The Good War

56 pages • 1 hour read

“The Good War”: An Oral History of World War II

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.


  • Book 1, Section 1
  • Book 1, Section 2
  • Book 1, Section 3
  • Book 1, Section 4
  • Book 1, Section 5
  • Book 1, Section 6
  • Book 1, Section 7
  • Book 2, Section 1
  • Book 2, Section 2
  • Book 2, Section 3
  • Book 2, Section 4
  • Book 2, Section 5
  • Book 3, Section 1
  • Book 3, Section 2
  • Book 3, Section 3
  • Book 3, Section 4
  • Book 4, Section 1
  • Book 4, Section 2
  • Book 4, Section 3
  • Book 4, Section 4
  • Book 4, Section 5
  • Book 4, Section 6
  • Key Figures
  • Symbols & Motifs
  • Important Quotes
  • Essay Topics

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Introduction Summary

The Introduction explains Terkel’s thesis and his purpose in compiling the interviews for the book. Despite World War II being “an event that changed the psyche as well as the face of the United States and the world” (3), Terkel finds that memory of the war is rapidly fading. Terkel recognizes that this is not a book of “hard fact and precise statistic” but of memory (3).

Terkel explains that “The Good War” examines how individuals who lived through World War II dealt with propaganda (which existed both in Germany and the United States) and bigotry against the enemy. Also, Terkel discusses how his interviewees illustrate the impacts World War II has had on the United States’s view of its place in the world, on American prosperity, and on the rights of women and African Americans.

blurred text

Don't Miss Out!

Access Study Guide Now

Ready to dive in?

Get unlimited access to SuperSummary for only $0.70/week

Related Titles

By Studs Terkel

Study Guide

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression

Studs Terkel

Featured Collections

Books on U.S. History

View Collection

Inspiring Biographies

Jewish american literature.

  • Share full article


Supported by

Has the Myth of the ‘Good War’ Done Us Lasting Harm?

The correspondent Ernie Pyle (center) talking with marines on a U.S. Navy transport in March 1945. 

  • Apple Books
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Books-A-Million

When you purchase an independently reviewed book through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.

By Ben Rhodes

  • Dec. 1, 2021

LOOKING FOR THE GOOD WAR American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness By Elizabeth D. Samet

Watching the tragic end of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, Americans could easily have forgotten that the war began in a spasm of triumphalism. Days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush pledged that Al Qaeda and its allies would “follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism” to “history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies.” Fast-forward 20 years. Abroad, the United States has been chastened in its post-9/11 wars. At home, American democracy is riven by division and endangered by creeping authoritarianism.

How did this happen? In her magisterial new book, “Looking for the Good War,” Elizabeth Samet, a professor of English at West Point, finds answers in the same historical wellspring that Bush tapped into: our mythologizing of war, particularly our triumph over fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism in the 20th century. Samet leaves little doubt about where she stands in the wording of the question that frames her book. “Has the prevailing memory of the ‘Good War,’ shaped as it has been by nostalgia, sentimentality and jingoism, done more harm than good to Americans’ sense of themselves and their country’s place in the world?”

We all know the prevailing memory of the “Good War.” Abroad, Americans from all walks of life came together to defeat tyranny and free the oppressed. At home, Americans were united in fidelity to the cause. And there is a cinematic quality to the images that Samet revisits, projected into our collective memory like a black-and-white newsreel: our troops distributing chocolate to children, receiving kisses from Frenchwomen and liberating concentration camps while the arsenal of democracy hummed back home. To Samet, this mythmaking reached its apotheosis around the turn of the century, with the publication of books by Stephen Ambrose and Tom Brokaw . It is hard not to blush a little when Samet quotes Brokaw’s declaration: “This is the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”

Of course, there is nobility in celebrating the U.S. victory in a just war and honoring those who served. Samet reaffirms that truth while forcing our attention on a more complicated reality. A sizable “America First” movement sympathized with aspects of Hitler’s ideology, which borrowed from our history of white supremacy. Americans were reluctantly drawn into war only after Pearl Harbor, and liberating the Jews was never a priority. Racism permeated our military forces — most obviously in mandated segregation, and in the restoration of Confederate war heroes in the naming of military facilities and the narrative of national greatness. In the firebombing of German and Japanese cities, the United States was indiscriminate in its use of violence. For U.S. troops who fought, the war was often something to be endured and not celebrated.

Samet draws on American voices who offered a more nuanced portrayal of the war and its meaning. She begins with reporters like Ernie Pyle, who embedded with U.S. troops and was killed in the Pacific in 1945. As early as September 1944, when it appeared the war in Europe had been won, Pyle was cautioning against triumphalism, blending his deep admiration for the Americans who fought with a reminder that our victory had many factors, including the enormous sacrifices of British and Soviet allies, and our vast natural resources. His words read like a prebuttal to the postwar brand of American exceptionalism. “We did not win it because destiny created us better than all other peoples.”

Much of the book elevates for praise Americans like John Hersey, Chester Himes, William Styron, Reinhold Niebuhr, Studs Terkel and Joan Didion, who wrestled with complexity and resisted mythmaking. Samet also focuses extensively on film, particularly postwar noir — movies like “Daisy Kenyon” (1947) and “Sudden Fear” (1952) — which centered on the disaffected veteran who cannot forget his past intimacy with violence. This version of the American antihero is ambivalent about organized society and accepts moral ambiguity. Samet makes a compelling case that “noir’s sordid world of drifters, grifters and con artists sounds a steady counterpoint to the mainstream Cold War narrative of American righteousness and self-satisfaction.” Still, the prevailing national story embraced the dangerous lesson that there is “an innate, exceptional goodness” in the use of military force by the United States — a false truth that anticipates Vietnam.

The downside of “Looking for the Good War” is that it occasionally becomes a bombardment of cultural references, as if Samet cannot help finding validation for her arguments everywhere; stretches of the book are devoted to film and book summaries. But the strength of this approach is to remind us that there has always been an alternative to the simplistic mythmaking around World War II and its impact on our national psyche. Instead of embracing a more realistic complexity, Samet maintains, we have been burdened by the impossibility of living up to a myth of our own construction. “We continue to search in vain for a heroic plot comparable to the one woven out of our experience in World War II.”

For all of its own intricacies, the Cold War did offer the outlines of such a plot. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that the re-emergence of World War II nostalgia embodied by Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” took place in the decade between the fall of the Soviet Union and the attacks of 9/11. And it’s clear that the more recent War on Terror was colored from the outset by World War II’s grip on our national consciousness, even if its reality has tracked closer to the nuanced accounts of war explored by Samet’s canon of countercultural voices.

The beginning of the Afghan war saw Al Qaeda cast as an heir to Nazism, a move that elided the differences between a totalitarian state and a terrorist organization. President Bush, in his effort to justify an invasion of Iraq, branded terrorist organizations, Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an “axis of evil,” repurposing the label given to World War II’s Axis powers despite the lack of any alliance among these forces, while reprising President Reagan’s casting of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” as if a patchwork of U.S. adversaries could be defeated by rhetorical clarity. Critics of these wars were likened to “appeasers”; arguments for a more restrained foreign policy drew comparisons to Neville Chamberlain’s ill-fated summit in Munich.

Samet has taught soldiers who served in 21st-century wars, and she forces us to confront the fact that these wars were consumed as myths back home. Even as a relatively small number of Americans served, the rest of the nation participated through flag lapel pins, flyovers at football games and feel-good videos of troops returning home (often before another deployment). Media outlets such as Fox News celebrated our military prowess while ignoring its limitations and vilifying the wars’ critics. As the promised victories failed to materialize, our culture became dominated by comic book movies and our politics were overtaken by an authoritarian movement with a nativist and nostalgic appeal: “Make America Great Again.”

A big and diverse nation like the United States inevitably encompasses the complexity and contradictions of humanity. This was on display in the final days of our war in Afghanistan. As young Americans at Kabul’s airport struggled to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans who believed in the stories we told them about freedom and democracy, far more were left behind. The final known American act of violence was a drone strike that exemplified the reach of our military power but killed seven innocent children while serving no strategic purpose.

America’s victory in World War II should always be celebrated, particularly its defeat of fascism; a nation naturally seeks to embrace its best story as a source of common identity. But at a time when mythmaking and misinformation dominate swaths of our discourse, those scenes from Kabul remind us that we can only see the humanity in one another — whether it is an American soldier asked to make life-or-death decisions at that airport, or an Afghan child denied the most basic right to live — if we choose to live honestly in the world as it is.

Ben Rhodes served as a deputy national security adviser from 2009 to 2017 and is the author, most recently, of “After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made.”

LOOKING FOR THE GOOD WAR American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness By Elizabeth D. Samet 354 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $28.


You are here.

The 'Good War' Myth of World War Two

By Mark Weber

World War II was not only the greatest military conflict in history, it was also America's most important twentieth-century war. It brought profound and permanent social, governmental and cultural changes in the United States, and has had a great impact on how Americans regard themselves and their country's place in the world.

This global clash -- with the United States and the other "Allies" on one side, and Nazi Germany, imperial Japan and the other "Axis" countries on the other -- is routinely portrayed in the US as the "good war," a morally clear-cut conflict between Good and Evil. / 1

In the view of British author and historian Paul Addison, "the war served a generation of Britons and Americans as a myth which enshrined their essential purity, a parable of good and evil." / 2   Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme wartime Commander of American forces in Europe, and later US president for eight years, called the fight against Nazi Germany "the Great Crusade." /  3  And President Bill Clinton said that in World War II the United States "saved the world from tyranny." / 4  Americans are also told that this was an unavoidable and necessary war, one that the US had to wage to keep from being enslaved by cruel and ruthless dictators.

Whatever doubts or misgivings Americans may have had about their country's role in Iraq, Vietnam, or other overseas conflicts, most accept that the sacrifices made by the US in World War II, especially in defeating Hitler's Germany, were entirely justified and worthwhile.

For more than 60 years, this view has been reinforced in countless motion pictures, on television, by teachers, in textbooks, and by political leaders. The reverential way that the US role in the war has been portrayed moved Bruce Russett, professor of political science at Yale University, to write: / 5

"Participation in the war against Hitler remains almost wholly sacrosanct, nearly in the realm of theology ... Whatever criticisms of twentieth-century American policy are put forth, United States participation in World War II remains almost entirely immune. According to our national mythology, that was a 'good war,' one of the few for which the benefits clearly outweighed the costs. Except for a few books published shortly after the war and quickly forgotten, this orthodoxy has been essentially unchallenged."

How accurate is this hallowed portrayal of America's role in World War II? As we shall see, it does not hold up under close examination.

First, a look at the outbreak of war in Europe.

When the leaders of Britain and France declared war against Germany on September 3, 1939, they announced that they were doing so because German military forces had attacked Poland, thereby threatening Polish independence. In going to war against Germany, the British and French leaders transformed what was then a geographically limited, two-day-old clash between Germany and Poland into a continental, European-wide conflict.

It soon became obvious that the British-French justification for going to war was not sincere. When Soviet Russian forces attacked Poland from the East two weeks later, ultimately taking even more Polish territory than did Germany, the leaders of Britain and France did not declare war against the Soviet Union. And although Britain and France went to war supposedly to protect Polish independence, at the end of the fighting in 1945 – after five and a half years of horrific struggle, death and suffering – Poland was still not free, but instead was entirely under the brutal rule of Soviet Russia.

Sir Basil Liddell Hart, an outstanding twentieth-century British military historian, put it this way: / 6

"The Western Allies entered the war with a two-fold object. The immediate purpose was to fulfill their promise to preserve the independence of Poland. The ultimate purpose was to remove a potential menace to themselves, and thus ensure their own security. In the outcome, they failed in both purposes. Not only did they fail to prevent Poland from being overcome in the first place, and partitioned between Germany and Russia, but after six years of war which ended in apparent victory they were forced to acquiesce in Russia's domination of Poland – abandoning their pledges to the Poles who had fought on their side."

In 1940, shortly after he was named prime minister, Winston Churchill spelled out, in two often quoted speeches, his reasons for continuing Britain's war against Germany. In his famous "Blood, Sweat and Tears" speech, the great British wartime leader said that unless Germany was defeated, there would be "no survival for the British empire, no survival for all that the British empire has stood for..." A few weeks later, in his "Finest Hour" address, Churchill said: "Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire." / 7

How strange those words sound today. Even though Britain supposedly "won," or at least was on the winning side in the war, the once-mighty British empire has vanished into history. No British leader today would dare defend the often brutal record of British imperialism, including killing and bombing in order to maintain exploitative colonial rule over millions in Asia and Africa. Nor would any British leader today dare to justify killing people in order to uphold "Christian civilization," not least for fear of offending Britain's large and rapidly growing non-Christian population.

Americans like to believe that "good guys" win, and "bad guys" lose, and, in international affairs, that "good" countries win wars, and "bad" countries lose them. In keeping with this view, Americans are encouraged to believe that the US role in defeating Germany and Japan demonstrated the righteousness of the "American Way," and the superiority of our country's form of government and society.

