Helluva Town: The Story of New York City During World War II


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By the end of the book New York has risen to one of the most powerful cities on Earth, but still filled with heart to welcome both the returning G. I's and then to honor the fallen that helped to save world. A great read.


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Jul 29, Dachokie rated it liked it Shelves: world-war-ii. I was eager to read HELLUVA TOWN as a means of illustrating how this magnificent city and its millions forged through such a tumultuous period of time and arguably emerge as the most important city in the world. While Goldstein's book does provide an adequate and interesting overview of the city's life during the war, I was a little disappointed in that the book never delivered the zeal and fascination I anticipated.

Goldstein starts by providing a pre-war overview of New York City by introducing its domineering wartime mayor, Fiorello La Guardia and giving us a glimpse of what seemed to be a rather sleepy city at the time. Once war breaks out in Europe, however, it seems the city starts to awaken and the "bustle" the usually characterizes New York begins to take shape.


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  4. While there was a general lull throughout the United States between Germany's invasion of Poland in and the attack on Pearl Harbor in , American port cities in the east were already in defensive state of war due to the German U-Boat scourge in the Atlantic and New York was at the center of the action. I found the incidents of U-Boats silently creeping off the shores of the harbor to unload German spies on New York's shores quite intriguing, especially the recollections provided by those who were involved.

    But, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, when one would expect New York City to kick into high gear, the book, for the most part, falls flat. The riots in Harlem and the B bomber that crashed into the Empire State Building are two other events that I found quite captivating.

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    For the most part, however, I never felt the excitement and energy the city must have exhibited by being a major send-off point for millions of GIs heading to North Africa and Europe. I was hoping for more recollections of soldiers' experiences in the city prior to being shipped off Most of the recollections are from New Yorkers themselves and while their input is essential in this story, a great deal of balance could have been added with contributions of outsiders visiting the city during this time.

    From what it appears, New Yorkers pretty much took World War II in stride, as the accounts of the VE and VJ Day celebrations never conveyed the jubilation and relief that pictures of those events reveal. The most poignant and fitting part of the entire book is its ending, with the war being over, the confetti and ticker-tape gone, the crowds of civilians and returning veterans have disbursed to their peacetime worlds and a lone troopship quietly docks in the harbor.

    On board this ship are the bodies of American servicemen coming home from the battlefields of Europe. Goldstein does a magnificent job in relaying the somber procession of the flag draped coffin of a Medal of Honor recipient symbolically representing all the deceased on the ship being respectfully marched off the ship and down a main street before a silent, but growing crowd of those paying their respects Having seen numerous LIFE magazine pictures over the years characterizing the city as being the heart and soul of America during World War II, I wanted to feel that exuberance when reading.

    Oct 10, Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it Shelves: american-history , wwi-wwii. NYC was buzzing with activity from the outfitting of ships in the navy yards to the Broadway plays dedicated to patriotic themes; air raid alerts which no New Yorker acknowledged no one would have the nerve to bomb NYC ; Mayor La Guardia grabbing headlines scampering about in his fireman's uniform; the thousands of soldiers and sailors who descended If you love NYC, the Big Apple, Baghdad on the Hudson, you will love her even more after a romp through this word picture of the city during WWII.

    NYC was buzzing with activity from the outfitting of ships in the navy yards to the Broadway plays dedicated to patriotic themes; air raid alerts which no New Yorker acknowledged no one would have the nerve to bomb NYC ; Mayor La Guardia grabbing headlines scampering about in his fireman's uniform; the thousands of soldiers and sailors who descended upon the city prior to shipping out to Europe; the nightclub scene and cafe society which continued to proliferate; the Stage Door Canteen: and the American Bund of Nazi sympathizers who met in Madison Square Garden.

    It's a fascinating look at the world's most fascinating city. Sep 04, Maura rated it liked it. You don't need to be a history buff to enjoy this book. The chapters are fairly short and can be read mostly independently, so you can dip in and out of the sections according to your interests. He tells the sometimes laughable plans for air raid warnings and other civil defenses. There are stories about U-boats lurking close to the harbor, spies coming ashore on Long Island in the dead of night, and US Naval Intelligence asking the Mafia for help fighting sabotage on the docks.

