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"Full of wonderful, wrenching tales of a generation of heroes. Tom Brokaw reminds us of what we are capable of as a people. An inspiring read for those who wish their spirits lifted."
-- General Colin L. Powell (ret.)
-- The Wall Street Journal
"Written with love and grace ... a book I will keep forever on my shelves."
-- Frank McCourt, author of 'Tis
"Heartfelt ... A sweeping tribute to Americans who saved the world. It offers welcome inspiration."
-- The Washington Times
Don't miss the heartwarming New York Times bestseller that gives voice to The Greatest Generation:
The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections
Coming in July 2001 from Dell
|The Time of their Lives||3|
|Thomas and Eileen Broderick: Insurance Agency Owner||17|
|Charles O. Van Gorder, MD: Surgeon||25|
|Wesley Ko: Printing Business||37|
|James and Dorothy Dowling: Highway Superintendent||45|
|Rev. Harry Reginald "Reg" Hammond: Anglican Priest||55|
|Lloyd Kilmer: County Clerk and Real Estate Executive||61|
|Gordon Larsen: Powerhouse Operator||69|
|John "Lefty" Caulfield: School Principal||77|
|Charles Briscoe: Boeing Engineer||89|
|Dorothy Haener: UAW Organizer||96|
|Bob Bush: Lumber and Building Supply Business||105|
|Joe Foss: U.S. Marine Corps Pilot||115|
|Leonard "Bud" Lomell: Lawyer||125|
|Women in Uniform and Out|
|Mary Hallaren: Colonel, U.S. Army, Women's Auxiliary Corps||139|
|Jeanne Holm: General, U.S. Air Force||139|
|Marion Rivers Nittel||151|
|Claudine "Scottie" Lingelbach: Teacher/Real Estate Agent||151|
|Alison Ely Campbell||151|
|Margaret Ray Ringenberg: Women's Air Force Service Pilot||163|
|Mary Louise Roberts Wilson: U.S. Army Nurse Corps||173|
|Martha Settle Putney: History Professor||185|
|Johnnie Holmes: Real Estate Investor||193|
|Luis Armijo: Schoolteacher||203|
|Nao Takasugi: California State Assemblyman||215|
|Norman Mineta: California Congressman||215|
|Love, Marriage, Commitment|
|John and Peggy Assenzio: Salesman/Teacher||233|
|Gaylord and Carrie Lee Nelson: Governor and Senator||249|
|Jeanette Gagne Norton||257|
|George Bush: President of the United States||273|
|Ben Bradlee: Journalist||281|
|Art Buchwald: Writer||287|
|Andy Rooney: Journalist||293|
|Julia Child: Chef||299|
|Gertrude Belle "Trudy" Elion: Chemist||303|
|Chesterfield Smith: Attorney, President of the American Bar Association||307|
|Al Neuharth: Founder, USA Today||319|
|Maurice "Hank" Greenberg: CEO, American International Group||319|
|Mark Hatfield: U.S. Senator||333|
|Robert Dole: U.S. Senator, Presidential Candidate||341|
|Daniel Inouye: U.S. Senator||349|
|Caspar Weinberger: Secretary of Defense||357|
|Lloyd Cutler: Counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton||365|
|George Shultz: Cabinet Member||369|
|Arthur Schlesinger: Historian||369|
|Ed Guthman: Journalist, Press Secretary to Robert F. Kennedy||377|
|The Twilight of their Lives||381|
OF THEIR LIVES
"This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The year of my birth, 1940, was the fulcrum of America in the twentieth century, when the nation was balanced precariously between the darkness of the Great Depression on one side and the storms of war in Europe and the Pacific on the other. It was a critical time in the shaping of this nation and the world, equal to the revolution of 1776 and the perils of the Civil War. Once again the American people understood the magnitude of the challenge, the importance of an unparalleled national commitment, and, most of all, the certainty that only one resolution was acceptable. The nation turned to its young to carry the heaviest burden, to fight in enemy territory and to keep the home front secure and productive. These young men and women were eager for the assignment. They understood what was required of them, and they willingly volunteered for their duty.