But if there is any validity to this view, it would be more accurate to say that the war's outcome showed the righteousness of the "Soviet Way," and the superiority of the Soviet Communist form of society and government. Indeed, for decades that was a proud claim of Moscow's leaders. As one official Soviet history book, published in the 1970s, put it: 

"The war demonstrated the superiority of the Soviet socialist social and state system ... The war further demonstrated the social and political unity of the Soviet people ... Once again it underscored the significance of the guiding and organizing role of the Communist Party in socialist society. The Communist Party consolidated millions of people in their fight against the fascist aggressors ... The selfless dedication demonstrated by the Communist Party during the war years further solidified the trust, respect and love it enjoys among the Soviet people." / 8

In fact, Hitler's Germany was defeated, first and foremost, by the Soviet Union. Some 70-80 percent of German combat forces were destroyed by the Soviet military on the Eastern front. The D-Day landing in France by American and British forces, which is often portrayed in the United States as a critically important military blow against Nazi Germany, was launched in June 1944 -- that is, less than a year before the end of the war in Europe, and months after the great Soviet military victories at Stalingrad and Kursk, which were decisive in Germany's defeat. / 9

What were the American goals in World War II, and how successful was the US in achieving them?

In 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt, together with British prime minister Winston Churchill, issued a formal declaration of Allied war aims, the much-publicized "Atlantic Charter." In it, the United States and Britain declared that they sought "no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned," that they would "respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of governments under which they will live," and that they would strive "to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them."

It soon became apparent, though, that this solemn pledge of freedom and self-government for "all peoples" was little more than empty propaganda. / 10  This is hardly surprising, given that America's two most important military allies in the war were Great Britain and the Soviet Union – that is, the world's foremost imperialist power, and the world's cruelest tyranny.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, Britain ruled over the largest colonial empire in history, holding more millions of people against their will than any regime before or since. This vast empire included what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and South Africa.

America's other great wartime ally, the Soviet Union, was, by any objective measure, the most tyrannical or oppressive regime of its time, and a vastly more cruel despotism than Hitler's Germany. As historians acknowledge, the victims of Soviet dictator Stalin greatly outnumber those who perished as a result of Hitler's policies. Robert Conquest, a prominent scholar of twentieth century Russian history, estimates the number of those who lost their lives as a consequence of Stalin's policies as "no fewer than 20 million." / 11

During the war the United States helped substantially to maintain Stalin's tyranny, and to aid the Soviet Union in oppressing additional millions of Europeans, while also helping Britain to maintain or re-establish its imperial rule over many millions in Asia and Africa. / 12

Paul Fussell, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who served in World War II as a US Army lieutenant, wrote in his acclaimed book Wartime that "the Allied war has been sanitized and romanticized almost beyond recognition by the sentimental, the loony patriotic, the ignorant and the bloodthirsty." / 13

An important feature of this "sanitized" view is the belief that whereas the Nazi German regime was responsible for many terrible war crimes and atrocities, the Allies, and especially the United States, waged war humanely. In fact, the record of Allied misdeeds is a long one, and includes the British-American bombing of German cities, a terroristic campaign that took the lives of more than half a million civilians, the genocidal "ethnic cleansing" of millions of civilians in eastern and central Europe, and the large-scale postwar mistreatment of German prisoners. / 14

After "forty months of war duty and five major battles" in which Edgar L. Jones served as "an ambulance driver, a merchant seaman, an Army historian, and a war correspondent," he wrote an article dispelling some myths about the Americans' role in the war. "What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought, anyway?," he told readers of The Atlantic monthly. "We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter-openers." / 15

Shortly after the end of the war, the victorious powers put Germany's wartime leaders on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In doing so, the US and its allies held German leaders to a standard that they did not respect themselves.

US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson was not the only high-ranking American official to acknowledge, at least in private, that the claim of unique Allied righteousness was mere pretense. In a letter to the President, written while he was serving as the chief US prosecutor at the great Nuremberg trial of 1945-1946, Jackson acknowledged that the Allies "have done or are doing some of the very things we are prosecuting the Germans for. The French are so violating the Geneva Convention in the treatment of [German] prisoners of war that our command is taking back prisoners sent to them [for forced labor in France]. We are prosecuting plunder and our Allies are practicing it. We say aggressive war is a crime and one of our allies asserts sovereignty over the Baltic States based on no title except conquest." / 16

At the conclusion of the Nuremberg trial of 1945-1946, the respected British weekly The Economist cited Soviet crimes, and then added, "Nor should the Western world console itself that the Russians alone stand condemned at the bar of the Allies' own justice." The Economist editorial went on:

"... Among crimes against humanity stands the offence of the indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations. Can the Americans who dropped the atom bomb and the British who destroyed the cities of western Germany plead 'not guilty' on this count? Crimes against humanity also include the mass expulsion of populations. Can the Anglo-Saxon leaders who at Potsdam condoned the expulsion of millions of Germans from their homes hold themselves completely innocent?... The nations sitting in judgment [at Nuremberg] have so clearly proclaimed themselves exempt from the law which they have administered." / 17

Another popular American assumption is that this country's enemies in World War II were all non-democratic dictatorships. In fact, on each side there were regimes that were repressive or dictatorial, as well as governments that had broad public support. Many of the countries allied with the US were headed by governments that were oppressive, dictatorial, or otherwise non-democratic. / 18  Finland, a democratic republic, was an important wartime partner of Hitler's Germany.

In crass violation of their own solemnly proclaimed principles, the US, British and Soviet statesmen disposed of tens of millions of people with no regard for their wishes. The deceit and cynicism of the Allied leaders was perhaps most blatant in the infamous British-Soviet "percentages agreement" to divide up South Eastern Europe. At a meeting with Stalin in 1944, Churchill proposed that in Romania the Soviets should have 90 percent influence or authority, and 75 percent in Bulgaria, and that Britain should have 90 percent influence or control in Greece. In Hungary and Yugoslavia, the British leader suggested, each should have 50 percent. Churchill wrote all this out on a piece of paper, which he pushed across to Stalin, who made a check mark on it and passed it back. Churchill then said, "Might it not be thought rather cynical if it seemed we had disposed of these issues, so fateful to millions of people, in such an off-hand manner? Let us burn the paper." "No, you keep it," replied Stalin. / 19

To solidify the Allied wartime coalition – which was formally known as the "United Nations" -- President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Churchill, and Soviet premier Stalin met together on two occasions: in November 1943 at Tehran, in occupied Iran, and in February 1945 in Yalta, in Soviet Crimea. The three Allied leaders accomplished what they accused the Axis leaders of Germany, Italy and Japan of conspiring to achieve: world domination.

During a 1942 meeting in Washington, President Roosevelt candidly told the Soviet foreign minister that "the United States, England and Russia, and perhaps China, should police the world and enforce disarmament [of all others] by inspection." / 20

To secure the global rule of the victorious powers after the war, the "Big Three" Allied leaders established the United Nations organization to serve as a permanent world police force. Once Germany and Japan were defeated, though, the US and the Soviet Union squared off against each other, which made it impossible for the UN to function as President Roosevelt had intended. While the US and Soviet Union each sought for decades to secure hegemony in its own sphere of influence, the two "super powers" were also rivals in a decades-long struggle for global supremacy.

In his book, A People's History of the United States , historian Howard Zinn wrote:  / 21

"The victors were the Soviet Union and the United States (also England, France and Nationalist China, but they were weak). Both these countries now went to work – without swastikas, goose-stepping, or officially declared racism, but under the cover of 'socialism' on the one side, and 'democracy' on the other, to carve out their own empires of influence. They proceeded to share and contest with one another the domination of the world, to build military machines far greater than the Fascist countries had built, to control the destinies of more countries than Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan had been able to. They also acted to control their own populations, each country with its own techniques – crude in the Soviet Union, sophisticated in the United States – to make their rule secure."

The United States officially entered World War II after the Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Until then, the US was officially a neutral country, and most Americans wanted to keep out of the war that was then raging in Europe and Asia. In spite of the country's neutral status, President Roosevelt and his administration, together with much of the US media, prodded the American people into supporting war against Germany. A large-scale propaganda campaign was mounted to persuade Americans that Hitler and his Nazi "henchmen" or "hordes" were doing everything in their power to take over and "enslave" the entire world, and that war with Hitler's Germany was inevitable.

As part of this effort, the President and other high-ranking American officials broadcast fantastic lies about supposed plans by Hitler and his government to attack the United States and impose a global dictatorship. / 22

President Roosevelt's record of lies is acknowledged even by his admirers. Among those who have sought to justify his policy is the eminent American historian Thomas A. Bailey, who wrote:  / 23

"Franklin Roosevelt repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl Harbor ... He was like the physician who must tell the patient lies for the patient's own good ... The country was overwhelmingly noninterventionist to the very day of Pearl Harbor, and an overt attempt to lead the people into war would have resulted in certain failure and an almost certain ousting of Roosevelt in 1940, with a complete defeat of his ultimate aims."

Professor Bailey went on to offer a cynical view of American democracy:

"A president who cannot entrust the people with the truth betrays a certain lack of faith in the basic tenets of democracy. But because the masses are notoriously shortsighted and generally cannot see danger until it is at their throats, our statesmen are forced to deceive them into an awareness of their own long-run interests. This is clearly what Roosevelt had to do, and who shall say that posterity will not thank him for it?"

As part of the US government's campaign to incite war, President Roosevelt in 1941 ordered the US Navy to help British forces in attacking German vessels in the Atlantic.  This was reinforced by a presidential "shoot on sight" order to the US Navy against German and Italian ships. Roosevelt's goal was to provoke an "incident" that would provide a pretext for open war. Hitler, for his part, was anxious to avoid conflict with the United States. The German leader responded to the US government's blatantly illegal provocations by ordering his navy commanders to avoid clashes with US ships. / 24

Also in crass violation of international law, the officially neutral US government provided massive "Lend Lease" aid to Germany's enemies, especially Britain and its empire, as well as to Soviet Russia.

Two prominent American historians, Allan Nevins and Henry Steele Commager, noted that:

"This [1941 "Lend Lease"] measure was clearly unneutral, but the United States, committed now to the defeat of Germany, was not to be stayed by the niceties of international law. Other equally unneutral acts followed – the seizure of Axis shipping, the freezing of Axis funds, the transfer of tankers to Britain, the occupation of Greenland and, later, of Iceland, the extension of lend-lease to the new ally, Russia, and ... the presidential order to 'shoot on sight' any enemy submarines." / 25

In the view of British historian J.F.C. Fuller, President Roosevelt "left no stone unturned to provoke Hitler to declare war on the very people to whom he so ardently promised peace. He provided Great Britain with American destroyers, he landed American troops in Iceland, and he set out to patrol the Atlantic seaways in order to safeguard British convoys; all of which were acts of war ... In spite of his manifold enunciations to keep the United States out of the war, he was bent on provoking some incident which would bring them into it." / 26

So belligerent and unlawful were the Roosevelt administration’s policies that Admiral Harold Stark, US Chief of Naval Operations, warned the Secretary of State in an October 1941 memorandum that Hitler “has every excuse in the world to declare war on us now, if he were of a mind to.” / 27

Across Europe and Asia, the Second World War brought mass destruction, death to tens of millions of men, women and children, and great suffering to many more. Americans, though, were spared the horrors of large-scale bombing, combat fighting on their home soil, or occupation by foreign armies.

At the end of the war the United States was the only major nation not shattered in the global conflict. It emerged as the world's preeminent economic, military, and financial power. For the US, the half-century from 1945 to the mid-1990s was an era of spectacular economic growth and unmatched global stature.

Lewis H. Lapham, author and for years editor of Harper's magazine, put it this way:

"In 1945, the United States inherited the earth ... At the end of World War II, what was left of Western civilization passed into the American account. The war had also prompted the country to invent a miraculous economic machine that seemed to grant as many wishes as were asked of it. The continental United States had escaped the plague of war, and so it was easy enough for the heirs to believe that they had been anointed by God." / 28

But were Americans really better off than if they had stayed out of World War II? Among those who has not thought so is Prof. Bruce Russett, who wrote: / 29

"American participation in World War II had very little effect on the essential structure of international politics thereafter, and probably did little either to advance the material welfare of most Americans or to make the nation secure from foreign military threats ... In fact, most Americans probably would have been no worse off, and possibly a little better, if the United States had never become a belligerent...

"I personally find it hard to develop a very emphatic preference for Stalinist Russia over Hitlerite Germany ... In cold-blooded realist terms, Nazism as an ideology was almost certainly less dangerous to the United States than is Communism."

Although Third Reich Germany and imperial Japan were destroyed, the United States and Britain failed to achieve the political goals proclaimed by their leaders. In August 1945, the prestigious British weekly, The Economist , noted: "At the end of a mighty war fought to defeat Hitlerism, the Allies are making a Hitlerian peace. This is the real measure of their failure." / 30

Among those who were not happy about the war's outcome was British historian Basil Liddell Hart, who wrote:

"... All the effort that was put into the destruction of Hitlerite Germany resulted in a Europe so devastated and weakened in the process that its power of resistance was much reduced in the face of a fresh and greater menace – and Britain, in common with her European neighbours, had become a poor dependent of the United States. These are the hard facts underlying the victory that was so hopefully pursued and so painfully achieved – after the colossal weight of both Russia and America had been drawn into the scales against Germany. The outcome dispelled the persistent popular illusion that 'victory' spelt peace. It confirmed the warning of past experience that victory is a 'mirage in the desert' – the desert that a long war creates, when waged with modern weapons and unlimited methods." / 31

Even Winston Churchill had misgivings about the war's outcome. Three years after the end of the fighting, he wrote:

"The human tragedy [of the war] reaches its climax in the fact that after all the exertions and sacrifices of hundreds of millions of people and of the victories of the Righteous Cause, we have still not found Peace or Security, and that we lie in the grip of even worse perils than those we have surmounted." / 32

At the end of the war, Europe for the first time in its history was no longer master of its own destiny, but was instead under the domination of two great outer European powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, which for political and ideological reasons had no special interest in, or concern for, European culture or Western civilization. /  33

In the view of Charles A. Lindbergh, the world-famous author and aviator, the war was a great setback for the West. Twenty-five years after the end of the conflict, he wrote: / 34

"We won the war in a military sense; but in a broader sense it seems to me we lost it, for our Western civilization is less respected and secure than it was before. In order to defeat Germany and Japan we supported the still greater menaces of Russia and China – which now confront us in a nuclear-weapon era. Poland was not saved ... Much of our Western culture was destroyed. We lost the genetic heredity formed through aeons in many million lives ... It is alarmingly possible that World War II marks the beginning of our Western civilization's breakdown, as it already marks the breakdown of the greatest empire ever built by man."

