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The Home Front: Life in America During World War II

Narrated by: Martin Sheen
Length: 8 hrs and 13 mins
Categories: Radio & TV, Documentaries
4.5 out of 5 stars (11,556 ratings)

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Go Behind the Scenes with Martin Sheen

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"Sheen’s authoritative, pleasing voice shows just the right degree of
emotional heft. This audio experience, complete with
music and sound effects, is fascinating..."

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Our favorite moments from The Home Front

  • The Home Front: Life in America During World War II
  • An underequipped American army
  • The Home Front: Life in America During World War II
  • "Unrealistic expectations for women during wartime"
  • The Home Front: Life in America During World War II
  • Pete Seeger reminisces about the war.
Martin Sheen

About the Performer

Winner of the Emmy and Golden Globe, Martin Sheen has brought his versatile, risk-taking acting to American screens (both large and small) since 1961. Notable films include Apocalypse Now, Badlands, and The Departed. Sheen won intense acclaim for his role of fictional US President Josiah Bartlet in the long-running TV series The West Wing. The award-winning actor has worked with a who’s who of distinguished film directors, such as Richard Attenborough, Francis Ford Coppola, Terence Malick, David Cronenberg, Mike Nichols, Steven Spielberg, and Oliver Stone. He is also known for his lifelong commitment to activism in support of gun control, farm workers in California, and the environmental group Earth First, among many other causes.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 Stars
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  • 3 Stars
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  • 2 Stars
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  • 1 Stars
    306

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent! But incessant breaks with credits along the way.

I loved the audio insights. Keep these things coming!

But very annoying format with the incessant credits. There are 16 episodes. Each one starts with an intro "this is what you're going to hear in this episode" then the episode, then "this is what you are going to hear next," then just under 2 minutes of credits for that episode, then a new episode starts with "this is what you are going to hear."

Seriously, 30 minutes of that, altogether, throughout the program.

I listen at 2X so they kept coming and coming.

Get to the meat and potatoes and cut out the fluff. Put all the credits at the end and be done with it.

I would give it 5 stars if it weren't for the credits which slowed everything down.

197 of 203 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good story hurt by episodic nature

I enjoyed the content of the Home Front and thought that Martin Sheen did a great job as usual. But the way I listen to books is in long irregular chunks, so I found it frustrating that every 35 minutes or so I had to go through a preview of the next episode and a list of who contributed to this one, or having to pull out my phone to skip it. This isn't a radio show, it is one long listen. Please treat it as such, one rolling of credits at the end is plenty and you can trust I don't need two descriptions of what comes next given that I will hear it right now.

130 of 135 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Solid, but Some Annoying Flaws

A compelling narrative showing the less publicized aspects of war. The old-timey sound bites make it memorable. Sheen has a great voice for narration. I definitely enjoyed the content of the book - would just give caution to how you listen:

I would caution that this is less of an audio 'book' than a collection of audio 'short stories'. Each 20-30 min segment has an intro, a 'what we will be discussing this time' segment, as well as credits and acknowledgments. This is fine if listening to each segment separately on your commute or similar, but I listened back-to-back on a long trip and found it annoying how much of the time was spent repeating information and thanking all of the producers, etc. If they had a really good quote, it would play in the 'in the next episode' segment, in the 'in this episode' segment, and again in the episode itself - which is annoying if you hear it repeated 3 times in a five-minute span.

102 of 106 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Well done, but a somewhat misleading title

I really enjoyed this, and Martin Sheen's narration is, as always, perfect.

I've only rated it 3 stars, however, because the title is somewhat misleading, and the content of this book is going to irritate some listeners. A better title would be "The Civil Rights Struggle During WW2".

Nearly every essay focuses on some aspect of social injustice on the American homefront, whether that be the treatment of Blacks, Hispanics (there's a large section on the Zoot Suit riots), and women. Their roles, their stories and their struggles are indeed all important parts of the WW2 homefront narrative, but time constraints mean the intense focus on these aspects of the homefront leaves little room for description of the overall American experience during the war.

For example, rationing and recycling drives get barely a mention, as do war bonds. We don't hear anything about what it was like to be a child of any race or sex, or how people coped with rationing. A section on the black market would have been fascinating, but all we know from this series is that there was one.

If you're already familiar with this period of our history, you'll probably enjoy the focused coverage on aspects of American home life that are not often discussed. If this is your first foray into this period, you may find yourself perplexed at the frequent focus on everything that was wrong with America from a civil rights perspective. This is more of a branding issue than a problem with the material itself.

126 of 138 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Needs Reformatting

All in all good but obviously just a serial strung together. I don't need the credit at the beginning and end of each chapter. I don't need to know the credentials and especially the book the expert wrote each time they speak.

54 of 59 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Home Front

Any additional comments?

An early foray into developing original content for Audible lands solidly in this radio style documentary of life in America during WWII. Martin Sheen's narration anchors this series of 8 episodes that takes us from the beginnings of WWII when America was not a participant in combat through to the early post war years. Compelling and original the documentary draws heavily on real life stories gathered by the Rosie the Riveter project that lends a Ken Burns feel to the drama. Recommended.

