Veteran reporter and NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw went to France to make a documentary marking the 40th anniversary of D-day in 1984. Although he was thoroughly briefed on the historical background of the invasion, he was totally unprepared for how it would affect him emotionally. Flooded with childhood memories of World War II, Brokaw began asking veterans at the ceremony to revisit their past and talk about what happened, triggering a chain reaction of war-torn confessions and Brokaw's compulsion to capture their experiences in what he terms "the permanence a book would represent."
After almost 15 years and hundreds of letters and interviews, Brokaw wrote The Greatest Generation, a representative cross-section of the stories he came across. However, this collection is more than a mere chronicle of a tumultuous time, it's history made personal by a cast of everyday people transformed by extraordinary circumstances: the first women to break the homemaker mold, minorities suffering countless indignities to boldly fight for their country, infantrymen who went on to become some of the most distinguished leaders in the world, small-town kids who became corporate magnates. From the reminiscences of George Bush and Julia Child to the astonishing heroism and moving love stories of everyday people, The Greatest Generation salutes those whose sacrifices changed the course of American history. --Rebekah Warren
From School Library Journal
YA-Brokaw defines "the greatest generation" as American citizens who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America. The vehicle used to define the generation further is the stories told by a cross section of men and women throughout the country. The approximately 50 stories are listed in the table of contents under eight topics: Ordinary People; Homefront; Heroes; Women in Uniform and Out; Shame; Love, Marriage and Commitment; Famous People; and the Arena. The individuals are brought to life by photographs within each chapter. YAs will find this book to be a good resource for decade and World War II research. Unlike any era YAs have known, the 1940s are characterized by a people united by a common cause and values. Carol Clark, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
I bought this book for my children. I am so thankful that someone told this story. This Greatest Generation is slowly slipping away. I am a baby boomer and my father [their grandfather] was an Italian immigrant. He was very aware of the freedom he enjoyed in this country and was willing to fight against the tyrrany of a very sick dictator! Their other grandfather fought at Pearl Harbor. Their future wives worked hard here at home for the war effort. Both men thankfully survived to go on and help rebuild this country where their families could grow up safely and with more opportunities than they knew. These dear family members have now passed on. I wanted my children to understand what their grandparents endured and to be very proud of the unselfishness of that Greatest Generation. They didn't have state-of-the-art everything, but they had loyalty, integrity, determination and grit that far overshadowed any doubts or fears. Their example of selflessness was an honorable trait. We should all strive to emulate their noble character.
This very moving book teaches more lessons than I can include in one review. By now most readers probably already know the basic theme - it's the story of a number of representatives of the generation that lived through the depression, fought World War II, and built post-war America. Many of the stories will bring tears to your eyes and make you recognize how far we have fallen from the standard of sacrifice and non-whining patriotism that these people took for granted as standards to live by. But perhaps I can point out an additional, less-commented-on lesson from the book: Despite the consistent themes of responsibility and duty which underlie almost every account, these people were far more diverse than we today have given them credit for. They were not monolithically conservative, worshipers of the Establishment, traditionally religious, obsessed with making money, conformist gray-flannel people with 2.6 kids and a stay-at-home mom in each family. For example, when the Viet Nam war and the associated 60s protests arrived, the reactions and tolerance levels of these people varied widely. Their values and lifestyles were about as diverse as those we find in our new century. The one clear difference between that generation and subsequent ones can be summed up in two words: no whining. In the entire book, I don't recall a single individual even mentioning the word "rights" as they applied to himself or herself. No one believed that he or she was entitled to special privileges or to live at the expense of anyone else. No one expected the world to be fair. They took the world as they found it, and made the best of it. The only failure that the Greatest Generation can be charged with is that they were so successful in building a society where everything came easily.Read more ›
I read the book and I've read some of the reviews. The book is an easy read. It is not a literary breakthrough, but a good story about a sometimes forgotten generation. The accusations by reader/reviewers of racism, bias, poor research, poor enunciation are surprising. It is too bad we cannot read and enjoy a book for what it is: A tribute to some of those who fought and preserved our freedom. I didn't expect to read a factual history, detailed analysis, of the period and I am surprised that others did. I enjoyed the stories, the point of view and even the parts that I found too wordy and somewhat boring. But, I guess I'm too tolerant.
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Brokaw deserves credit for providing a major tribute to a generation that for too long has been underappreciated. Unfortunately, people in their late 70s and older are just seen -- particularly by Gen Xers and Gen Yers -- as OLD; with most of us having little understanding of the sacrifices and contributions they made towards making America what it is today. I agree with Brokaw that the WWII generation may be the greatest generation in America's history for the various reasons he cites in his book. As a book, however,The Greatest Generation, while interesting, does not fulfill the promise I was anticipating. Basically, what Brokaw has done is provide a series of short, somewhat fluffy chronicles of the lives of WWII veterans from various cross-sections of the United States. While these chronicles, as I said, are interesting, they do not provide enough depth and insight into how these individuals' wartime achievements contributed to what they accomplished after the war. Nonetheless, The Greatest Generation is a book worth reading for the main value it provides -- making each of the post-WWII generations understand and appreciate better a generation which, sadly, will not be with us for too much longer.
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The theme throughout the book is that the generation of Americans that participated in World War II rarely talk about it. My father might have been one of Tom Brokaw's examples. While I was regaled with tales of self-reliance and want during a depression, he almost never spoke about his experience in the African campaign, or the wound that nearly cost him a leg. The author made it a point of finding out a good many stories, not unlike Dad's, even as these veterans are now dying at the rate of 1800 a day. Each page was like going back to my childhood, and listening to stories I never heard before.
Brokaw leaves no stone unturned or class of veteran out in the cold. He starts with ordinary people, the people on the home front, heroes, women in uniform and out, [our] shame, love, marriage and commitment, and famous people.
The ordinary people were just that, ordinary in an extraordinary way. Parents and kids were compelled to survive by keeping the family unit intact. Parents searched for any job that would bring cloth or food to the home, and children disciplined by denial, accomplished a full day of work before going to school. They made do, they went without, or they made it themselves. These were the people who were already in training for their participation in World War II, but didn't realize it.
The people on the home front toiled eighty-hours a week to keep the troops in equipment and supplies. Farm boys were highly sought after by Boeing, builders of the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-29 Super Fortress. The company knew that when the farm tractor broke down it had to be fixed, on the spot, without help. Their intuition paid off many times over.
The home front could also be said to be the start of the women's movement.Read more ›