Many of them had been born just twenty years earlier than I, in a time of national promise, optimism, and prosperity, when all things seemed possible as the United States was swiftly taking its place as the most powerful nation in the world. World War I was over, America's industrial might was coming of age with the rise of the auto industry and the nascent communications industry, Wall Street was booming, and the popular culture was rich with the likes of Babe Ruth, Eugene O'Neill, D. W. Griffith, and a new author on the scene, F. Scott Fitzgerald. What those unsuspecting infants could not have realized, of course, was that these were temporary conditions, a false spring to a life that would be buffeted by winds of change dangerous and unpredictable, so fierce that they threatened not just America but the very future of the planet.
Nonetheless, 1920 was an auspicious year for a young person to enter the world as an American citizen. The U.S. population had topped 106 million people, and the landscape was changing rapidly from agrarian to urban, even though one in three Americans still lived on a farm. Women were gaining the right to vote with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, and KDKA in Pittsburgh was broadcasting the first radio signals across the middle of America. Prohibition was beginning, but so was the roaring lifestyle that came with the flouting of Prohibition and the culture that produced it. In far-off Russia the Bolshevik revolution was a bloody affair, but its American admirers were unable to stir comparable passions here.
Five years later this American child born in 1920 still seemed to be poised for a life of ever greater prosperity, opportunity, and excitement. President Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge was a benign presence in the White House, content to let the bankers, industrialists, and speculators run the country as they saw fit.
As the twenties roared along, the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame were giving Saturdays new meaning with their college football heroics. Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney were raising the spectacle of heavyweight boxing matches to new heights of frenzy. Baseball was a daytime game and a true national pastime, from the fabled Yankee Stadium to the sandlots in rural America.
The New Yorker was launched, and the place of magazines occupied a higher order. Flappers were dancing the Charleston; Fitzgerald was publishing The Great Gatsby; the Scopes trial was under way in Tennessee, with Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan in a passionate and theatrical debate on evolution versus the Scriptures. A. Philip Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the beginning of a long struggle to force America to face its shameful policies and practices on race.
By the time this young American who had such a promising start reached the age of ten, his earlier prospects were shattered; the fault lines were active everywhere: the stock market was struggling to recover from the crash of 1929, but the damage was too great. U.S. income was falling fast. Thirteen hundred banks closed. Businesses were failing everywhere, sending four and a half million people onto the streets with no safety net. The average American farm family had an annual cash income of four hundred dollars.
Herbert Hoover, as president, seemed to be paralyzed in the face of spreading economic calamity; he was a distant figure of stern bearing whose reputation as an engineering genius and management wizard was quickly replaced by cruel caricatures of his aloofness from the plight of the ever larger population of poor.
Congress passed the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, establishing barriers to world trade and exacerbating an already raging global recession.
Yet Henry Luce managed to launch Fortune, a magazine specializing in business affairs. United Airlines and American Airlines, still in their infancy, managed to stay airborne. Lowell Thomas began a nightly national radio newscast on NBC and CBS. The Lone Ranger series was heard on radio.
Overseas, three men were plotting to change the world: Adolf Hitler in Germany, Joseph Stalin in Russia, and Mao Zedong in China. In American politics, the New York governor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was planning his campaign for the 1932 presidential election.
By 1933, when the baby born in 1920 was entering teenage years, the promise of that early childhood was shattered by crashing world economies. American farmers were able to produce only about sixteen bushels of corn per acre, and the prices were so low that it was more efficient to feed the corn to the hogs than take it to market. It was the year my mother moved with her parents and sister off their South Dakota farm and into a nearby small town, busted by the markets and the merciless drought. They took one milk cow, their pride, and their determination to just keep going somehow.
My mother, who graduated from high school at sixteen, had no hope of affording college, so she went to work in the local post office for a dollar a day. She was doing better than her father, who earned ten cents an hour working at a nearby grain elevator.
