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RICHARD GOLDSTEIN

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Published April 2010 HELLUVA TOWN: THE STORY OF NEW YORK CITY Selected Works
DURING WORLD WAR II
History
EDITORIAL REVIEWS In the signature number from the 1944 Broadway musical On the Town, three HELLUVA TOWN: THE STORY
sailors heading out on a 24-hour search for love in wartime Manhattan sing OF NEW YORK CITY DURING
"New York, New York, it’s a helluva town." WORLD WAR II
ASSOCIATED PRESS Published April 2010
DESPERATE HOURS: THE
"Helluva Town" is a helluva read. Richard The Navy boys’ race against time mirrored the very real frenzy in the city that EPIC RESCUE OF THE
Goldstein, who writes for The New York ANDREA DORIA
entertained three million servicemen on their way to an uncertain destiny.
Times, is the author of several books about The fog-bound collision in the
World War II. For his latest, he takes a line Atlantic that spawned the world’s
from 'New York, New York,' a song in the This was a time when soldiers and sailors waiting to be shipped out, when greatest peacetime rescue at sea.
musical "On the Town," where three sailors defense-plant workers flush with cash, jammed the Broadway theaters, the AMERICA AT D-DAY
on leave sing about the city as a "helluva Times Square movie houses with lavish stage shows, the nightclubs like the A 50th anniversary account of the
town" battle that turned the tide of
Latin Quarter and the Copacabana. It was a time when bobby-soxers rioted
During the war, it was certainly that. World War II.
Amid the fear and patriotism, the theaters outside the Paramount in the crush to swoon over Frank Sinatra, a skinny but
still staged plays - productions such as "This adored substitute for the boys who had gone to war. Quick Links
Is the Army" and "Winged Victory," and Facebook
nightlife went on. Amid the bustle, refugees
Helluva Town: The Story of New York City During World War II recalls the Free Press/​Simon and Schuster author
from Europe began pouring into New York.
electricity of the wartime homefront while recounting the important role New website for "Helluva Town"
With them came artists, scientists and giants
of the literary world. York played in the national war effort and its emergence as the world capital Authors Guild
"Helluva Town" is a fascinating look at a at war’s end.
remarkable time and a remarkable town.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY More than 800,000 New Yorkers went to war, and six of them received the
Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, three of the citations
New York is big, and much of this bestowed posthumously.
swaggering, nostalgic history recounts the
sheer size of the city's contribution to the
The Port of New York became known as "Last Stop USA." While soldiers
Allied victory: the prodigies of shipbuilding
and repair at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; the boarded troopships in the harbor, headed to Britain, the Brooklyn Navy Yard
81,000 WAVES churned out at Hunter turned out battleships and aircraft carriers and repaired thousands of Allied
College; the millions of soldiers sent vessels. Here, too, is the story of a wrenching winter’s night in 1942 when the
overseas from New York's harbor after
famed French liner Normandie, undergoing conversion to a troopship, caught
consoling themselves with America's glitziest
nightlife ... The upheaval became fodder for fire and capsized at her Manhattan pier, never to sail again.
the city's efflorescent culture. Insouciant
Manhattanites partied in the streets during Helluva Town recounts the pioneering experiments by émigré nuclear
civil defense drills instead of taking cover;
physicists at Columbia University leading to creation of the atomic bomb. It
Broadway tunefully repurposed patriotic and
martial themes in "Oklahoma!" and "On the tells of the Navy officers and the pioneering Waves who trained on New York

