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Brave Men, Gentle Heroes: American Fathers and Sons in World War II and Vietnam Paperback – November 2, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"World War II and Vietnam...have more in common with one another, and are more connected to one another, than we ordinarily realize," Takiff argues in the prologue to his lengthy oral history of the two wars. In order to tease out the similarities and differences between the two conflicts, and to understand just how the first influenced the second, Takiff interviewed 20 pairs of American war veterans: fathers who fought in World War II and their sons who saw combat in Vietnam. The concept is a unique one; of the dozens of veterans' oral histories, none has focused exclusively on WWII dads and their Vietnam War sons. Much of what Takiff includes, however, has been said before in previous oral histories and memoirs. The Vietnam veterans speak of the misguided emphasis on body counts, commanding General William Westmoreland's cluelessness and the unfortunate existence of fragging, "the killing of officers by enlisted men." The WWII veterans provide details of the Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima and liberating German concentration camps. Nonetheless, Takiff does succeed in backing up his central argument-"war marks individuals for life, war marks families for generations"-and there are some surprises, including the thoughtful remembrances of a gay Vietnam veteran and an off-the-wall story about a squad of GIs who took two days off from the war to fraternize and smoke marijuana with three North Vietnamese soldiers. "War is a terrible crucible to go through," Vietnam vet Sandy Walmsley declares near the book's finish. In the end, that may be the greatest similarity between the two wars. B&w photos throughout.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Takiff pairs the memories of World War II-veteran fathers and their 'Nam vet sons, following both generations through growing up, joining up or going to West Point, fighting or at least working hard, surviving, and coming home with memories most would rather not have. The fathers sensed more of a common purpose in the armed forces and in the nation during WWII; their sons seldom escaped feeling that the Vietnam War was going nowhere and their country was behind neither it nor them. The father-son pairs include some fairly well known ones, such as the Novosels, of which the father eventually won the Medal of Honor in Vietnam and commanded a helicopter squadron including the son. Tellingly distinctive are the African American Dunbars, stepfather and stepson. The former was limited by segregation to a stevedore's job during WWII; the latter saw combat in Vietnam and now has a son in the ROTC. For students of American society and the two wars, a seriously valuable book, albeit rather hard to get through. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (November 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060935774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060935771
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,052,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Believe it or not, before turning to writing about history and politics full-time, I spent 10 years as a stand-up comic. Based at the Comic Strip in NYC, I toured the country, from Seattle to Iowa City, from Chicago to Corpus Christi, and countless points in between.

For A Complicated Man I interviewed 171 people who knew Bill Clinton -- from the cousin who took him to the Saturday westerns in Hope, Arkansas, to a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; from classmates at every stage of his education to familiar journalists like Sam Donaldson and Tom Brokaw; as well as over two dozen current and former members of Congress, from Democrats like Barney Frank and Dale Bumpers to Republicans like Bob Dole and the late Henry Hyde. I even met the publisher of Hustler magazine, Larry Flynt.

For a lifelong political junkie like me, it was fascinating and great fun. And I like to think that those words also describe the book.

If you're interested, check out my Twitter feed: @MichaelTakiff.

Thank you for taking the time to look at this page.

MT

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Before I read this book, I had little interest in warfare. The title caught my interest and I figured I'd give it a shot.
Even if you're a pacifist, even if war is the last thing you care to read about, this book is just an amazing read. It's a war book that reads like a novel with each story you read. You learn about the history, and you're learning about it first hand. I've never learned so much about World War II or Vietnam from the perspective of a real person. It's not just the facts, it's the emotions, it's every detail. I would reccommend this book to anyone looking for a good, emotional read, not just a war enthusiast.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Edith S. Taber, Ph.D. on November 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having treated veterans of WWII and Vietnam for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I recommend this book highly. Mr. Takiff has written a profound account of what war does to the human spirit. "Brave men, gentle heroes' is well written with interesting biographic details which add to the insightful pictures of our veterans. Hearing their own voices adds to the power of the message.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is riveting and I'm so glad I bought it. As a 50-year-old whose father served in WWII and who narrowly missed being drafted for Vietnam, our relationships to the two wars affected our father-son relationship deeply. These fathers and sons talk about their war experiences, and how the wars affect their lives and relationships.
The author has done a great job of finding father-son pairs and presenting their compelling stories.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on April 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have always been interested in history and the wars that come along with it. My grandfather served 30 years in the Navy and fought in WWII, Korea, and 'Nam. Because of all that time he had spent serving his country he felt that nobody else in the family should ever have to enter the military. I didn't know why until I read this book. The stories of the fathers and their sons were so vivid and grim and sometimes humorous. My grandpa would only ever tell me the humorous stories he had throughout his service. This book is like listening to a bunch of grandfathers and fathers tell their stories in a most intimate way. No glossing it over, just the raw truth. Now I understand why my grandpa refused to let me join the Navy after highschool. He had done enough for all of us. He didn't want us to go because of all of the trauma he still deals with! These men in the book are wonderful men. They're not perfect and don't claim to be. Read this book and reflect on the men and women in the military, past and present.
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Format: Hardcover
Michael Takiff takes the words of the veterans he interviews and puts them on paper for an average citizen to read and appreciate. With this book, you will read raw and truthful vantagepoints on two very important wars on our country's history.

Not every veteran believes the sacrifice they made was beneficial, and that's an important thing to remember and appreciate. Some of these veterans question the things they did and saw. It's important that they do that because if we don't question our history, we can't learn from it. Some of these veterans look back fondly on their experiences even though they went through very difficult times, and some of them have very negative thoughts despite relatively lesser difficulties. No two people expereince the exact same things and no two people will view them the same way if they did. It's important to understand that war means many different things to many people and that the people that fight wars are human beings, citizens, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. This book helps you appreciate that.

Both of my grandfathers and one of my grandmothers were veterans (one grandfather of a vet of WWII and the other two were Korean veterans). My grandfather who fought in WWII spoke often about his experiences, but mostly about his brothers in arms and the comraderie they shared. There's a lot of that in this book, but there's a lot more raw emotion to experience from the men in this book who talk about the horrible things they experienced. My grandfather never spoke of those things and thinking about it now makes me sad for him because I know he must have had a terrible pain in his heart.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. R. Rosenkrantz on December 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
For the first 200 pages or so I wondered what the point of the book was. After that I figured it out. If you really want some "feel" for how men thought before, during, and after these wars, one way is to immurse yourself in their stories told first hand. By the end of the book I really felt like I had a better understanding of what people experienced.

Viet Nam was primarily a political war and many viewpoints are represented among those interviewed. It was nice not to have those opinions sanitized. I could not tell if their was an agenda to this book since many viewpoints were portrayed.

I felt I got my money's worth from just reading the chapters from the Novosels and Tarbells. You could make a great movie about the Novosels or Tarbells with no problem!

An unexpected thrill for me was reading the kind things said by Albert Tarbell about my uncle and our family. I knew that Albert had been interviewed for a book, but had no idea what he said until I read it. In real life you will not meet a nicer, humbler person.

If you are bored by living history, do not read this book. If you want to raise your level of understanding about what happened to the lives of men during and after wartime by a notch or two, this book is a valuable resource. (Dr. Phil Rosenkrantz, Cal Poly University, Pomona, CA)
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