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March 13, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

PARADISE TRANSFORMED: Los Angeles During the Second World War by Arthur C. Verge (Kendall/Hunt Publishing: $23.95; 177 pp., illustrated, paperback original) and PICTURE HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II AMERICAN AIRCRAFT PRODUCTION by Joshua Stoff (Dover: $13.95; 179 pp.). Prior to 1941, American aircraft were "virtually handmade," a situation that changed radically with Pearl Harbor: During the course of the war, Americans produced over 300,000 military aircraft--a staggering feat. Joshua Stoff uses an extraordinary collection of photographs to trace all phases of production, from design to christening ceremonies. A significant number of aircraft were manufactured in the newly erected factories in Los Angeles--one of the many changes Arthur Verge documents in his informal history of the city. World War II transformed L.A.: The population increased rapidly and its ethnic makeup shifted, as thousands of African-Americans left the South for defense jobs and better living conditions. The first freeway was completed in 1940, and smog, a portmanteau word made up of smoke and fog, was coined around the same time. Contemporary Los Angeles is largely a product of the war years. Although not a great prose stylist, Verge offers a readily approachable introduction to a key period in local history.

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