World War II

Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, Public Domain,

Gone, but not forgotten.  World War II had a huge impact on the region; it was home to both a major army base (Camp White, where White City is now) and a Japanese American internment camp (at Tule Lake).  Oregon also suffered the only civilian deaths on American soil. 

Historian and archaeologist Jeff LaLande spent a career researching the events and trends of the past.  He still speaks about that past, including a session Wednesday (October 9th) at the Ashland library. 

Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Marthe Cohn escaped Nazi oppression in France before the Allies liberated the country.  But rather than celebrate the freedom, she chose to enter Germany--potentially lethal for a Jew--to spy for the French in the waning days of the war. 

It's a story she tells in her book Behind Enemy Lines, a story she'll recap in an appearance in Ashland on February 26th. 

Public Domain/Wikimedia

Paying attention to history might, it is hoped, prevent us from repeating it.  So new generations of people need to understand what happened to previous generations, like the millions of people who died at the hands of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. 

Michael Gruenbaum was nine years old when the war started, and he went to a concentration camp before it was over.  He wanted to share his memories in written form, but for a younger audience. 

The result is a book with co-writer Todd Hasak-Lowy called  Somewhere There Is Still a Sun: A Memoir of the Holocaust

Public Domain

Latin America was not a major battleground in the second World War, but it was pivotal in other ways.  The region's riches in natural resources made it important for support of the war effort, and both Allied and Axis powers stayed busy in the region. 

As Mary Jo McConahay reports in her new book, the efforts paralled each other so closely, it was like a tango.  So McConahay calls her book The Tango War: The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds and Riches of Latin America During World War II

Resources and spies, American boosters and Nazi sympathizers all make appearances in the book. 

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1969-065-24 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

In our current divided political climate the word "fascist" is an all-purpose insult used by the left to describe members of the alt-right. Much like "socialist" or "liberal" is hurled in the opposite direction.

But what exactly constitutes fascism? In his new book, How Fascism Works, Jason Stanley has a simple formula: fascist politics uses divisiveness to attain power.

He also describes the ten pillars of fascist politics. And he points out that a country need not be fascist to experience fascism. 

Public Domain,

A piece of history went missing in Coos Bay, and some people want it back.  At one time a billboard in Eastside (east of the Coos River) bore the names of local people who served in World War II. 

People remember it, but no one seems to know what happened to it.  Ed Keim leads the search, and he's enlisted Krystal Hopper from local veterans' groups to help find information and even recreate the billboard.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."  So China and the United States were friendly in the early days of World War II, even before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. 

A covert military operation brought American planes and pilots to Southeast Asia to support the Chinese in their fight with Japan: The Flying Tigers. 

The story of the group's creation and activities is told in Samuel Kleiner's book Flying Tigers: The Untold Story of the American Pilots Who Waged a Secret War Against Japan

It's a highly unusual story, this group of volunteers fighting under a foreign flag.

It was Henry Luce, the publisher of Time magazine, who declared an "American Century" in early 1941. 

Historian Alfred W. McCoy is not at all convinced we'll get the full 100 years. 

McCoy has long observed the methods America has used to maintain its position as a superpower.  He sees China using its own methods to put the United States in the back seat, sooner rather than later. 

McCoy's latest book is In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power

Depending on your political orientation, this time in America is either the dawn of a new age or something like "springtime for Hitler." 

And it is Hitler's time that Jessica Shattuck and Rachel Kadish want to focus on, with the central question "how did good people let this happen?" 

Kadish, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, is the author of the novel The Weight of Ink

Shattuck, the granddaughter of Nazis, wrote the novel The Women in the Castle

The First Lady And Her Lover, Remembered

Feb 13, 2017
National Archives

In a less candid age, the end of the phrase "Eleanor and..." was "Franklin."  Roosevelt, that is. 

The first lady and the president broke many barriers in their 12 years in the White House. 

