The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections

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"I first began to appreciate fully all we owed the World War II generation while I was covering the fortieth and fiftieth anniversaries of D-Day for NBC News. When I wrote in The Greatest Generation about the men and women who came out of the Depression, who won great victories and made lasting sacrifices in World War II and then returned home to begin building the world we have today—the people I called the Greatest Generation—it was my way of saying thank you. I felt that this tribute was long overdue, but I was not prepared for the avalanche of letters and responses touched off by that book.

Members of that generation were, characteristically, grateful for the attention and modest about their own lives as they shared more remarkable stories about their experiences in the Depression and during the war years.

"Their children and grandchildren were eager to share the lessons and insights they gained from the stories they heard about the lives of a generation now passing on too swiftly. They wanted to say thank you in their own way. I had wanted to write a book about America, and now America was writing back.

"The letters, many of them written in firm Palmer penmanship on flowered stationery, have given me a much richer understanding not only of those difficult years but also of my own life. They give us new, intensely personal perspectives of a momentous time in our history. They are the voices of a generation that has given so much and wants to share even more.

"Some of the letters were written from the front during the war, or from families to their loved ones in harm's way in distant places. There were firsthand accounts of battles and poignant reflections on loneliness, exuberant expressions of love and somber accounts of loss.

"It seems that everyone in that generation has something worthwhile to contribute, and so we have included some pages in The Greatest Generation Speaks for others to share memories at once inspirational and instructive.

"If we are to heed the past to prepare for the future, we should listen to these quiet voices of a generation that speaks to us of duty and honor, sacrifice and accomplishment. I hope more of their stories will be preserved and cherished as reminders of all that we owe them and all that we can learn from them." —Tom Brokaw
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About the author

Tom Brokaw, a native of South Dakota, graduated from the University of South Dakota with a degree in political science. He began his journalism career in Omaha and Atlanta before joining NBC News in 1966. Brokaw was the White House correspondent for NBC News during Watergate, and from 1976 to 1981 he anchored Today on NBC. He's been the sole anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw since 1983. Brokaw has won every major award in broadcast journalism, including two DuPonts, a Peabody Award, and several Emmys. He lives in New York and Montana.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Random House
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Published on
Mar 8, 2000
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780375504631
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Military
History / Military / World War II
Literary Collections / Letters
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In The Greatest Generation, his landmark bestseller, Tom Brokaw eloquently evoked for America what it meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, in Boom!, one of America’s premier journalists gives us an epic portrait of another defining era in America as he brings to life the tumultuous Sixties, a fault line in American history. The voices and stories of both famous people and ordinary citizens come together as Brokaw takes us on a memorable journey through a remarkable time, exploring how individual lives and the national mindset were affected by a controversial era and showing how the aftershocks of the Sixties continue to resound in our lives today. In the reflections of a generation, Brokaw also discovers lessons that might guide us in the years ahead.

Boom! One minute it was Ike and the man in the grey flannel suit, and the next minute it was time to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” While Americans were walking on the moon, Americans were dying in Vietnam. Nothing was beyond question, and there were far fewer answers than before.

Published as the fortieth anniversary of 1968 approaches, Boom! gives us what Brokaw sees as a virtual reunion of some members of “the class of ’68,” offering wise and moving reflections and frank personal remembrances about people’s lives during a time of high ideals and profound social, political, and individual change. What were the gains, what were the losses? Who were the winners, who were the losers? As they look back decades later, what do members of the Sixties generation think really mattered in that tumultuous time, and what will have meaning going forward?

Race, war, politics, feminism, popular culture, and music are all explored here, and we learn from a wide range of people about their lives. Tom Brokaw explores how members of this generation have gone on to bring activism and a Sixties mindset into individual entrepreneurship today. We hear stories of how this formative decade has led to a recalibrated perspective–on business, the environment, politics, family, our national existence.

Remarkable in its insights, profoundly moving, wonderfully written and reported, this revealing portrait of a generation and of an era, and of the impact of the 1960s on our lives today, lets us be present at this reunion ourselves, and join in these frank conversations about America then, now, and tomorrow.


From the Hardcover edition.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • This is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America

In this unforgettable chronicle of perhaps the most famous moment in American military history, James Bradley has captured the glory, the triumph, the heartbreak, and the legacy of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Here is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America.

In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima—and into history. Through a hail of machine-gun and mortar fire that left the beaches strewn with comrades, they battled to the island's highest peak. And after climbing through a landscape of hell itself, they raised a flag.

Now the son of one of the flagraisers has written a powerful account of six very different young men who came together in a moment that will live forever.

