RE: AUDIO VERSION READ BY BROKAW. I listened to this tape set prior to reading Brokaw's forerunner "Greatest Generation", and found it profoundly inspiring, and as the son of a Pearl Harbor vet dad and Wash DC clerical mom married since 1947, it rings absolutely true. Very important stuff historically, socially and emotionally. Interestingly, I find that these stories submitted directly by the readers in response to the first book are far more riveting than the interviews Brokaw solicited for the first work. If you have time or interest to read only one make it this one rather than "The Greatest Generation". The author's reading is surprisingly mush-mouthed for a celebrated news anchor - I'm afraid he's past his broadcasting prime. 5 stars for the material but take one away for this recorded version.
I read Brokaw's sequel: "The Greatest Generation Speaks" before reading this one, and that second book is far the better one. Those stories, submitted directly by readers in response to "Greatest Generation", are more compelling and inspiring than those of this original, since they rely on the contributors' own letters rather than Brokaw's "interviews". And "Speaks" successfully avoids the tedious repetition, political shading and denigration of the boomer generation that flaws this work. Read the sequel first, then tackle this one only if you must have more.
The term Greatest Generation might smack of journalistic hyperbole or nationalistic jingoism, but the more I read the works of Stephen E. Ambrose (D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, Band of Brothers) or watch any of the documentaries about World War II -- especially on this 60th Anniversary of the D-Day landings and other landmark battles of history's largest clash of arms -- that will air from Memorial Day till June 6, the more I am inclined to agree with Tom Brokaw's use of that term to describe the men and women who came of age in the 1930s and '40s and created modern America. Brokaw, one of America's best television journalists and anchor of NBC's Nightly News, not only coined the phrase "the Greatest Generation" when he wrote this amazingly fascinating and inspiring collection of personality profiles of men and women, some famous (Bob Dole, Julia Child, George H.W. Bush), some not-so-famous but prominent (Norman Mineta, Daniel Inouye), and some neither prominent nor famous yet vitally essential (Leonard Lomell, Jeanette Gagne Norton) who either saw combat, contributed to the war effort, or endured the hardships of being separated from loved ones without succumbing to fear or giving in to selfishness or self-pity. In the same concise yet utterly convincing style of his network news writing, Brokaw draws the reader into his chronicles of 50 men and women whose experiences encompass a wide spectrum of the American World War II experience. He captures, for instance, humorist Art Buchwald's seemingly unlikely stint as a Marine in the South Pacific, at first (and almost disastrously) loading ordnance onto Marine Corsair fighter-bombers, then more wisely reassigned to work on the squadron's newsletter and drive trucks. In five pages, Brokaw wonderfully gets the essence of Buchwald's satiric-yet-gentle personality, while at the same time revealing that the least-likely-to-be-a-Marine was given a parade by then-outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell. The Greatest Generation is full of vivid personality profiles like Buchwald's. Some, such as that of Len Lomell, highlight bravery in combat; others are like Jeanette Gagne Norton's, whose husband Camille Gagne was killed in Holland during Operation Market-Garden. The recollections Brokaw presents here are full of drama and laughter, of happiness, love, and sometimes shame, but there is no bitterness or self-pity. For these are the men and women that saved the world from tyranny...and made our country what it is today.
Although less journalistic and more tributary in nature, this book hearkens back to a time that people of my generation still yearn for; a diffuse monochrome tapestry of what was once an ideal and simpler time. Or was it? Certainly there was greater emphasis placed on drawing distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil; but it seems that my memory, not unlike this book, perhaps, suffers a bit from reflective glossing. It's unlikely that any soldier sprawled out face-first on a French beachhead was reminiscing fondly about how good his life had been to that point. But certainly the demarcation lines were more clearly illustrated...Hitler was a malevolent sociopath and Churchill, a divine leader. I just wished this book had fleshed-out more of those gray areas. In fact, I recently had the opportunity to read a story about our most recent war, the war on drugs, and was captured by the multiple hues of gray that speckled the author's canvas. The book, "C.I.A.: Cocaine In America," was one of the most engrossing and moving stories it has been my displeasure to read. That's right, the zeitgeist of this tortuous tale of ambiguous ethics and diffuse government operations is such that it captures best what is so different about society today versus fifty years ago. I used the word displeasure not as a means of demonstrating my disdain for this book, but rather my discomfort for how modern-day heroes are treated both by our government and by the media as compared to that "Greatest Generation." Read both of these books back-to-back and you will see what I mean.