The outcome of the US and British role in the war moved British historian J.F.C. Fuller to write: / 35

"What persuaded them [Roosevelt and Churchill] to adopt so fatal a policy? We hazard to reply – blind hatred! Their hearts ran away with their heads and their emotions befogged their reason. For them the war was not a political conflict in the normal meaning of the words, it was a Manichean contest between Good and Evil, and to carry their people along with them they unleashed a vitriolic propaganda against the devil they had invoked."

Even after the passage of so many years, this hatred has endured. American schools, the US mass media, government agencies and political leaders have for decades carried on a campaign of emotion-laden, one-sided propaganda to uphold the national mythology of World War II.

How a nation views the past is not a trivial or merely academic exercise. Our perspective on history profoundly shapes our actions in the present, often with grave consequences for the future. Drawing conclusions from our understanding of the past, we make or support policies that greatly impact many lives.

The familiar American portrayal of World War II, and the "good war" mythology of the US role in it, is not merely bad history. It has helped greatly to support and justify a series of arrogant US foreign policy adventures, with harmful consequences for both America and the world.

"World War II has warped our view of how we look at things today," said US Navy rear admiral Gene R. LaRoque, who served in 13 major battles during the war. "We see things in terms of that war, which in a sense was a good war. But the twisted memory of it encourages the men of my generation to be willing, almost eager, to use military force anywhere in the world."  / 36

Since 1945, American presidents have repeatedly sought to justify US military actions in foreign countries by recalling the "good war" and, in particular, the US role in defeating Germany. During the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson sought to win support for his Vietnam war policy with historically false portrayals of World War II and Hitler's Germany. / 37

This moved historian Murray Rothbard to write in 1968: / 38

" ...World War II is the last war myth left, the myth that the Old Left clings to in pure desperation: the myth that here, at least, was a good war, here was a war in which America was in the right. World War II is the war thrown into our faces by the war-making establishment, as it tries, in each war that we face, to wrap itself in the mantle of good and righteous World War II."

In recent years, American political leaders have tried to gain support for war against Iraq and Iran by drawing historical parallels between Hitler and the leaders of those two Middle East countries.

Many Americans are understandably outraged by the deceit and falsehoods of President George W. Bush and his administration in seeking public support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. But as we have seen, presidential deception to justify war did not start with him. Americans who express admiration for the US role in World War II, and for Franklin Roosevelt's presidential leadership, have little moral right to complain when presidents follow his example and lead the country into war by breaking the law, subverting the Constitution, and lying to the people.

If the history of war and conflict teaches us anything, it is the danger of arrogance and hubris – that is, the danger of going to war because a nation's leaders are convinced of their own righteousness, or have persuaded themselves and the public that a foreign country should be attacked because its government or society is not merely alien, hostile or threatening, but "evil."

This is perhaps the most harmful legacy of America 's national mythology about World War II -- the notion that worthwhile or justifiable wars are fought against countries headed by supposedly "evil" regimes. And it is this very outlook that moved President George W. Bush to refer to his "war on terrorism" as a "crusade," and, in a major speech, to proclaim a US foreign policy dedicated to "ending tyranny in the world." / 39

A nation should go to war only after prudent consideration, after carefully weighing the possible consequences, and only for the most compelling of reasons, after all other alternatives have been exhausted, and as a last resort. This is especially true given the awesome destructive power of modern weaponry, and because – as World War II , the "Good War," so tragically attests -- wars rarely turn out the way anyone expects.

About the Author

Mark Weber is director of the Institute for Historical Review. He studied history at the University of Illinois (Chicago), the University of Munich, Portland State University and Indiana University (M.A., 1977). This article was presented as a lecture at an IHR meeting in Costa Mesa, California, on May 24, 2008.

 1. Studs Terkel, "The Good War" (New York: Pantheon, 1984), p. vi.

2. P. Fussell, Wartime (1989), pp. 164-165.Also quoted there by Fussell is Eric Severeid, an influential American journalist and commentator, who wrote that the war "absolutely" was a "contest between good and evil."

3. Eisenhower declaration of June 6, 1944, issued in connection with the D-Day invasion.

4. Clinton's second inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1997. See: M. Weber, "The Danger of Historical Lies: President Clinton's Distortion of History," The Journal of Historical Review , May-June 1997. http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v16/v16n3p-2_Weber.html )

5.  B. M. Russett, No Clear and Present Danger (1972), pp. 12, 17.

6. Basil H. Liddell Hart, History of the Second World War (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1971), p. 3.

7. Churchill speeches of May 13, 1940, and June 18, 1940.

8. K. Gusev, V. Naumov, The USSR: A Short History (Moscow: Progress, 1976), p. 239.

9. N. Davies, No Simple Victory (2007), pp. 24, 25, 276, 484-485; John Erickson, The Road to Berlin (Yale Univ. Press, 1999), p. ix (preface); Soviet losses in the three-week Berlin offensive of April 16 to May 8, 1945, it's been estimated, were greater than the total of American dead in the Second World War, and greater than the losses of the Western allies in the whole of 1945. H. P. Willmott, The Great Crusade: A New Complete History of the Second World War (New York: 1990), p. 452; In the view of historian John Lukacs: "Their [the Soviet Russians'] resistance and victory over the Germans was their greatest – no, their only great – achievement during the seventy-four years of Soviet Communism." J. Lukacs, The End of the Twentieth Century and the End of the Modern Age (New York: 1993), p. 55.

10.  British historian J. F. C. Fuller called the Atlantic Charter "first class propaganda, and probably the biggest hoax in history." J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World , Vol. 3 (New York: DaCapo, 1987), p. 453.

11. R. Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Oxford Univ. Press, 1990), p. 48. See also: N. Davies, No Simple Victory (2007), pp. 64-67

12.  A few years after the end of the war, former US President Herbert Hoover recalled his critical view of Roosevelt's policy of aiding the Soviet Union: "In June 1941, when Britain was safe from German invasion due to Hitler's diversion to attack Stalin, I urged that the gargantuan jest of all history would be our giving aid to the Soviet government. I urged that we should allow those two dictators to exhaust each other. I stated that the result of our assistance would be to spread Communism over the whole world. ... The consequences have proved that I was right." Cited by: Scott Horton, "Saving England Wasn't Worth It," June 2007. ( http://www.antiwar.com/horton/?articleid=11213 )

13. P. Fussell, Wartime (New York: 1989), p. ix (preface)

14. See, for example: Max Hastings, Bomber Command (New York: 1979); Giles MacDonogh, After the Reich (2007); N. Davies, No Simple Victory (2007), pp. 67-72; Alfred M. de Zayas, The German Expellees: Victims in War and Peace (New York: 1993); Frederick J. P. Veale, Advance to Barbarism (IHR, 1993); Jörg Friedrich, The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945 (Columbia University Press, 2006); Ralph F. Keeling, Gruesome Harvest (Chicago: 1947)

15. Edgar L. Jones, "One War is Enough," The Atlantic , Feb. 1946. ( http://tmh.floonet.net/articles/nonatlserv.shtml ). Also quoted in P. Fussell, Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (New York: 1988), pp. 50-51.

16. Jackson letter to Truman, Oct. 12, 1945. Quoted in: Robert E. Conot, Justice at Nuremberg (New York: 1983), p. 68. See also: James McMillan, Five Men at Nuremberg (London: 1985), pp. 67, 173-174, 244-245, 380, 414-415.

17. "The Nuremberg Judgment," editorial, The Economist (London), Oct. 5, 1946. Quoted in: M. Weber, "The Nuremberg Trials and the Holocaust," The Journal of Historical Review , Summer 1992, p. 176. ( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v12/v12p167_Webera.html )

18.  In addition to the Soviet Union and the puppet states under British colonial rule, those countries included China, Brazil, Cuba, and Egypt.

19. Martin Gilbert, Road to Victory, Winston Churchill 1941-45 , Vol. VII  (Houghton Mifflin, 1986), pp. 992-994. Source cited: W. Churchill, The Second World War . Vol. 6, Triumph and Tragedy (London, 1954), p. 198.

20. Warren F. Kimball, The Juggler: Franklin Roosevelt as Wartime Statesman (Princeton Univ. Press, 1991), p. 85 and p. 235 (n. 6). Source cited: Foreign Relations of the United States , 1942, vol. III, pp. 573 f.

21. H. Zinn, A People's History of the United States (New York: HarperCollins/ Perennial, 2001), pp. 424-425.

22. In his nationally broadcast address of Dec. 29, 1940, President Roosevelt told Americans that "the Nazi masters of Germany" were seeking "to enslave the whole of Europe, and then to use the resources of Europe to dominate the rest of the world." In his address of May 27, 1941, Roosevelt said that "the Nazis" sought "world domination." On Oct. 25, 1941, US Assistant Secretary of State Adolph Berle told Americans that Hitler and the Nazis "planned to conquer the entire world." Two days later, the President issued perhaps his most extravagant claim of supposed Nazi plans to take over the world. See: M. Weber, "Roosevelt's 'Secret Map' Speech," The Journal of Historical Review , Spring 1985. See also: Thomas A. Bailey and P. Ryan, Hitler vs. Roosevelt (1979), esp. pp. 199-203; Ted Morgan, FDR: A Biography (New York: 1985), pp. 602-603;

      "From the captured German archives, there is no evidence to support the President's claims that Hitler contemplated any offensive against the western hemisphere, and until America entered the war there is abundant evidence that this was the one thing he wished to avert." J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World , Vol. 3 (New York: DaCapo, 1987), p. 629.

23. T. A. Bailey, The Man in the Street (1948), pp. 11-13. Quoted in: W. H. Chamberlin, America's Second Crusade , p. 123. See also: Joseph P. Lash, Roosevelt and Churchill, 1939-1941 (New York: 1976), pp. 9, 10, 420, 421.

24.  C. Tansill, Back Door to War (1952), pp. 606-615; Joseph P. Lash, Roosevelt and Churchill, 1939-1941 (New York: 1976), pp. 298, 323, 340, 344, 392, 418, 419, 421; T. A. Bailey and P. B. Ryan, Hitler vs. Roosevelt (1979), pp. 166,  265, 268; Ted Morgan, FDR: A Biography (1985), pp. 589, 601; Frederic R. Sanborn, "Roosevelt is Frustrated in Europe," in H. E. Barnes, ed., Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (1993), pp. 219-221; James McMillan, Five Men at Nuremberg (London: 1985), pp. 173-174; W. H. Chamberlin, America's Second Crusade (1950), pp. 124-147.

25. Allan Nevins, Henry Steele Commager, A Pocket History of the United States (New York: Washington Square Press, 1986), p. 433.

26. J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World , Vol. 3 (New York: DaCapo, 1987), p. 416

27. Stark memo to Secretary Hull, Oct. 8, 1941. Quoted in: Joseph P. Lash, Roosevelt and Churchill, 1939-1941 (New York: 1976), p. 426.

28. Lewis H. Lapham, "America's Foreign Policy: A Rake's Progress," Harper's , March 1979. Quoted in: Studs Terkel, "The Good War" (New York: 1984), p. 8.

29. B. M. Russett, No Clear and Present Danger (1972), pp. 19, 20, 42.

30.  The Economist (London), August 11, 1945. Quoted in: J.F.C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World , Vol. 3 (New York: DaCapo, 1987), p. 631.

31. Basil H. Liddell Hart, History of the Second World War (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1971), p. 3.

32. W. Churchill, The Gathering Storm (Boston: 1948), pp. iv-v (preface).

33. H. P. Willmott, The Great Crusade: A New Complete History of the Second World War (New York: The Free Press, 1990), pp. 102-103, 474 , 476; See also: F. P. Yockey, Imperium (Noontide Press, 2000).

 34. Charles A. Lindbergh, The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh   (New York: 1970), pp. xiv-xv;   Donald Day, for years a correspondent in central Europe for the Chicago Tribune , was even more emphatic in viewing an Allied victory as catastrophic for Europe and the West. "Speaking as an American and as a newspaperman of 15 years experience who knows something about both the United States and Europe," he wrote in early 1943, "I think an American control and administration of Europe would be just as destructive and ruinous as Soviet control. Both would be really Jewish control." Donald Day, Onward Christian Soldiers (Noontide Press, 2002), p. 168.

35.  J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World , Vol. 3 (New York: DaCapo, 1987), p. 631.

36. Studs Terkel, "The Good War" (1984), p. 193.

37. President Johnson repeatedly compared the North Vietnamese leadership to Hitler to justify the use of American military power in Southeast Asia. At a news conference on July 28, 1965, for example, he said that "the lessons of history" showed that "surrender" in Vietnam would not bring peace. "We learned from Hitler at Munich," he said, "that success only feeds the appetite of aggression. The battle will be renewed in one country and then another country..."