To his family, John Bradley never spoke of the photograph or the war. But after his death at age seventy, his family discovered closed boxes of letters and photos. In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley draws on those documents to retrace the lives of his father and the men of Easy Company. Following these men's paths to Iwo Jima, James Bradley has written a classic story of the heroic battle for the Pacific's most crucial island—an island riddled with Japanese tunnels and 22,000 fanatic defenders who would fight to the last man.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the story is what happened after the victory. The men in the photo—three were killed during the battle—were proclaimed heroes and flown home, to become reluctant symbols. For two of them, the adulation was shattering. Only James Bradley's father truly survived, displaying no copy of the famous photograph in his home, telling his son only: “The real heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn't come back. ”

Few books ever have captured the complexity and furor of war and its aftermath as well as Flags of Our Fathers. A penetrating, epic look at a generation at war, this is history told with keen insight, enormous honesty, and the passion of a son paying homage to his father. It is the story of the difference between truth and myth, the meaning of being a hero, and the essence of the human experience of war.
Who we are, where we’ve been, and where we need to go now, to recapture the American dream
 
Now with a new Foreword by the author.
 
“The best presentation of the challenges facing the country—and the possible solutions—I've ever seen.”—P. J. O’Rourke
 
Tom Brokaw, known and beloved for his landmark work in American journalism and for the New York Times bestsellers The Greatest Generation and Boom!, now turns his attention to the challenges that face America in the new millennium, to offer reflections on how we can restore America’s greatness.
 
Rooted in the values, lessons, and verities of generations past and of his South Dakota upbringing, Brokaw weaves together inspiring stories of Americans who are making a difference and personal stories from his own family history, to engage us in a conversation about our country and to share ideas for how we can revitalize the promise of the American Dream. Inviting us to foster a rebirth of family, community, and civic engagement as profound as the one that helped win World War II, built our postwar prosperity, and ushered in the Civil Rights era, Brokaw traces the exciting, unnerving changes in modern life—in values, education, public service, housing, the Internet, and more—that have transformed our society in the decades since the age of thrift in which he was raised. In offering ideas from Americans who are change agents in their communities, Brokaw gives us a nourishing vision of hopefulness in an age of diminished expectations.
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“Inspiring tales of how people from different walks of life have found ways to be of service to their communities and country.”—Walter Isaacson
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • WITH A NEW PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR • A powerful memoir of a dramatic year spent battling cancer and reflecting on a long, happy, and lucky life—from the bestselling author of The Greatest Generation, whose iconic career in journalism has spanned more than fifty years

Tom Brokaw has led a fortunate life, with a strong marriage and family, many friends, and a brilliant journalism career culminating in his twenty-two years as anchor of the NBC Nightly News and as bestselling author. But in the summer of 2013, when back pain led him to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, his run of good luck was interrupted. He received shocking news: He had multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer. Friends had always referred to Brokaw’s “lucky star,” but as he writes in this inspiring memoir, “Turns out that star has a dimmer switch.”

Brokaw takes us through all the seasons and stages of this surprising year, the emotions, discoveries, setbacks, and struggles—times of denial, acceptance, turning points, and courage. After his diagnosis, Brokaw began to keep a journal, approaching this new stage of his life in a familiar role: as a journalist, determined to learn as much as he could about his condition, to report the story, and help others facing similar battles. That journal became the basis of this wonderfully written memoir, the story of a man coming to terms with his own mortality, contemplating what means the most to him now, and reflecting on what has meant the most to him throughout his life.

Brokaw also pauses to look back on some of the important moments in his career: memories of Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the morning of September 11, 2001, in New York City, and more. Through it all, Brokaw writes in the warm, intimate, natural voice of one of America’s most beloved journalists, giving us Brokaw on Brokaw, and bringing us with him as he navigates pain, procedures, drug regimens, and physical rehabilitation. Brokaw also writes about the importance of patients taking an active role in their own treatment, and of the vital role of caretakers and coordinated care.

Generous, informative, and deeply human, A Lucky Life Interrupted offers a message of understanding and empowerment, resolve and reality, hope for the future and gratitude for a well-lived life.

Praise for A Lucky Life Interrupted

“It’s impossible not to be inspired by Brokaw’s story, and his willingness to share it.”—Los Angeles Times

“A powerful memoir of battling cancer and facing mortality . . . Through the prism of his own illness, Brokaw looks at the larger picture of aging in America.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Moving, informative and deeply personal.”—The Daily Beast

“The former NBC News anchor has applied the fact-finding skills and straightforward candor that were his stock in trade during his reporting days to A Lucky Life Interrupted.”—USA Today

“Brokaw doesn’t paste a smiley face on his story. Again and again, the book returns to stories of loss but also of grace, luck and the beauty of having another swing at bat.”—The Washington Post

“Engaging . . . [with] the kind of insight that is typical of Mr. Brokaw’s approach to life and now to illness.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Powerful and courageous . . . [Brokaw] looks ahead to the future with hope.”—Bookreporter
The instant classic and runaway bestseller that changed the way we saw World War II and an entire generation of Americans, from the beloved journalist whose own iconic career has lasted more than fifty years.
 
