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Literature / The Winds of War/War and Remembrance

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"The beginning of the end of War lies in Remembrance."
Herman Wouk

A historical epic of World War II written by Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny) and published in two volumes, The Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978). Both novels follow two American families, the Henrys (a U.S. Navy family) and the Jastrows (a Jewish family) and their friends around the world during the war, with The Winds of War covering the period from the late 1930s up through the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and War and Remembrance covering the rest of the war. In effect, the novels comprise a "sight-seeing" tour, in which we are shown the war from as many perspectives as the author can manage, including excerpts from a pro-German history of the war by a fictional German general, Armin Von Roon. All the fictional characters regularly meet up with real historical figures from the war, intertwining fiction with fact. It has been called a World War II version of War and Peace; and both volumes were adapted into TV miniseries in the '80s.

Not to be confused with the Web Comic The War of Winds.

Tropes include:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Aaron Jastrow. While he could be pardoned for not believing rumors of the Holocaust, he could at least have figured out that being in Europe during a major war might not be be prudent.
  • Ace Pilot: Warren Henry is a pilot though not technically an ace.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Of a slightly morbid variety. With the war over and the family miraculously reunited, Natalie is free to return to US and lead a safe and privileged life with Byron and their son. However, she has learned the lesson that Jews will never be safe relying on protection of others, so she heads to Palestine, instead, to join the fight for new Jewish state. It's not recorded whether Byron went with her, but he's being seriously recruited by a Zionist activist to come help found the new Israeli navy at the end of the book.
  • Ambadassador: Victor, in the first volume. In much of the second too. He starts his unexpected (and not entirely wanted; he wanted a posting at sea all along commanding capital ships, which, after many twists and turns, he finally gets in the 2nd volume) diplomatic career as naval attache to Berlin, where he writes an insightful report predicting the Nazi-Soviet Pact that comes to the notice of FDR, who thereafter uses him as a special envoy on numerous occasions.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Victor acts as this much of the time.
  • Badass Family: The Henrys.
  • Badass Israeli: Invoked by General Von Roon, who points to the success of the Israeli army to argue that the Germans could have won the war if they had allowed the Jews to fight on their side.
  • Big Bad: Adolf Hitler, obviously.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Byron Henry is obviously brilliant, but introduced as a directionless failed-art student. He exhibits this tendency early on in his naval career as well, but eventually becomes a highly capable submarine officer and eventually sub skipper.
  • The Captain: Victor Henry.
  • The Chessmaster: Roosevelt, according to von Roon, who credits him with a fiendish plan against Germany. Von Roon of course, thinks that when Germans do such things it is brilliant statesmanship.
  • Cowardly Lion: Slote views himself as a coward, but his drive not to be one inspires him to commit some brave acts, and he ends up dying in battle.
  • Cultured Warrior: Byron Henry is studying fine arts before the war. Possibly a subversion as he is a rather lazy and inefficient student.
  • Doorstopper: Wouk only intended to write one novel, but he decided to split it into two volumes when he realized that he had taken 1000 pages just to tell the story up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • The Dead Have Names: Wouk breaks off his account of the Battle of Midway to list all the members of the three American torpedo-bomber squadrons that were wiped out.
    So long as men choose to decide the turns of history with the slaughter of youths — and even in a better day, when this form of human sacrifice has been abolished like the ancient, superstitious, but no more horrible form — the memory of these three American torpedo plane squadrons should not die. The old sagas would halt the tale to list the names and birthplaces of men who fought so well. Let this romance follow the tradition.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him:
    • Slote's death gets only a brief mention, after he goes through a lot of Character Development. And it's stated that it was completely pointless from a military standpoint.
    • Warren is a great hero throughout the battle of Midway, only to be ignominiously killed in a final mopping up action.
    • Berel Jastrow survived many dangerous events and even escaped from Auschwitz. His death is mentioned in passing at the very end of the book.
  • Earth Is a Battlefield
  • Easily Forgiven: Rhoda, Victor's wife is rather charitably treated by poor Victor when she commits adultery. Especially as Victor managed to shrug off similar temptation.
    • Maybe that was the reason. He was thinking, "There but for the grace of God".
    • He finally does end up divorcing her. So maybe it was first played straight and then subverted.
    • But of course, he quickly turned around to marry his own "temptation."
  • Empire with a Dark Secret: The series contains graphic scenes of the Holocaust.
  • The Epic
  • Father Neptune: Victor Henry, the father and a naval officer.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Adolf Eichmann. When he meets with Natalie and Aaron he's at first cordial and assures Aaron there's no issue with him rejecting the offer to be on the council of elders. But once Natalie and her son leave, he drops the facade, screams at Aaron and has him beaten.
  • Final Battle: Leyte Gulf.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • Yes, the Allies won World War II. No, seriously.
    • From Victor Henry's editor's notes on Von Roon's memoirs, we learn early in The Winds of War that Victor survived the war and retired from the Navy.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: Madeline Henry.note 