But Eleanor Roosevelt's biggest barrier was broken out of the public eye, in her loving relationship with reporter Lorena Hickok.  "Hick" was Eleanor's constant companion for decades, a story told by Susan Quinn in her book Eleanor and Hick

Pearl Harbor Remembered In New Book

Dec 1, 2016
U.S. Navy

Wednesday December 7th marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 

The attack launched the U.S. involvement in World War II. 

But there's a story to be told about the events that led up to that day, and Craig Nelson tells the story in his book Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness

The work starts long before Pearl Harbor, during the days of the First World War, to detail the events and trends that led to the second. 

Honeymoon From Hell In WWII

Jun 28, 2016
William Morrow Books

Mel and Annalee Jacoby were journalists who shared a love for Asia and for each other.  They got married in Manila--in November 1941. 

With the attack on Pearl Harbor and their knowledge of China, they quickly realized their lives were in danger as the Japanese military approached. 

The story of their attempt to stay out of enemy hands is told in Bill Lascher's book Eve Of A Hundred Midnights

The Hard Work Of Restoring Humanity

Jun 9, 2016
Penguin Random House

Philippe Sands is a writer and international lawyer who works to curtail and punish mass murder by whichever term is used: genocide or crimes against humanity. 

And the author's stint in a Ukrainian university led him down the trail of two men, both lawyers who studied at the same university. 

They both took radically different pathways to get to the same place: a body of law to prosecute the likes of the Nazis who committed genocide in World War II.  East West Street is Sands' book. 

Remembering A Voyage Of Doom

Mar 4, 2016
Penguin Books

Fact and fiction combine in the book Salt to the Sea, by Repa Sepetys. 

It tells a true story through made-up characters, the story of a ship full of refugees fleeing the Eastern Front in the closing months of World War II.

The Wilhelm Gustloff carried 10,000 people, and most of them died when a Soviet submarine torpedoed the German ship. 

2nd World War, One Family, Two Sides

Jan 7, 2016

Much has been written about the interning of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but Pamela Rotner Sakamoto's story of that period is a tale of a world turned upside-down more than once. 

In Midnight in Broad Daylight, she tells us of a Japanese-American family whose members moved back to Japan years before the war. 

But one brother returned to the United States to live, and he ended up serving in the U.S. military, on the opposite side of the fight from his brothers. 

The details of their experiences fascinate and occasionally horrify.

Europe During And Between The Wars

Nov 30, 2015
Viking Press

It's hard to believe World War I was once called The Great War, when an even greater war followed it. 

The two World Wars are taken up as a single subject in Ian Kershaw's history book To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949

The book is the latest in the Penguin "History of Europe" series, a tracing of causes and players through one of the most wrenching periods in human history. 

Under an engraving of a four-engine airplane and a cross, a polished granite memorial at Mountain View Cemetery in Ashland, Ore., reads, “In Memory of the Ashcraft Brothers.”  They are identified as Navy Lt. Dean Bruner Ashcraft, Navy Lt. Kent Norman Ashcraft and Army Staff Sgt. Leland James Ashcraft.  All three were killed in World War II.

Simon & Schuster

Michael Gruenbaum was young when his family was forced to move into a Jewish ghetto in Prague. 

But he grew up fast when the Nazis increased their restrictions on Jews; he and his family ended up in a concentration camp. 

Michael tells his often-grueling story in a book co-written with Todd Hasak-Lowy, Somewhere There Is Still a Sun

Penguin Books

The world had only three days to get used to the idea of nuclear weapons... when the second bomb dropped. 

It's been 70 years nearly to the day since an American atom bomb exploded over Nagasaki, Japan. 

And plenty of survivors are still around to talk about that day. 

Susan Southard talked to five of them about that day and the present day, for her book Nagasaki


The World War II draft called thousands of Oregonians into the armed forces, many of them with backgrounds similar to Dick Rone of the Nonpareil neighborhood east of Sutherlin.

Born on Dec. 23, 1908, Rone attended school in Nonpareil and worked at the Bonanza and Nonpareil mercury mines, where he earned about $4 a day with a half hour for lunch, time enough, he said, to eat two or three sandwiches and an apple.