In this magnificent testament to a nation and her people, Tom Brokaw brings to life the extraordinary stories of a generation that gave new meaning to courage, sacrifice, and honor.
 
From military heroes to community leaders to ordinary citizens, he profiles men and women who served their country with valor, then came home and transformed it: Senator Daniel Inouye, decorated at the front, fighting prejudice at home; Martha Settle Putney, one of the first black women to serve in the newly formed WACs; Charles Van Gorder, a doctor who set up a MASH-like medical facility in the middle of battle, then opened a small clinic in his hometown; Navy pilot and future president George H. W. Bush, assigned to read the mail of the enlisted men under him, who says that in doing so he “learned about life”; and many other laudable Americans.
 
To this generation that gave so much and asked so little, Brokaw offers eloquent tribute in true stories of everyday heroes in extraordinary times.
 
Praise for The Greatest Generation
 
“Moving . . . a tribute to the members of the World War II generation to whom we Americans and the world owe so much.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Full of wonderful, wrenching tales of a generation of heroes. Tom Brokaw reminds us what we are capable of as a people. An inspiring read for those who wish their spirits lifted.”—Colin L. Powell
 
“Offers welcome inspiration . . . It is impossible to read even a few of these accounts and not be touched by the book’s overarching message: We who followed this generation have lived in the midst of greatness.”—The Washington Times
 
“Entirely compelling.”—The Wall Street Journal
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • WITH A NEW PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR • A powerful memoir of a dramatic year spent battling cancer and reflecting on a long, happy, and lucky life—from the bestselling author of The Greatest Generation, whose iconic career in journalism has spanned more than fifty years

Tom Brokaw has led a fortunate life, with a strong marriage and family, many friends, and a brilliant journalism career culminating in his twenty-two years as anchor of the NBC Nightly News and as bestselling author. But in the summer of 2013, when back pain led him to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, his run of good luck was interrupted. He received shocking news: He had multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer. Friends had always referred to Brokaw’s “lucky star,” but as he writes in this inspiring memoir, “Turns out that star has a dimmer switch.”

Brokaw takes us through all the seasons and stages of this surprising year, the emotions, discoveries, setbacks, and struggles—times of denial, acceptance, turning points, and courage. After his diagnosis, Brokaw began to keep a journal, approaching this new stage of his life in a familiar role: as a journalist, determined to learn as much as he could about his condition, to report the story, and help others facing similar battles. That journal became the basis of this wonderfully written memoir, the story of a man coming to terms with his own mortality, contemplating what means the most to him now, and reflecting on what has meant the most to him throughout his life.

Brokaw also pauses to look back on some of the important moments in his career: memories of Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the morning of September 11, 2001, in New York City, and more. Through it all, Brokaw writes in the warm, intimate, natural voice of one of America’s most beloved journalists, giving us Brokaw on Brokaw, and bringing us with him as he navigates pain, procedures, drug regimens, and physical rehabilitation. Brokaw also writes about the importance of patients taking an active role in their own treatment, and of the vital role of caretakers and coordinated care.

Generous, informative, and deeply human, A Lucky Life Interrupted offers a message of understanding and empowerment, resolve and reality, hope for the future and gratitude for a well-lived life.

Praise for A Lucky Life Interrupted

“It’s impossible not to be inspired by Brokaw’s story, and his willingness to share it.”—Los Angeles Times

“A powerful memoir of battling cancer and facing mortality . . . Through the prism of his own illness, Brokaw looks at the larger picture of aging in America.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Moving, informative and deeply personal.”—The Daily Beast

“The former NBC News anchor has applied the fact-finding skills and straightforward candor that were his stock in trade during his reporting days to A Lucky Life Interrupted.”—USA Today

“Brokaw doesn’t paste a smiley face on his story. Again and again, the book returns to stories of loss but also of grace, luck and the beauty of having another swing at bat.”—The Washington Post

“Engaging . . . [with] the kind of insight that is typical of Mr. Brokaw’s approach to life and now to illness.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Powerful and courageous . . . [Brokaw] looks ahead to the future with hope.”—Bookreporter
In The Greatest Generation, his landmark bestseller, Tom Brokaw eloquently evoked for America what it meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, in Boom!, one of America’s premier journalists gives us an epic portrait of another defining era in America as he brings to life the tumultuous Sixties, a fault line in American history. The voices and stories of both famous people and ordinary citizens come together as Brokaw takes us on a memorable journey through a remarkable time, exploring how individual lives and the national mindset were affected by a controversial era and showing how the aftershocks of the Sixties continue to resound in our lives today. In the reflections of a generation, Brokaw also discovers lessons that might guide us in the years ahead.