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: See Like You Would Really Do It below.
  • Historical Domain Character: As the novels are based on real history, many real-life personalities had to appear as a requirement.
  • Historical In-Joke: Rhoda is thrilled to run into Errol Flynn, Byron rather less so. Flynn was suspected of being a Nazi spy during the war, though it was later proven to be completely false.
  • Humble Hero: Victor is perfectly willing to let others get the glory as long as the war is won.
  • Idiot Hero: Aaron and Natalie continually refuse to leave Europe, even after Byron manages to track them down in the middle of the war.
  • Insufferable Genius: Von Roon, a German staff officer whom Victor translates years after the war. He is exasperatingly full of Moral Myopia (and even Moral Myopia about other people's Moral Myopia), contemptuous of his enemies, and determined to show in a very calm and professional manner how it was all everyone else's fault. After reading him, you dislike him not just as a Nazi, but as a person. That, of course, was the author's intention.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Victor and Warren both went to the US Naval Academy. Leslie Slote went to Yale and then to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Natalie graduated from Radcliffe, Harvard's sister college. Even Byron managed to graduate from Columbia with a Naval Reserve commission.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Slote, Natalie's former boyfriend helps her to get married to Byron, and even gives them his luxurious hotel room to spend their wedding night in, even though he still loves Natalie. He even gives Natalie the lingerie for her wedding night!
  • I Will Find You: Byron searches for Natalie in Europe.
  • I Am Spartacus: Leslie Slote, a normally timid diplomatic flunky is travelling with some neutral diplomats through German territory. When an SS officer demands to separate Jews from the group, Slote, with a gloriously imperious display appeals to international good manners, and then announces that either all of the group would be treated as Jews, or none.
  • La Résistance: Natalie becomes a member of this.
  • Large Ham: Steven Berkoff as Hitler. Of course, Truth in Television here. Here's a sample of his lines:
    Hitler: Betrayed, double-crossed, deceived, surrounded by LIARS!!
    Hitler: I can no longer go on! I shall... die... in... Berlin! The war is LOST! Lost! Lost! Lost! Stupid, incompetent idioooooooooooots!
  • Like You Would Really Do It: In-Universe, few people are capable of believing just what the Nazis are doing in the camps. Very much Truth in Television, as many people refused to believe the Nazis were engaging in these atrocities. The failure to imagine such a thing was even possible led many Jews and other targets of the Nazis not to get out when they could, as well as making the rest of the world more prone to ignore the rumors when they began surfacing.
    • Aaron Jastrow is the exemplar for this trope throughout much of both volumes. Until he and Natalie are finally shipped off to the "showcase" concentration camp at Thereisenstadt, he is in such a state of denial about the enormity of what the Nazis are doing to the Jews that he even states at one point, without irony, that he believes the Germans are treating Polish Jews better than the Poles themselves (whose bigotry he had harsh personal experience with as a boy).]]
  • Little Hero, Big War
  • Lovable Coward: Slote, though he eventually gets over his cowardice.
  • Malignant Plot Tumor: Byron's search for Louis takes over the whole second half of the final episode, to the point that V-J Day, ie the end of the war, is only indicated by a briefly glimpsed newspaper headline.
  • Married to the Job: Victor Henry.
  • May–December Romance: Between Victor and Pamela Tudsbury.
  • Meaningful Name: The head of a naval family named Victor?
    • The superstitious might wonder about giving a naval officer that name. It's kind of Tempting Fate.
      • Though of course, not only did he end up as the victor he got to rub it in by writing a translation of the vanquished point of view and adding in his snarky commentaries.
      • Byron, the Cultured Warrior(sort of) of the Henry family is named after a famous poet.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Natalie's uncle is a famous writer, and there are intellectual references throughout the work.
  • Mr. Exposition: General Von Roon's main purpose is to provide the reader with quick overall summaries of the major battles of the war, so we'll know what's going on in the story.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits : And Byron actually smashes the false teeth of one of Madeline's boyfriends.
  • Noble Bigot: Several of the heroic characters are noble bigots toward Germans and Japanese.
    • A subversion is Victor when he hears about Byron marrying a Jew. He is not really shocked, or bigoted as such; he just thinks the idea is odd and needs getting used to.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Aaron Jastrow is based on the art historian Bernard Berenson, who, like Jastrow, came from an Eastern European Jewish family, briefly converted to Catholicism, and bought a villa in Italy where he lived when the war broke out. However, unlike Berenson, who managed to live through the entire war without being bothered by the Italian or German authorities, Aaron isn't so lucky.
  • No Indoor Voice: Hitler in War and Remembrance, whenever he gets mad.
  • Overt Operative: Victor spends the first part as a Naval Attache(polite term for an embassy's official spy)in Berlin. Justified in that the right to keep an "in-house" spy as long as he is not to obnoxious about it is common diplomatic custom, and military and naval attaches customarily get a lot of access - under suitable chaperonage - to their host countries' militaries, as Victor does when, for instance, he visits a U-boat base and shipyard accompanied by a U-boat commander he meets on the liner to Germany. The Germans think Victor might be turned to be an agent of influence for the Reich, and the maneuverings to make this happen take up a lot of the Berlin passages; however, Victor is an old-school patriot and ultimately bluntly rejects the Nazi overtures. However he does little more exciting then going to VIP entertainments and taking notes. In so doing, he did manage to predict the German-Russian alliance.
