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The Greatest Generation

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  8,449 ratings  ·  686 reviews
In the spring of 1984, I went to the northwest of France, to Normandy, to prepare an NBC documentary on the fortieth anniversary of D-Day, the massive and daring Allied invasion of Europe that marked the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. There, I underwent a life-changing experience. As I walked the beaches with the American veterans who had returned for...more
Paperback, 412 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Random House Trade (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephanie
I have a strong interest in history, so I found this to be a fascinating peek into the lives of the WWII generation.

This is a series of little real-life vignettes about various people who served in the war in various capacities, and the effect it had on their lives after they returned to civilian life. These are stories of profound loss, life-long love, deep and abiding friendships. There are stories about women who blazed trails in careers previously closed to women because they stepped in to...more
Aric Cushing
Feb 06, 2014 Aric Cushing added it
Recommends it for: People who will buy a book for 1 chapter only
The African-American and Japanese coverage in the chapter 'Shame' was the only chapter worth reading. AND HERE ARE A FEW TREATS FROM THE REST OF THE BOOK:

1.) "Among other indignities, Holmes is persuaded that Fort Knox dentists experimented on BLACK (my capitals) soldiers.": I'm sorry Brokaw.... have you been drinking? Is Brokaw suggesting that Holmes made this up?

2.) "When my friends ask whether I ever considered divorce I remind them of the old saying 'We've thought about killing each other,...more
Suzy
Apr 07, 2011 Suzy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Suzy by: Meagan
To be honest, this book wore thinner and thinner on me until I almost considered quitting (sorry Meg). I guess I liked it fine at first, but the nothing-but-profiles format became boring and pat. I was really quite surprised to find what a sophomoric writer Tom Brokaw is--is that the difference between broadcast journalists and print-media journalists? Or was he "dumbing down" his writing for mass appeal? The book would have been much better had he made some connections, braved some sociological...more
bookczuk
I really wanted to like this book- the idea of a memoir of the greatest generation is fabulous. Unfortunately, I though Mr Brokaw got a little- how can I say this nicely- dull in the telling of a fabulous tale.

But, if one has never met some of the amazing individuals that collectively make the greatest generation, it will do. I am just blessed to have met many folks who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War, and heard them speak for themselves.

My son won a copy of th...more
Ron
Sep 11, 2008 Ron rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
Such an engaging topic, too bad Brokaw wasn't up to it. The typical superficial twaddle we've come to expect from our broadcast journalist.
Johnny
There are some fascinating stories in The Greatest Generation, many of which elicited "I didn't know that!" and "I'm glad I didn't have to go through that!" as I read them. At times, I found myself with watery eyes as I perused some particularly emotional account. I'm glad I read the book, really I am. However, the whole collection of mini-biographies left me feeling like I'd just experienced the USA TODAY McPaper version of these biographical accounts. So, if you're wondering why the rating is...more
Andrew Frueh
I was sadly disappointed in this book, I expected much more. I've found the work by Steven Ambrose and Ken Burns on the WWII generation fascinating and inspiring, but Greatest Generation comes up short. Brokaw's writing was stiff and lifeless, often reading like a high-school student's book report. The book seems to focus on quantity over quality. The short vignettes on each individual never really give the reader much time to appreciate the person or their story. And Brokaw seems to finish each...more
Tom
I think any book that gets people to read about history is a good thing. Using short, anecdotal descriptions of various people who contributed to the war effort in WWII Brokaw's book does an excellent job of illustrating the hard work and honor of many members of that generation. There is also a strong theme of providing perspective for our later, somewhat over-entitled generations. However, Brokaw communicates this in the first few pages and then repeats it over and over again throughout the bo...more
Kyle Magin
A mindless valentine to a generation who segregated, polluted, procreated and retired like there was no tomorrow. Thanks for leaving us holding the bag, *ssholes.
Rob
Here are my thoughts on reading The Greatest Generation (I apologise in advance for the verbosity):