29 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Very mixed feelings about this audio book

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Better balance all the negative stories with the accounts of the United States goodness and willingness to sacrifice.

Any additional comments?

I am torn about this audio book. On the one hand hearing actual recordings from people that lived through it is very meaningful. There is something about hearing first hand accounts that brings the sacrifices people made that much closer.
On the other hand it attempts to judge a nation in the 30's and 40's through a 21st century lens. Learning from the past and never forgetting those mistakes is vital, but almost every chapter in this book has it's main focus on what was wrong with the nation instead of what was right.
I can definitely see why other people would think there is a political agenda to this book simply because of where it devotes most of it coverage and how it so often portrays white males as the villains.

131 of 152 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • Chamblee, GA, United States
  • 10-22-17

Could Have Been So Much Better

I expected this series would have a lot of stories of accomplishment and shared sacrifice on the home front of World War II. After all, the economy went from the end of the Depression to all out war production in a very short period of time. What the U.S. accomplished to stem the tide of totalitarianism in a very short period of time was truly astonishing. There is a little of this in the series, but not much.

Instead--in what seems to be a homage to the so-called hate America first crowd--the series largely focuses on many social ills that were also part of the story: The internment of Japanese Americans, the poor treatment of African Americans, and many more. Don't get me wrong: This history is important and needs to be preserved. But the series seems to have been put together largely with 20/20 hindsight that judges such injustice from the point of view of the 21st century, rather than the context in which it occurred. For example, there is no doubt that African Americans who fought and died valiantly for their country were not treated as first class citizens. On the other hand, there is little doubt that the sacrifice of the war and the economic progress that resulted from it served as springboard for the Civil Rights Movement and much of the change that followed. There is not enough of this perspective.

That said, some of the segments are good, particularly toward the end. The plight of Jewish refugees is well told. The segment regarding problems of re-adjustment after the war--both for returning soldiers and women who worked on the home front--is well done. But there are other segments in which much is lacking.

The production and performance leave a lot to be desired. This is a series of segments, and there has been no editing of the music and credits that roll at the beginning and the end of each segment. It adds nothing and is very distracting. Why couldn't it have been edited with the credits rolling at the end? Sheen is a decent narrator.

World War II was the most important historical event of the 20th century. It shapes the world today. it is important to preserve this history. It is important to preserve it in a more balanced and complete way than was done in this presentation.

A better choice on this subject is the Arsenal of Democracy by A.J. Baime. It does not hide the problems, but presents a much more complete view.

67 of 79 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

One sided

If you want to hear voices from WWII, this series of compiled stories will appeal to you. The recording quality was excellent and it seemed like I was listening to a series of podcasts rather than a book.

However, this is by no means an exhaustive or even fair-minded, "Review (of) The Home Front".

For instance, in the first two chapters, only two historians (with very similar viewpoints) were referenced. Further on, when discussing women in the workforce, a historian says she was scandalized that 'we' would encourage women to go back to their traditional role as a homemaker. The truth is that all change is incremental and applying 2017 standards to the 1940s is simply foolish.

As I continued to listen, it became obvious that a plurality of viewpoints was not sought in this project, with the sole exception coming during the chapter on internment of US citizens during the war.

In the end, if you are a WWII buff, you will probably not hear anything new. If you are a novice, I would encourage you to keep your mind open to other interpretations the historical facts as they are presented in this audiobook.

46 of 54 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Face
  • SF Bay Area, USA
  • 09-12-17

Shockingly biased and politicized

This "audiobook" truly depressed me. I know a fair bit about WWII and the history of America in the first half of the 20th century, due to a lifelong fascination with the period and a lot of reading/documentary watching. So I was delighted by Audible's "free offer" of this book. Excellent! Personal oral histories of the home front during WWII! This should be wonderful!

Little did I know that these oral histories had been skillfully (or perhaps not so "skillfully") stitched together in a manner designed to focus solely on every flaw about the United States, both as a people and as a participant in the war. This is no balanced representation of the time, the culture, and the events of WWII; rather, it is history with an agenda--- a blatant cherry-picking of individual stories woven into a narrative that clearly paints the US as nothing but racist, sexist, provincial, xenophobic, authoritarian, and almost evil.

I am in no way denying the shortcomings of the United States in the first half of the 20th century; we were indeed a sexist culture, and we did indeed practice institutionalized racism. Xenophobia and isolationism were widespread. And the forced internment of American citizens of Japanese origin is a national shame, no question. All of these stories and points of view are completely valid and critical to share. However: Sharing them IN A VACUUM, with no balance of the good sides of American culture and war participation, is disingenuous at best (and willful propagandizing at worst).

This is a very politicized representation of the home front during the war that refuses to take a holistic view of an evolving people, culture, and nation. It appears that the producers of this piece are disgusted with an American people and government that were less than enlightened and perfect, and therefore deserve nothing but judgement, scorn, and condemnation. Which, of course, the purveyors of this "history" are in a perfect position to provide, from their lofty perch of 21st century moral superiority.