My father, an ambitious and skilled construction equipment operator, raced around the Midwest in his small Ford coupe, working hellishly long hours on road crews, hoping he could save enough in the warm weather months to get through another long winter back home in the small wood-frame hotel his sisters ran for railroad men, traveling salesmen, and local itinerants in the Great Plains village founded by his grandfather Richard Brokaw, a Civil War veteran who came to the Great Plains as a cook for railroad crews.
A mass of homeless and unemployed men drifted across the American landscape, looking for work or a handout wherever they could find it. More than thirty million Americans had no income of any kind. The American military had more horses than tanks, and its only action had been breaking up a demonstration of World War I veterans demanding their pension bonuses a year earlier.
Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office as president of the United States, promising a New Deal for the beleaguered American people, declaring to a nation with more than fifteen million people out of work, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
He pushed through an Emergency Banking Act, a Federal Emergency Relief Act, a National Industrial Recovery Act, and by 1935 set in motion the legislation that would become the Social Security system.
Not everyone was happy. Rich Americans led by the Du Ponts, the founders of General Motors, and big oil millionaires founded the Liberty League to oppose the New Deal. Privately, in the salons of the privileged, Roosevelt was branded a traitor to his class.
In Germany, a former painter with a spellbinding oratorical style took office as chancellor and immediately set out to seize control of the political machinery of Germany with his National Socialist German Workers party, known informally as the Nazis. Adolf Hitler began his long march to infamy. He turned on the Jews, passing laws that denied them German citizenship, codifying the anti-Semitism that eventually led to the concentration camps and the gas chambers, an act of hatred so deeply immoral it will mark the twentieth century forever.
By the late thirties in America, anti-Semitism was the blatant message of Father James Coughlin, a messianic Roman Catholic priest with a vast radio audience. Huey Long, the brilliant Louisiana populist, came to power, first as governor and then as a U.S. senator, preaching in his own spellbinding fashion the power of the little guy against the evils of Wall Street and corporate avarice.
When our young American was reaching eighteen, in 1938, the flames of war were everywhere in the world: Hitler had seized Austria; the campaign against Jews had intensified with Kristallnacht, a vicious and calculated campaign to destroy all Jewish businesses within the Nazi realm. Japan continued its brutal and genocidal war against the Chinese; and in Russia, Stalin was presiding over show trials, deporting thousands to Siberia, and summarily executing his rivals in the Communist party. The Spanish Civil War was a losing cause for the loyalists, and a diminutive fascist general, Francisco Franco, began a reign that would last forty years.
In this riotous year the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, believed he had saved his country with a pact negotiated with Hitler at Munich. He returned to England to declare, "I believe it is peace for our time ... peace with honor."
It was neither.
At home, Roosevelt was in his second term, trying to balance the continuing need for extraordinary efforts to revive the economy with what he knew was the great peril abroad. Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, setting a limit on hours worked and a minimum wage. The federal government began a system of parity payments to farmers and subsidized foreign wheat sales.
In the fall of 1938, Dwight David Eisenhower, a career soldier who had grown up on a small farm outside of Abilene, Kansas, was a forty-eight-year-old colonel in the U.S. Army. He had an infectious grin and a fine reputation as a military planner, but he had no major combat command experience. The winds of war were about to carry him to the highest peaks of military glory and political reward. Ike, as he was called, would become a folksy avatar of his time.
America was entertained by Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Woody Guthrie, the music of Hoagy Carmichael, the big-screen film magic of Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda.
At the beginning of a new decade, 1940, just twenty years after our young American entered a world of such great promise and prosperity, it was clear to all but a few delusional isolationists that war would define this generation's coming of age.
France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, and Romania had all fallen to Nazi aggression. German troops controlled Paris. In the east, Stalin was rapidly building up one of the greatest ground armies ever to defend Russia and communism.
Japan signed a ten-year military pact with Germany and Italy, forming an Axis they expected would rule the world before the decade was finished.
