Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation's Troubled Homecoming from World War II

Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation's Troubled Homecoming from World War II

by Thomas Childers


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Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation's Troubled Homecoming from World War II by Thomas Childers

One of our most enduring national myths surrounds the men and women who fought in the so-called "Good War." The Greatest Generation, we're told by Tom Brokaw and others, fought heroically, then returned to America happy, healthy and well-adjusted. They quickly and cheerfully went on with the business of rebuilding their lives.

In this shocking and hauntingly beautiful book, historian Thomas Childers shatters that myth. He interweaves the intimate story of three families—including his own—with a decades' worth of research to paint an entirely new picture of the war's aftermath. Drawing on government documents, interviews, oral histories and diaries, he reveals that 10,000 veterans a month were being diagnosed with psycho-neurotic disorder (now known as PTSD). Alcoholism, homelessness, and unemployment were rampant, leading to a skyrocketing divorce rate. Many veterans bounced back, but their struggle has been lost in a wave of nostalgia that threatens to undermine a new generation of returning soldiers.

Novelistic in its telling and impeccably researched, Childers's book is a stark reminder that the price of war is unimaginably high. The consequences are human, not just political, and the toll can stretch across generations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547336923
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 05/12/2010
Pages: 360
Sales rank: 658,724
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

THOMAS CHILDERS is the Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books on the Third Reich and World War II.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I “When This Bloody War Is Over” 15

1 Anticipation 17

2 Shock 45

3 Anxiety 75

Part II “Soldier from the Wars Returning” 103

4 As If Nothing Had Ever Happened 105

5 Open Wounds 137

6 “It's Been a Long, Long Time” 171

Part III Echoes of War 203

7 “The War's Over, Soldier” 205

8 Aftershocks 237

9 Picking Up the Pieces 263

Author's Note 291

Acknowledgments 295

Selected Primary Sources 257

Notes 301

Index 327

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Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation's Troubled Homecoming from World War II 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Ritchied More than 1 year ago
This book fills a giant hole in our understanding of WW II and its soldiers. We have all read about the men who did such heroic things in binging about the end of the war. But, we never think about what happened when they came home. I remember the guilt my father had because he never served. He was older, born in 1911, and had a family. He was eventually drafted to report on January 1, 1946. Nearly all his contemporaries had served in the war and he carried this "survivor/draft dodger" guilt for much of his life. I well remember his poker nights where he had a group of veterans over to play cards. He would talk about all that they had done and had sacrificed; one was a paraplegic B-29 crewman. My father suffered a very mild and different form of what these men, Childers, Allen and Gold, suffered. But even without being a veteran, his psychological problems impacted his children. I remember many of my friends having had problems with their fathers and having had very difficult family problems. Now, I hope I understand better what was going on. This book is very well written and is absolutely gripping. We all should be aware of the problems that combat veterans suffered. And we should all be aware of the problems of the veterans of our volunteer Army that serve multiple tours overseas. What aggavated problems will they experience arising from modern pre-emptive and other wars?
Bill71NY More than 1 year ago
Having grown up as part of the baby boom generation and having lived around so many of the Greatest Generation, I had the impression that they had everything under control. It seemed that my generation could never measure up to them. While our parents' generation were great, they had their problems, too. This book is a non-fiction account of what three servicemen and their families went through because of World War II. The stories are told with a kind and respectful writing style and are well researched. One subject was the author's father. It is very readable and full of substance--I am on my second reading to catch any details missed on the first pass. I highly recommend this book to people who want to better understand the Greatest Generation and what World War II was really like for them.
mryoda More than 1 year ago
I first read Wings of Morning several years ago and simply devoured the second book, In the Shadows of War, in no time. I have been waiting for the third book of stories about the world war two generation from professor Childers for some time. I must say THE WAIT WAS WORTH IT. Simply an awesome book from a very good researcher and writer. In SOLDIER, Childers weaves the story of three returning soldiers and three families. It is a hard story that is multi-layered and is not always easy to read. Having that said, however, I understand my grandfathers a lot more from reading the book. I can empathize with some of their actions after the war. This book would be a great campanion juxtaposition to the Brokaw books. As a teacher, I plan to use both books to help students really see the costs of war. Both are needed. Childers fills his book with some incredibly useful and understandable statistics that amazed me. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in what things were really like during the years after WW2. If you like Thomas Childers, you must check out his teaching company course that is a military and social history of the war. Especially the last lecture which tells more about the air crew and family of the Black Cat bomber. That lecture is a lot like the three books - informative, professional, personal, and thoughtful. It will leave you with questions and a deep appreciation of the American warrior and their families - who perhaps suffer the most of all. Thank you professor Childers for all of your hard work and for helping the rest of us understand the history of a very important time period.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding read and unbelieveable what servicemen and women endure for our freedoms and our country. The youth of today have no clue what war really is all about, and the problem is they don't give a damn either. God bless our troups, past and present!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first book by Thomas Childers and I was riveted by his descriptions of the 3 soldiers and how their war service had long term and far reaching effects on all 3. I want to read his first 2 books in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
book gives great insight to problems and triumphs of returning veterans and their familys
Anonymous More than 1 year ago