Over Here Review
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Most high school history teachers will tell their young charges that the most important event of the last century was the Second World War. Thatís probably an accurate statement, but thereís another event that is probably just as important to the United Statesí rise to super-power status. The passage of the G.I. Bill in 1944 would pave the way to a better life for millions of Americans, and itís as important a piece of legislation as the Civil Rights Act.

The benefits of the G.I. Billólike help with home loans and funds for collegeóare taken for granted by Americans today, but in the 1940s, it was a revolutionary concept. Edward Humes delivers a solid book in Over Here: How the G.I. Bill Transformed the American Dream, detailing how the G.I. Bill was created. He lays out how politicians of the day were anxious to create some type of package for returning soldiers, but they werenít necessarily anxious to craft something that would change America. Humes carefully spins out the drama behind the creation of the Servicemenís Readjustment Act of 1944 for modern readers. One of the interesting sub-plots in the book is how the primary sponsor of the Bill, Congressman John Rankin, wanted to give a lesser benefit package to women and blacks, so he made sure he was in charge of the Billís fate.

Humes takes the lives of a handful of veterans and overlays them over the various components of the G.I. Bill to show how individuals were impacted. He does a good job of showing how things like the expansion of the arts in America and the suburbs were unintended side effects of the Bill. Itís an interesting approach to take, and it makes the book feel very personal to the reader.

Toward the end of the book, Humes falls into a trap that is becoming all too common in the history books that have been published over the last couple of years: he spends the last chapter waxing poetic about how the G.I. Bill does not do enough. He calls for things like national health care and revamping the Billís education programs. While that may be a good goal in the bigger picture of things, Iím getting tired of reading history books that are pushing an agenda. It would be nice to read a straightforward history book again.

Cut out the last chapter, and this is a good book on a topic that doesnít get nearly the attention or credit it deserves.

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