Title: The Greatest Generation
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Title: The Greatest Generation
Author: Tom Brokaw
This book tells the stories of 50 young people who grew up during the depression and fought in World War II then came home to build America into a super power that could win the cold war. In one of the first lines of the book Tom Brokaw states, “I think this is the greatest generation that society has ever produced.” I can’t even imagine all the obstacles that they had to overcome. These men and women were born in the roaring twenties when our economy was booming and prohibition was in force. They went from boom to the greatest bust in American history, the great depression. They watched their parents lose their farms and business and then were called upon to fight the two greatest war machines of the twentieth century. After defeating these aggressors the young men and women came home and got married producing the baby-boomers. The GI bill allowed more of them to get a college education than any other generation. Instead of resting on their laurels they turned the industrial machine that won the war into one of greatest peacetime economies in history. The infrastructure of highways, bridges and dams that we use today was built by these enterprising men. There were also mistakes made, McCarthyism was allowed to flourish and racism went unchallenged for much to long. This book wasn’t just about history but about people stories and experiences. Tom Brokaw presents a very balanced view telling not just stories about young white men storming the beaches on D-Day but also about women in the service and those who stayed home. He also tells the stories of Japanese and African American men who were fighting to defend a country that was persecuting them.
There are 50 major characters in this book and it would impossible for me to even mention something meaningful about everyone of them so I will pick three that I thought exemplified the spirit of the book.
Ordinary People, Charles O. Van Gorder, MD:
Charles was a thirty-one year old captain when he was asked to drop behind enemy line with the paratroopers during the D-Day invasion. His glider crash landed at 4:00 am on June 6. He was lucky unlike so many others no one was hurt in his glider. That changed very quickly, by 9:00 am he and his fellow doctors had set up their MASH unit. Van Gorder and the other surgeons worked for 36 hours straight operating on hundreds of wounded paratroopers while wearing their combat helmets the whole time. When Charles finally went back to his tent to get some sleep he found that a German shell had hit and destroyed it just a few minutes earlier. Van Gorder stayed with the 101st Airborne division throughout 1944 until he was captured by German soldiers during the Battle of Bastone. Van Gorder had suffered shrapnel wounds in his so he had to be supported by his friend Dr. Rodda. Charles and the other POWs were packed into a box car headed east into Germany when their train came under attack from American fighters so Dr. Van Gorder organized the prisoners into a giant human sign saying: USA POWS. Not long after Charles and Dr. Rodda escaped and made their way back west to American lines. After serving for 5 years and 30 straight months overseas he finally returned home to his wife Helen. Helen had given birth to Rod while Charles was in North Africa but Rod died of SIDS with out ever having met his father. Van Gorder turn down a high paying, prestigious New York fellowship to set up a practice in his hometown of Andrews, Tennessee. Dr. Van Gorder spent the rest of his life caring for the loggers of that Smoky Mountain hamlet.
Women in Uniform and Out: Margaret Ray Ringenberg
When Margaret Ringenberg took her first flight at the age of 7 she fell in love with flying. So after she graduated from high school she started taking lessons at the local airfield and she got her pilots license when she was only 21, just in time to apply for WASP. WASP stood for Women’s Air Force Service Pilots and the women who joined ferried aircraft from the factory
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Literature, Margaret Ringenberg, Women in World War II, World War II, American literature, The Bat, 761st Tank Battalion, Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw
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