Roosevelt, elected to his third term, again by a landslide, was preparing the United States, pushing through the Export Control Act to stop the shipment of war materials overseas. Contracts were arranged for a new military vehicle called the jeep. A fighter plane was developed. It would be designated the P-51 Mustang. Almost 20 percent of the budget FDR submitted to Congress was for defense needs. The first peacetime military draft in U.S. history was activated.
Roosevelt stayed in close touch with his friend, the new prime minister of England, Winston Churchill, who told the English: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." And "We shall not flag or fail ... we shall fight on the seas and oceans ... we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and on the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender."
Our twenty-year-old American learned something of war by reading For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway, and something else about the human spirit by watching The Grapes of Wrath, the film based on John Steinbeck's novel, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda.
The majority of black Americans were still living in the states of the former Confederacy, and they remained second-class citizens, or worse, in practice and law. Negro men were drafted and placed in segregated military units even as America prepared to fight a fascist regime that had as a core belief the inherent superiority of the Aryan people.
It had been a turbulent twenty years for our young American, and the worst and the best were yet to come. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Across America on that Sunday afternoon, the stunning news from the radio electrified the nation and changed the lives of all who heard it. Marriages were postponed or accelerated. College was deferred. Plans of any kind for the future were calibrated against the quickening pace of the march to war.
Shortly after the attack, Winston Churchill called FDR from the prime minister's country estate, Chequers. In his book The Grand Alliance, Churchill recounted the conversation. "Mr. President, what's this about Japan?" Roosevelt replied, "It's quite true. They have attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We're all in the same boat now."
Churchill couldn't have been happier. He would now have the manpower, the resources, and the political will of the United States actively engaged in this fight for survival. He wrote, "So we had won after all." A few days later, after Germany and Italy had declared war against the United States, Churchill wrote to Anthony Eden, his foreign secretary, who was traveling to Russia, "The accession of the United States makes amends for all, and with time and patience will give us certain victory."
In America, young men were enlisting in the military by the hundreds of thousands. Farm kids from the Great Plains who never expected to see the ocean in their lifetimes signed up for the Navy; brothers followed brothers into the Marines; young daredevils who were fascinated by the new frontiers of flight volunteered for pilot training. Single young women poured into Washington to fill the exploding needs for clerical help as the political capital mobilized for war. Other women, their husbands or boyfriends off to basic training, learned to drive trucks or handle welding torches. The old rules of gender and expectation changed radically with what was now expected of this generation.
My mother and father, with my newborn brother and me in the backseat of the 1938 Ford sedan that would be our family car for the next decade, moved to that hastily constructed Army ammunition depot called Igloo, on the alkaline and sagebrush landscape of far southwestern South Dakota. I was three years old.
It was a monochromatic world, the bleak brown prairie, Army-green cars and trucks, khaki uniforms everywhere. My first impressions of women were not confined to those of my mother caring for my brothers and me at home. I can still see in my mind's eye a woman in overalls carrying a lunch bucket, her hair covered in a red bandanna, swinging out of the big Army truck she had just parked, headed for home at the end of a long day. Women in what had been men's jobs were part of the new workaday world of a nation at war.
Looking back, I can recall that the grown-ups all seemed to have a sense of purpose that was evident even to someone as young as four, five, or six. Whatever else was happening in our family or neighborhood, there was something greater connecting all of us, in large ways and small.
Indeed there was, and the scope of the national involvement was reflected in the numbers: by 1944, twelve million Americans were in uniform; war production represented 44 percent of the Gross National Product; there were almost nineteen million more workers than there had been five years earlier, and 35 percent of them were women. The nation was immersed in the war effort at every level.
The young Americans of this time constituted a generation birth-marked for greatness, a generation of Americans that would take its place in American history with the generations that had converted the North American wilderness into the United States and infused the new nation with self-determination embodied first in the Declaration of Independence and then in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
At the end of the twentieth century the contributions of this generation would be in bold print in any review of this turbulent and earth-altering time. It may be historically premature to judge the greatness of a whole generation, but indisputably, there are common traits that cannot be denied. It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices. It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order. They know how many of the best of their generation didn't make it to their early twenties, how many brilliant scientists, teachers, spiritual and business leaders, politicians and artists were lost in the ravages of the greatest war the world has seen.