Over sixteen million American men and women served their country during the second world war and estimates from the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration indicate that just over one million veterans of this war are still alive today. Some reports suggest that veterans of WWII are dying at rates near 1000 per day, which means it will not be long until there are no living memories of...more
John Nevola
Although I don't always agree with him, Brokaw deserves great credit for documenting and immortalizing some of the people who comprise the Greatest Generation.
As more and more of these great warriors pass on every day, we are losing the collective memories and recollections of these people at an astonishing rate. The fact that they were shaken from their near-universal silence to finally share their most disturbing memories and deepest fears is a tribute to Tom Brokaw. He made it "all right" to...more
Judy
I know that this book has been hailed as one of the "must-reads" for those interested in World War II, but I found The Greatest Generation to be fairly mediocre. I felt that too often Brokaw inserted his experiences rather than concentrating on the vets he was covering. I will say that Brokaw has a pretty good grasp of the fighting that was going on in both theaters, but he only covered them in vague terms when describing actions where these vets were active.

I did appreciate the fair shake given...more
Nomad
I read this after the Elm Creek Quilts Sampler, mostly because so much of that series hinges on choices made by the main protaganist during World War 2. So, like following a rabbit trail, that book lead me to this book. It's a book about the many stories from the World War 2 generation. How they grew up in the 1930's during the Great Depression and how when the 1940's came, they were locked in a war with the German Nazis, the Japanese and the Italians. And, it's in their words, these are their s...more
Joe
Brokaw shares with us his deep respect and admiration for his parents' generation. As he relates the stories of dozens of people from WWII, he largely lets their lives speak for themselves. A lot of good old-fashioned values are reflected in one vignette after another: hard work, loyalty, commitment, humility, sacrifice, integrity, optimism, human kindness, etc. Each account tells not only of individual's wartime experiences, but also their life since the war; showing how the lessons learned in...more
Brad
In our generation, we can only grasp the idea what our grandparent's generation went through growing up through the age of the first world war, the depression, the dust bowl and the rise of Fascism in Europe and Japan, and the growth of a nation into a super power. Yet at the same time, each generation struggles like none other before. Famine on mass levels, mass genocides, corruption within the "systems" that we have to abide in order to even take a deep breath. My only problem is that we canno...more
Melanie
Oct 21, 2007 Melanie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
my friend Joyce loaned me this book and I am having a hard time putting it down.. I have always been interested in WWII and this book allows a glimpse into the lives of the men and women who eagerly served their country either here or abroad. one thing I find so entrancing are the individual life stories. It starts with where they were in their lives when the war was raging, what was going on in our country at that time and before, how they participated and what happened to them after the war wa...more
Donette
I have wondered if my grandparents generation, the ones that were children of the depression and in their early twenties during WW2, were braver than my generation. I was talking to my dad about this and what he thought. He told me some things that Tom Brokaw said about this very topic and it lead me to want to read his book. I enjoyed reading this and have been able to form my own opinion in answer to my earlier question. Lets just say it's not really a matter of bravery but what we expect from...more
Mitzi
I really enjoyed this book. The generation he is referring to is the one that fought in WWII (so born in the late teens, early 20s). It was just a really uplifting read. The entire book is broken up into mini-biographies of countless veterans who participated in the war effort. The first half was much more interesting than the last half. I, personally, have an obssessive interest in WWII, so I really loved the first half - it was filled with the accounts of everyday soldiers - no one you would k...more
Carrie
This is a lovely book dedicated to the many who served or were influenced by WWII. Each chapter is dedicated to one or two people who tell some of their history. I thought the book was okay because it lacked a lot of detail but considering how many people were mentioned in the book each story would have to be brief. I do think the book is worth reading though. It gives you an overall portrait of the people the lived during that time and all the sacrifices they made to become one of the greatest...more
Evelyn
#256
Stories of those in my parents' generation who lived through the Depression, World War II and lived lives of service, honor and responsibility because of the lessons learned from these events. Difficulties like these build character

