American Warriors, Past and Present

Greatest Generation WeissWe can thank Tom Brokaw for the term, “Greatest generation.”  It first appeared in his 1988 book of that title, accompanied by his declaration, “It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”  He is, of course, writing about Americans who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II.

I wonder, though … is this true?  What makes Mr. Brokaw the expert, to make such a determination?  He has no advanced degrees; he worked most of his life in television journalism, participating in three televised “news” programs with NBC.  He was, like Walter Cronkite, a newsreader.  Unlike Cronkite, Brokaw never buried himself in the carnage of combat journalism.  When other up and coming journalists went to cover the war in Southeast Asia, Tom Brokaw accepted a position with KNBC Los Angeles.

So once again, what makes Tom Brokaw the expert?  I am asking because it seems to me that there were other generations that we might regard as the greatest, and no one knocked on my door to ask me for my opinion.

Air Cav 001No surprise, Hollywood has picked up on Brokaw’s theme: the big money moguls such as Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks … and it was used quite liberally in the hullaballoo leading up to the film Saving Private Ryan, a fictional story written by Robert Rodat and several books written by the plagiarist and fictionalist Stephen Ambrose.  Just for the sake of argument, contrast anything written by Ambrose or Rodat with the actual account of heroism under fire written by Joe Galloway and Lieutenant General Harold G. Moore (We Were Soldiers Once … and Young).

What is my point?

Vietnam WallMy point is that Tom Brokaw and others of his ilk offer an unforgivable insult to those fine Americans who fought in America’s other wars, both before and after World War II, by claiming that another group were the greatest generation.  Brokaw in effect has informed the young soldier of today that while having lost his or her legs, it was not enough to be regarded by Brokaw as part of this country’s greatest generation; and not only to the soldiers, but also to their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, children, and sweethearts.  This pronouncement is, in my view, utterly profane and foolish.

My next question is for everyone else: why do those of us who claim to value the heroic service of our citizen warriors, both past and present, allow the likes of Tom Brokaw and Steven Spielberg —neither of whom ever served in uniform, to define the value of our veteran’s service to the United States of America?

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Retired Marine, historian, writer.

26 thoughts on “American Warriors, Past and Present”

  1. You present sound facts and your words are without malice, sir. Indeed, the question posed is a good one. Hollywood (and its entertainers) may have supplanted itself as our idols instead of our parents or fellow “everyday” Joes. But if one considers the MAGNITUDE of the involvement at the home front DURING the three and half years we were directly involved in fighting WWII, one would need to stop and ponder. Perhaps “a great generation” may be somewhat appropriate? Regardless, the heroes and heroines of “that” generation are leaving us daily. And for that, I am very sad.

    Good post, sir.


    1. Of course, you make a very good point. I think I shall never forgive the likes of LBJ and GW Bush, who while sending young Americans off to fight, suggested that those back home should go to the mall. If the president has decided to take the country to war, then all of the country must go to war: our naval and military heroes, and those back home, too.

      Your distinction is a good one. Still, the mother who lost her son in Iraq feels no less pain than the mother who lost her son on the beaches of Normandy. This is the point I wanted to make to all those “journalists” and Hollywood rich cats who have enriched themselves in America without serving America for even one day.


    2. Absolutely. Your focus on Tom Brokaw and Hollywood is right on. We need to realize Hollywood is Hollywood and media is media.

      And yes… If our boots go to war, we must too. Wholeheartedly agree…and it’s the lowest of the low when we don’t help them and their families when they come home.

      As for “a” great generation… The families of those going to war now – and as you allude – are not supported by en masse national focus. They, too, are a great generation. That’s my thought, I guess.


  2. Mustang,

    Thanks for this most thought provoking post.

    Mustang Koji,

    Thanks for putting into words what I was thinking but couldn’t articulate as well as you have.


    1. John, thank you bu, the right words elude me often as English is my second language…but Mustang here is expert in saying what needs to be said while keeping his cool. Sometimes, I wonder if he is a Marine. J/K.


    2. Koji-san, we must consider: is it your damn phone, or are your fingers too fat for the keys? And let us hope you are not sending messages while driving a certain Mustang. That would not be good.


  3. Mustang,

    Thank you so much for this. Regardless what Hollywood or Brokaw have to say, we should honor all of our military heroes from every generation.

    However, as someone who found the 1940’s quite profound, I believe it is the greatest generation. Men were men and women were women. I believe it is a time to cherish how beautiful that was defined.


  4. We have had several “great” generations. One of these was illustrated by the soldiers who came home from the Vietnam War and maintained their dignity when Americans, who are today the communist left, spit in their faces and on their uniforms, and screamed “baby killer” into their faces. To suggest that these men and women weren’t profound is simply another undeserved insult. In point of fact, these screaming monkeys … the children of Brokaw’s greatest generation, did not and do not deserve the protection of the American military.


  5. Excellent point, Mustang. Yes, there are amputees from Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan, etc., who have to hear about how another bunch of soldiers were better than they are. Particularly the Vietnam vets who were spat on upon their return. And, of course, with Al Qaeda taking over Iraq again because Obama knew too much to listen to the experts, how do our soldiers feel NOW? Or their wives and mothers who are left mourning their dear boy? ..


    1. I do not believe Barack Obama has ever, or will ever give a damn about the young men and women who serve in the US military. What he cares about is his legacy, which the American people granted him through their sheet stupidity.


  6. Robert,

    All I can say is that you couldn’t be more right. Thanks my friend!


  7. Are there parades for returning soldiers anymore?

    It seems to me that those parades ceased with WW2.

    Now, maybe those returning don’t really want parades, but the parades did serve to remind Americans that there had indeed been a war being waged.


    1. I’m thinking there were never any parades for returning soldiers. They had plenty of parades for returning generals, and soldiers marched in them … but I never once saw a PFC riding in a convertible surrounded by gushing young ladies. It seems to me, if you wanted to honor returning soldiers, the civilian population should march by while the soldiers sit in the reviewing stands and drink mint juleps. Of course, no one ever asked me …


  8. Our present BEST –volunteer to serve-
    Perhaps – if we were to go back to the draft- w/ no conceptions-we would have more of the elites serving–
    As to the Hollywood elites-well- I can say nothing more than what you have stated- Mustang
    and those who have commented-
    I do have a problem w/ $$$ being cut for benefits for those who have volunteered- but- few cuts to big gov. over-reach–
    This is getting long- so- I’ll stop –


    1. I honestly do agree with you Carol that every American should serve his or her country, and if they are physically or mentally unable to do that in the military, then there should be other venues of serving their country. Now then, with that said, there is something wrong with a society that has to be “forced” to serve their country (e.g., the draft). Having worked with draftees circa 1960s, they were untrustworthy, required too much supervision, and disruptive to the good order and discipline of the unit.

      I have no problem with the “all volunteer” armed forces, but what such an arrangement means is that the majority of our citizens are protected by only a few …


  9. My first reaction to Brokaw and others is that they are shamelessly profane. But I do not know these men and I cannot know what is in their hearts. Perhaps they were seeking to honor our country’s veterans, but being Hollywood writers, producers, and media toadies, perhaps it is simply a matter of not knowing any better. Rather than being shamelessly profane, they are merely shamelessly uninformed. For your part, I am glad you published this because it makes the rest of us think about what we say, before we say it.


    1. Sir, we have two sets of tired old eyes… Some of these boys don’t as you and I know. I loathe Obama and Billary because they sure don’t seem to care much…


  10. RE-“greatest generation”-I look at the generation today- esp the soldiers- They VOLUNTEER!
    The other ‘generations’ had the Draft-
    Just saying–


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