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In late summer 1943, famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle sat above a newly constructed port in Sicily ‒ the island near Italy’s toe that Anglo-American forces had invaded in early July – taking in the scene below. Pyle had sailed with Allied troops across the Mediterranean from North Africa. Before D-day in Normandy 11 months later, the Sicily campaign – Operation Husky – was the largest seaborne invasion in history, involving an astonishing armada of nearly 3,000 ships. “There is no way of conveying the enormous size of that fleet,” wrote Pyle. “On the horizon it resembled a distant city. It covered half the skyline.… Even to be part of it was frightening.”2
This anthology is the first sustained examination of American involvement in World War II through an environmental lens. World War II was a total and global war that involved the extraction, processing, and use of vast quantities of natural resources. The wartime military-industrial complex, the 'Arsenal of Democracy,' experienced tremendous economic growth and technological development, employing resources at a higher intensity than ever before. The war years witnessed transformations in American agriculture; the proliferation of militarized landscapes; the popularization of chemical and pharmaceutical products; a rapid increase in energy consumption and the development of nuclear energy; a remaking of the nation's transportation networks; a shift in population toward the Sunbelt and the West Coast; a vast expansion in the federal government, in conjunction with industrial firms; and the emergence of environmentalism. World War II represented a quantitative and qualitative leap in resource use, with lasting implications for American government, science, society, health, and ecology.