Why didn't Mr. Brokaw include those who contributed by serving their country as conscientious objectors? My dad fought forest fires in Glacier National Park for the Civilian Public Service. He worked for $2.50 a month and fought fires on foot that were as diffic...more
Kacie Drake
This book moved me and excited me to remember both of my grandfathers and the lives their generation lived with courage coming out of the Depression and into the War. I was taken back to the Normandy I visited a couple years ago, was hooked into the stories of immense loss but determination to survive. I felt like I was able to enter into the stories of war and love, success and failure, and above all, was moved to deep appreciation for a time in our country that exemplified unified action rathe...more
Dana
I love Tom Brokaw's style of writing. This collection of mini biographies gives a little glimpse into the lives of many Americans who served in WWII and bestows on them the rightly earned title of The Greatest Generation. Wonderful book!
Rebecca
Arturo is reading this for his English class, so I thought I would read it too. Not great literature (some pieces read like a high school student essay), but if you take Tom Brokaw's enthusiasm with a grain of salt, enjoyable enough. The stories of hardships people overcame gave me some perspective on our difficulties. Is it possible to live without a cell phone? WiFi? A big house? Heat? I found it an engaging intro to this period of history, pre- through post- WWI. Maybe now I will go read some...more
Jill
Enjoyed this book. Generally was well-written. Some of the stories by the end start to feel repetitive. After reading something like this, I feel like I was born in the wrong era. I can relate to this generation in some ways more than my own--I like their values of hard work, modesty, commitment to marriage and love of country. I especially admire their desire to serve and volunteer in their community, something I feel we need more of nowadays. However, I wouldn't want to go back to the racism a...more
Dale
A Classic

Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation is a classic. This is not sophisticated writing and the format is basic but Brokaw's interviews with dozens and dozens of veterans of World War II, their wives, their children and their comments on how the war affected them and the way they lived the rest of their lives is a loving tribute to his father's generation.

Brokaw has sections on regular foot soldiers and sailors, soldiers who went on to become famous such as Casper Weinberger, Bob Dole, A...more
Karen
I finished this book Memorial Day weekend -- what perfect timing! I'm sure Tom Brokaw would be happy to know this book really made me think. It was so well written. I read a lot of novels about WWII (for some reason) and I feel like I know what went on somewhat. But this book stresses how the war affected the lives of ordinary people and changed them, in most cases, to be able to go on to live productive lives. It also shows how the whole country came together, sharing the same values, for a com...more
Stephen Bauer
Journalist Tom Brokaw has compiled a series of profiles of prominent Americans, male and female, who served their country during World War II. This is about my father's generation, most of whom grew up poor during the Great Depression and who served their country in World War II. After the war, they built America into the power and civilization that it became. The greatest common denominator among these men and women was their honesty and sense of self-responsibility. Before the war, many of the...more
Bev Hankins
In The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw brings to life the stories of a generation of people who taught America what courage really is--from the front-line heroes and heroines to the workers and loved ones at home. Each teaching us about sacrifice, honor, and bravery in their own way. Brokaw brings us profiles of the ordinary men and women who answered their nation's call and who returned home to continue their quiet lives with dignity and a sense of community spirit. He also highlights the lives...more
Judith Singer
This is the single most disappointing book I have ever read. There were no insights. There was no consistent theme. There was no analysis beyond "Aren't they wonderful?" It was nothing but a series of 2-3 page vignettes. Brokaw seemed to make a point of people coming out of exactly the same experiences with very different beliefs about politics, religion, race, etc., but never speaks of it, much less discusses why that occurred. He included a high proportion of elected officials - does he think...more
Christine
I loved this collection of stories from the World War II generation, which included my parents. As a baby boomer, I never completely understood why my father hated my generation so much, and why the generation gap was so wide. Thanks to Brokaw's book, I feel that I finally get it. I'm just sorry that I didn't read it while they were still alive so I could discuss it with them.
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Thomas John Brokaw is an American television journalist and author, previously working on regularly scheduled news documentaries for the NBC television network, and is the former NBC News anchorman and managing editor of the program NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. His last broadcast as anchorman was on December 1, 2004, succeeded by Brian Williams in a carefully planned transition. In the later...more
More about Tom Brokaw...
Boom! Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections The Time of Our Lives: A conversation about America; Who we are, where we've been, and where we need to go now, to recapture the American dream A Long Way from Home An Album of Memories: Personal Histories from the Greatest Generation

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“A common lament of the World War II generation is the absence today of personal responsibility ” 7 likes
“there on the beaches of Normandy I began to reflect on the wonders of these ordinary people whose lives were laced with the markings of greatness.” 6 likes
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