Greatest Generation? Really?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by LineInTheSand, May 29, 2011.

  1. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,750
    Likes Received:
    1,002
    This may generate some discussion, and it may be heated. I'm okay with that.

    Today, while watching some TV at home on terminal leave I happened upon "America:The History of Us" on the History Channel. I watched for awhile, and I came to a point that covered WWII. Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings at some point said "this was our greatest generation."

    Sure, I wasn't born yesterday, I know it's been referred to as the "greatest generation." I've enjoyed and have felt honored to meet and talk to WWII vets. As a cadet, one of my favorite drills was for a group of WWII Marines that had been saved by SM1 Douglas Munro, the Coast Guard's only Medal of Honor recipient.

    All of that said, it got me thinking. The GREATEST generation? We had avoided war for how long? Jews and eastern Europeans were being slaughtered in work camps and death camps. The Japanese were executing Chinese and Koreans. It took a surprise attack by Japan to put us in action (yes overlooking Lend-Lease).

    Even with that, we had an active draft. No everyone signed up, plenty were drafted.

    So today, we have a war that has lasted far longer than the US's involvement in WWII. Yes, far less casualties. But this is an all-volunteer force. I wouldn't begin to belittle the sacrifice of our fine WWII vets, but I feel the "greatest generation" label, in terms of warriors, does not consider the sacrifice of the soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen or Coast Guardsmen of today. Does the entire country feel the strain of war? Certainly not.

    Just a thought, I sure is not entirely popular, but echoes the sentiments of a Marine Brig. Gen. I once knew.
     
  2. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Messages:
    4,628
    Likes Received:
    5
    In WWII they did.

    Can you imagine rationing coupons today for shoes, gas, food, etc? (For those who are too young to have parents from WWII who told you all about rationing, or those who have never heard of it, read this: Rationing in WWII )

    Can you imagine the indignation of those who are going to be told "no, you can't have any. it's for the war" and the outrage of the numerous selfish citizens who couldn't care less?

    Mandatory blackouts, scrap drives, bond drives, victory gardens, Rosy, etc - I have serious doubts that the population today would endure the sacrifices necessary to win WWII if it was fought today. Too many people will be demanding their "rights" or working to undermine the liberal Democrat president.

    I doubt we could win WWII if fought today, but I'm pretty certain we could have won our current war(s) if fought 60 years ago.

    In 1941, the entire country was behind the military and the leadership, everyone working together to defeat a common enemy. The term "greatest generation" included not only those in uniform.

    Today, we have an active political establishment who seeks to do nothing but make "the other side" lose, and unfortunately, the "other side" is not the enemy we are fighting, but the other political party.
     
  3. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2008
    Messages:
    3,001
    Likes Received:
    301
    Well- in some ways it is kind of a silly generalization. Were they really "the greatest" generation? Certainly there were some huge hurdles that they had to overcome -being raised in the depression and fighting WW2. Did they do so voluntarily? Not really- the draft was reauthorized in 1941 by one vote (look up what the soldiers draftees meant with their slogan OHIO) and the "America First" crowd was a huge political force to be reckoned with in the 1940 elections, so they hardly volunteered for going to war because they saw with absolute foresight that there was a much larger purpose. But they did rise to a challenge that was on the edge of an existential one for the country and drove it home to completion, absorbing hundreds of thousands of KIA. On the other hand- those same guys clamored to demobilize within weeks of the surrender and after having created the strongest military in the world the US was practically denuded within 9 months of the surrender of Germany- and the isolationist wing of the Republican party was an enormous force to be reckoned with for years afterward. So were they the "greatest generation" that voluntarily saw what they had to do and went out and did it, or were they a generation that was faced with enormous challenges that they had no choice but to deal with? Either way- they did deal with them and it's appropriate that we recognize the size of the achievement.

    The current generation is not called upon to be so engaged because there are no external threats of a similar size and have been none in 65 years. But in 2001- Military recruiting soared after 9/11 and recruiters were turning away potential recruits by the truckload and 10 years of warfare later, the military still doesn't miss mission and reenlistment in the Army and Marine Corps is still at record highs despite multiple repeat year+ long deployments. I think the current generation doesn't have to take a backseat to anyone- it is as brave and dedicated as any other- and occasionally as short sighted as well.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2011
  4. Bullet

    Bullet Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    Messages:
    994
    Likes Received:
    99
    Why were they called the "Greatest Generation"? Well, similar to tpg's sentiments, because calling them "Did the same thing that every American generation has done before or since, but on a larger scale out of necessity at that time" won't get many to shell out $25 for the book.

