We Felt The Flames: Hitler's Blitzkrieg, America's Story

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9781887901345: We Felt The Flames: Hitler's Blitzkrieg, America's Story

Book by Charles Kupfer

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From the Author:

When I wrote We Felt the Flames, certain questions were on my mind. What role does the media play in the production of our history? How does today's news become yesterday's story? Can old news come back to life? Some of these conundrums come from my own background. I'm a former reporter who's now an academic historian, so the relationship between news and history is a natural interest.

Of course, the Second World War may be the biggest story of the Twentieth Century, and the incidents that make up the book's main thread -- Adolf Hitler's 1940 blitzkrieg bid for European supremacy, the Miracle at Dunkerque, the shocking fall of France, the Battle of Britain -- are oft-told tales. But We Felt the Flames examines them as part of a pattern contemporaneously revealing itself to an astounded world. The book views the surprises through the eyes of those who told the world what was happening in the fields of Flanders and the skies over Dover; it hears the reports through the ears of the audience tuning in. The aim is to revive in some measure the moments and feelings when WWII first grabbed American attentions.

In the war's early stage, with the shape inchoate and the stakes unclear, a band of American journalists in Europe reported on the war sharply and comprehensively. They brought the London Blitz into American homes and hearts. Writers and broadcasters, these correspondents worked in a media industry that was reinventing itself to match the modern age. But the dictates of storytelling are the same in every era, and by any standard, those correspondents narrated frightening events and told a compelling story. In the process, they established not only the dominant version of the war, but their own legitimacy as America's chroniclers of record.

That's what poet and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish meant when he told Edward R. Murrow: "You burned the city of London in our houses and we felt the flames that burned it."

From the Inside Flap:

"There's something phony about this war," scoffed Idaho's Senator William E. Borah early in World War 11, and few Americans could argue. War news, when it appeared, was fitful and confusing, and Europe's on-again, off again clash looked irrelevant to the United States. But complacency evaporated on May 10, 1940, when Adolf Hitler launched his Blitzkrieg in the west. It was a lightning attack, designed to demolish democracy and clinch Nazi supremacy in Europe. The Third Reich's offensive combined Luftwaffe raids with panzer thrusts and Wehrmacht assaults, all frighteningly effective. Allied defenses disintegrated. Stunned, onlookers saw Hitler's forces rip through the Low Countries, reach the English Channel beaches, and race past Paris.

Once-mighty France fell in mere weeks, while the battle in the skies over Britain looked like the harbinger of German victory. Shocked Americans suddenly wanted all the war news they could get. Overnight, Europe's war looked very much like an American concern.

Fortunately for news-hungry Americans, there was a band of intrepid correspondents in Europe ready to tell the war's story. Broadcasters and writers filled the nation's airwaves and newspapers with gripping accounts of victories, defeats, and dangers.

It was a season of fear and challenge; when Americans first heard and read the story of the Second World War. "You burned the city of London into our houses and we felt the flames that burned it," said poet Archibald MacLeish to CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow. We Felt the Flames brings this unforgettable season back to life, reminding us of a time when the news changed the way Americans thought about the war, and the war changed the way Americans thought about the world.

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