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The Greatest Generation

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  11,440 Ratings  ·  847 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, 464 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 07, 2011 Suzy rated it it was ok
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
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,
Dec 01, 2011 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
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
Kyle Magin
Sep 23, 2010 Kyle Magin rated it did not like it
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.
Oct 04, 2009 Johnny rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history
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
Dec 20, 2011 Andrew Frueh rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Dec 08, 2009 Tom rated it it was ok
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
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
Sep 11, 2008 Ron rated it it was ok
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.
Greg Z
Feb 22, 2016 Greg Z rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
I enjoyed this book, many good stories. But I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of equally heroic stories, perhaps even better and more exciting. I feel like Brokaw may have skipped a few great ones, perhaps already written about, but they would still have been fine in this collection.
Apr 15, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Pretty good set of mini-biographes, which seek to show by example the range of virtues and lives that members of "The Greatest Generation" lived. They all had very impressive lives, of course. The writing style is a bit uneven and doesn't do them all justice, but still a very informative read.
Jacob Ide
Aug 26, 2016 Jacob Ide rated it really liked it
Tome Brokaw's collection of vignettes of the lives of soldiers during world war two is compelling and well written, as one would expect of a classically trained journalist like himself. The only problem I found about the book was that so many of the stories are the same. This is not, of course, a fault of Brokaw's nor of the men and women whose lives he sums in 5-10 pages a piece. The problem is that after you have read 10 of them, the rest are just simply more of the same. I have a deep and abi ...more
This book is a moving account of the generation that found its strength from living through the depression, unselfishly serving in World War II, and its well defined values. The book is not all praise, however, and deals with the racism of the time. It spends time covering the African American issues, but also deals with the biases facing women and also the tragic manner in which Japanese Americans were dealt with during the war. The book covers ordinary men and women from the cornfields of the ...more
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
John Nevola
Sep 10, 2012 John Nevola rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jul 18, 2012 Nomad rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Nov 19, 2008 Joe rated it liked it
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
Jul 27, 2009 Brad rated it it was ok
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
Oct 21, 2007 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Judith Singer
May 21, 2014 Judith Singer rated it did not like it
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
Lisa Shultz
Feb 28, 2016 Lisa Shultz rated it really liked it
I am partial to "The Greatest Generation" because my dad was in the navy during World War II. After my dad's death, I inherited the book and read it to understand more about his generation. I found value in Brokaw's well-rounded approach to tell the stories of the war from all angles instead of only the hero's in the trenches. I learned about women, minorities, the home front, the European and Pacific theaters. I now have a much wider grasp of the many contributors to the freedom we enjoy today. ...more
Feb 14, 2012 Donette rated it liked it
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
Mar 18, 2009 Mitzi rated it liked it
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
Apr 01, 2013 Carrie rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
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
Jun 18, 2011 Evelyn rated it it was amazing
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
Kacie Drake
Jan 24, 2014 Kacie Drake rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 18, 2014 Dana rated it really liked it
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!
Apr 23, 2011 Rebecca rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Rating this, a collection of short narratives, almost bios, of people in WWII, is difficult because of one thing: its writer.

While I found some of the information about their life stories and experiences interesting, all was told by, and very much in the voice of, Tom Brokaw.

The tone throughout was heavy, leaden with the preachy tone of an old man witnessing kids ringing doorbells and running away on the night before Halloween. He repeated how the generation of his focus was the exceptional in
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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
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“A common lament of the World War II generation is the absence today of personal responsibility ” 8 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.” 7 likes
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