Town;" and at the Stage Door Canteen, a college campuses. It recalls the breaking of racial barriers at the Coast Guard
nightclub for servicemen staffed by
boot camp in Brooklyn and the training films produced by the Army in
celebrities, a GI could score a dance with
Laren Bacall. In these engaging vignettes,
Queens.
New York - lively, brave, humane - conquers
not just the Axis but war itself. This is also a portrait of New York as a haven for thousands of refugees from
Hitler, among them Europe’s leading scientists, artists and writers. New York
LIBRARY JOURNAL
healed as well: the Pfizer drug company of Brooklyn produced the penicillin
Thanks to exemplary use of many firsthand accompanying the American infantrymen who invaded Normandy on D-Day.
accounts, Goldstein captures the spirit of the
wartime city, offering enormous appeal to On Broadway, the plays of Lillian Hellman, Robert Sherwood, Maxwell
fans of New York City as well as to students
Anderson and John Steinbeck championed the democratic cause. Irving
of World War II history.
Berlin’s This Is the Army and Moss Hart’s Winged Victory paid tribute to the
military with their all-servicemen casts; Rodgers and Hammerstein’s
WORLD WAR II MAGAZINE "Oklahoma!" hailed American optimism at a time of national testing; the
Leonard Bernstein-Jerome Robbins production of On the Town introduced
Engaging, breezy, offbeat entertainment,
dappled with colorful characters, Hollywood two iconic figures of American music and dance to the theater world.
and Broadway celebrities, statistics, spies, Broadway’s leading actors and actresses entertained servicemen at the Stage
racism, gang wars, troop embarkations, Door Canteen in midtown and at bases and hospitals around the world.
shipbuilding and repair - the vivid, nonstop
gamut of the home front in the city that never
sleeps. Helluva Town re-creates a time long before "9/​11" when New Yorkers felt
vulnerable to a foreign foe. The city was labeled "Target Number One" if the
BOOKLIST Germans could send bombers into America’s skies or shell the coastline from
U-boats. Some 400,000 New Yorkers served as air-raid wardens while
Goldstein chronicles how citizens, famous
antiaircraft guns ringed the city. The neon advertising signs in Times Square
and obscure, acted and reacted as the nation
prepared for and went to war. Drawing on went dark. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia warned of terror from the skies.
interviews and memoirs, he recalls how New Calamity indeed arrived, but not at the hands of the Germans. On a summer’s
Yorkers remember first hearing the news of day in 1945, an Army Air Forces bomber pilot fresh from combat became lost
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; enlisting
in rain and fog on a routine flight and crashed into the Empire State Building.
in the service or other war efforts,from
conservation to victory gardens; the rounding
up of Japanese, German and Italian nationals Here too are tales of the FBI chasing down Nazi spies in the city, Britain’s
for a reverse Ellis Island experience; and counter-espionage network housed in obscure offices in Rockefeller Center,
Mob dock workers helping to root out
and the Navy’s use of Mafia bosses to help avert German sabotage on the
saboteurs. He recalls patriots as well as spies;
heroism as well as rising anti-Semitism and mob-run piers.
racism. A complex look at New York during
WWII. New Yorkers joined together to buy war bonds and donate blood, but racial
and ethnic tensions simmered and finally burst. Longstanding racism and the
KIRKUS REVIEWS
indignities endured by New York’s black GIs in the training camps of the
How the can-do spirit of metroplitan New South spawned a riot that devastated Harlem in the summer of 1943. The
York helped define the country's attitude German-American Bund, based in Manhattan’s Yorkville section, spewed
toward the war ... Goldstein produces a anti-Semitism, and Irish-Catholic youth gangs attacked Jewish youngsters and
worthwhile book for WWII buffs and
lifelong New Yorkers.
vandalized synagogues while the police remained indifferent.

THECOLUMNISTS.COM And this is the story of New York’s emergence as the power and glory of the

MAURY ALLEN world stage in the war’s aftermath, underlined when the newly created United
Nations voted to establish its permanent headquarters astride the East River
Goldstein's war tales are as dramatic,
exciting, revealing, entertaining as any of the
and a vast international airport arose in Queens.
battle books of the combat war from Norman
Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead," Irwin Finally, a personal note.
Shaw's "The Young Lions" to James Jones'
"From Here to Eternity." More than 17
In recalling life in the wartime city, and telling of its men and women who
million men and women served their country
in uniform during World War II across the went to war, I was struck by the story of a particular GI. His name was Irving
globe. Millions more served at home by Strobing, he was from Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood, and he was a
keeping their homes, villages, businesses and radio operator in the Signal Corps. When he died in Durham, North Carolina,
communities operating safely. Goldstein's
at age 77 in 1997, he made the obituary pages of The New York Times. His
book explains that they earned as much
glory." life over the previous three decades seemed ordinary enough: He worked for
the Federal Aviation Agency and the Department of Agriculture before
retiring. But the obit headline told another story: "Hero of Corregidor."
CAPE COD TIMES

Goldstein, who's penned a number of books It was nearly five months since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and two
about World War II, knows New York months since General Douglas MacArthur fled the Philippines for Australia.
intimately. This book covers everything from In the tunnels of the rock called Corregidor, the remnants of the American
Broadway's contributions to the war to the
forces under General Jonathan Wainwright were in the last throes of their
city's role as an embarkation point for the
European theater. ... you probably don't know
holdout, waiting for the Japanese onslaught.
all you could about America during the war
until you've read this book. Their final words were tapped out on May 5, 1942, by Private Strobing, 22
years old and the son of a tailor.

