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Friday, April 13, 2012

The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food (Penguin Press), by Lizzie Collingham

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Napoleon famously observed that an army marches to war on its stomach. Seldom was this truer than in World War II, a globe-spanning conflict in which millions of men marched, flew or sailed toward battle. In The Taste of War, Lizzie Collingham explores the role of food in that conflict, showing that securing agricultural independence was one of the objectives of Germany and Japan in launching their campaigns of conquest. The cost of that food drive was enormous. Collingham estimates that as many as 70 million civilians and POWs died of malnutrition and starvation, a number that doesn't include the ill-fed soldiers of Japan and other combatants. The Nazis deliberately allowed the “subhumans” of occupied Eastern Europe to starve, but many millions also died from Allied strategies of ruthless blockades and colonial exploitation. The only winner was American agribusiness, which emerged from the war as the world's dominant supplier of food and fertilizer.