Reviewed by Jon Mikolashek, Ph.D.
When people think of World War II most recall black and white photos of momentous occasions or soldiers running into enemy fire. In Victory: World War II in Real Time, editor Alan Axelrod brings many of these images together in a collection of Associated Press (AP) photos and headlines from across the United States between 1939 and 1945. Axelrod is an established author with more than 150 published works spanning multiple decades, disciplines, and topics. David Eisenhower, the grandson of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, writes a brief foreword that perfectly encapsulates the need for works like Victory. While the wartime leaders have long faded away and many of the generation that fought the war are gone, the lessons and memories from World War II must be passed down to future generations. This book does just that.
Victory includes coverage of events from Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939 to the announcement of the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945. While professional historians may quibble over the start and end dates of the war, as some argue that the war began in the Pacific two years earlier, the book’s time frame fits with the commonly accepted dates for World War II. Using headlines from regional papers and papers from smaller cities across the United States like the Tallahassee Democrat and the Salt Lake Telegraph, the book tells the story of the war as Americans saw it in real-time. Headlines clipped with AP photographs tie the war together and illustrate just how accurate the reporting was from journalists during the war. Axelrod acknowledges he edited some of the paper clippings to fix minor typos, but otherwise, the original language remains. While some readers may argue that the clippings should have stayed in their original form, most corrections are for spelling and grammatical errors. Axelrod did not change any of the outdated or racist language used to describe the enemy. Because of this decision, the reader gains a more realistic understanding of the articles and photographs. History is always better when it is studied “warts and all.”
This book covers the entirety of the war in chronological order, mainly from a European perspective. The Pacific theater does receive attention, but like most Western works on World War II, operations against Germany garner more coverage. There are only a few headlines and photographs from the Mediterranean theater of operations and even fewer on China-Burma-India. However, this is an accurate representation of how journalists covered the war. Due to time and distance, more journalists were in Europe at the time, and larger operations often forced stories in other theaters off the front page. There is a reason most Americans do not remember the liberation of Rome by United States forces on 5 June 1944!
Victory is a remarkable story of wartime journalism, demonstrating how AP reporters and photographers covered the conflict. While not intended for professional historians, the book has a broader appeal to the general public and would make a great, if rather large, addition to any coffee table book collection.
Dr. Jon Mikolashek is a Professor at the Joint Forces Staff College.
Victory: World War II in Real Time (Alan Axelrod, Sterling Publishing, New York City, NY, 2020).