I had heard good things about this book, but was disappointed. This story had already been told in this format, and been told better, by Studs Terkel in his book The Good War. Terkel interviewed more persons, let them tell their own story, and interviewed persons who had been successful as well as those that had not. Brokaw focuses only on those that had gone on to become successful, while Terkel includes those from all walks of life. If you are interested in reading a history in this format, I would recommend The Good War over The Greatest Generation.
This book contains the text of actual letters received by Tom Brokaw, in response to his original successful book "The Greatest Generation." Letters written by and to soldiers, wives, families and friends give a first hand account of WW II and great insight into the WW II generation, as they lived through the depression, went and returned from battle, and came home often finding that their lives would be changed forever. Many of the letters were written at the battlefront, others at the kitchen table, and paint a true picture of the scene for the reader. Families of many of the forgotten heros were anxious to pass these gems kept in old boxes and dresser drawers, on for others to examine. Readers will experience a variety of emotions as they peruse these irreplaceable jewels from love to loss, loneliness to joy. It doesn't matter if the reader agrees with how and what took place or doesn't, but every human being can learn and benefit from the experiences of these people and their families. A great reading experience, and one that you won't soon forget. Read it, and encourage others to do so.
As a student of World War Two, and the son and nephew of servicemen in that conflict,I eagerly awaited this book.What I got was the same shallow, one-dimensional and incomplete story that Brokaw(and the others)present day after day on the News. In his book, Brokaw focuses unfairly on only a small segment of this wonderful generation--those that have made it big financially and by reputation.I quickly found the book to contain a rather elitist cast that did not resonate with me. And, as is the style these days, Brokaw focused only on "Ike's Boys" which is the same complaint I have with Stephen Ambrose:that many Americans volunteered for the military and were drafted during the Depression to ease the pain of family hardships, and wound up suffering and dying in places like Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Corregidor and Iwo Jima. Why did he choose to ignore these brave and selfless young Americans? They endured even more ghastly torment! Also, if you look at the demographics, many people came from cities like New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco--yet the author chose to ignore the sacrifice these people made as well. I found the chapter heading narratives to be very superficial and almost repetitious. There are much better writers like Toland, Manchester,Weinstein or Halberstam who would do justice to the topic. I am sorry to say that this book does not do justice to what indeed has been "The Greatest Generation."
My parents are from South Dakota. They are Oglala Lakota (Sioux). My father was in the Army from 7-43 to 9-45 ( Tank driver/2nd Arm'd 5-44 to 3-45). My mother was in the Navy from 4-44 to 6-45. Every story I saw my parents. I saw their brothers, I saw their cousins. Tom Brokaw even quoted my Mothers brother on pg. 208. Moot (Cleveland) Nelson. I had many tears while reading the stories, but more when I read of my Uncle Moot and his short commentary. Tom called that chapter "Shame"' and rightfully so. Yes. Tom could have gone deeper, but the subject matter itself prevents that,he could of got lost real easy, and that was not the overall purpose of the book. But I do not feel he "Short Sticked" anyone on any of his stories,as some of the other reviewers stated. My only correction would be for Tom to correct his statement about certain Japanese Americans being sent to an Indian reservation southwest of Phoenix.. This is the Papago/Pima Reservation, not the Navajo Reservation. ( Pg. 220.) Other than that, Tom's book should be placed in many of our schools, both Grade school level as well as High school. There is a lesson in who we are today within those pages. A lesson that should be repeated for all of us "Boomers" and our children .We do not know how lucky we are for the things we have today, but with Tom's book on the shelf we can be reminded of those who made it very possible for the way we live and the liberties we have today. This book ranks right up there wirh all of Stephen Ambrose's latest works, as well Stud Terkels, and any other essays on the WWII/Depression period . The book is easy to read, informative , but not redundant, and touching , but not relying on any overt patriotic feelings that we now have for that period in our history. Job, Well Done !!!