38. Murray N. Rothbard, "Harry Elmer Barnes, RIP," Left and Right , 1968. ( http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard165.html )

39. George W. Bush, Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 2005. "So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world."

For Further Reading

Michael C. C. Adams, The Best War Ever: America and World War II (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1994).

Thomas A. Bailey, Paul B. Ryan, Hitler vs. Roosevelt: The Undeclared Naval War (New York: The Free Press, 1979).

Nicholson Baker, Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008)

Harry Elmer Barnes, ed., Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Institute for Historical Review, 1993)

Patrick J. Buchanan, Churchill, Hitler and 'The Unnecessary War': How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World (New York: Crown, 2008).

William H. Chamberlain, America's Second Crusade (Chicago: 1950)

Benjamin Colby, 'Twas a Famous Victory (Arlington House, 1975)

George N. Crocker, Roosevelt's Road to Russia (Regnery, 1961)

Norman Davies, No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945 (New York: Viking, 2007)

Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (New York: 1989).

Max Hastings, Bomber Command (New York: 1979)

Robert Higgs, "Truncating the Antecedents: How Americans Have Been Misled about World War II." March 18, 2008 ( http://www.lewrockwell.com/higgs/higgs77.html )

Adolf Hitler. Reichstag speech of Dec. 11, 1941. (Declaration of war against the USA.) ( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v08/v08p389_Hitler.html )

Adolf Hitler, “Hitler Answers Roosevelt.” Speech of April 28, 1939. ( http://ihr.org/other/HitlerAnswersRoosevelt )

David L. Hoggan. The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed . IHR, 1989.

Herbert C. Hoover, Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and its Aftermath (George H. Nash, ed.). Stanford Univ., 2011.

David Irving, Hitler’s War . Focal Point, 2002.

Giles MacDonogh, After the Reich: The Brutal History of Allied Occupation (Basic Books, 2007)

Robert Nisbet, Roosevelt and Stalin: The Failed Courtship (London: 1989)

Amos Perlmutter, FDR & Stalin: A Not So Grand Alliance, 1943-1945 (University of Missouri Press, 1993)

Bruce M. Russett, No Clear and Present Danger: A Skeptical View of the U.S. Entry into World War II (New York: Harper & Row, 1972)

Boris Sokolov, Myths and Legends of the Eastern Front . Pen & Sword, 2019.

Friedrich Stieve. What the World Rejected: Hitler’s Peace Offers , 1933- 1939. ( http://ihr.org/other/what-the-world-rejected.html )

R. H. S. Stolfi, Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny . Prometheus Books, 2011.

Michel Sturdza, The Suicide of Europe (Boston: 1968)

Viktor Suvorov (pseud.), The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II . Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2008

Charles C. Tansill, Back Door to War : The Roosevelt Foreign Policy, 1933-1941 (Chicago: 1952)

A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War . New York: 1983.

Studs Terkel, "The Good War": An Oral History of World War Two (New York: Pantheon, 1984)

John Toland, Adolf Hitler . Doubleday & Co., 1976.

Nikolai Tolstoy, Stalin's Secret War (New York: 1981)

F. J. P. Veale, Advance to Barbarism (Institute for Historical Review, 1993)

M. Weber, “Collusion: Franklin Roosevelt, British Intelligence, and the Secret Campaign to Push the US Into War. Feb. 2020. ( http://ihr.org/other/RooseveltBritishCollusion )

M. Weber, “The Hossbach 'Protocol': The Destruction of a Legend” (review). Fall 1983. ( https://www.ihr.org/jhr/v04/v04p372_Weber.html )

Mark Weber, "President Roosevelt's Campaign to Incite War in Europe: The Secret Polish Documents," The Journal of Historical Review , Summer 1983 (Vol. 4, No. 2), pp. 135-172. ( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v04/v04p135_Weber.html )

Mark Weber, "Roosevelt's 'Secret Map' Speech," The Journal of Historical Review , Spring 1985. ( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v06/v06p125_Weber.html )

Alfred M. de Zayas, Nemesis at Potsdam: The Expulsion of the Germans from the East (University of Nebraska, 1989)

Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

World War II in Public Memory: The Good War Thesis Revisited

Volker Janssen (Professor of History, California State University, Fullerton)

February 5, 2015

To this day, World War II looms large in our public memory. Be it in movies and TV shows, bestsellers, exhibits, or in politics, references to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the home front, D-Day, Iwo Jima, the Blitz, Hiroshima, and other sites and events of the War abound. Embedded in these shared ideas about World War II are messages about national unity, pain and triumph, endurance, valor, service, and the role the United States played in defeating evil empires. Most Americans are comfortable with the lesson that World War II was a “good war,” which Americans fought willingly against a group of dangerous enemies to peace and humanity and in the process built a better world. But how does this conclusion compare to the historical record? What have been the consequences of what Studs Terkel has called the “good war” thesis? What else can we learn from the history of World War II? On the 70th anniversary of the Yalta Conference of the Allies, this seminar highlights the complex relationships between domestic and international affairs and provides specific suggestions for getting students to make larger connections and apply their historical thinking to real-life scenarios.

Film and Media / History / American History / Collective Memory / World War II / War / Ethics /


You are here

good war thesis

What is a thesis statement?

Your thesis statement is one of the most important parts of your paper.  It expresses your main argument succinctly and explains why your argument is historically significant.  Think of your thesis as a promise you make to your reader about what your paper will argue.  Then, spend the rest of your paper--each body paragraph--fulfilling that promise.

Your thesis should be between one and three sentences long and is placed at the end of your introduction.  Just because the thesis comes towards the beginning of your paper does not mean you can write it first and then forget about it.  View your thesis as a work in progress while you write your paper.  Once you are satisfied with the overall argument your paper makes, go back to your thesis and see if it captures what you have argued.  If it does not, then revise it.  Crafting a good thesis is one of the most challenging parts of the writing process, so do not expect to perfect it on the first few tries.  Successful writers revise their thesis statements again and again.

A successful thesis statement:

- makes an historical argument

- takes a position that requires defending

- is historically specific

- is focused and precise

- answers the question, "so what?"

How to write a thesis statement:

Suppose you are taking an early American history class and your professor has distributed the following essay prompt:

"Historians have debated the American Revolution's effect on women.  Some argue that the Revolution had a positive effect because it increased women's authority in the family.  Others argue that it had a negative effect because it excluded women from politics.  Still others argue that the Revolution changed very little for women, as they remained ensconced in the home.  Write a paper in which you pose your own answer to the question of whether the American Revolution had a positive, negative, or limited effect on women."

Using this prompt, we will look at both weak and strong thesis statements to see how successful thesis statements work.

1. A successful thesis statement makes an historical argument. It does not announce the topic of your paper or simply restate the paper prompt.

Weak Thesis: The Revolution had little effect on women because they remained ensconced in the home.

While this thesis does take a position, it is problematic because it simply restates the prompt.  It needs to be more specific about how the Revolution had a limited effect on women and why it mattered that women remained in the home.

Revised Thesis: The Revolution wrought little political change in the lives of women because they did not gain the right to vote or run for office.  Instead, women remained firmly in the home, just as they had before the war, making their day-to-day lives look much the same.

This revision is an improvement over the first attempt because it states what standards the writer is using to measure change (the right to vote and run for office) and it shows why women remaining in the home serves as evidence of limited change (because their day-to-day lives looked the same before and after the war).  However, it still relies too heavily on the information given in the prompt, simply saying that women remained in the home.  It needs to make an argument about some element of the war's limited effect on women.  This thesis requires further revision.

Strong Thesis: While the Revolution presented women unprecedented opportunities to participate in protest movements and manage their family's farms and businesses, it ultimately did not offer lasting political change, excluding women from the right to vote and serve in office.

This is a stronger thesis because it complicates the information in the prompt.  The writer admits that the Revolution gave women important new opportunities, but argues that, in the end, it led to no substantial change.  This thesis recognizes the complexity of the issue, conceding that the Revolution had both positive and negative effects for women, but that the latter outweighed the former.  Remember that it will take several rounds of revision to craft a strong thesis, so keep revising until your thesis articulates a thoughtful and compelling argument.

2.  A succesful thesis statement takes a position that requires defending. Your argument should not be an obvious or irrefutable assertion.  Rather, make a claim that requires supporting evidence.

Weak Thesis: The Revolutionary War caused great upheaval in the lives of American women.

Few would argue with the idea that war brings upheaval.  Your thesis needs to be debatable:  it needs to make a claim against which someone could argue.  Your job throughout the paper is to provide evidence in support of your own case.  Here is a revised version:

Strong Thesis: The Revolution caused particular upheaval in the lives of women.  With men away at war, women took on full responsibility for running households, farms, and businesses.  As a result of their increased involvement during the war, many women were reluctant to give up their new-found responsibilities after the fighting ended.

This is a stronger thesis because it says exactly what kind of upheaval the war wrought, and it makes a debatable claim.  For example, a counterargument might be that most women were eager to return to the way life was before the war and thus did not try to usurp men's role on the home front.  Or, someone could argue that women were already active in running households, farms, and businesses before the war, and thus the war did not mark a significant departure.  Any compelling thesis will have counterarguments.  Writers try to show that their arguments are stronger than the counterarguments that could be leveled against them.

3.  A successful thesis statement is historically specific. It does not make a broad claim about "American society" or "humankind," but is grounded in a particular historical moment.

Weak Thesis: The Revolution had a negative impact on women because of the prevailing problem of sexism.

Sexism is a vague word that can mean different things in different times and places.  In order to answer the question and make a compelling argument, this thesis needs to explain exactly what attitudes toward women were in early America, and how those attitudes negatively affected women in the Revolutionary period.

Strong Thesis: The Revolution had a negative impact on women because of the belief that women lacked the rational faculties of men.  In a nation that was to be guided by reasonable republican citizens, women were imagined to have no place in politics and were thus firmly relegated to the home.

This thesis is stronger because it narrows in on one particular and historically specific attitude towards women:  the assumption that women had less ability to reason than men.  While such attitudes toward women have a long history, this thesis must locate it in a very specific historical moment, to show exactly how it worked in revolutionary America.

4.  A successful thesis statement is focused and precise. You need to be able to support it within the bounds of your paper.

Weak Thesis: The Revolution led to social, political, and economic change for women.

This thesis addresses too large of a topic for an undergraduate paper.  The terms "social," "political," and "economic" are too broad and vague for the writer to analyze them thoroughly in a limited number of pages.  The thesis might focus on one of those concepts, or it might narrow the emphasis to some specific features of social, political, and economic change.

Strong Thesis: The Revolution paved the way for important political changes for women.  As "Republican Mothers," women contributed to the polity by raising future citizens and nurturing virtuous husbands.  Consequently, women played a far more important role in the new nation's politics than they had under British rule.

This thesis is stronger because it is more narrow, and thus allows the writer to offer more in-depth analysis.  It states what kind of change women expected (political), how they experienced that change (through Republican Motherhood), and what the effects were (indirect access to the polity of the new nation).

5.  A successful thesis statement answers the question, "so what?" It explains to your reader why your argument is historically significant.  It is not a list of ideas you will cover in your paper;  it explains why your ideas matter.

Weak Thesis: The Revolution had a positive effect on women because it ushered in improvements in female education, legal standing, and economic opportunity.

This thesis is off to a strong start, but it needs to go one step further by telling the reader why changes in these three areas mattered.  How did the lives of women improve because of developments in education, law, and economics?  What were women able to do with these advantages?  Obviously the rest of the paper will answer these questions, but the thesis statement needs to give some indication of why these particular changes mattered.

Strong Thesis: The Revolution had a positive impact on women because it ushered in improvements in female education, legal standing, and economic opportunity.  Progress in these three areas gave women the tools they needed to carve out lives beyond the home, laying the foundation for the cohesive feminist movement that would emerge in the mid-nineteenth century.

This is a stronger thesis because it goes beyond offering a list of changes for women, suggesting why improvements in education, the law, and economics mattered.  It outlines the historical significance of these changes:  they helped women build a cohesive feminist movement in the nineteenth century.

Thesis Checklist

When revising your thesis, check it against the following guidelines:

1.  Does my thesis make an historical argument ?

2.  Does my thesis take a position that requires defending?

3.  Is my thesis historically specific ?

4.  Is my thesis focused and precise ?

5.  Does my thesis answer the question, "so what?"

Download as PDF

  • UCLA Website
  • UCLA Library
  • Faculty Intranet
  • Office 365 Email
  • Remote Help

Social Sciences Division Departments  

  • Aerospace Studies
  • African American Studies
  • American Indian Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Asian American Studies
  • César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies
  • Communication
  • Conservation
  • Gender Studies
  • Military Science
  • Naval Science
  • Political Science

Minors | Labor and Workplace Studies | Language Interaction and Culture | Social Thought

  • College Home
  • Division Home
  • College Report
  • College Feedback
  • Manager's Manual
  • LA Social Science

(c) - Copyright 2023 Social Sciences Division UCLA - Login

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thesis Statements

What this handout is about.

This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.


Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement:

  • tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)

How do I create a thesis?

A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.

Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .

How do I know if my thesis is strong?

If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :

  • Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. If the prompt isn’t phrased as a question, try to rephrase it. For example, “Discuss the effect of X on Y” can be rephrased as “What is the effect of X on Y?”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to  be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.

Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:

Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.

You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.

