The daughter of a navy veteran, I grew up amid some of the
memory-e√ects of World War II. During the 1960s, as I protested
the Vietnam War, my father equated military action with patriot-
ism and contributed to the navy’s lobbying organization, the Navy
League. In our arguments over foreign policy, foreign foes, and
military spending, we had little common ground. I now under-
stand that World War II structured his understanding of politics
and values in ways that I could hardly then appreciate.
The last decade’s exploding popularity of World War II ‘‘mem-
ory products’’ has increased my curiosity about the various cul-
tural meanings of that war and how memories take shape and
circulate. Just as an outpouring of interest and commemoration
about the Civil War came during the second generation after its
end, so turn-of-the-twentieth-century America has embraced a
‘‘memory boom’’ related to World War II. In what forms and to
what e√ects do the language and symbolism of World War II
‘‘live’’ in American culture?
This book examines the construction of Pearl Harbor as an icon
in historical memory, commemoration, and spectacle. As an
icon—a site suggesting a cluster of meanings—Pearl Harbor has
o√ered ‘‘rhetorical resources’’ to support many di√erent narra-
tives, drawing a multitude of lessons.∞ What were the various
contexts within which the powerful symbolism around Pearl Har-
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