Read Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941 by Stanley Weintraub Free Online
Book Title: Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941|
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Reader ratings: 7.1
The author of the book: Stanley Weintraub
Edition: Da Capo Press
Date of issue: November 1st 2011
ISBN 13: 9780306820618
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 331 KB
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As a seasonal reader who loves history, Stanley Weintraub’s Pearl Harbor Christmas proved an irresistible purchase. I must admit – I was also drawn in by its truly horrible title, conjuring discordant images of glittering pine trees and burnt-out, half-sunk warships. Come, children! It’s time to open presents, sing songs, and think about corpses floating on an oil-slicked tide.
Weintraub has made something of a literary career with the atypical meshing of war and yuletide. Aside from this book, he has written volumes about the World War I Christmas Truce (Silent Night), Christmas at the end of Revolution (George Washington’s Christmas Farewell), the violent 1944 Christmas in Belgium (Eleven Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge), and a Civil War Christmas (General Sherman’s Christmas: Savannah, 1864).
Certainly, I don’t fault Weintraub for focusing on this historical niche. There is inherent drama in the tension that arises from the holiday of Peace occurring in the midst of War. That’s what I was looking for when I opened the covers. What I got was a mess.
Pearl Harbor Christmas can best be described as a post-holiday meal: a half-hearted affair prominently featuring reheated leftovers that probably should’ve been thrown out. It covers eleven days, from December 22, 1941 to January 1, 1942, with each day taking up a brief chapter (the whole minor disaster is only 200 pages long).
There is no narrative thrust. There is no theme. There is, frankly, no point. The bulk of the text consists of a string of overused, vaguely connected anecdotes. (If I have to read the possibly-apocryphal story of FDR seeing Churchill naked again, I’m going to barf). Weintraub jumps from vignette to vignette, without ever making an attempt to tell a cohesive story. One moment we’re in Washington D.C., the next on the Philippines, the next in Hong Kong. The only overarching connection between these events is that they were happening on the same day (Weintraub is capable of showing the drama of far-reaching, interlocking events, because he did it semi-capably in Long Day’s Journey Into War).
Worse still, there is no liveliness or character in the storytelling. The prose is moribund and matter-of-fact. The only time Weintraub gives us even a glimmer of personality is in his incessant MacArthur bashing. If you, like me, think Douglas MacArthur is the most overrated prima donna in the history of American arms, you will probably enjoy the fleeting references to MacArthur enriching himself at the hands of the Filipinos, even as he leaves their lands wide open to invasion.
Even that quirk is overwhelmed by this book’s utter lack of necessity. It is not needed. It adds nothing to the conversation. It isn’t entertaining. It doesn’t work as art or academia. Everything on these pages can be found elsewhere, with more style and better citations.
There is potential for a book about the 1941 Christmas, but Weintraub ignores it in favor of musty war tales he undoubtedly came across while doing research for other books.
I have a certain fascination with the holiday season of 1941 and the juxtaposition of childlike celebration with impending cataclysm.
My mom is a Christmas nut, and every year she goes all. Aside from the hundreds of cookies, the Dickens village, and the need to be first in line on Black Friday, she spends hours hanging dozens of ornaments from the tree. Many of the baubles are beautiful antiques, passed on from her mom, and her mom’s mom. They are so old and fragile that some of them break each year from sheer exhaustion. When she hangs those particular adornments from a sturdy artificial branch, it swoops you back into the past. You can imagine that same ornament hanging from a different branch on a different Christmas, 71 years ago. You can imagine how it might have looked in the glow of the fireplace, as Roosevelt’s voice crackled and hissed from the radio.
I think there’s a good story to be told about that long-ago Christmas. About people celebrating the King of Peace while mobilizing for war. It’d be a story about what it felt like for ordinary Americans, like my grandparents – or yours – still young and unmarried and unburdened, sitting around a distant tree, unwrapping presents, basking in family, preparing to let go of all these things to take part in the great wide war that raged on the other side of the world.
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Read information about the authorWeintraub was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 17, 1929. He was the eldest child of Benjamin and Ray Segal Weintraub. He attended South Philadelphia High School, and then he attended West Chester State Teachers College (now West Chester University of Pennsylvania) where he received his B.S. in education in 1949. He continued his education at Temple University where he received his master's degree in English “in absentia,” as he was called to duty in the Korean War.
He received a commission as Army Second Lieutenant, and served with the Eighth Army in Korea receiving a Bronze Star.
After the War, he enrolled at Pennsylvania State University in September 1953; his doctoral dissertation “Bernard Shaw, Novelist” was accepted on May 6, 1956.
Except for visiting appointments, he remained at Penn State for all of his career, finally attaining the rank of Evan Pugh Professor of Arts and Humanities, with emeritus status on retirement in 2000. From 1970 to 1990 he was also Director of Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies
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