The Greatest Generation Speaks
By Tom Brokaw
Random House Large Print, (November 1, 1999)
The popularity and credibility of charismatic news anchor Tom Brokaw ensured bestseller status for The Greatest Generation, Brokaw's homage to the Americans who survived and overcame the depression and World War II. The Greatest Generation Speaks expands his thesis that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those tough and courageous men and women for ensuring the freedoms and comforts that Americans enjoy today. Their stories, culled from letters, interviews, and personal histories of the Greatest Generation and their family members, are anecdotal but extremely powerful, showing how men and women were sustained by simple ideals of patriotism, family, and fair play. This individualistic portrait is exactly how Americans saw themselves: Brokaw's book is a valid reflection of the times.
During a period of economic hardship and in a country united by the war effort, choices were simple; few people questioned why America was fighting Germany and Japan. Adversity brought out the best, especially in an optimistic culture like America's. As the soldier who found Beethoven's pianos in a Weimar house says after his unit is shelled, "Nothing like a close call to make the morning more beautiful." The greatest impression that war veterans seem to carry back from war is a sense of comradeship that, in spite of pain and loss, render their war years the most rewarding of all their life experiences. Modern life doesn't necessarily have the same certainties. The Greatest Generation Speaks is a healthy reminder of the foundations on which American society is built.
Book Description by Tom Brokaw
"I first began to appreciate fully all we owed the World War II generation while I was covering the fortieth and fiftieth anniversaries of D-Day for NBC News. When I wrote in The Greatest Generation about the men and women who came out of the Depression, who won great victories and made lasting sacrifices in World War II and then returned home to begin building the world we have today--the people I called the Greatest Generation--it was my way of saying thank you. I felt that this tribute was long overdue, bbut I was not prepared for the avalanche of letters and responses touched off by that book.
Members of that generation were, characteristically, grateful for the attention and modest about their own lives as they shared more remarkable stories about their experiences in the Depression and during the war years.
"Their children and grandchildren were eager to share the lessons and insights they gained from the stories they heard about the lives of a generation now passing on too swiftly. They wanted to say thank you in their own way. I had wanted to write a book about America, and now America was writing back.
"The letters, many of them written in firm Palmer penmanship on flowered stationery, have given me a much richer understanding not only of those difficult years but also of my own life. They give us new, intensely personal perspectives of a momentous time in our history. They are the voices of a generation that has given so much and wants to share even more.
"Some of the letters were written from the front during the war, or from families to their loved ones in harm's way in distant places. There were firsthand accounts of battles and poignant reflections on loneliness, exuberant expressions of love and somber accounts of loss.
"It seems that everyone in that generation has something worthwhile to contribute, and so we have included some pages in The Greatest Generation Speaks for others to share memories at once inspirational and instructive.
"If we are to heed the past to prepare for the future, we should listen to these quiet voices of a generation that speaks to us of duty and honor, sacrifice and accomplishment. I hope more of their stories will be preserved and cherished as reminders of all that we owe them and all that we can learn from them." --Tom Brokaw
About the Author
Tom Brokaw, a native of South Dakota, graduated from the University of South Dakota with a degree in political science. He began his journalism career in Omaha and Atlanta before joining NBC News in 1966. Brokaw was the White House correspondent for NBC News during Watergate, and from 1976 to 1981 he anchored Today on NBC. He's been the sole anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw since 1983. Brokaw has won every major award in broadcast journalism, including two DuPonts, a Peabody Award, and several Emmys. He lives in New York and Montana.