Americans often think of World War II as the "good war," but historian Mary Louise Roberts says her new book might make our understanding of that conflict "more truthful and more complex." The book, What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France, tells the story of relations between American men and French women in Normandy and elsewhere.
The Americans were liberators; the French were liberated. But sex created tensions and resentments that were serious, yet were utterly absent from contemporary accounts for American audiences back home. Roberts, who is professor of European history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, suggests that the tensions weren't entirely accidental: "Sex was fundamental to how the U.S. military framed, fought and won the war in Europe," she writes in her book.
Roberts joins NPR's Robert Siegel to talk about prostitutes in parks and cemeteries, pinups on planes and how the U.S. Army responded to rape accusations with rapid, racially charged trials.
Via Deanna Dahlsad, Gracie Passette