    The Stage section gives a lot of back stories about people who would go on after the war to become stars of stage and screen, and has just as many tales of those who were famous at the time. The Tensions section is about the many incidents of discrimination based on race, religion or national background; sad to say this section sounded almost as if it had been ripped from a recent news broadcast.

    Jul 10, Kathleen rated it really liked it. Jul 08, Jenny E rated it really liked it.

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    Helluva Town: The Story of New York City During World War II

    So much information. I enjoyed it, but I was sometimes overwhelmed by it.

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    I will probably read it again. I like history. May 25, Diane Yancilla Zuchnik rated it really liked it. Sep 05, Grace rated it it was amazing Shelves: american-history , novel-research , non-fiction , world-war-ii , read-in Goldstein touches upon the Nazi groups working to infiltrate and indoctrinate citizens, German and Russian spy rings, the collaboration of the Mafia and U.

    Navy to secure New York harbor, the role of actors and musicians in entertaining and boosting the morale of soldiers on their way through to war or back home again, as well as the role of penicillin in saving the loves of many wounded soldiers.

    And so much more. Goldstein's writing style is crisp and melodic. It is easy to get caught up in his narrative and with the story itself. These are the things often left out of history lessons but would make history more interesting if they were included. The sheer quantity and diversity of the stories Strausbaugh weaves together, and his ability to keep his narrative flowing from espionage cases to boxing matches to anti-Nazi comic books to German American Bund rallies to Lindy hops and more, will make Victory City a must-read for many New York history buffs.

    Steven H. Click below to follow us on social media. Reviewed by Steven H. In seeking to answer this question, I came upon a story of scientific brilliance, artistic genius, a generous spirit, and the courage of ordinary men and women. Times Square hosted a nightly frenzy, but why not?

    The more than three million servicemen who passed through it between Pearl Harbor Sunday and V-J Day were racing against time.

    Helluva Town; The Story of New York City during World War II – Thomas Rider

    New York was going to show the men and women headed overseas a good time before shipping them out. And it dispatched their armaments from its magnificent harbor while the Brooklyn Navy Yard built the battleships and aircraft carriers to avenge Pearl Harbor. And New York became a haven for the scientists, artists, journalists, and playwrights fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe.

    Laura Fermi, the wife of the Nobel Prize—winning physicist Enrico Fermi, remembered the morning of January 2, , when she arrived with her husband and two children in New York from Southampton, England, aboard the steamship Franconia on the final leg of their journey from fascist Italy: The New York skyline appeared in the gray sky, dim at first, then sharply jagged, and the Statue of Liberty moved toward us, a cold, huge woman of metal, who had no message yet to give me. The FBI, meanwhile, chased after Nazi spies in the city, Navy intelligence enlisted the Mafia to avert sabotage at the mob-run docks, and the British mounted a vast intelligence operation from obscure offices in Rockefeller Center.

    Some , New Yorkers served as air-raid wardens while antiaircraft guns ringed the city. New Yorkers bought war bonds, donated blood, planted Victory Gardens, and collected metal scrap for conversion to armaments. Lest nostalgia get the best of us, this was also a time of racial and ethnic tensions. Racism and poverty spawned a riot in Harlem. A national rise in anti-Semitism brought attacks upon Jewish youngsters on New York streets.

    The more than , New Yorkers who served in the armed forces came home to a city that was emerging as the world capital. New York surpassed Paris in art and fashion, London in financial prowess—its international clout underscored when the newly created United Nations voted to establish its permanent headquarters along the East River.

    Richard Goldstein

    Priestley passed through the city in on his trip to Mexico for a meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Conference. Its huge cosmopolitanism—it has more Jews than Palestine and more Italians than Naples—is untouched in the history of man. And this gives its little shops and restaurants and odd corners a unique charm.

    The ends of the earth are gathered together down one New York side street. You can dine, drink and amuse yourself in three continents. The New York that O. See All Customer Reviews.


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