  • The Patriarch: Victor Henry.
  • Passing the Torch: A minor theme during the signing of the Atlantic charter is the handing over from Britain to the US of the role of defender of democracy.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Pretty much shown by everyone and true to period.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Zigzagged with Von Roon, who is not an anti-semite and doesn't believe in Nazi racial theories, but whose fanatical nationalism and anti-Communism cause him to justify or excuse most of what the Hitler regime did anyway.
  • Posthumous Character: General Von Roon almost never appears in the main body of the novel; his war experiences are all recounted in his books and essays, which he withheld from publication until after his death. Averted in the TV adaptations, where this device was not possible and Roon's experiences are dramatized instead.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Von Roon thinks only Germans are true warriors. When Germans lose it was "unfair".
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Hitler after learning that the battle of Stalingrad is lost.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Victor is a good churchgoer. More in a "Respectable '40's American" sense then in a "fanatic" sense, but a very devoted Christian nonetheless.
  • Say Your Prayers: Aaron Jastrow starts telling the Shema Yisrael when he's killed in the gas chamber in Auschwitz. (It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words).
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Victor Henry does this a lot in his notes on Armin Von Roon's history of the war, arguing against Von Roon's attempts to paint Churchill or Roosevelt as no different from Hitler or the Holocaust as no worse than the atrocities committed by the democracies.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: subverted with Natalie. She offer's herself to a Nazi guard to protect her baby. The guard however taunts her by saying he could have her any time he wanted but didn't feel like it at the moment.
    • Pamela is a sympathetic attempted adulterer knowing that she can never have Victor as long as he's still married, not least because of the very decency and sense of honor that so much attract her to him, she gets engaged to a RAF officer in the second volume to try to get over her hopeless love. It doesn't work, though, because once Victor and Rhoda divorce, Pamela and Victor get back together, this time for good.. Rhoda is an UNsympathetic adulterer — she has a rather unlikable personality to begin with. Victor finally has had enough and divorces Rhoda when, after he forgives her and takes her back after her first affair, she starts another one with an Army officer she meets on the train after Midway.
  • Take That!: A subtle one, mixed with Leaning on the Fourth Wall, when Aaron says that Adolf Eichmann is "[not] a banal bureaucrat, though that is the role he brilliantly puts on when it suits him." In her 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem the philosopher and Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt coined the term "the banality of evil" to describe Eichmann, which some critics thought was downplaying what a monster he truly was.
  • The Stoic: Victor. Kind of verges into Stoic Woobie at times.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Byron, in order to have an excuse to visit his wife and son in Europe gets a job inspecting captured German submarines. A Zionist agent who had protected his family is shocked at the idea of him working with former German submariners. Byron says that they were just professional naval officers. Whereupon the agent says "They're murderers". And Byron said, "So am I."
  • Those Wacky Nazis: This being a World War II novel, Hitler and his posse are mandatory inclusions.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Byron evolves from a rather lazy character into a submarine ace.
    • Leslie Slote originally appears as a diplomat, who's cowardly and aware of it. After he finds evidence about the Holocaust, and can't do anything to help the Jews by diplomatic means, he eventually resigns and becomes a member of a paratrooper squad.
  • True Companions
  • The Unfair Sex: Rhoda doesn't take it well when she learns that Pamela has been trying to snare her husband. It apparently slips her mind that unlike Victor, she actually has been cheating.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Von Roon. Fairly obvious given his former employers.
    • However, in keeping with Roon's status as Mr. Exposition, we're told that his summaries of the war's major events are mostly accurate, and where he gets things wrong, an editor's note is provided to tell us.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In the TV miniseries adaptation of War and Remembrance, Hitler has an exceptionally epic one when he's informed that Steiner could not muster reinforcements to come to Berlin's aid.
  • War Is Hell / War Is Glorious: Yes, the book manages both. Not as uncommon as it sounds.
  • War Time Soap: The books are rather soapy in many ways.
  • We Have Become Complacent: Several characters express this feeling about Americans, who before and after Pearl Harbor mostly seem to go on with their lives as if the war doesn't exist.
  • Worthy Opponent: While America is still neutral Victor comments to a German naval officer that he seemed so familiar a specimen of a naval officer that Victor might have met him in the last war. The German officer wryly replies "Maybe we did."
  • Ye Goode Olde Days: Nostalgia for World War II? Come on. Yet we all know it exists and the book runs on it. To the point of having the cover decorated by a cluster of forties style family photos.
    • However, despite that it is never hidden that these were a nasty time. After all the author is a Jew and so are several of the characters, and Jews did not have it so well then.


Video Example(s):


"IT IS THE END!!!!!!!!!!!"

Hitler goes ballistic after learning Steiner's intended attack can't go ahead.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / VillainousBreakdown

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