New Blog About World War II!

This is my first post for my new blog, Americans in WWII.  I work in the history field and have had a lifelong fascination with the war.  I wanted to discuss the label that has been bestowed upon the guys that fought in the war, perpetuated mostly by Tom Brokaw and Stephen Ambrose, that the Americans that fought WWII were the “Greatest Generation.”  I have had a long-continuing conversation with a colleague about this topic.  We both are of the opinion that labeling any generation “the Greatest,” is simply a marketing gimmick to sell books.  I’m not saying the men and women that worked, fought, suffered, or paid the ultimate price were not exceptional people.  Most of them were.  But in all armies, in all branches of the armed forces, just as in every segment of society, you had your shitbags and your cowards and liars, crooks, and sociopaths.  You had officers that got many men killed as sure as you had your young Corporals and Machinist Mates that suddenly found themselves in positions of leadership and got the job done.  We often idealize those that have come before us, and occasionally forget that historical figures were just people like us.  While I grew up with a hero-worship of all veterans of World War II, I didn’t realize until I was older that my grandfather and the people of his generation were human.  They made mistakes, hurt people close to them, screwed up.  They swore, spit, lied, cheated, and stole.  They killed, often because they had too, but one has to also recognize that there were those that enjoyed it to some extent, while the majority had that most human of instinct when it boiled down to survival: Better him than me.  Greatest Generation?  Maybe.  Maybe not. There are arguments that could be made for other generations of Americans just as noble, just as heroic, and just as human.  But this is why I love history-because the debate can never be settled, but only go on and on, and nobody knows all the answers.

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3 comments on “New Blog About World War II!

  1. I Will have to ponder this one. I can see your point about the bad people. But to me those who served had a different respect for their country. My father would stand with his hand on his heart, shoulders back and chin up when the National Anthem was played. Even at home you could look over and see his hand to his heart. Once in awhile I would see a tear. I have seen many of their generation do the same. It was a simpler time. Maybe it is just because I am blogging about his letters. Looking at a day in his life, well many days has given me interesting insight. Dad was mustered in Dec of 1940 and I am at the end of 1943 in his letters and he is still training. That is three years of training. They went to just opened training facilities. It seems the Army is fumbling along trying to figure out how to train them. They were trying to train a half a million men, most farm boys with a lack of education. I’m just saying…. they put up with a lot. As you said it is debatable.

    • navyphoto22 says:

      I see your point, and I don’t mean at all to sound ike I’m denigrating the service that all those of my grandfather’s and your father’s generation gave. It was a different time, I agree. But I still think there is a pride in those that have come since that often goes unrecognized. Remember, 16 million Americans served during World War II. I do not have the numbers on hand for the numbers of veterans that have served in our current wars (of which I am one), but it is nowhere near WWII numbers. Plus, much of the nation was behind our involvement in WWII, while most of the country nowadays doesn’t follow what’s going on in Iraq or Afghanistan at all. However, my grandfather did not rush to join up after Pearl Harbor, and he was of age to do so. Unlike the majority of guys his age, he just wasn’t as gung-ho. He was drafted in 1943, went through training, and by May 1944 was sent as a replacement from the 78th Division to the 9th Division (a veteran unit that had already fought in N. Africa and Sicily). He was very bitter about being separated from the men he had trained with for nearly a year and become friends with. He spoke of it even to the day he died and made me promise not to join the Army. And I didn’t. I joined the Navy instead! But the Army’s replacement system was arguably one of the stupidest things it had come up with during the war. I think many former ASTP soldiers would agree, but I am going a bit off topic. I have noticed at games and other events that while the National Anthem is played, there seemingly aren’t many that stand any longer with hands over their hearts or even sing. I’m one of the first out of my seat, and my hand is over my heart, and although I’m not the greatest singer, I at least know all of the words and give it a go. So maybe there has been a bit of a disconnect with each concurrent generation. I think it all comes down to respect. The WWII generation wasn’t given it prior to the war, nor asked for it, but they earned it with what they did. Nowadays, most Americans just expect it. We have all become a bit spoiled I suppose. But you’re right, those guys went through so much more than most of us ever will. They were heroes to me when I was a kid, and they will always be so, “Greatest Generation” or not. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

      • First and foremost thanks for your service. I did not serve but dad taught me to respect and honor. No matter what I support all of our service people. I don’t like that we fight but I do not fault the soldiers. I got to see the Vietnam soldiers come home I saw what they went through. I was not proud of my country in the way they were treated. that really made a big impression on my young mind. I think because of that I go out of my way to support our troops. My dad did enlist in 1940 and was ever so proud of his service. I know you must be proud of yours. I never even heard of the Greatest Generation until someone wrote it on my blog. I do agree that it is debatable.

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