The enduring contributions of this generation transcend gender. The world we know today was shaped not just on the front lines of combat. From the Great Depression forward, through the war and into the years of rebuilding and unparalleled progress on almost every front, women were essential to and leaders in the greatest national mobilization of resources and spirit the country had ever known. They were also distinctive in that they raised the place of their gender to new heights; they changed forever the perception and the reality of women in all the disciplines of American life.
Millions of men and women were involved in this tumultuous journey through adversity and achievement, despair and triumph. Certainly there were those who failed to measure up, but taken as a whole this generation did have a "rendezvous with destiny" that went well beyond the outsized expectations of President Roosevelt when he first issued that call to duty in 1936.
The stories that follow represent the lives of some of them. Each is distinctive and yet reflective of the common experiences of that trying time and this generation of greatness.
Tom Brokaw: It meant a lot to me, obviously, and was a labor of love, but the reaction has been overwhelming, mostly because I didn't anticipate it would touch so many different generations.
Tom Brokaw: I do, and I think that this generation should know that the greatest generation has a lot of faith in the young people today. They are kind of in awe of the mental intelligence and cyberspace and a whole new way of communication, grateful this generation will not have the challenges of their grandparents. It will be unlikely we will have a Great Depression again, and God knows we don't want another world war.
Tom Brokaw: I think it depends on the individual. For example, Pat Buchanan, who had a prominent role at CNN, was and is an ideologue, and part of his mission was to persuade people to accept his point of view. Geraldo Rivera has another point of view and has no qualms about advertising it. I have always seen my role as a traditional journalist who tells the facts, not trying to move people in one direction or the other.
Tom Brokaw: I think that there has a been a big shift, driven in part by the social upheaval of the '60s. But it is always hard to measure quantitatively something as subjective as moral values because it means you have to get into a generation's inner psyche to know their most private behavior, and it is difficult at times to measure that. I am not sure if we are any less honest today or any less moral today then we were 40 years ago, I am just sure we know more about the behavior of individuals.
Tom Brokaw: I had the unusual opportunity of living in a small town in South Dakota that had two radio stations, and because I knew the people who ran the station, and they knew me as a gabby teenager, I was able to, at the age of 16, get work nights reading the news and spinning records and learning how broadcast worked. At the time it was almost a lark; it was a good way to meet girls after basketball practice, and I had no idea I would end up making a career out of it.
Tom Brokaw: Yes, by the time the U.S. got involved with World War II, we had been attacked by Japan, and Hitler dominated most of Europe and was attacking on a daily basis Great Britain, our closest ally, so there are substantial differences between then and now -- for all the troubles of Bosnia, it has been mostly confined to that part of Europe.
Tom Brokaw: I am very grateful. It is that kind of response that made all the late nights and early mornings and missed fishing trips worthwhile while writing the book.
Tom Brokaw: I think that this generation is better than it gets credit for. If you look at the TV coverage of all the refugee camps along the Kosovo borders, you see hundreds of young Americans doing what they can to help that humanitarian catastrophe. It was this generation that invented this medium on which we are now chatting, which is one of the most empowering inventions in the history of mankind. So I think that this generation will get good credit 40 years from now. I just wish it would spend a little more time worrying about the common ground we all occupy and a little less time worrying about selfish issues.
Tom Brokaw: My personal experience with members of this generation, close family members and close friends. And then the men and women I began to meet in the '80s and '90s when I went to Normandy and Pearl Harbor for the anniversaries of these events. It really is a book written as a kind of payback, I suppose, for all they did for me, and I wanted to do something for them.
Tom Brokaw: I am a baseball fan, and in fact as I sit here doing the chat, I am watching the Cardinals and Milwaukee. I have been a Dodger fan all of my life, but a small confession: I never thought this would happen, but since I have lived in New York, I have gotten more attached to the Yankees.