  • Do I answer the question? You can analyze this if you rephrase “discuss the impact” as “what is the impact?” This way, you can see that you’ve answered the question only very generally with the vague “positive and negative ways.”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not likely. Only people who maintain that social media has a solely positive or solely negative impact could disagree.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? No. What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects?
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? No. Why are they positive? How are they positive? What are their causes? Why are they negative? How are they negative? What are their causes?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? No. Why should anyone care about the positive and/or negative impact of social media?

After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:

Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.

This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.

Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.

You begin to analyze your thesis:

  • Do I answer the question? No. The prompt asks you to analyze some aspect of the novel. Your working thesis is a statement of general appreciation for the entire novel.

Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:

In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
  • Do I answer the question? Yes!
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not really. This contrast is well-known and accepted.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? It’s getting there–you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation. However, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? Not yet. Compare scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions and anything else that seems interesting.
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?”

After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:

Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.

This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

Creative Commons License

Make a Gift

  • Undergraduate
  • High School
  • Architecture
  • American History
  • Asian History
  • Antique Literature
  • American Literature
  • Asian Literature
  • Classic English Literature
  • World Literature
  • Creative Writing
  • Linguistics
  • Criminal Justice
  • Legal Issues
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Political Science
  • World Affairs
  • African-American Studies
  • East European Studies
  • Latin-American Studies
  • Native-American Studies
  • West European Studies
  • Family and Consumer Science
  • Social Issues
  • Women and Gender Studies
  • Social Work
  • Natural Sciences
  • Pharmacology
  • Earth science
  • Agriculture
  • Agricultural Studies
  • Computer Science
  • IT Management
  • Mathematics
  • Investments
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Engineering
  • Aeronautics
  • Medicine and Health
  • Alternative Medicine
  • Communications and Media
  • Advertising
  • Communication Strategies
  • Public Relations
  • Educational Theories
  • Teacher's Career
  • Chicago/Turabian
  • Company Analysis
  • Education Theories
  • Shakespeare
  • Canadian Studies
  • Food Safety
  • Relation of Global Warming and Extreme Weather Condition
  • Movie Review
  • Admission Essay
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Application Essay
  • Article Critique
  • Article Review
  • Article Writing
  • Book Review
  • Business Plan
  • Business Proposal
  • Capstone Project
  • Cover Letter
  • Creative Essay
  • Dissertation
  • Dissertation - Abstract
  • Dissertation - Conclusion
  • Dissertation - Discussion
  • Dissertation - Hypothesis
  • Dissertation - Introduction
  • Dissertation - Literature
  • Dissertation - Methodology
  • Dissertation - Results
  • GCSE Coursework
  • Grant Proposal
  • Marketing Plan
  • Multiple Choice Quiz
  • Personal Statement
  • Power Point Presentation
  • Power Point Presentation With Speaker Notes
  • Questionnaire
  • Reaction Paper

Research Paper

  • Research Proposal
  • SWOT analysis
  • Thesis Paper
  • Online Quiz
  • Literature Review
  • Movie Analysis
  • Statistics problem
  • Math Problem
  • All papers examples
  • How It Works
  • Money Back Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • We Are Hiring

World War II the Good War, Essay Example

Pages: 9

Words: 2365

This Essay was written by one of our professional writers.

World War II the Good War, Essay Example

You are free to use it as an inspiration or a source for your own work.

Need a custom Essay written for you?

There are occurrences, which once they happen, history takes a different course, and they leave a mark that could never be erased. Although the world has known many wars, the famous World War II has had great significance.  Often called the “good war” for various reasons, many historians signify the fact that World War II was just, as it was not focused on gaining territory or power, but to defeat an empire that was threatening humanity itself.

People have had varying perceptions of the war with many associating it with great success, hence referring to it as the good war. However, it must be noted that while to some it must have been a ‘good war’ to some people it meant death and the scars left behind could never be healed (Smith). The below essay takes a critical look at the Second World War as to why it could be referred to as the good war, analyzing the main features of warfare. Looking at both positive and negative impacts of the war, the below analysis will attempt to reveal just how ‘good’ the war was.

World War II would rightly be referred to as the global clash because it involved all ‘major’ countries across the globe, either joining hands against another or being in the opposition (Nardo 7). For the United States, the main motivation to join the war was to join the fight between what was perceived the evil (Nazi Germany) and good (civilized, western world)  while the attack on Pearl Harbor greatly contributed towards the decision. The war would be categorically said to have involved US on one side, and Nazi Germany, joined by Japan and Italy.  According to Leland (2), World War II has claimed more American lives than any other military conflict, 405,399 compared with 116,516 in World War I. Therefore, it is important to compare the results achieved with the sacrifices of nations in order to determine whether or not the war was good.

Nazism was an evil that went against Western values, and the expansion of Nazi Germany made the rest of Europe see it necessary to step in. After World War I, Germany propagated very punitive and vindictive system of governance through Hitler that led to many deaths and misery from the natives Germany. Many people believe that the spread of Nazism in the early 20th century was detrimental to the welfare of the pacifists and any better treatment by the Germany administration would be progressive for the people at that time.

Nevertheless, Hitler rose to power and destroyed the socialists and communists in Germany. The US held that by sending more troops to the war, the gains would be for the general well-being of the citizens. Nevertheless, some authors (Bustos) claim that the use of blacks and Caribbeans in the war was disproportionate.

The genesis of the world war and the main powerful states competed for dominance and power in what historians perceived as efforts meant to bring about global re-division. In particular, Germany attacked Poland, and this called for the formation of Allies of other nations to assist Poland reclaim its sovereignty. Some authors, however, state that the countries acted in their own interest (Bustos 107). The main blocks were comprised of Germany, Italy, and Japan against the Allies, joining France US, Russia and Britain. Many civilians and military personnel lost their lives in the conquest of power, and this was estimated to be by far more than the lives that were lost during the First World War. In order to advance the agenda of military power and superiority (Efthymiou, para 3) , the blocks engaged in the war that led to US rising as the global leading power before Russia. However, in order to prove this, the United States had to use weapons of mass destruction, which had not been used in other wars, a situation that forced Japan to surrender. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was very destructive, and this would be regarded as an evil, but a necessary decision to prove the American’s superiority. As Smith (para 9) states, the main motivation of America to drop the atomic bombs was to increase its dominance and power in Asia.  According to the Americans, the bombing was necessary in testing the military power, it would help save lives and it was also a  sign to show to the other nations of American’s superiority. By the end of the world war, US regained its perceived leadership in military power that other countries like the USSR competed for. It is, however, clear that America entered the war to increase its power, as well as for defending democracy and the country.

Besides, bombing Japan was a necessary tool to be used by the US in order to deter Russia from taking over a part of Asia hence expanding its power. Efthymiou (para 3) states that the involvement in the war provided America with the opportunity of economic expansion, which in turn increased its political and military power on a global scale.

A power struggle between ideologies and nations played a great part in the war. Japanese people and other rival countries saw America as inhuman for causing such suffering and loss of lives of innocent people in Japan, which they argued, had failed to surrender. The Americans justified the cause as they could have risked the lives of many civilians and military personnel if Japan would have failed to surrender. This equally justified the position of the war as being a good war as against what critics would cite as having nothing to celebrate about (Roback, Jennifer, and Jason 76).

The motives of the winning nations to fight on can be questionable. While the Nazi Germany was defeated, the war reshaped the entire map of Europe. This resulted in the division of Germany, and gave way for a new regime in Eastern and Central Europe, which claimed millions of lives. As the Rense website highlights: “According to de-classified archive data released by the successor agency to the KGB after Perestroika, a total of 1,053,829 people died in the GULAG from 1934 to 1953, not counting those who died in labor colonies”(Rense, para 5). Therefore, World War II cannot be viewed as a good war, as it resulted in the rise of the Soviet Union, a power that used the same methods as the Nazis in Germany. After the peace, Eastern Europe was “given” to Russia to be ruled and abused for more than 45 years. As Wingfield (127), the Soviet Union forced uniform rules and radicalized states towards communism, interfering with the autonomy of Central and Eastern Europe. Therefore, stating that World War II was a good war, as it stopped radical and anti-democratic world order from spreading is without merit. It stopped Nazism, but did not stop Communist Russia rising to power over half of Europe.

The ideology of democracy was used to justify the war. US fetched for military personnel from as far as the Philippines, besides targeting the minority blacks from the Caribbean America. In fact, the United States advanced the propaganda that the main enemies of the US were all non-democratic, and hence fighting them would only help advance the course of democracy and justice to the majority of people. Contradicting this statement, according to Bustos (para 3), 40.000 people in America refused to fight based on moral and religious grounds. They suffered inhumane treatment in mental hospitals and became stigmatized by the American state for not agreeing with the official ideology.  However, Japan was neither anti-democratic, nor power-hungry. Koshiro (441), the main motivation of Japan to refuse to surrender was to avoid ideological shift, and not to impose aggression. The US claimed to fight against Nazi dictatorship, which saw the lives of many people, destroyed, but did not do anything to prevent the dictatorship of Stalin.

From the above review it is evident that as much as US approached the war with the deception of advocating democracy, America’s democratic principles did not did not apply to every country, and were not applied regarding the racial diversity of the U.S. itself (Preston).

The main question is whether or not war can be good at all. The Second World War indeed shaped the worldview of superiority in weaponry and military strength (Preston, para 3). According to analysts, the war served as the ground in which the modern military structures, security as well as intelligence were tested for possible improvements. Further, Allies created great intelligence forces to support the war, while the rivals lost because of relying on physical equipment alone (Efthymiou). Based on their advancement in warfare and intelligence,  America would still cite the good side of the war for having had the chance to prove and test the infrastructural advantage it had over the other global nations. As Kirsch concludes, the war was full of moral compromises, and it cannot be labeled “good”, as looking at the number of dead, displaced, executed, and oppressed after and during the war, humanitarian disaster happened.

Literature cites the large scale execution of people by both sides over the period through which the war lasted. In fact, an estimated figure of over fifty million civilians lost their lives during the war period with combat death toll surprising 10 million limits. On the other hand, Hitler executed an estimated over 15 million in concentration camps and political executions, out of which it is estimated that 6 million were Jews (Silverstrim, para 2). The execution of civilians and the combatant groups from either side was inhumane, immoral and unethical. When evaluating the entire war on the basis of ethics and dignity of human lives, the United States would have nothing to be proud of, considering the huge numbers of unnecessary deaths.

At the commencement of World War II, the United States of America remained neutral. The perceived threat of destabilization of world power made the US decide to take sides in the war. The mass execution of people by the Nazi-led Germany, and the increased threat the  United Sataes faced from the Japanese state were the main reasons that led to the US getting actively involved in the war. After attempts to bomb the United States by Japanese, America sought full subjection by total destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki through the atomic bombs (Koshiro, 426). The bombs left long lasting effects on the nation of Japan, which was forced them to retreat, and surrender to the power of the United States. Asada (512) finds that the war could have been ended without using nuclear weapons, and President Truman missed several opportunities to stop military aggression prior to the bombing.

The use of nuclear weaponry in the war resulted in the rise of the US for proving itself stronger in matters of military power and technology, but the bombing affected the lives of many generations in Japan. This, accordingly contradicts the actual meaning associated with ‘good war’. Mass destruction of property and deaths would be nothing to celebrate about, even at the most primitive level of civilization.

While the world war two has attracted a lot of attention, especially from the history of the global power, greater insights can be derived from the rollout of the war and the associated effects. First, it is noted that the war was not a creation of one factor or nation, but a creation of various countries as explained by various factors. Germany threatened the sovereignty of nations, and this led to the formulation of various allies; those in support of communism and capitalism. The United States was to join in the war as necessitated by various factors as discussed above, and the interest in power and influence was among one of the country’s motivations. Whereas the effects of war are never positive, they can be justified, according to some authors (Kirsch).  US claims that the power of Americans made the war a success. However, labeling the war as a good war cannot be justified. It achieved several goals and stopped the Nazi empire from expanding, but gave way to the rise of the Soviet Union (Wingfield).  A war, based on the above review of the destruction caused and the consequences should not be called ‘good’, and calling it `just` might still be arguable. While the war can be considered good because it advanced the agenda of redemption, curtailed capitalism, institutionalization of democracy as well as an illustration of military power, it also resulted in mass destruction and anti-democratic movements in Europe, against which the Western World allies did not step up.

The nuclear bombing had far-reaching effects, and was a disproportionate counter-attack of Pearl Harbor. Moreover, deaths and destruction were in large scale; therefore, World War II was not a good war. As Preston (para 13) quotes Bob Dole: “There’s a good cause, but there’s no such thing as a good war”. Based on the above, World War II was not a good war, and – like many other war – was influenced by individual countries’ self-interest.

Works Cited

Asada, Sadao. “The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender: A Reconsideration.” The Pacific Historical Review  (1998): 477-512.

Bustos, Rob. “The Good War and those Who Refused to Fight it: The Story of World War II Conscientious Objectors.” Library Journal 127.15 (2002): 107. ProQuest. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.

Efthymiou,P. “The Emergence Of The United States As A Global Power”  2013. Web.

Kirsch, Adam. “Is world war still ‘the good war?” the New York Times, New York. 2011. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.

Koshiro, Yukiko. “Japan’s World and World War II.” Diplomatic History  25.3 (2001): 425-441.

Leland, Anne. “American war and military operations casualties: Lists and statistics” DIANE Publishing, 2010.

Nardo, Don. World War II . Detroit: Greenhaven, 2005. Print.

Preston, Charles. “Over the Top Over World War II.” The Christian Science Monitor : 9. Jul 23 2001. ProQuest. Web. 3 Mar. 2015 .

