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“There never was a good war or a bad peace.” So wrote Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Josiah Quincy on September 11, 1773. Interesting thought—interesting date. Studs Terkel wrote a book about World War II, in which he called it “The Good War,” a sentiment often felt, most probably because the enemies of World War II—Nazi Germany and militarist Japan—were of such evil character that anything necessary to defeat them was deemed good. In the aftermath, most Americans accepted that view, at least for a decade or two. But nobody has ever argued that there was anything good about the war itself. In the end at least 50 million human beings had perished—a level of destruction scarcely imaginable, even after the carnage of World War I—World War II took slaughter to new levels. It was the most destructive war in history and, so far, the last world war.




Left: The Japanese Surrender in Tokyo Bay, ending World War II

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