The Greatest Generation

I recently finished reading a book that was given to me by my aunt and uncle for graduation. Actually, two books were given, one historical novel by Bill O’Reilly about the assassination of President Lincoln, and the other by Tom Brokaw, who is, in my opinion, one of the finest journalists in the last few decades. One book each for my two passions, my fields of choice: journalism and history.

The book by Brokaw is called “The Greatest Generation“. It is over 400 pages about people from World War II, summed up in a few pages for each person. It’s basically like reading a profile piece on each person.

In this book, Brokaw recounts both the stories of men and women during the war, their efforts and trials. It tells the story of people who came of age during the Depression and World War II. It tells the stories of the brave men in the war, the women back home, and what  Brokaw refers to as the “shame”, the stories of the minorities during this time. He breaks the book up into different sections, each one focusing on a certain group and their battles in life.

I found it to be superbly written, and the pictures that accompany each story really gives you a feel for the time. It showcases the heroes on the front lines, the women who helped forever change the way things were back home, and the real steps to equality in our nation.

It really made me think about this time period. These men and women I read about started their lives as adults in a time not so different from my own, a time of economic downfall and war. Both can be seen in the last decade quite vividly, so it wasn’t too hard to draw comparisons from their lives to my own.

Brokaw refers to this generation as the “greatest generation”, one that grew up in hard times, and then answered the call when the world needed them. It furthered my respect and admiration for those men and women, and I truly hope my generation can say we answered the call when it came. My generation is, by most standards, of age now, and I think it is about time to make the best of our shot, just as they did.

While reading this book, it reaffirmed to me that this was something I wanted to do with my life. Not just journalism, but to branch out, to write. Writing is an art, one that takes years of time to develop, but can have such a strong effect on us. I am a writer. It’s what I do, it’s how I think, how I express myself, and it’s high time I put my best foot forward. I will be a writer, in some shape or form, be it in articles, posts, or books.

Thanks again to Aunt Fran and Uncle Lenny. You know me too well.

I recommend you give this book a read, if not buy it!

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About Benjamin D. Peters

Ben is a reporter for The Missouri Times. Missouri State University alum, degree in media. http://SeeDisclaimer.com View all posts by Benjamin D. Peters

2 responses to “The Greatest Generation

  • nathanaelbassett

    You may find this hard to believe, but the book has drawn some criticism: http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2002/winter/duke-greatest-generation/
    http://www.salon.com/2000/07/31/generation/
    It’s human nature to both moralize and come to an emotionally satisfying impression of the past, after social change and national trauma makes so many lives that much harder. But however you arbitrarily define generations, in today’s age we have the opportunity of wider hindsight, with more critical perspective and less mythologizing.

    I’m reminded of a book I read about west Germans who grew up with the idea “at least Hitler made the railroads run.” In the face of all that we and they knew about Nazi Germany, there was a need for some cognitive dissonance, a means of ego defense because of their absolutely crushed spirit. Conversely, the Americans may have been the liberators, but they were no saints. 14,000 civilian women in England, France and Germany were raped by American GIs. Rape was also common in occupied, post-war Japan. The firebombing of Dresden killed hundreds of thousands of thousands of civilians – and it was not the only one of it’s kind. Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain the only time atomic weapons have been used, instantly killing 110,00 and 155,000 people, with the fallout killing another 140,000 to 256,000. And the greatest generation dismissed, ignored, or forgot all those lives unfortunate enough not to be part of our mythology.

    We create reality as it suits us. The greatest generation is a happy memory, but not without it’s warts and scars. It’s impossible to say if their character is empirically better than others – how does one measure such things? – but we shouldn’t pretend such kind reflections happen without the use of heavy makeup. Whether it’s to cover up the blemishes of facts or opinions inconsistant with one’s desired character, people have always painted themselves in the best colors possible, and the nuance of some truth goes a long way to creating the reality we want. As they say, the best lies are half truths.

  • bpete393

    I think when it comes to a book of this sorts, people will see what they want to. I didn’t particularly feel that it comes off as glorifying war or anything like that. It, to me, was just simple accounts of ordinary men and women doing what they could in trying times. And Brokaw didn’t cover up the flaws, otherwise he would’ve only focused his writing on the men fighting in the war, and left out the chapters on the minorities, especially the chapter named “Shame”.
    I think that the point Brokaw tries to make with the “greatest generation” is that given their lot in life, they rose to the occasion. I have to wonder if the people of our time would have done the exact same.
    You point to all of the deaths, and say they were ignored. By the next generations, yes. But I believe that this had a lifelong effect on those involved. As for us, it’s hard to truly to put it in to perspective. To most people, it’s just a statistic.
    That all being said, what would be great would be a book like this, only with accounts from EVERY nation involved. It would provide a broader scope, and maybe rationalize events from all angles.

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