Rense. “German Labor Camps vs The Soviet Gulag”. 2008.

Roback, Diane, Jennifer M. Brown, and Jason Britton. “The Good Fight: How World War II was Won.” Publishers Weekly 248.15 (2001): 76. ProQuest. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.

Silverstrim, Karen. “Overlooked millions: Non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.”  Unpublished manuscript (2005).

Smith, Ashley. “World War II: The Good War?” International Socialist Review 10 (2000). Web. 3 Mar. 2015

Wingfield, Nancy Meriwether. “Return to Diversity: A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II.” Ed. Joseph Rothschild. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Stuck with your Essay?

Get in touch with one of our experts for instant help!

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Essay Example

Sweatshop Labor, Research Paper Example

Time is precious

don’t waste it!

Plagiarism-free guarantee

Privacy guarantee

Secure checkout

Money back guarantee


Related Essay Samples & Examples

Voting as a civic responsibility, essay example.

Pages: 1

Words: 287

Utilitarianism and Its Applications, Essay Example

Words: 356

The Age-Related Changes of the Older Person, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 448

The Problems ESOL Teachers Face, Essay Example

Pages: 8

Words: 2293

Should English Be the Primary Language? Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 999

The Term “Social Construction of Reality”, Essay Example

Words: 371

Module 4: Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests (1763-1774)

Historical thesis statements, learning objectives.

  • Recognize and create high-quality historical thesis statements

Some consider all writing a form of argument—or at least of persuasion. After all, even if you’re writing a letter or an informative essay, you’re implicitly trying to persuade your audience to care about what you’re saying. Your thesis statement represents the main idea—or point—about a topic or issue that you make in an argument. For example, let’s say that your topic is social media. A thesis statement about social media could look like one of the following sentences:

  • Social media are hurting the communication skills of young Americans.
  • Social media are useful tools for social movements.

A basic thesis sentence has two main parts: a claim  and support for that claim.

  • The Immigration Act of 1965 effectively restructured the United States’ immigration policies in such a way that no group, minority or majority, was singled out by being discriminated against or given preferential treatment in terms of its ability to immigrate to America.

Identifying the Thesis Statement

A thesis consists of a specific topic and an angle on the topic. All of the other ideas in the text support and develop the thesis. The thesis statement is often found in the introduction, sometimes after an initial “hook” or interesting story; sometimes, however, the thesis is not explicitly stated until the end of an essay, and sometimes it is not stated at all. In those instances, there is an implied thesis statement. You can generally extract the thesis statement by looking for a few key sentences and ideas.

Most readers expect to see the point of your argument (the thesis statement) within the first few paragraphs. This does not mean that it has to be placed there every time. Some writers place it at the very end, slowly building up to it throughout their work, to explain a point after the fact. For history essays, most professors will expect to see a clearly discernible thesis sentence in the introduction. Note that many history papers also include a topic sentence, which clearly state what the paper is about

Thesis statements vary based on the rhetorical strategy of the essay, but thesis statements typically share the following characteristics:

  • Presents the main idea
  • Most often is one sentence
  • Tells the reader what to expect
  • Is a summary of the essay topic
  • Usually worded to have an argumentative edge
  • Written in the third person

This video explains thesis statements and gives a few clear examples of how a good thesis should both make a claim and forecast specific ways that the essay will support that claim.

You can view the  transcript for “Thesis Statement – Writing Tutorials, US History, Dr. Robert Scafe” here (opens in new window) .

Writing a Thesis Statement

A good basic structure for a thesis statement is “they say, I say.” What is the prevailing view, and how does your position differ from it? However, avoid limiting the scope of your writing with an either/or thesis under the assumption that your view must be strictly contrary to their view.

Following are some typical thesis statements:

  • Although many readers believe Romeo and Juliet to be a tale about the ill fate of two star-crossed lovers, it can also be read as an allegory concerning a playwright and his audience.
  • The “War on Drugs” has not only failed to reduce the frequency of drug-related crimes in America but actually enhanced the popular image of dope peddlers by romanticizing them as desperate rebels fighting for a cause.
  • The bulk of modern copyright law was conceived in the age of commercial printing, long before the Internet made it so easy for the public to compose and distribute its own texts. Therefore, these laws should be reviewed and revised to better accommodate modern readers and writers.
  • The usual moral justification for capital punishment is that it deters crime by frightening would-be criminals. However, the statistics tell a different story.
  • If students really want to improve their writing, they must read often, practice writing, and receive quality feedback from their peers.
  • Plato’s dialectical method has much to offer those engaged in online writing, which is far more conversational in nature than print.

Thesis Problems to Avoid

Although you have creative control over your thesis sentence, you still should try to avoid the following problems, not for stylistic reasons, but because they indicate a problem in the thinking that underlies the thesis sentence.

  • Hospice workers need support. This is a thesis sentence; it has a topic (hospice workers) and an argument (need support). But the argument is very broad. When the argument in a thesis sentence is too broad, the writer may not have carefully thought through the specific support for the rest of the writing. A thesis argument that’s too broad makes it easy to fall into the trap of offering information that deviates from that argument.
  • Hospice workers have a 55% turnover rate compared to the general health care population’s 25% turnover rate.  This sentence really isn’t a thesis sentence at all, because there’s no argument to support it. A narrow statistic, or a narrow statement of fact, doesn’t offer the writer’s own ideas or analysis about a topic.

Let’s see some examples of potential theses related to the following prompt:

  • Bad thesis : The relationship between the American colonists and the British government changed after the French & Indian War.
  • Better thesis : The relationship between the American colonists and the British government was strained following the Revolutionary war.
  • Best thesis : Due to the heavy debt acquired by the British government during the French & Indian War, the British government increased efforts to tax the colonists, causing American opposition and resistance that strained the relationship between the colonists and the crown.

Practice identifying strong thesis statements in the following interactive.

Supporting Evidence for Thesis Statements

A thesis statement doesn’t mean much without supporting evidence. Oftentimes in a history class, you’ll be expected to defend your thesis, or your argument, using primary source documents. Sometimes these documents are provided to you, and sometimes you’ll need to go find evidence on your own. When the documents are provided for you and you are asked to answer questions about them, it is called a document-based question, or DBQ. You can think of a DBQ like a miniature research paper, where the research has been done for you. DBQs are often used on standardized tests, like this DBQ from the 2004 U.S. History AP exam , which asked students about the altered political, economic, and ideological relations between Britain and the colonies because of the French & Indian War. In this question, students were given 8 documents (A through H) and expected to use these documents to defend and support their argument. For example, here is a possible thesis statement for this essay:

  • The French & Indian War altered the political, economic, and ideological relations between the colonists and the British government because it changed the nature of British rule over the colonies, sowed the seeds of discontent, and led to increased taxation from the British.

Now, to defend this thesis statement, you would add evidence from the documents. The thesis statement can also help structure your argument. With the thesis statement above, we could expect the essay to follow this general outline:

  • Introduction—introduce how the French and Indian War altered political, economic, and ideological relations between the colonists and the British
  • Show the changing map from Doc A and greater administrative responsibility and increased westward expansion
  • Discuss Doc B, frustrations from the Iroquois Confederacy and encroachment onto Native lands
  • Could also mention Doc F and the result in greater administrative costs
  • Use Doc D and explain how a colonial soldier notices disparities between how they are treated when compared to the British
  • Use General Washington’s sentiments in Doc C to discuss how these attitudes of reverence shifted after the war. Could mention how the war created leadership opportunities and gave military experience to colonists.
  • Use Doc E to highlight how the sermon showed optimism about Britain ruling the colonies after the war
  • Highlight some of the political, economic, and ideological differences related to increased taxation caused by the War
  • Use Doc F, the British Order in Council Statement, to indicate the need for more funding to pay for the cost of war
  • Explain Doc G, frustration from Benjamin Franklin about the Stamp Act and efforts to repeal it
  • Use Doc H, the newspaper masthead saying “farewell to liberty”, to highlight the change in sentiments and colonial anger over the Stamp Act

As an example, to argue that the French & Indian War sowed the seeds of discontent, you could mention Document D, from a Massachusetts soldier diary, who wrote, “And we, being here within stone walls, are not likely to get liquors or clothes at this time of the year; and though we be Englishmen born, we are debarred [denied] Englishmen’s liberty.” This shows how colonists began to see their identity as Americans as distinct from those from the British mainland.

Remember, a strong thesis statement is one that supports the argument of your writing. It should have a clear purpose and objective, and although you may revise it as you write, it’s a good idea to start with a strong thesis statement the give your essay direction and organization. You can check the quality of your thesis statement by answering the following questions:

  • If a specific prompt was provided, does the thesis statement answer the question prompt?
  • Does the thesis statement make sense?
  • Is the thesis statement historically accurate?
  • Does the thesis statement provide clear and cohesive reasoning?
  • Is the thesis supportable by evidence?

thesis statement : a statement of the topic of the piece of writing and the angle the writer has on that topic

  • Thesis Statements. Provided by : Lumen Learning. Located at : https://courses.lumenlearning.com/englishcomp1/wp-admin/post.php?post=576&action=edit . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Thesis Examples. Authored by : Cody Chun, Kieran O'Neil, Kylie Young, Julie Nelson Christoph. Provided by : The University of Puget Sound. Located at : https://soundwriting.pugetsound.edu/universal/thesis-dev-six-steps.html . Project : Sound Writing. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Writing Practice: Building Thesis Statements. Provided by : The Bill of Rights Institute, OpenStax, and contributing authors. Located at : https://cnx.org/contents/[email protected]:L3kRHhAr@7/1-22-%F0%9F%93%9D-Writing-Practice-Building-Thesis-Statements . License : CC BY: Attribution . License Terms : Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/[email protected].
  • Thesis Statement - Writing Tutorials, US History, Dr. Robert Scafe. Provided by : OU Office of Digital Learning. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hjAk8JI0IY&t=310s . License : Other . License Terms : Standard YouTube License
  • Save your essays here so you can locate them quickly!
  • World War I
  • Studs Terkel
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Nazi Germany
  • The Japanese

The Good War 5 Pages 1239 Words

             The Good War, An Oral History of World War II, by Studs Turkel, is a compiliation of multiple accounts from servivors, on their personal experiences of the war. Each person with a differnt storie to tell; allowing for a very vivid description of the war, from various differnt perspectives, and points of view.              In General, those who where not against the war from the beginning, found that the war had a significant and usually, suprisingly positive effect on them, and the rest of their lives. For the most part, those who went off to war, after the war, came back with a positeive outlook. Most of the American solders atlest, beleived that the war was either a major turning point in their life, was an exiting adventure, or tought them some kind of moral lesson that they carried with them throughout the rest of their life. What I find ironic is the fact that despite all the death and carnage that they were forced to view, that the majority of them were able to come back and say that it was the best experience of their lives, or that they wouldn't trade their war experience, for any thing in the world. I find it strange that a war can be one of the greatest things to happen to one in his/her lifetime.              In contrast to that, young men who did not go off to the war, either becuase they were concientious objecters, or becuase of other reasons, had a negative view on the war. They believed that the war was wrong going in, and believed it was wrong when it was over. However, I don't believe that they can honestly say that it would have been best to have allowed Hitler to create his own empire at the expense of others, Just in order to prevent war. Yes, war is not a pretty thing, but at some point, it becomes inevidably inavoidable. Which brings me to my next point.              Why did Studds Turkel choose to name this book "The Good War?" What Makes any war a "Good War?" Despite the fact that war itself is a hor...

Continue reading this essay Continue reading

Page 1 of 5

More Essays:

World War II Research Essay Topics

Frank Whitney / Getty Images

  • Writing Research Papers
  • Writing Essays
  • English Grammar
  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

Students are often required to write a paper on a topic as broad as World War II , but you should know that the instructor will expect you to narrow your focus to a specific thesis. This is especially true if you are in high school or college. Narrow your focus by making a list of words, much like the list of words and phrases that are presented in bold type below. Then begin to explore related questions and come up with your own cool WWII topics. The answer to questions like these can become a good starting point for a thesis statement .

Culture and People

When the U.S. entered into war, everyday life across the country changed drastically. From civil rights, racism, and resistance movements to basic human needs like food, clothing, and medicine, the aspects of how life was impacted are immense.

  • African-Americans and civil rights. What impact did the war years have on the rights of African-Americans? What were they allowed or not allowed to do?
  • Animals. How were horses, dogs, birds, or other animals used? Did they play a special role?
  • Art. What art movements were inspired by wartime events? Is there one specific work of art that tells a story about the war?
  • Clothing. How was fashion impacted? How did clothing save lives or hinder movement? What materials were used or not used?
  • Domestic violence. Was there an increase or decrease in cases?
  • Families. Did new family customs develop? What was the impact on children of soldiers?
  • Fashion. Did fashion change significantly for civilians? What changes had to be made during wartime?
  • Food preservation. What new preservation and packaging methods were used during and after the war? How were these helpful?
  • Food rationing. How did rationing impact families? Were rations the same for different groups of people? Were soldiers affected by rations?
  • Love letters. What do letters tell us about relationships, families, and friendships? What about gender roles?
  • New words. What new vocabulary words emerged during and after WWII?
  • Nutrition. Were there battles that were lost or won because of the foods available? How did nutrition change at home during the war because of the availability of certain products?
  • Penicillin and other medicine. How was penicillin used? What medical developments occurred during and after the war?
  • Resistance movements. How did families deal with living in an occupied territory?
  • Sacrifices. How did family life change for the worse?
  • Women's work at home. How did women's work change at home during the war? What about after the war ended?