Boom! One minute it was Ike and the man in the grey flannel suit, and the next minute it was time to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” While Americans were walking on the moon, Americans were dying in Vietnam. Nothing was beyond question, and there were far fewer answers than before.

Published as the fortieth anniversary of 1968 approaches, Boom! gives us what Brokaw sees as a virtual reunion of some members of “the class of ’68,” offering wise and moving reflections and frank personal remembrances about people’s lives during a time of high ideals and profound social, political, and individual change. What were the gains, what were the losses? Who were the winners, who were the losers? As they look back decades later, what do members of the Sixties generation think really mattered in that tumultuous time, and what will have meaning going forward?

Race, war, politics, feminism, popular culture, and music are all explored here, and we learn from a wide range of people about their lives. Tom Brokaw explores how members of this generation have gone on to bring activism and a Sixties mindset into individual entrepreneurship today. We hear stories of how this formative decade has led to a recalibrated perspective–on business, the environment, politics, family, our national existence.

Remarkable in its insights, profoundly moving, wonderfully written and reported, this revealing portrait of a generation and of an era, and of the impact of the 1960s on our lives today, lets us be present at this reunion ourselves, and join in these frank conversations about America then, now, and tomorrow.


From the Hardcover edition.
Reflections on America and the American experience as he has lived and observed it by the bestselling author of The Greatest Generation, whose iconic career in journalism has spanned more than fifty years

From his parents’ life in the Thirties, on to his boyhood along the Missouri River and on the prairies of South Dakota in the Forties, into his early journalism career in the Fifties and the tumultuous Sixties, up to the present, this personal story is a reflection on America in our time. Tom Brokaw writes about growing up and coming of age in the heartland, and of the family, the people, the culture and the values that shaped him then and still do today.

His father, Red Brokaw, a genius with machines, followed the instincts of Tom’s mother Jean, and took the risk of moving his small family from an Army base to Pickstown, South Dakota, where Red got a job as a heavy equipment operator in the Army Corps of Engineers’ project building the Ft. Randall dam along the Missouri River. Tom Brokaw describes how this move became the pivotal decision in their lives, as the Brokaw family, along with others after World War II, began to live out the American Dream: community, relative prosperity, middle class pleasures and good educations for their children.

“Along the river and in the surrounding hills, I had a Tom Sawyer boyhood,” Brokaw writes; and as he describes his own pilgrimage as it unfolded—from childhood to love, marriage, the early days in broadcast journalism, and beyond—he also reflects on what brought him and so many Americans of his generation to lead lives a long way from home, yet forever affected by it.

Praise for A Long Way from Home

“[A] love letter to the . . . people and places that enriched a ‘Tom Sawyer boyhood.’ Brokaw . . . has a knack for delivering quirky observations on small-town life. . . . Bottom line: Tom’s terrific.”—People

“Breezy and straightforward . . . much like the assertive TV newsman himself.”—Los Angeles Times

“Brokaw writes with disarming honesty.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Brokaw evokes a sense of community, a pride of citizenship, and a confidence in American ideals that will impress his readers.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
Who we are, where we’ve been, and where we need to go now, to recapture the American dream
 
Now with a new Foreword by the author.
 
“The best presentation of the challenges facing the country—and the possible solutions—I've ever seen.”—P. J. O’Rourke
 
Tom Brokaw, known and beloved for his landmark work in American journalism and for the New York Times bestsellers The Greatest Generation and Boom!, now turns his attention to the challenges that face America in the new millennium, to offer reflections on how we can restore America’s greatness.
 
Rooted in the values, lessons, and verities of generations past and of his South Dakota upbringing, Brokaw weaves together inspiring stories of Americans who are making a difference and personal stories from his own family history, to engage us in a conversation about our country and to share ideas for how we can revitalize the promise of the American Dream. Inviting us to foster a rebirth of family, community, and civic engagement as profound as the one that helped win World War II, built our postwar prosperity, and ushered in the Civil Rights era, Brokaw traces the exciting, unnerving changes in modern life—in values, education, public service, housing, the Internet, and more—that have transformed our society in the decades since the age of thrift in which he was raised. In offering ideas from Americans who are change agents in their communities, Brokaw gives us a nourishing vision of hopefulness in an age of diminished expectations.
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“Inspiring tales of how people from different walks of life have found ways to be of service to their communities and country.”—Walter Isaacson
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