Friday, January 2, 2015

The myth of the Greatest Generation

Having just finished another book involving the WW2 generation I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Tom Brokaw is wrong.

The book I just finished was about deserters in the European Theater of Operations and there were over 50,000 of them.This doesn't include a large number of guys that sneaked out of their unit for a few days to get drunk or whore around. Generally if the guy was an otherwise good soldier good commanders covered for him and punished him 'in house'. 

There were very few  in the Pacific simply because there really wasn't any place to go.

Of course, many of these deserters were basically guys with battle fatigue that simply cracked and wandered off somewhere in a daze. The army was cruel to these people and many of them that deserved to either be reassigned or treated for battle fatigue wound up tried, convicted and given stiff sentences.

The other deserters were simply gangsters that deserted and headed to Paris or Rome and went into the black market stealing and selling government supplies. 

While the troops on the front went without these thugs waxed fat in relative safety. The problem in Paris and Rome got completely out of hand and in Italy somewhere entire trains went missing.

There was actually a lot more draft dodging than we ever heard about, too. Draft dodging wasn't just a Vietnam era thing.

There was also a lot of manufacturing fraud, too and a lot of padding of expenses by manufacturers during the war.

In short I think that the so-called greatest generation has been put on a pedestal and been canonized.

This is not to say they were shirkers, thieves or cowards. There were an awful lot of damned good people in that generation.

I am simply saying that they were really no different than the generations preceding them or following them. 

They were simply a generation that was dealt a different hand of cards and they played them as best they could.

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY


  1. Good morning Jerry. I'm afraid I have to disagree with your post about the greatest generation. They were not perfect but America was different then. Not only the soldiers but also at home. They were more patriotic, responsible, and more came from families that lived by a different moral code. I'm not sure that America today could win a WWII. Whether right or wrong I believe more Americans in the 40's were dedicated to winning. I think Lindbergh represents the mentality that was present. Vietnam was totally different. More men were concerned with just getting back after their year. The objectives were murky. It was our first war with Blacks and Whites mixed in large numbers. Many folks at home didn't support the war. The media became very outspoken against the war. I think my major point is that one only has to look at our country then and now. The soldiers were and are representative of our culture. I think there is a world of difference.

  2. The main point I was trying to make here is that human nature hasn't changed much. The WW2 generation had their fair share of shirkers, profiteers, draft dodgers etc.

    Incidentally the WW2 army relied heavily on conscription. The rates of draftees were a lot higher than they were in Vietnam. Vietnam had a smaller %age of draftees.