    Not that I would ever want or even conceive to denigrate the sacrifices and heroics of the men and women who served during WWII; the examples of such are too numerous to mention and more than worthy of our respect, praise, and thanks. But there are also examples, also to numerous to mention, of Americans sacrificing and performing heroic, praise-worthy actions from EVERY generation since even before this great country was officially "born" on July 4th, 1776 all the way through today. Granted, the scale of shared sacrifice by the entire nation may not have reached the levels of WWII since then (which is debatable, based on the level of defense spending Americans have endured since the last shot was fired in WWII, and the impacts that has had on our daily lives), but that is the case only because so many Americans answered the call for service and sacrifice individually to ensure war on this scale would not happen again.

    To honor one generation over the others as the "Greatest" simply dishonors the sacrifice of those who were gladly willing to face those sacrifices before or after this generation in question.
     
  5. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    606
    As usual, there's always the vocal few curmudgeons (usually baby boomers, AKA the Worst Generation) who want to claim that the generation of today couldn't fight & win WWII if we had to. It's interesting to me that those who offer those prognostications often never served in uniform. More than once I've had WWII and Korea vets thank me for serving and tell me they know how hard it is to fight a long war.

    No actual member of the "Greatest Generation" has ever told me that we couldn't do what they did. Food for thought.
     
  6. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Messages:
    4,628
    Likes Received:
    5
    I am waiting for the day for some to give a reply with being so condescending to everyone who they believe has not lived up to theirr definition of service to the country.

    Since when are they the arbiters of who deserves to give comment on who doesn't?

    Does the fact that my father (a US Marine) fought with Chesty Puller at the Battle of Chosin make a difference? Does the fact that my mother served 9 years in the WAVEs right after WWII? Or my brother being wounded in combat?

    Since when did the arrogance of those who fought, even in a helicopter, become a test of whether those who were unable are worthy of commenting whether or not a war could be won today?

    Step back and look in the mirror and ask your self why you ever put on a uniform - for your own glory, or for your country, which includes EVERYONE, not just those who fought.

    Some of us were unable because of medical disqualification, and may (unknown to you) have performed service for the country in ways we are unable to talk about, or in some cases, cannot arrogantly proclaim so everyone knows.

    Food for thought.
     
  7. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Messages:
    4,628
    Likes Received:
    5
    And btw, my comments in my first post have nothing to do with the ability of the military to accomplish their job, but everything to do with the support and sacrifice of the civilian population, and I stand by it 100%, it wouldn't happen.
     
  8. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2008
    Messages:
    3,001
    Likes Received:
    301
    ok- trying to get this back on track.
    It is of course open for discussion over whether the country would suspend a lot of it's normal activity today to prosecute a war that demanded as much as WW2. But personally I don't believe that there is any real way of knowing this because in reality on Dec 6 1941- a reasonable reading of the tea leaves would not have predicted that the US would have supported all of the things that it subsequently did. There was a huge political debate over roosevelt's foreign and military policies right up until the start of WW2, and that debate was sustained even when Americans had been losing their lives for quite a while. It had after all been fighting a destroyer war at sea in the North Atlantic for most of 1941 and yet the Draft barely was extended. In 1942 -after Pearl Harbor -ships were still being torpedoed off the coasts of Florida and New York backlit by the city lights because the government was being fought by the states over the extension of blackout regulations. What changed all of that was a visible threat to the very existence of the US itself. With the death of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Wake Island etc.. thinks suddenly became graphically clear that the effort was going to be enormous- and the example of captured Europe combined with the attacks on the US was enough to shake even the most ardent Roosevelt hater- and the objective was clear cut and virtually every one understood it. By comparison, what is so straight forwardly threatening today that calls out almost universal agreement and support within the US? 9/11 was yet it didn't really call for a huge change in the way the average person in the US does things. Longer airport security lines are about the extent of what we have been called upon to sacrifice. I agree that the political landscape is toxic today- but it's like that because the issues and solutions are not all that clear cut- and reasonable people can and do disagree. If there were an external threat of a similar magnitude that called for a difficult yet broad brush effort on the part of the population- I think that the country would support it today.
     
  9. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    606
    Believe it or not, not everything is about you. There are 330 million people in this country. You are not the only one who has ever said that today's generation (both in and out of uniform) couldn't fight and win a total war. That's not a novel though of your own creation. In fact, that's a very commonly held belief among your generational peers. High school history teachers love to trot out that song and dance.

    The fact that a comment feels close to home doesn't mean that it has anything to do with you. Whether you've served in some secretive way is immaterial to the discussion at hand.