"General Wainwright is a right guy and we are willing to go on for him, but
shells were dropping all night, faster than hell. They are piling dead and
wounded in our tunnel.
"My name Irving Strobing. Get this to my mother, Mrs. Minnie Strobing, 605
Barbey Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. They are to get along o.k. My love to Pa, Joe,
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER Sue, Mac, Garry, Joy and Paul. God bless you and keep you."

Goldstein chronicles not only New York


City's magnificent contribution to the war Strobing’s radio message was picked up in Hawaii by an Army radio
effort, but also its concomitant scientific, technician named Arnold Lappert, a Manhattan boy. Lappert relayed
sociological, and cultural transformations.... Strobing’s words to the American mainland, and they were printed in
Goldstein's well-researched Helluva Town is
newspapers, touching the emotions of the homefront.
a rich, wonderful wartime whirl through a
great city.
In September 1945, Strobing was released from a Japanese prison camp. A
ADVANCE PRAISE BY AUTHORS month later, Irving Strobing of Brooklyn and Arnold Lappert of Manhattan
joined together to re-enact their connection in springtime 1942 at a Madison
Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, author of "The
Square Garden pageant telling of the contributions American Jews had made
Promise: President Obama, Year One," and
"The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred in all the nation’s wars.
Days and the Triumph of Hope"

Strobing had graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and attended
Richard Goldstein has produced a rollicking,
Brooklyn College for a year before entering the Army. I grew up in Brooklyn
finely reported tale of the coming-of-age of
the "capital of the world." All of the actors in as well and I graduated from Jefferson in 1959. I, too, went on to Brooklyn
the greatest drama of the 20th Century - Nazi College. I’m Class of 1963.
spies, movie stars, talented immigrants, and
the American soldiers who save democracy - We were a generation apart. But I feel a kinship. And so a belated salute to
come together on history's center stage - New
Irving Strobing, to Arnold Lappert, and to all the men and women who left
York. "Helluva Town" is one helluva ride.
New York for the military training camps of America and their roles at home
--------- and abroad in the winning of the Second World War.

David Margolick, author of "Beyond Glory:


Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World
on the Brink," and a contributor to
Newsweek.

The iconic image of a sailor and nurse


embracing in Times Square has always stood
for New York City during World War II, but
Richard Goldstein's "Helluva Town" gives us
innumerable others to better understand, and
to round out, that era: U-boats off the Long
Island coast; Bundists in Yorkville;
"dimouts" in the Polo Grounds; the
bittersweet merriment at the Stage Door
Canteen and the bizarre frivolity of the
Copacabana; a city filled with troops - and
troupes; rioting in Harlem; the "Normandie"
aflame; European refugees and Fiorello La
Guardia just about everywhere. As so many
eyewitnesses to this facinating but largely
forgotten chapter in New York's history leave
the scene, Goldstein has brought it all back in
pulsating neon.

----------

Philip B. Kunhardt III, co-author of "Looking


for Lincoln" and "Lincoln, LifeSize."

Richard Goldstein's "Helluva Town," like the


hit show tune from the '40s that gave him the
phrase, is brimful with affection for his
native New York City. Through a series of
fascinating vignettes in this tale of World
War II New York, he introduces titans like La
Guardia, Morgenthau, and Rockefeller, but
also Sono Osato, a Japanese-American
dancer whose father was among those swept
into the internment camps, and Seymour
Wittek, a Bronx Coastguarder who became
Wittek, a Bronx Coastguarder who became
eyewitness to a major threat to the Port of

New York. Sailors, dockhands, artists,


canteen workers, intellectuals, actors, Army
men, and a myriad of others move through
these pages, along with Ethel Merman, Moss
Hart, Lillian Hellman, and Irving Berlin. As a
fellow New Yorker, I reveled in the vistas
into our shared history, and in an era of
extrordinary human accomplishment.