Lee Kennett provides a vivid portrait of the American soldier, or G.I., in World War II, from his registration in the draft, training in boot camp, combat in Europe and the Pacific, and to his final role as conqueror and occupier. It is all here: the "greetings" from Uncle Sam; endless lines in induction centers across the country; the unfamiliar and demanding world of the training camp, with its concomitant jokes, pranks, traditions, and taboos; and the comparative largess with which the Army was outfitted and supplied. Here we witness the G.I. facing combat: the courage, the heroism, the fear, and perhaps above all, the camaraderie—the bonds of those who survived the tragic sense of loss when a comrade died. Finally, when the war was over, the G.I.’s frequently experienced clumsy, hilarious, and explosive interactions with their civilian allies and with the former enemies whose countries they now occupied.
Based partly on interviews, letters and memoirs, G.I. is a group portrait of an army that was "in a sense the nation itself, an authentic slice of American society with all its many layers.'' Kennett, history professor at the University of Georgia, offers an accurate description of the soldiers' experience, from induction and training, the journey to the combat zone and baptism of fire, their attitudes and behavior as liberator, conquerer and, finally, as tourist. The U.S. Army in World War II was the best-fed, best-dressed, best-equipped army in the world, and Kennett describes in detail the G.I.'s reaction to C-rations, uniform dress and the M1 rifle. He also discuses such broader issues as combat fatigue, segregation and the effect of the G.I. on Europe's shattered economy. As Kennett points out, G.I. Joe was a different breed from the doughboy of the First World War. Readers will find no better portrait of the new breed than in these pages. Photos.