    Bruno hit the nail on the head: the mistake lies in the belief that WWII was undertaken upon a foundation of monolithic support for the efforts at home and abroad. History has slowly and carefully whittled the image of 1940s America into an iconic society of collective sacrifice and common struggle. That is a gross mischaracterization, as Bruno so deftly pointed out.

    And, quite frankly good sir, you do not get to question why I put on my uniform every morning and do the job I do for my country. The only question you, and I, and everyone else should have (especially this weekend) is how best to honor those who never got to take it off, or did so only after it was soaked in blood.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2011
  10. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Messages:
    4,628
    Likes Received:
    5
    Believe it or not, not everything is about you, either.

    As your post was just some random post not specifically speaking to any particular member, so was mine.

    As you stated -

    "The fact that a comment feels close to home doesn't mean that it has anything to do with you."
     
  11. Pima

    Pima Parent

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2007
    Messages:
    12,799
    Likes Received:
    931
    On this hallow weekend, how about we actually follow this:
    Let's not go down the rabbit hole. Instead, let's split the difference. They were the greatest generation of the 20th Century.

    I also would like to acknowledge those that serve/d in the 20th and 21st century. Many of them IMPO hopefully, God willing will be known as the greatest generation...my premise is the sandbox issue ends soon and we will never live to see a WWIII or a conflict that lasts 20+ yrs. Yes, in case you all have forgotten the military never left there since August 1989. NEVER! These members have spent not 4 yrs in combat, but many have spent 10+ yrs when they tally up the time over their career. They too have lost lives and limbs. They too have returned to a battlefield or completed a mission after the lost of their brethren next to them. They are just as worthy to be called the greatest generation...just adding of the 21st Century.

    JMPO
     
  12. HMQ

    HMQ Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    a little perspective on "The Greatest Generation"

    This is an interesting discussion, and I certainly agree that we have heroes in other generations, including the present. And I do agree that there was greater unity of purpose and shared sacrifice throughout the U.S. while WWII was being fought.

    I just wanted to point out that when Tom Brokaw wrote his book "The Greatest Generation", the year was 1998: pre-911 and after a fairly long extended period of peace (post-Vietnam) with the exception of Panama, Grenada and Desert Storm, which were short-lived. From the vantage point of 1998, the book was a tribute to the generation which had grown up in the Great Depression, lived and fought through WWII, and then came back to contribute to a period of growth and prosperity post-WWII. I saw the book as a sentimental tribute from the Boomer generation to their parents.

    There is no question, IMHO, that all those who put on a uniform to serve our country, in every generation, and their loved ones, deserve our highest praise and gratitude.
     
  13. Packer

    Packer Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    1,877
    Likes Received:
    5
    Greatest generation or not, we owe them more than we can re-pay as we do for those that served before and since.
     
  14. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,750
    Likes Received:
    1,002
    Maybe, but I'm not so sure. I think it can be repaid. Discuss!

    So before Brokaw's book, it was not called "the Greatest Generation"?
     
  15. rkrosnar

    rkrosnar Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2010
    Messages:
    676
    Likes Received:
    16
    Greatest Generation Really?

    I believe it is, at that time in our history the entire country pulled toghether. They really had to make sacrifices. There was a draft. Woman had to work. The country at that time did what they did, because it had to be done. Today, we would not have a draft and there a people who hate this war. And leave to others to do the dirt work. Just think if there were a draft people would be leaving this country in big numbers.

    RGK
     
  16. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,750
    Likes Received:
    1,002
    Remember, the dirt work was work, and that was much more than many people had before WWII.
     
  17. Packer

    Packer Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    1,877
    Likes Received:
    5
    I believe you are correct. I am going to disagree with my own statement. I think it can be repaid with service to the nation and by doing whatever is needed to not lose the country and values they gave their lives for.
     
  18. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,750
    Likes Received:
    1,002
    Hahaha, Concur!
     
  19. BigBear

    BigBear Class of 2015

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    1
    One thing I have never seen discussed is: could the "greatest generation" win today's wars? Back then, they had a distinct enemy, frontlines, and much fewer restrictions on where they could call in an airstrike. Today's soldiers are fighting a hidden enemy, although they do have the benefit of advanced weapons and medical technology. I do not know whether or not the "greatest generation" would be as capable of fighting in today's wars with the media, civilians, and politicians everpresent
     
  20. evilleramsfan

    evilleramsfan Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2011
    Messages:
    148
    Likes Received:
    0
    I have always felt the moniker "Greatest Generation" was a terrible generalization. They made a tremendous contribution....let's just leave it at that.... Did they offer the sacrifice of their "lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" as our country's first generation did? Did they sacrifice any more than those who fought on either side of the Civil War? (Keep in mind that even those who fought for the south were fighting for their "country".)
     

Share This Page