The Tango War

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

So often when learning about WWII we focus on and study the war in Europe or on the Pacific. But it is called a World War for a reason: the majority of the world was involved, not just the US, Europe, and Japan. 

The Tango War was one of the first looks I got into what was going on in Latin America during WWII. It is informative and interesting. Highly recommend for all history buffs.
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The fundamental problem with this book is that it's topic, World War II in Central and South America, is both too big and too small. This mars the book.

It's too small a topic because there are many countries here, some that are never mentioned. Is this because nothing happened there? Nevertheless I found myself wondering if Surinam. closely linked to Holland, was affected by the Nazi occupation of that country. Or did Guyana, the British Guiana, provide supplies to England during the war? Did they do so successfully?

More important are the too big flaws. Not a whole lot happened here. In fact the actual war events take up just one of four parts in the book. Those four chapters are great, but one of them takes place entirely in Europe as it follows the Brazilian force that fought in Italy.

In the other p[arts we learn about material resources, groups of people, and after the war. While I can almost see that the first two topics do have relevancy to the greater topic of the book, the last seems tangential at best. The author's treatment of it, sometimes betraying her own liberal political philosophy, makes it more so.

While I appreciate her motives in writing this book, it could have been better.
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I read my copy free and early, thanks to Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press. This book is for sale now. 

This meaty little nugget is one of a kind. I had sworn off World War II, both fictional and historical, because so much information gets repeated; you can only read so much about the most visceral parts of this conflict before your worldview darkens. I am out of the classroom and had promised myself a chance to stop and smell the roses in my retirement years. But then there’s this. 

Firstly, there’s nothing about the Holocaust to speak of here. That was a draw card, because I am done with that most searing of horrors for awhile. Instead, she writes about Latin America during the war—and I knew nothing, nothing, nothing about any of this. I was aware that there were some nations down there that are reputed to have flirted with the fascists, and even then, I wasn’t sure if that was the truth or a myth. 

The book is broken down, not by relevant Latin American countries, but by subtopics, and this is both more analytical and more interesting than if she’d done it the obvious way. Who knew that there was a model city established inside of the Amazon in an effort to rope more employees—well, slaves—into harvesting rubber for the war? Who knew that vast amounts of South American petroleum ran the trucks and tanks that rolled over Europe? Perhaps most appallingly—who knew that Japanese expatriates and their families, born and raised in Peru and other locations in Latin America,  were kidnapped in a down-low deal between the US and the governments of the affected nations so that the US could intern them, then use them for prisoner swaps? 

There are enough weird-but-true facts here to cross your eyes, and the author has her documentation at the ready.  A fifth star is denied because of what isn’t here; why portray United Fruit as upstanding patriots? Many of us know this corporation was a sinister entity with its roots tangled deeply in the CIA. Lots of Guatemalans have plenty to say about United Fruit.  More directly related here is the brief, friendly reference to Disney as a WWII patriot, and yet many of us know how warmly Uncle Walt regarded Hitler: the catch-phrase “Mauschwitz” says it all.  Partial truths make me wonder what else I am missing as I read this. 

With that one caveat, this book is recommended to you. The citations are thorough and the text is written free of technical terms that might hamper a wide readership.  Read it critically, but do read it.
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A good primer on an under-discussed part of the history of World War II. At times, it seemed that McConahay was a bit too generous toward certain figures and companies from the United States, and her sources come mostly from a US perspective, which was a little disappointing. On the whole, though, this is a compelling read, and one that I'm sure will fill a gap for many avid readers of WWII nonfiction.
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This is a compelling and disturbing read. It's compelling because it introduced me to a side of WWII of which I was largely unaware. It's disturbing because of some of the parallels with today -- finding out that "extraordinary rendition," for one, is not a new invention. I was dismayed to learn just how deep white Americans' (of which I am one) prejudices against Asians, Latinos, indigenous peoples, and more were ingrained in our government's treatment of these people. There were no "good old days" or "good wars." McConahay reveals the lengths the US went to to undermine governments, ruin foreign business people and their families, impose US will on sovereign nations, and more -- all things which were despicable and which influence our foreign policy today.

This is a powerful book I highly recommend.
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My interest in this non fiction read was piqued for three reasons: I'm hugely interested in anything related to WWII, nobody ever talks about the role of Latin America during WWII and last but not least I have a special interest in history related to Latin America especially since I have settled down in Argentina. The Tango War is an eye-catching title and the cover stands out as well, but it is important to not forget this is a non fiction read first, entertaining thriller second. I don't agree with the blurb that The Tango War can be read as a thriller, because the chapters lack cohesion for that. The chapters jump between countries and point of views of the war, which sometimes is necessary, but turns this book into a collection of essays rather than a single story. I also would have prefered to see more focus on the actual Latin American countries, instead of the clearly US influenced point of view of the different topics discussed. I don't think I could call this non fiction read 100% neutral as a consequence, but that doesn't take away that The Tango War was a thoroughly interesting read. There has never been much talk about the role of Latin America during WWII, most people instead focusing on Europe, the United States and Japan as the main contenders. It was fascinating to read about how various countries in Latin America had a big influence in the things that happened during the war. The focus isn't solely on the years during WWII though, as many events both before and after are put in the spotlight as well. If you are interested in the topic and enjoy non fiction reads, The Tango War is just the book for you.

If you enjoy reading non fiction historical texts and have an interest in the Second World War, The Tango War will without doubt interest you. It's not the fastest read of the world and the essay-like chapters might slow you down, but this book shines the light upon a wide variety of topics related to the role of Latin America during the war. Would I have liked to see a more neutral point of view instead of a clearly US influenced perspective? Maybe. Would I have liked to see more of Latin America itself? Probably. But there is no doubt The Tango War is still a little goldmine of information.
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Absolutely fascinating book. I am a history buff and I had no idea of the US involvement with South America leading up to and during World War II. I was under the impression that most Germans found in South America moved there after the war, but that was a totally wrong impression.

I am now wondering why none of this history was not taught in the various history courses I took in High School and College.

Anyway, a most interesting book, I highly recommend it for history buffs especially for those with an interest in WWII
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This is an amazing book. So little is known about South America, and how the United States treats its southern neighbors.
I’d never heard of the US kidnapping Latin residents of Japanese heritage to use as pawns for exchange of American civilians held in Japan. Germans, whether Nazis or against the Reich, were grabbed under suspicion of espionage or sabotage. Lives were ruined of people who had nothing to do with the US.
The dictators admired fascist Italy and Nazism. How much suffering might have been avoided in the years since WWI if Nazi criminals hadn’t been allowed to escape to the Latin countries? Even the US Army and CIA taught how to use pain in interrogations.
When the Chilean dictator sought reforms for the good of Chile in 1970, the CIA attempted a coup. Henry Kissinger declared the “issues much too important for Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” What rot!
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Having family in Argentina and learning their views on Tango, I found this history very different and interesting. For someone interested in the dance and culture, interesting
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