Economy and Workforce

For a nation that was still recovering from the Great Depression, World War II had a major impact on the economy and workforce. When the war began, the fate of the workforce changed overnight, American factories were repurposed to produce goods to support the war effort and women took jobs that were traditionally held by men, who were now off to war.

  • Advertising. How did food packaging change during the war? How did advertisements change in general? What were advertisements for?
  • Occupations. What new jobs were created? Who filled these new roles? Who filled the roles that were previously held by many of the men who went off to war?
  • Propaganda. How did society respond to the war? Do you know why?
  • Toys. How did the war impact the toys that were manufactured?
  • New products. What products were invented and became a part of popular culture? Were these products present only during war times, or did they exist after?

Military, Government, and War

Americans were mostly against entering the war up until the bombing of Pearl Harbor, after which support for the war grew, as did armed forces. Before the war, the US didn't have the large military forces it soon became known for, with the war resulting in over 16 million Americans in service.   The role the military played in the war, and the impacts of the war itself, were vast.

  • America's entry into the war. How is the timing significant? What factors are not so well known?
  • Churchill, Winston. What role did this leader play that interests you most? How did his background prepare him for his role?
  • Clandestine operations. Governments went to great lengths to hide the true date, time, and place of their actions.
  • Destruction. Many historic cities and sites were destroyed in the U.K.—Liverpool, Manchester, London, and Coventry—and in other nations.
  • Hawaii. How did events impact families or society in general?
  • The Holocaust. Do you have access to any personal stories?
  • Italy. What special circumstances were in effect?
  • " Kilroy was here ." Why was this phrase important to soldiers? 
  • Nationalist Socialist movement in America. What impact has this movement had on society and the government since WWII?
  • Political impact. How was your local town impacted politically and socially?
  • POW camps after the war. Where were they and what happened to them after the war? Here's a starting point: Some were turned into race tracks after the war!
  • Prisoners of war. How many POWs were there? How many made it home safely? What were some long-lasting effects?
  • Spies. Who were the spies? Were they men or women? What side were they on? What happened to spies that were caught?
  • Submarines. Were there enemy submarines on a coast near you? What role did submarines play in the war?
  • Surviving an attack. How were military units attacked? How did it feel to jump from a plane that was disabled?
  • Troop logistics. How were troop movements kept secret? What were some challenges of troop logistics?
  • Views on freedom. How was freedom curtailed or expanded?
  • Views on government's role. Where was the government's role expanded? What about governments elsewhere?
  • War crime trials. How were trials conducted? What were the political challenges or consequences? Who was or wasn't tried?
  • Weather. Were there battles that were lost or won because of the weather conditions? Were there places where people suffered more because of the weather?
  • Women in warfare. What roles did women play during the war? What surprises you about women's work in World War II?

Technology and Transportation

With the war came advancements in technology and transportation, impacting communications capabilities, the spread of news, and even entertainment.

  • Bridges and roads. What transportation-related developments came from wartime or postwar policies?
  • Communication. How did radio or other types of communication impact key events?
  • Motorcycles. What needs led to the development of folding motorcycles? Why was there widespread use of military motorcycles by the government?
  • Technology. What technology came from the war and how was it used after the war?
  • TV technology. When did televisions start to appear in homes and what is significant about the timing? What TV shows were inspired by the war and how realistic were they? How long did World War II affect TV programming?
  • Jet engine technology. What advances can be traced to WWII needs?
  • Radar. What role did radar play, if any?
  • Rockets. How important was rocket technology?
  • Shipbuilding achievements. The achievements were quite remarkable during the war. Why and how did they happen?

"America's Wars Fact Sheet." U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, May 2017.

  • Understanding the Progressive Era
  • Women and Work in World War I
  • Who Were the Viet Cong and How Did They Affect the War?
  • America and World War II
  • Women in World War I: Societal Impacts
  • Guns or Butter: The Nazi Economy
  • Mexican Involvement in World War II
  • Famous Americans Killed in World War II
  • History of Government Involvement in the American Economy
  • Rosie the Riveter and Her Sisters
  • 67 Causal Essay Topics to Consider
  • The Sinking of the Lusitania and America's Entry into World War I
  • Top 10 Things to Know About the Aztecs and Their Empire
  • The Major Wars and Conflicts of the 20th Century
  • The Postwar World After World War II
  • Causes of World War II

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

  • Utility Menu

University Logo


good war thesis

  • Questions about Expos?
  • Writing Support for Instructors

Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable)  

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)  

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim  

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim  

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis  

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
  • Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt
  • Asking Analytical Questions
  • Introductions
  • What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common?
  • Anatomy of a Body Paragraph
  • Transitions
  • Tips for Organizing Your Essay
  • Counterargument
  • Conclusions
  • Strategies for Essay Writing: Downloadable PDFs
  • Brief Guides to Writing in the Disciplines

Quick Links

  • Schedule an Appointment
  • English Grammar and Language Tutor
  • Harvard Guide to Using Sources
  • Departmental Writing Fellows
  • Writing Advice: The Harvard Writing Tutor Blog

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Developing Strong Thesis Statements

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

These OWL resources will help you develop and refine the arguments in your writing.

The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable

An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.

Example of a non-debatable thesis statement:

This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution implies that something is bad or negative in some way. Furthermore, all studies agree that pollution is a problem; they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is unambiguously good.

Example of a debatable thesis statement:

This is an example of a debatable thesis because reasonable people could disagree with it. Some people might think that this is how we should spend the nation's money. Others might feel that we should be spending more money on education. Still others could argue that corporations, not the government, should be paying to limit pollution.

Another example of a debatable thesis statement:

In this example there is also room for disagreement between rational individuals. Some citizens might think focusing on recycling programs rather than private automobiles is the most effective strategy.

The thesis needs to be narrow

Although the scope of your paper might seem overwhelming at the start, generally the narrower the thesis the more effective your argument will be. Your thesis or claim must be supported by evidence. The broader your claim is, the more evidence you will need to convince readers that your position is right.

Example of a thesis that is too broad:

There are several reasons this statement is too broad to argue. First, what is included in the category "drugs"? Is the author talking about illegal drug use, recreational drug use (which might include alcohol and cigarettes), or all uses of medication in general? Second, in what ways are drugs detrimental? Is drug use causing deaths (and is the author equating deaths from overdoses and deaths from drug related violence)? Is drug use changing the moral climate or causing the economy to decline? Finally, what does the author mean by "society"? Is the author referring only to America or to the global population? Does the author make any distinction between the effects on children and adults? There are just too many questions that the claim leaves open. The author could not cover all of the topics listed above, yet the generality of the claim leaves all of these possibilities open to debate.

Example of a narrow or focused thesis:

In this example the topic of drugs has been narrowed down to illegal drugs and the detriment has been narrowed down to gang violence. This is a much more manageable topic.

We could narrow each debatable thesis from the previous examples in the following way:

Narrowed debatable thesis 1:

This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just the amount of money used but also how the money could actually help to control pollution.

Narrowed debatable thesis 2:

This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just what the focus of a national anti-pollution campaign should be but also why this is the appropriate focus.

Qualifiers such as " typically ," " generally ," " usually ," or " on average " also help to limit the scope of your claim by allowing for the almost inevitable exception to the rule.

Types of claims

Claims typically fall into one of four categories. Thinking about how you want to approach your topic, or, in other words, what type of claim you want to make, is one way to focus your thesis on one particular aspect of your broader topic.

Claims of fact or definition: These claims argue about what the definition of something is or whether something is a settled fact. Example:

Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that one person, thing, or event caused another thing or event to occur. Example:

Claims about value: These are claims made of what something is worth, whether we value it or not, how we would rate or categorize something. Example:

Claims about solutions or policies: These are claims that argue for or against a certain solution or policy approach to a problem. Example:

Which type of claim is right for your argument? Which type of thesis or claim you use for your argument will depend on your position and knowledge of the topic, your audience, and the context of your paper. You might want to think about where you imagine your audience to be on this topic and pinpoint where you think the biggest difference in viewpoints might be. Even if you start with one type of claim you probably will be using several within the paper. Regardless of the type of claim you choose to utilize it is key to identify the controversy or debate you are addressing and to define your position early on in the paper.

Dissertation writing services

Dissertation Consulting Services Since 2004

Our services

  • Dissertation Help
  • Dissertation Consulting
  • Dissertation Editing
  • Write My Dissertation

War is Hell: How to Write a War Thesis

Let’s say you have this assignment to write a thesis about a war. You know something about thesis writing, so you pull out your textbook and some coffee and sit down to work. It is only after you’ve formatted your title page that you realize— you know nothing about writing a war thesis.

(If you don’t know anything about thesis writing, try our thesis writing guide.)

How do you approach something like that in a two page paper? A ten page paper? A nine-hundred page paper?

Very carefully.

First, here are some basic tips on writing a war thesis:

Approach the subject compassionately. When dealing with wars, remember that people actually died in these conflicts. Take into account not only the people who were fighting, but also non-combatants, and use figures, language, and argument that reflect this acknowledgment. War is an atrocity, whether you believe it is justified or not.

Organize your arguments chronologically. This makes cause and effect within the conflict easy to follow. You can make arguments about these causes and effects fairly easily.

Explain. Explain the significance of battles you mention.  Even if the person reading your war thesis already knows a lot about the war that you are writing about, your analysis is really the most important aspect of any thesis.

Talk about the interesting stuff. If there’s an event in the war that you think is particularly interesting, mention it. Wars are, in addition to being very bad for economies and civilians, inherently exciting.

Those are the most basic tips for writing a paper on any war.

Depending on the purpose of your paper , you should address war in different ways, largely in accordance to the guidelines presented above.

Arguing Against a War

If your war thesis focuses on attacking a country’s decision to declare war on another country, you have taken on a lot of political research. Make sure you have the research to back up your claims, and that you’re prepared to follow through with a good analysis of the country’s political relations.

Here are some questions you should answer when writing an argumentative war thesis.

What was the political state before the war?

What was the political state during the war?

What were the effects of the war on the social, economic, and cultural climate of the countries involved?

Why are these effects so detrimental?

Arguing in Favor of a War

Arguing in favor of a war is more difficult than it at first appears. There is just as much research involved as arguing against one, but when arguing for a war, the burden of proof falls largely on you.

The crux of your war thesis will have to be cost-benefit analysis: why the socio-political-economical ramifications of the conflict are less important than the gains of gong to war.

Presenting a Timeline

The most straight-forward war thesis. Start at the beginning. Work your way through the major conflicts.

When choosing what to include as turning points, look for events that mark a distinct change in style, strategy, or troop strength.

How it works

1 make your order, 2 monitor the progress, 3 download the paper, get dissertation writing help.

  • A premium service to write literature review for dissertation at affordable price
  • What is a Dissertation?
  • Effort Layouts: Organizing Your Ideas
  • For Students: A Guide on How to Write
  • 4 Factors that Make an Essay Great!


The topic of my dissertation seemed easy but only at first glance - I couldn't sleep well any more. I was stressed and I felt broken. Phdify saved me from a total disaster, and now I have my PhD.

Most friends of mine encountered the same difficulties. I wrote some chapters by myself, but another chapters were moving on slowly! So, I never hesitated to ask for a help and I've got a great experience at phdify.com!

At one moment I felt an absolute despair to finish my thesis! To my luck a good friend of my gave me this site, and I understood: this is my salvation! Thanks to Phdify team I finished my thesis in time!

Ask support

Get answers Immediately


© Ph Dify 2023. All rights reserved

PhDify.com is owned and operated by RATATATA LTD Registered address: 48, Vitosha Blvd., ground floor, city of Sofia, Triaditsa Region, Bulgaria, 1000.

good war thesis

We use cookies to enhance our website for you. Proceed if you agree to this policy or learn more about it.

  • Essay Database >
  • Essays Samples >
  • Essay Types >
  • Thesis Example

War Theses Samples For Students

58 samples of this type

No matter how high you rate your writing skills, it's always a good idea to check out a competently written Thesis example, especially when you're dealing with a sophisticated War topic. This is exactly the case when WowEssays.com directory of sample Theses on War will prove useful. Whether you need to brainstorm an original and meaningful War Thesis topic or survey the paper's structure or formatting peculiarities, our samples will provide you with the required data.

Another activity area of our write my paper service is providing practical writing support to students working on War Theses. Research help, editing, proofreading, formatting, plagiarism check, or even crafting entirely unique model War papers upon your request – we can do that all! Place an order and buy a research paper now.

Industrialization After the Civil War Thesis Sample

Industrialization after the Civil War in the United States opened the American populace to a world of new opportunities. It changed just about every aspect of the American way of life, for better and for worse.

Post Civil War Industrialization had a profound effect on the American way of life. Since the process had a number of lasting effects on subjects such as society, politics, and economics, it is necessary to consider all the effects of the period in individual detail.

Free Thesis On Economic Benefits Of The Educational Privileges Of The G.I Bill

The Effect The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act Of 1944, Otherwise Known As The G.I. Bill, Had On The Economic Boom Experienced By The United States Post World War II


Good history to 1877 thesis example.

Don't waste your time searching for a sample.

Get your thesis done by professional writers!

Just from $10/page

Good Example Of Thesis On US As The Policeman Of The World

Us as the policeman of the world: outline, free h:"the gulf war between iraq and kuwait in 1990-1991 led to an increase in thesis example, example of thesis on workers organizations, emperor justinian thesis, example of thesis on the secret life of walter mitty, psychological operations during war thesis example, special operation forces (sof): the war on terrorism thesis sample, democratic peace thesis sample.