Short shrift is given to the context of what made the American people who and what they were at the time. What was the general education level attained by the average American in 1940? How many had traveled more than 20 miles beyond their home towns? What was their experience with The Great War? How had the Great Depression impacted them?

The "chapters" of this book shamelessly hit nearly every nail in the Political Correctness plank (please note: I am a political independent and a centrist, so this is not the knee-jerk complaint of a hard-core conservative). Again, the points made are valid; however, their presentation, one after another, almost as a catechism, represents a lockstep litany of condemnation: Racial segregation and Jim Crow; discrimination against Mexican Americans; sexism toward women brought into the workforce, and then forced out of the workforce after the war; xenophobia prevented our saving Jews from the holocaust; the shameful internment of Japanese Americans; and on and on.

There are indeed important lessons to be learned from these shameful facts and events; but to present them in a vacuum, with little consideration for the history and frailties of the people who perpetrated them, and little representation of the more honorable beliefs and behaviors of those people in the larger context, is unfair at best. Indeed, the biased presentation is so bald-faced and obvious as to be quite breathtaking.

All of the above aside: Every one of the direct interviews is a delight! They are often full of wry acknowledgement of the shortcomings of the time, and even of the speakers themselves. They are honest, lively, and vivid. And, admirably, several who have every right to judge and resent show restraint and understanding. It would have been great to have just heard all of the interviews with a minimum of explanatory narrative inserted in between.

What troubles me most about this book is that a young person with limited critical thinking ability and even less background in 20th century history could listen to this audiobook and come away being completely ashamed of his/her country's part in WWII. And that is just wrong.

71 of 84 people found this review helpful

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  • Benjamin
  • 09-27-17

Best audio book I have ever heard

More of a series of spoken documentaries, but very well done and with historical audio and first person accounts, it really connects with you.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nigel
  • 09-19-17

A superb documentary 5*

After reading the reviews on Audible.com (USA site) I nearly passed on this. Though with the dangling carrot in front of me, namely Martin Sheen, thought I would give it an hour. First sixty minutes were very interesting so carried on to the end..

Am glad this is neither an anodyne historical piece or a chest beating patriotic documentary, but instead it clearly explains the cultural and political issues faced by the US during WWII. I’ve read/ seen/ heard many things concerning Britain during both World Wars so found the viewpoint from another nation fascinating. And I do now understand/ appreciate why America was reluctant to enter WWII.

Martin Sheen does an excellent job with the narration - he hasn’t written this.

Arranged in an episode format, which could be seen as a positive if you would like to listen occasionally as it gives you a good point to stop, though I listened over two days so endured listening to the credits at the end of each episode. No biggy as you could just fast-forward it if you’d prefer too.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-09-19

Highly highly recommend

A factual honest account of America during and just after WWII. The blatant racism and sexism is dealt with as it was in its searing existence then and this book would serve as an excellent study tool for these subjects alone. But also the why America delayed joining. The repercussions. The changes in its society and even its language. The changes good and bad wrought by such a war and all majestically narrated by Martin Sheen. He made this book for me alongside the excellent first hand accounts by the people themselves directly affected. Wonderfully put together piece of work

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  • Sonia Sweeney
  • 02-08-18

The story behind the battles

Would you listen to The Home Front: Life in America During World War II again? Why?

This book allows us to have a better understanding of what life was like behind the battles, for the folk who stayed at home and had to deal with the ordinary struggles of every day life and social change.

What other book might you compare The Home Front: Life in America During World War II to, and why?

I haven't had the opportunity to listen/read a book about life beyond the battles before. I'd love to get a perspective on the British life.

What about Martin Sheen’s performance did you like?

Martin Sheen never disappoints. He brings life to the words.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I never listen to a book in one sitting, but I was always keen to return to the book

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • kittywitch
  • 01-05-18

Excellent listening highly recommend.

There is some quite astounding factual information from everyday life in a well narrated book.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-25-18

Do your research Americans!

Can't take a book seriously that can't even get Wallenbergs country of origin right. He was Swedish, not Swiss! From Sweden, not Switzerland.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Chris Lee
  • 07-06-18

Great insight in to the home front

Totally changed my assumption and "history taught" in high school about America home front. Would recommend anyone who's interested in world war series to try this out

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Gavininc
  • 04-27-18

WWII @ Home

Would you consider the audio edition of The Home Front: Life in America During World War II to be better than the print version?

Yes

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Home Front: Life in America During World War II?

The discrimination and hate faced by Japanese and German Americans

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

Any additional comments?

We need reminders of the atrocities of war not only on the battlefield but also at home

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  • Robyn
  • 02-18-18

Brilliant !

informative, moving, entertaining, engrossing! congratulations to Martin Sheen , the researchers, the writers, those who shared their thoughts and experiences, the fact checkers ans
d archivists and the production team. Consumately put together!