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The Greatest Generation [Hardcover]

Tom Brokaw
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (637 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 30, 1998 0375502025 978-0375502026 1
"In the spring of 1984, I went to the northwest of France, to Normandy, to prepare an NBC documentary on the fortieth anniversary of D-Day, the massive and daring Allied invasion of Europe that marked the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. There, I underwent a life-changing experience. As I walked the beaches with the American veterans who had returned for this anniversary, men in their sixties and seventies, and listened to their stories, I was deeply moved and profoundly grateful for all they had done. Ten years later, I returned to Normandy for the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion, and by then I had come to understand what this generation of Americans meant to history. It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced."
In this superb book, Tom Brokaw goes out into America, to tell through the stories of individual men and women the story of a generation, America's citizen heroes and heroines who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America. This generation was united not only by a common purpose, but also by common values--duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and, above all, responsibility for oneself. In this book, you will meet people whose everyday lives reveal how a generation persevered through war, and were trained by it, and then went on to create interesting and useful lives and the America we have today.

"At a time in their lives when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love, and the lessons of the workaday world, they were fighting in the most primitive conditions possible across the bloodied landscape of France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and the coral islands of the Pacific. They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled, instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs. They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. They succeeded on every front. They won the war; they saved the world. They came home to joyous and short-lived celebrations and immediately began the task of rebuilding their lives and the world they wanted. They married in record numbers and gave birth to another distinctive generation, the Baby Boomers. A grateful nation made it possible for more of them to attend college than any society had ever educated, anywhere. They gave the world new science, literature, art, industry, and economic strength unparalleled in the long curve of history. As they now reach the twilight of their adventurous and productive lives, they remain, for the most part, exceptionally modest. They have so many stories to tell, stories that in many cases they have never told before, because in a deep sense they didn't think that what they were doing was that special, because everyone else was doing it too.

"This book, I hope, will in some small way pay tribute to those men and women who have given us the lives we have today--an American family portrait album of the greatest generation."
In this book you'll meet people like Charles Van Gorder, who set up during D-Day a MASH-like medical facility in the middle of the fighting, and then came home to create a clinic and hospital in his hometown. You'll hear George Bush talk about how, as a Navy Air Corps combat pilot, one of his assignments was to read the mail of the enlisted men under him, to be sure no sensitive military information would be compromised. And so, Bush says, "I learned about life." You'll meet Trudy Elion, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, one of the many women in this book who found fulfilling careers in the changed society as a result of the war. You'

Editorial Reviews Review

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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (November 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375502025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375502026
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (637 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
119 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A legacy to our children December 13, 1999
By A Customer
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.
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125 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive and Moving Story August 19, 2001
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.
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprised December 4, 1999
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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81 of 95 people found the following review helpful
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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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stars in Our Windows October 17, 2008
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars perfect condition.
I bought this for my grandma, perfect condition.
Published 1 day ago by Mary Fernandez
3.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly good, of course, but NOT the greatest.
As a veteran myself, I want to say this carefully but the WWII generation was NOT the greatest generation of all time. Stunningly good, of course, but not the greatest. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Bookmonger
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book great shape I ex it to be used as that was what I ordered
Published 7 days ago by scott schippert
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I think this book should be required reading for every high school student in America.
Published 12 days ago by clswold
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A very informative book for a foreigner person like me
Published 13 days ago by Adilia Beam
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
I am still reading the book. It's fascinating! I am a big U.S. history buff.
I love the book!
Published 16 days ago by Liz Bragg
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book. There's never been a generation like there's ...
Amazing book. There's never been a generation like there's before, and I doubt there will be again.
Published 18 days ago by Kelli Swayden
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing. Helps to keep our past history alive ...
Great writing . Helps to keep our past history alive and real.
Published 19 days ago by Arlene Skaugset
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
great book; great price.
Published 21 days ago by Elaine Nickel
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Worth Reading!
This book has been around for so long, most of the people highlighted in it are dead. That made it quite interesting as it shows the passage of time. Read more
Published 28 days ago by S. Bulat
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