This paper seeks to show, as Owen (1994) believes, that peaceful regimes based on a liberalist democracy are more likely to secure and maintain a condition of “democratic peace” than regimes that are neither liberal nor democratic. However, as reported by Kahneman and Renshon (2007), even liberalist decision-makers have to be wary of advice offered by hawkish advisors, because the human mind has a natural bias towards the more aggressive solutions and to be unrealistically optimistic about the consequences of such decisions.

How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace:

Women men and the american family thesis sample.

The American Family has been dramatically reshaped over the past century. Indeed the definition of what constitutes a “family” has become much more broadly defined. Whereas the century began with strong extended family ties, the decade ended with the small, nuclear family being the norm. The result often was that there fewer resources to draw upon in difficult times.

Thesis on victoria norton

English composition i.

What Makes Nurses so Important

Nurses are a vital component of the health care system. Whether considering the past, present, or future, the positive effect that nurses have on the physical and emotional health of patients is indisputable. In fact, statistics show that the more patients one nurse must care for, the higher the mortality rate in those patients.

Free Thesis On The Roles Of African American Soldiers During The Civil War

The mongol empire thesis, thesis on the theme in t. s. eliot's poem "hollow men".

Thomas Stearns Eliot is one of the most important poets of the 20th century of the English language. The American –born turn British poet and playwright was also a literary critic whose works are still influential to this day. “Hollow Men” is one of Eliot’s major poems published in 1925. Its main thematic concerns include the post war Europe, salvation and to some extent issues of marriage relationships which some critic attribute to Eliot’s own marriage to Vivienne which did not survive their full lives.

The Enemy Combatant Its Concept And Definition After 9-11 Thesis

Thesis on the differences between whitman's pre-war and post-war poetry.

Discuss the differences between Whitman's pre-war and post-war Poetry In post war poems, Walt Whitman’s poetic language changed because he chose use free verse as to reflect the freedoms America hold dear. Whitman's national sense cannot be ignored, when he tackles President Lincoln's assassination in the poem "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd.” Again the preceding voices from the pioneers of American revolutions are literarily expressed skillfully in the words of art "Beat! Beat! Drums! To drive home the key element of Revolutions, which were freedom and democracy, the two poems captured Whitman’s sense of patriotism.

Good Example Of Absract Thesis

U.S. World Involvement: Motivations, Cultural Baggage, Concerns, and a Goal

Free Thesis On Fascism And National Socialism

Fascism and national socialism, thesis on america failed drug policy, research question theses examples.

Is there a significant difference in the employment rate of African American in Higher Education in California after the implementation of Affirmative Action?

Chapter 1 – Introduction and background to the problem

Good thesis on research question, economics 5900 thesis example.

Drowning in Debt: How Does the U.S. Solve its Debt Crisis?

Does Nuclear Iran Pose A Threat To The World Thesis Examples

The japanese giant phenomenon in manga and anime thesis examples, example of thesis on industrialization after the civil war final paper, industrialization after the civil war final paper, thesis on contrasting views of classical athens: plato and pericles, kolumnentitel: elektromagnetische wellen thesis example, elektromagnetische wellen.

Kurs Datum Inhaltsverzeichnis EINLEITUNG 1. Wellenarten und Betrachtung 2. 1. Elektromagnetische Wellen und Felder 2. 2. Aufbau EM Welle 2.3. Erzeugung EM Welle 2.4. Besonderheiten EM Welle 2.5. Ausbreitung EM Welle 3. Mobilfunkstrahlung 3.1. Zunahme Mobilfunk und Entwicklung (Handyantenne) 3.2. Bandbreite 3.3. SAR und Richtlinien 4.1 Verursacher und mögliche Auswirkungen 4.2. Vorbeugung gefährlicher Strahlung

Relevance Of Communication {type) To Use As A Writing Model

Communication from the 1750's – present.

Communication from the 1750's – present Introduction Communication constitutes the use of messages that are sent across various contexts, media and cultures for the sake of generating meaning. Communication has been evolving over the years and it seems to be getting easier to communicate and get the meaning in communication. Communication is the basic method in which needs and aspirations that the humans have can be connected, understood and dealt with as time goes. This therefore means that communication lives with the human race.

Homer's The Odyssey Thesis Samples

Thesis on christian fiath v.s. islam faith, example of regional stability, global security: finding a workable answer to thesis, iran’s nuclear threat, thesis on moral dilemma: women and vulnerability in 'gawain and the green knight', example of thesis on the travels of marco polo, design theses examples, the concept of the collection: japanese warrior, example of secession of the south thesis, good thesis about strayer university.

Assignment 1.1: Industrialization after the Civil War Thesis and Outline

Thesis: In the years following the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution marks a turning point in the American history; the United States was transformed from an agricultural to industrial society what had a major effect on almost every aspect of the daily life.

US Immigration: Past And Present Thesis Samples

Free thesis about non-governmental organization management, differences between national and international ngos -.

A Case Study of the US, Bahrain and India (Author name) (Supervisor name)

Freemens Bureau Thesis Example

Good main theme thesis example.

Presentation and Analysis of scientific evolution and history – Analysis and emphasis on two basic issues of scientific evolution as derived from the two following questions addressed within the set environment of researching into the field of History of Science – Reflections drawn upon the belief of David C. Lindberg as far as the scientific evolution and progress during Medieval years is concerned – Reflections drawn upon the evolution of the scientific field of cosmology and the revolution performed in this field leading to the breakdown of Aristotelian and Ptolemaic theories of cosmology [The author’s name]

Thesis statement

Thesis on justice and revenge in the punisher: max, stricter gun control laws can decrease the rate of crimes thesis sample, primary source analysis guide - a man of unlimited ambition: julius caesar thesis sample, example of monroe doctrine thesis, new testament and old testament: a top-quality thesis for your inspiration, credit report theses example, executive summary, the naked and the nude theses examples, free developing a model of brand personality in the sport industry thesis sample, developing a model of brand personality in sport industry, free games of thrones thesis example, wal-mart in germany thesis examples, shakespeare essay outline thesis sample.

- The desires and ambition of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth drove them to commit the most hideous act. - Innocent thoughts and ambition become corrupt when you cast aside your moral judgment. - Loyalty and kingship replaced by the sweet taste of success. - Thesis statement: Lady Macbeth, unlike her husband, is unscrupulous. Her strong nature overpowers her husband’s forgiving nature and causes him to think evil. She becomes the most ruthless female, committing one act after another leaves her satiated with blood.

Child Rights Thesis Samples

Trudeaumania - pierre elliot trudeau - 1968 election thesis sample, thesis on the arab uprisings by james gelvin, thesis on empowerment about african american literature, the women of the brewster place by gloria naylor, audience analysis thesis.

This paper hopes to target all Americans including and especially those affected either directly or indirectly by Hurricane Katrina. The audience should also include the politicians and president. The main intent of this paper is rouse intellects on the issue of Katrina and reminds Americans that their fellow citizens have not yet fully coped with the disaster.

Password recovery email has been sent to [email protected]

Use your new password to log in

You are not register!

By clicking Register, you agree to our Terms of Service and that you have read our Privacy Policy .

Now you can download documents directly to your device!

Check your email! An email with your password has already been sent to you! Now you can download documents directly to your device.

or Use the QR code to Save this Paper to Your Phone

The sample is NOT original!

Short on a deadline?

Don't waste time. Get help with 11% off using code - GETWOWED

No, thanks! I'm fine with missing my deadline


  1. 1999 ap us history dbq sample essay. AP World History: Sample DBQ

    good war thesis

  2. History Thesis Ideas World War 1

    good war thesis

  3. American civil war thesis statement :: Tips on Writing Thesis

    good war thesis

  4. the civil war eportfolio with reflection essay

    good war thesis

  5. Unbelievable War Essay ~ Thatsnotus

    good war thesis

  6. Thesis statement

    good war thesis



  2. Good war tycoon gameplay

  3. Good war

  4. Why is this spot so good || War Thunder

  5. good victory everyone. good war chest and loot DM

  6. The F16C is TOO GOOD... Cinematic


  1. The Good War Introduction Summary & Analysis

    "The Good War": An Oral History of World War II Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1984 A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. Download PDF Access Full Guide Study Guide

  2. The Good War

    "The Good War" consists of a series of interviews with various men and women from across the globe who directly experienced the events leading up to, including, and following the Second World War. Chapters The book's chapters and subchapters, with the names and topics of the subjects involved, are as follows: Book One

  3. World War II, The Good War

    Nevertheless, the "good war thesis" suggests that World War II was a just war. An analysis of the bigger picture comprising of the Great Depression leading up to the war, the war itself, and the postwar American development is crucial to the answer of whether the war was a good war. Get Help With Your Essay

  4. Has the Myth of the 'Good War' Done Us Lasting Harm?

    Days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush pledged that Al Qaeda and its allies would "follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism" to "history's ...

  5. The 'Good War' Myth of World War Two

    The 'Good War' Myth of World War Two By Mark Weber World War II was not only the greatest military conflict in history, it was also America's most important twentieth-century war.

  6. World War II in Public Memory: The Good War Thesis Revisited

    Embedded in these shared ideas about World War II are messages about national unity, pain and triumph, endurance, valor, service, and the role the United States played in defeating evil empires. Most Americans are comfortable with the lesson that World War II was a "good war," which Americans fought willingly against a group of dangerous ...

  7. Waging a Good War: Tortured Thesis -Capital Research Center

    Tortured Thesis "A search of the American Historical Association's database of doctoral dissertations in recent decades found more than 250 that studied the American civil rights movement," wrote journalist Thomas E. Ricks, in the preface to his book Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968.The book exists, according to its author, because of his ...

  8. Thesis Statements

    Revised Thesis: The Revolution wrought little political change in the lives of women because they did not gain the right to vote or run for office. Instead, women remained firmly in the home, just as they had before the war, making their day-to-day lives look much the same.

  9. The Good War: An Oral History of World War II

    Studs Terkel's The Good War is a phenomenal work of oral history, chronicling the experiences of dozens of Americans (and occasionally others) during World War II and its aftermath. Terkel is a uniquely gifted oral historian, with an ability to ask the right questions and dig out frank and unpleasant truths from his subjects.

  10. Thesis Statements

    The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel. makes a claim that others might dispute. is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader.

  11. World War II the Good War, Essay Example

    The below essay takes a critical look at the Second World War as to why it could be referred to as the good war, analyzing the main features of warfare. Looking at both positive and negative impacts of the war, the below analysis will attempt to reveal just how 'good' the war was. World War II would rightly be referred to as the global ...

  12. Historical Thesis Statements

    This video explains thesis statements and gives a few clear examples of how a good thesis should both make a claim and forecast specific ways that the essay will support that claim. ... The relationship between the American colonists and the British government was strained following the Revolutionary war. Best thesis: ...

  13. The Good War essays

    The Good War essaysThe Good War, An Oral History of World War II, by Studs Turkel, is a compiliation of multiple accounts from servivors, on their personal experiences of the war. Each person with a differnt storie to tell; allowing for a very vivid description of the war, from various differnt per.

  14. A Complete List of 85+ War Essay Topics

    85+ Suggested War Essay Topics for Your Research Updated 19 May 2023 Table of contents ️ Tips for Writing a War Essay 📝 30 General War Essay Topics 📜 Civil War Research Topics 📖 Cold War Paper Topics 🌎 World War I Essay Topics 🌍 World War II Essay Topics Essays on war & conflict can be portrayed from different perspectives.

  15. World War II Research Essay Topics

    Explore a wide variety of thesis topics concerning World War II, from culture to economy to warfare, and everything in between. ... The answer to questions like these can become a good starting point for a thesis statement. Culture and People . When the U.S. entered into war, everyday life across the country changed drastically. From civil ...

  16. 85 Unique War Essay Topics for Your Research

    50 War Essay Topics There are so many general war topics to choose from. You could explore the war history, focusing on when it started and the earliest battles in recorded human history. This will also allow you to talk about the causes of war and which civilizations were involved in each case. You could also focus on who won and who lost.

  17. Thesis

    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

  18. Strong Thesis Statements

    Pollution is bad for the environment. This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution implies that something is bad or negative in some way. Furthermore, all studies agree that pollution is a problem; they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is ...

  19. War is Hell: How to Write a War Thesis

    Explain. Explain the significance of battles you mention. Even if the person reading your war thesis already knows a lot about the war that you are writing about, your analysis is really the most important aspect of any thesis. Talk about the interesting stuff. If there's an event in the war that you think is particularly interesting, mention it.

  20. War Thesis Statement Examples That Really Inspire

    Good Thesis Statement On War And Terrorism Introduction Terrorism is defined as the use of illegal force against either a person or property for the purpose of intimidating them or a government, civilians or any division of a population for either political or social objectives.

  21. PDF Write a strong thesis statement!

    and South fought the Civil War. What would a good thesis statement look like? Bad: The North and South fought the Civil War for many reasons, some of which were the same and some different. This statement is too general and simply rephrases the prompt. It does not answer how or why their reasons differed. Better:

  22. War Thesis Examples That Really Inspire

    Part 1. Industrialization after the Civil War in the United States opened the American populace to a world of new opportunities. It changed just about every aspect of the American way of life, for better and for worse. Part 2. Post Civil War Industrialization had a profound effect on the American way of life.

  23. Quora

    We would like to show you a description here but the site won't allow us.