Tom Brokaw: Going back to the beginning of my career, I was a young reporter on duty when the wires began to ring and I read on the air in Omaha the news that JFK had been assassinated, and I remember thinking at the end of that day that my life would never be the same again. It was an intersection in American life then, during the '60s -- covering the civil rights movement in the South and the antiwar protests also had a big impact on me. The three big stories that I will never forget are the fall of communism, the resignation of Nixon, and the explosion of the shuttle Challenger.
Tom Brokaw: I think that the generation of this book really is an extension of the generation of founding fathers. The genius of the American system is that it has so much political freedom and economic opportunity that it attracts the very best people from all over the world, so 1,000 years from now historians will look back with a sense of awe at the breathtaking achievements of this immigrant nation.
Tom Brokaw: Actually, I was involved with writing another book when this subject kept pushing through my consciousness. I was using it in the themes and speeches and dinner-table conversations, and I found that wherever I went and whoever I was talking to, people responded to this book or to the themes in this book, so I thought I better write it.
Tom Brokaw: Yes, there were two or three people that I wish I had spent more time with, one being Senator John Chaffee of Rhode Island. I also should have mentioned that Henry Kissinger was a member of this generation and a veteran of World War II -- many people don't realize that. My biggest regret is that I couldn't get to all the stories, because each is fascinating in its own way.
Tom Brokaw: I think when they were 18, Hitler was on the move across Europe and there was a very bitter debate about whether or not should get involved, but once they did get involved they learned their lessons well. I think they would tell this generation that you always have to be wary that these kinds of practices don't spread.
Tom Brokaw: No, I think that every generation sets its own pace and measures its own time by the achievements that generation assigns importance to. I do think that we are operating on fast forward too much of the time. Just because we have the ability to make telephone calls from anywhere, to retrieve information with a keystroke, to expect great enterprises to be finished in less than a week doesn't mean that we have to be hostage to the technology and the psychology that creates that kind of climate.
Tom Brokaw: My major concern as we head into the millennium is that we are spending too little time on issues of common concern and too much time on narrowly focused interests. The great hallmark of the greatest generation was that it knew when to subsume individual interests and join hands for the common good.
Tom Brokaw: I am going to write another book. I have not yet fully settled on the subject; unfortunately the response to this book has been so great that it is going to very difficult for me to reach this threshold the next time.
Tom Brokaw: It is that kind of response that has been the biggest surprise for me and the most gratifying -- younger people seeing in this book all that their parents or grandparents meant to the lives they have today.
Tom Brokaw: I think part of the change is that we are now more, much more, synergistic -- at NBC we have MSNBC and CNBC, and just today I appeared on all of them plus on MSNBC on the Internet.
Tom Brokaw: I am a voracious reader, and I have pretty eclectic tastes -- at the moment I am reading Henry Kissinger's latest book, YEARS OF RENEWAL, also Harold Bloom's SHAKESPEARE: THE INVENTION OF THE HUMAN, and I just finished SINGLE AND SINGLE.
Tom Brokaw: I actually did think of putting them in and went back and looked at their lives and was going to include it in the section on Luis Armijo, but most of the code talkers returned to their reservations and lived traditional Hopi lives, so it was not, in my judgment, as representative of these other stories, but they are an amazing group. One of the things I learned is that some returned to their reservations and burned their uniforms because they take pride in peace, not war.
Tom Brokaw: I think that the long- and short-term lessons of history are that Europe has a kind of low boiling point about once every 60 years or so, and it should be in our interest to see that it doesn't boil over.
Tom Brokaw: There are really four periods of history that fascinate me -- the birth of our country; then, as a child of the West, I would have loved to cover the early explorers so I could have gotten to know the Native American culture as well; then I believe the most traumatic time in America was the Civil War, when we came perilously close to coming apart, so as a reporter that would have been a fascinating story to cover.
