Kilroy Was Here
Charles Osgood
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Get *Kilroy Was Here* delivered to your door! Kilroy Was Here:
The Best American Humor
from World War II
edited by Charles Osgood
May 2001
188 pages
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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The American fascination with World War II seems to grow more entrenched with time's passing. Even as the population of Brokaw's "greatest generation" continues to dwindle, the number of books, movies and commentaries on the war years mushrooms. Emmy-award winning TV and radio journalist Charles Osgood (CBS' "Sunday Morning," See You on the Radio) makes his contribution to the body of WWII explication with Kilroy Was Here, a compendium of American military humor from the '40s.

Curled Up With a Good BookOsgood's book gets its title from the ubiquitous little round-headed character whose nose peeped over the edges of walls in the most ridiculously out of the way places. Osgood, in his insightful and gentle introduction, reports on the real Kilroy (apparently a civilian welding inspector in the Quincy, Massachusetts, Bethlehem Steel shipyard) and mulls over how a little bald non-sequitur of a cartoon helped preserve the sanity of the teenaged American boys who'd signed up to sacrifice everything in the name of protecting their nation and their way of life. Humor was vital to the survival of the GI spirit, for as Osgood says,

But humor and laughter are a part of life, a part of being human. Even in the grimmest of times, people find things to laugh about...there's a fine line between tragedy and comedy, between tears and laughter...The more fearsome and threatening the situation, the more we need a sense of humor to keep going and hold on to our sanity.
And so Osgood rounds up a poignantly funny group of jokes, cartoons, essays and anecdotes that serve as a sort of time machine helping today's World War II enthusiasts get into the minds of US servicemen during their tours of duty in the States, the Pacific and the European theater. From a witty dictionary of military slang to painfully funny parodies of "Dear John" letters, from a sprinkling of Bill Mauldin cartoons to stories of performing for the troops from the likes of Bob Hope and Buddy Hackett, Kilroy Was Here fills the gap left by even the most excruciatingly detailed accounts of the horror of battle. This little book helps us know how those who fought made it through the most wretched hardships imaginable. It's a must-have for those who can never get enough about the most sweeping war our world has known.

© 2001 by Sharon Schulz-Elsing for Curled Up With a Good Book

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