Thanks for the Memories destroys the historical myth that young men and women went about the business of war and stayed on the straight and narrow path. Rather, World War II provided new opportunities for sexual experimentation, for hasty marriages, for flourishing prostitution—and for love connections that have stood the test of time. Young men in the military, far away from family and home, did things they might never have done. Young women, many of whom went to work for the first time, experienced a freedom and independence most women had never known. Because of the war, courtships were cut short, couples married more quickly than normal, and husbands and wives were often separated for several years. Despite attempts to get back to normal after the war and the apparent togetherness of the 1950s, World War II had set change in motion, heralding the second wave of the women’s liberation movement.
The collective consciousness of World War II revolved around the virtues of bravery, sacrifice, and commitment. Members of The Greatest Generation toed political and social lines in hopes of winning the war. They fell into lockstep, asking very few questions, and breaking few social and sexual mores. Or did they?
In fact, World War II was—like all wars—a time of sexual experimentation and a general loosening of morals. It was a time of conflicting emotions and conflicting messages, a time of great sacrifice, and a time of discovery, when some groups, especially woman, experienced a relaxing of bonds that had kept them in check. Thanks For The Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II the true story of how the World War II generation responded to the passions of war, and how those passions changed their lives-and the relationships between the sexes-forever. But this book is more than that. As Jane Mersky Leder writes, Thanks for the Memories opens the hearts and memories of a generation that is dying, by one estimate, at the rate of more than 1,000 a day. It exposes the sexual and romantic escapades of The Greatest Generation and underscores how those four war years revolutionized relationships (including those between gays), and how it helped set the stage for the second wave of the women’s liberation movement. Many who never thought their stories mattered, Leder writes, now feel the pull of limited time, and the importance of leaving an accurate account for their children and grandchildren of what it was like to be a young man or young woman during World War II. This is their collective story.
Reviews"Freelance writer and journalist Mersky examines the impact of WWII on relationships between men and women. Focusing on the areas of love, sex, and marriage, she describes how the war's disruption of ordinary home life and the subsequent entry of women into the workforce allowed for a relaxing of the social restrictions that had formerly kept women in check. The personal stories of ordinary people single, married, military, and civilian are interwoven throughout the narrative."—Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2007
"Through engaging stories and recollections, Leder paints a vivid picture of the love lives of the members of the Greatest Generation, from the service wives who followed their husbands around the country during their stateside training to the khaki-wackies and Victory girls who gave servicemen a roll in the hay in exchange for a Coca-Cola or movie, to the women, African Americans, and gays and lesbians who defied society to enlist in the military. Always enlightening and never prurient, Thanks for the Memories illuminates an untold chapter in World War II history--a chapter that resonates today in the continual redefining of gender roles and race relations."—America in WWII, April 1, 2007
"[W]WII as a time of bawdy sexual experimentation? That might take a little getting used to. Jane Mersky Leder understands our reluctance. Four years ago, as she began to unravel surprising stories about the Greatest Generation, she was reluctant to believe them, too. But the men and women she interviewed, who are dying at a rate of approximately 1,000 a day, encouraged her to tell the more complete story, naughty though it may be....Her book is diligently researched and footnoted, and her sources spoke freely and candidly....At the height of the war, 19 million women were keeping the home front running. And it was that taste of independence - physical and economic - that Leder and many other cultural observers believe set the stage for the women's movement 20 years later. French shores on D-Day into the enthusiastic embrace of waiting mesdammes. French women, he told Leder, go about sex like American women go about knitting."—Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), December 16, 2006
"Thanks for the Memories is one of those rare books that one can either read quickly or savor slowly. At times it is fun and witty; at other ties it is poignant and thought-provoking."—The Detroit Jewish News, December 4, 2006
"Written with great sensitivity and skill, this book makes the greatest generation more real to the succeeding generations; it exposes the young men and women of that time as being both stronger and more vulnerable than either history books or overly romantic movies sketch them."—Bookpleasures.com, January 1, 2006
"Thanks for the Memories is replete with captivating bits of history, wonderful personal stories, and a peek into a generation slipping away fast. It's never dull as Ms. Leder moves you swiftly through history, confidently and engagingly."—TCM Reviews, December 1, 2006
"Jane Mersky Leder pricks the notion that men and women of the 'Greatest Generation' were all God-fearing....She writes well; the book is a good read."—Blogcritics.org, January 1, 2006
"Her book -- a very readable psycho-sociological study -- explores how the war and people's reaction to the times set in motion such things as the second wave of the women's movement."—Historical Text Archive, January 1, 2006
"In her lively, highly readable new book, Thanks for the Memories, Leder details the upheavals, personal and social, that began as the country mobilized to fight. In that upended society, she finds the beginnings of the many rights movements -- civil rights, women's liberation and gay rights."—Evanston Review, January 1, 2006
"Jane Mersky Leder is the author of a terrific book about an overlooked area in history - the sex lives of the greatest generation."—Fayetteville Observer, January 1, 2006
"Thanks for the Memories vividly portrays the disruptive impact of World War II on relations between men and women, not only in the well documented arena of labor force participation but also in the realms of sex, love, and marriage. The wartime generation, known for its conservative embrace of traditional domesticity in the 1950s, did so after having broken all the rules. Jane Mersky Leder makes a persuasive case that the women's movement in the late 1960s was an aftershock of these seismic shifts whose story, until now, has not been told."—Sara M. Evans, University of Minnesota, author of Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America
"Jane Mersky Leder recounts the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary times, and brings the World War II era to life. Beautifully written and poignant, sometimes romantic but not always. Thanks for the Memories recounts how men and women during World War II sought love, sex and security in the midst of the upheavals of wartime."—Elaine Tyler May, author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era
"Lively, moving, evocative and memorable, Thanks For the Memories brings back to us the extraordinary changes that occurred among women and men during World War II, and re-creates for us their pain, joy and courage."—William H. Chafe, the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History, Duke University