Tom Brokaw: One of the hopes that I had, and I must say that this hope has almost been exceeded, is that this book will be a kind of catalyst for more dialogue between generations about the lesson of that time and what we can be doing together now. When you think that more than a half million young men and some women lost their lives in World War II, you realize what a terrible price this country paid, but if they had not answered the call we would be living in a far different world today.
Tom Brokaw: It is a small club, so we all know each other very well, so it is fair to say there is a lot of mutual respect. For 25 years now, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and I have competed against each other; we have shared overnight plane rides to hellholes across the world; we have had some differences along the way -- but by and large, I think that we have a real mutual admiration society.
Tom Brokaw: I cannot tell you how flattered I am that you would take part of your evening to share your thoughts with me about this book. I have been saying that anchormen don't fake humility very well, so I will not try. But what I know in my heart and in my mind is that the success of this book is a tribute to the people whose stories I tell, not to the name of the author.
Posted April 27, 2004
I first started reading this book as an assignment for my Senior English Class in a small town in Minnesota. As I began reading, I realized that I no longer cared about the class, or my grade, but that I NEEDED to read this book for me. I do not think our generation understands. The men and women who lived during WWII and the Depression have so many untold stories. The men that fought for so many things are heroes, not only to me, but to so many people. I truly wish my generation could feel what I feel when I read this book and maybe we wouldn't take so many things for granted. One would think after Sept. 11th, our strong patriotism would have lasted for more than a year... now I'm starting to wonder what it would be like if the WWII generation hadn't been so consumed with the love of their country. Where would we be?
8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2004
This was a fairly well written, easy to read book. I have to disagree with the conclusion that there could even be a 'Greatest' generation. Yes, these people accomplished a lot. They paved the way for many economic and social advances in the future. But, it seems a little silly taking credit for what amounts to being born at that time. I cannot believe that any generation can actually be objectively determined to be greater than any other. This generation could well be remembered for giving us Japanese internment camps, Strom Thurmond, continued rampant segregation and discrimination(a gift from all past generations), the cold war, as well as nuclear paranoia. But, is it fair to pin the blame on a generation for these problems? No more so than to credit them for living when they did. Each generation can merely react to situations in which they find themselves. I refuse to believe that the exploits of this generation could be considered anything but equal with those of our founding fathers. My generation would be unable to carry on without the contributions of the baby boomers(both good and bad) and likewise they owe a debt to those who came before them. That is the natural progression of things. Perhaps in some idyllic Utopian future there will be world peace, no poverty, and true equality for all. Would that be the updated 'greatest' generation? Each genration can only be the product of its predecessors and nothing else. We do not exactly turn into our parents, only updated versions of them. We must realize that each generation gets one chance, and each generation tries to make the best of it. We get to reap the benefit of recorded history, and write our own as well. Inevitable development in technology, medicine and other sciences, as well as accrued life experiences leave us constantly adhering to an old maxim. Every generation considers itself smarter than the one that came before it, and wiser than the one that follows.
5 out of 15 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 11, 2001
This is a novel about a group of people who fought for their country and are now called the Greatest Generation. They are the Greatest Generation and they are humble about it. I am very interested in World War II. About the culture, the war itself, and the people. If you want to understand the people that fought for us in WW II this is the book to read. I highly recommend it. Thank you to the Greatest Generation. In our world today we draw from the strength that you showed in our Country's time of need. It is time for my generation to stand up and do what you did then.
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 14, 2000
This is a great book to bridge the gap and fill in the behind-the-scenes of why our Moms and Dads, and Grandfathers and Grandmothers, should be respected. As Caesar said when crossing the Rubicon, 'alea jacta est' (the die is cast), which can also serve as a guide that persons are sometimes thrust into situations not of their choosing, but they have to see the situation to its end. That was the situation with our forebears in WW2. We are proud of their response, and this book shows a close-in analysis of why we won the war. Because of a united home front of ordinary dads and moms. Thanks, Tom Brokaw. PS...my dad flew with the 8th Air Force (30 combat missions) over Nazi Germany from 43-44. He did not like to talk about it very much, but I am sure he would have liked your book very much.
