact.
While framing the site in the war years, it nevertheless points beyond the direct
issues of war and the economics of the military to the societal issues that were
at play on the homefrontthe work of ad agencies and coping with the day-to-day
problems of scarcity.
Thus, while there is a good deal of information about
World War II on the homefront, and some attention to life after the war, the connections
between the war and "the fifities" remain largely unexplored on the web.