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The Greatest Generation

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            Americans born between 1901 an 1924, in the words of Tom Brokaw, “is the greatest generation any society has produced.”  There is more to the title than mere acknowledgement.  There is respect and admiration for this generation who fought a world war in enemy territory, while those whom they left behind kept the homeland secured until their return.

            When war broke in Europe and the Pacific, young men and women of this generation responded to the defense of America and all that it stood for.  They knew without hesitation what was expected of them when the peace, security and most of all the freedom of the world was threatened.  They put their lives on hold even without the assurance of ever resuming from where they left off.  They had sublimated their dreams and lives of comfort to the call of duty and love of country.  That was one moment in history when America stood united in a common cause.  Color and gender fought side by side as comrades-in-arms.

They served in the war not for personal glory but because it was the moral thing to do.   They wanted a better world for their children and those after them even at the cost they so willingly paid.  Those whom these soldiers left at home tried their best to manage.  Wives filled in for their husbands, just like everyone else who took somebody else’s job to keep things going in the farms and in the factories.  When the war was finally won, the survivors helped rebuild the shattered nation.  They never talked about the war in casual conversation.  For them war was sacred for the lives lost in combat. They would not talk about exploits and heroism for they could never avoid telling the horrors that came with them. They wanted nothing but to spare the young from nightmares caused by the war.  This generation had the privilege of giving up so much for others to live rightly.  They are truly deserving of the appellation “the greatest generation.”

            Their accomplishments are forever etched in the hearts and consciousness of a grateful America.  Their extraordinary lives are worthy of emulation.  Greatness such as theirs is a challenge that can be replicated given the fire and motivation they had.  Wars had been romanticized in blockbuster movies like Saving Private Ryan and The Flags of Our Fathers.  Other than the award-winning cinematic effects and storylines, the essential lessons of the movies are not lost on us.  Steven Spielberg had a change of attitude towards the flag, which he associates with war, from resentment because of the Vietnam War to gratitude for the principles so valiantly fought for by our soldiers.  James Bradley is moved by the flag rising at Iwo Jima whom he associates with his father and his comrades.  This is to say that one great accomplishment of the Greatest Generation is to change our thinking about wars.  Wars are not only about senseless killings but wars that have to be fought and finished off to make the world a better place for all.  Another accomplishment of this generation is preserving the freedoms that our forefathers had won for us in their time.  America is a great nation and is relied upon by smaller and less capable countries for defense.  The Great Generation answered the call and fought in alien territories.  The succeeding generations have the mind, the heart and the strength to do just as the Great Generation had done, given the same scenario.

            Those years were vital to the safety of the world because of the pooling of forces of the Axis powers and the doctrines they hold.  Their methods and beliefs ran contrary to the ways of the peaceful and free world.  The coalition of the US and its allies were the only hope of a successful campaign against the Axis, strength for strength.  The Allied forces standing up against the Axis was a signal that the freedom-loving people of the world will not allow any one nation to destroy the gains of democracy, which they will defend to the very end, even at the cost of their lives.

            The Greatest Generation is leaving our world at a death rate of 1500 a day.  One day we may find them all gone, but their legacy will live on in our consciousness.


Hayes, Christopher L. “The Good War on Terror.” 2006.


“Living their Finest Hour: World War II 1941-1945.”  America’s Greatest Generation.

            World War II Stories in their Own Words. July 16, 2001.


Brokaw, Tom. “The Time of their Lives.”  The Greatest Generation.  Random House.

            The New York Times on the Web. © 1998.


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