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Posted January 13, 2000
A tremendous commentary. Born in 1954 I am an offspring of this generation. This book helped me understand the firm rules my parents had for me and four other siblings. Sad to say we are losing these values today. It renewed my committment to raise my own two children as I was raised. I wish I could have read this while my veteran father was still alive. I appreciate his honor and hard work for us all the more. Thank you Tom Brokaw for paying a well deserved tribute.
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Posted June 8, 2001
Thanks Mr. Brokaw. You have really made my late father's stories about his generation come alive again in my heart. God Bless You
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Posted January 1, 2000
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Brokaw that this was THE GREATEST GENERATION America has ever produced! I was moved to tears on many occasions while reading this fine piece of literature! Both my parents though now deceased were part of Mr Brokaw's GREASTEST GENERATION, and this piece of work has brought me to yet a deeper love and understanding of them!
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Posted January 16, 2015
I am not a "fan" of Tom Brokaw, however, this book is well written and well worth the time to read.
My Dad was a WWII Veteran and was in the Battle of the Budge.
It warms my heart to know how important these men and women were and are to our freedoms and way of life. Awesome read!!!
Posted July 4, 2013
Five stars for those who are featured in the book, who actually came thru the great depression, and fought the war. Too much political bias by Tom Brokaw, which should'nt of belong in this type of book. There were some story's of people that did'nt belong with those who actually struggled and then fought. Some of those people shared the same political beliefs as Brokaw, so they were feature. Could of been a much more uplifting book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 24, 2013
Got it for my husband who has been a guardian on the Villages Honor Flight. He has loved every minute of the read. The history is wonderful and having lost an uncle in WWII it is even more of a story for him.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 22, 2012
A terrific look at the lives of people during and immediately after WWII. This should be mandatory reading for every student today in an effort to teach them how the people of this country used to take pride in self-reliance and making a better life for themselves and their families.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 5, 2012
Tom Brokaw's "folksy" personna is the perfect vehicle for the telling the stories of the Greatest Generation. Heartwarming, harrowing and tragic...each story is a tribute to the bravery of the generation who fought for freedom and those who stayed home and saw the lives that they once knew disappear in a sea of change. I finished the book wondering if a new generation faced these challenges what the outcome would be.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 12, 2012
The Greatest Generation Speaks is a collection of memories from those that served in World War II. There are sections that look back at times of victory as well as times of grief. Also included are sections that reflect on the roles of women and those different ethnicities during this period of turmoin and growth in America.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 5, 2012
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Posted March 28, 2010
I enjoyed this book a great deal and have purchased it as a gift for others. It's a touching and realistic look at the men and women who served our country without a second thought and became heroes to me. The pains of war are lifelong and it gave me such a great appreciation for those of the Greatest Generation. They truly were and are just that.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 1, 2009
Tom Brokaws book "The Greatest Generation". As a Granddaughter to a WWII vetran I never heard my Grandfather speak much of his time in the war. From what I read in this book that was common amongst those who served at that time. After his passing I began to learn things from old photos papers and web sites. This book was a look into that time, and the people the war affected. I found the short stories interesting and I would seriously reccomend it!!!
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Posted March 30, 2006
I began this book with real anticipation and grew increasingly disappointed as I realized Brokaw missed a golden opportunity. While his preface is eloquent and his postscript touching, the chapters in between are little more than a collection of superficial profiles reminiscent of small-town newspaper features. Insight is lacking--the author stays safely in the shallow end of the pool at all times--and the book is so politically correct as to bring yawns to any reader. It's unfortunate. A big name guarantees publication, and Brokaw does a bit better than most celebrities--but he sorely missed a chance to do something great with the greatest generation. Given the resources available to the author, it's hard to believe he didn't.
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Posted September 6, 2005
As the grandson of a WWII veteran, I have read this book cover to cover a half dozen times & each time convices me even more that Brokaw nailed the historical accuracy of this book. My congratulations go out to Brokaw for setting the record straight.
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