Over seventy years ago, no one knew that they would fighting in the biggest war this world has ever seen. World War II saw the deaths of millions of people throughout Europe, North Africa and the Pacific. John Steinbeck's Once There Was a War illustrates his personal, nonfiction account of the war as a correspondent in the United States military. Whether it was during the London blitz, training in North Africa, or with the military in Italy, Steinbeck shapes a unique understanding of World War II by illustrating the emotional impact this vigorous war had on the soldiers and civilians. .
Steinbeck's first account as a correspondent was during the London blitz while illustrating the lives of the soldiers and civilians more than the blitz itself. Before heading overseas, the soldiers said their goodbyes and crowded on to a ship, not knowing if they would make it back home (13). Each soldier, consisting of clerks, farmers, salesmen, students, laborers, and technicians, stopped what they were doing and strung together to fight for the United States (17). These people putting their jobs on hold really shows the amount of sacrifice and respect they have for this country. One way Steinbeck illustrates this is with the quote, "They have no identity, no personality,"(13). Steinbeck uses this quote to symbolize that the lives these men lived before do not matter anymore. A new life has begun for these soldiers, a fresh new beginning as they head to fight for America. Many of the men and women got sick, could not sleep, or were scared of what was to come (24). This evidence, given by Steinbeck, really shows the emotions of the soldiers and the strain of preparing for war beginning for these men and women. When the US forces got to London, they soon quickly realized that it was not only themselves, but the civilians were also being affected. This evidence is revealed when Steinbeck sees a man, "tortured" from all that had happened to him, cutting his throat and jumping out of a window (57).