Committed to Victory
The Kentucky Home Front during World War II
Richard E. Holl
University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 2015, 408 pages
Book Review published on: March 16 2018
Richard Holl has created an exceptional body of work in Committed to Victory that captures what life was like in Kentucky during World War II. Using a collage of vignettes and research, he provides depth and breadth into specific areas of the state culture and economy, which leaves the reader with a unique perspective of that period.
I was not surprised that an author from Kentucky would find some way to incorporate Kentucky basketball into this fine body of work. Holl deftly explains how Kentucky basketball began to rise out of the conditions in sport during the war. Football, highly popular across the region and state, ended up taking a step back as basketball took a leap forward. Additionally, the story he conveys about legendary coach Adolph Rupp clearly explains the near mythic aura surrounding the foundations of Kentucky basketball. He did also manage to fit in horse racing, but only after getting the energy for basketball out first. The reflections and research on both sports, as well as that on other areas where people spent time away from work and the worries of the war, are exceptional.
Committed to Victory is an excellent source for anyone interested in finding out how the U.S. government organized and made decisions that impacted the lives of individual citizens and their families in Kentucky and across the country. The history presented of what would become the foundations of the military-industrial complex, which carried us through the war, the Cold War, and the legacy we live with today, is enlightening. The broad networks of industry essential to success in the war effort also created a culture within businesses where there is a keen awareness of the money to be made in manufacturing for defense. His work examining the various levels of government, industry, and labor presents a compelling picture to the reader of how women and minorities closed the labor shortage gap and laid a foundation for change in the state’s culture. He further expands his research to the political side and highlights that elected officials were vital to the state receiving its share of defense dollars in contracts to businesses and the establishment of plants to produce war materiel. Kentucky senator Ablen Barkley’s “bringing home the bacon” is telling of the diligent work elected officials did on behalf of the state.
Committed to Victory is compelling in that it is unique in representing a picture of Kentucky during the war period; however, similar stories could be told by several other states regarding how they progressed and changed during that same period. Holl’s analysis of the condition in the commonwealth during the Depression, combined with the challenges and changes on the home front during the war, is telling of the desires of people in Kentucky to support the war effort and improve their economic position after having endured these hard times. He relates how the war rapidly changed Kentucky in many ways and how in others it set the conditions for future change for the betterment of everyone in Kentucky.
Book Review written by: John Kloeker, U.S. Army, Retired, Wilder, Kentucky