March 26 • 04:38 PM

Remembering 'Greatest Generation'

July 08, 2009
Tom Brokaw's book "The Greatest Generation" is bringing back a wave of memories as I read it. They are a mixture of bitter-sweet memories. Many of my friends of the great generation plus a brother are now gone, the bitter part. Some of the memories are sweet. When the servicemen would come home on leave, a huge welcoming dance would be held in the ballroom of the old Town Hall. How I hated to see it torn down.

As you open the book, the jacket flap has a few of Brokaw's sentiments. He says in part that in the spring of 1984 he went to Normandy, France to pre-pare an NBC documentary on the 40th 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. Ten years later he returned for the 50th anniversary and by then he had come to understand what this generation of Americans meant to history.

In a chapter at the beginning of the book that Brokaw captions, "The Time of Their Lives," he tells us he was born in 1940. That many of whom he interviewed for his book were born 20 years earlier then he, as was my brother Roy, in a time of national promise, optimism and prosperity. Then came the crash of 1929.

Overseas, three men were plotting to change the world: Adolf Hitler in Germany, Joseph Stalin in Russia, and Mao Tse-tung in China.

Oh how I remember that Sunday afternoon of December 7, 1941 when the news came over the radio that horrified our nation and changed our lives. Pearl Harbor.

Brother Roy quit college and his dream of becoming a coach would never come true. He was soon instructing future naval aviators near Pensacola, Florida.

Some of the men that Tom Brokaw interviewed were former farm boys. One was Charles Briscoe, the son of a Kansas farmer. He knew how to work hard and use his hands. After grad- uating from high school he left for California and enrolled in a sheet metal school. This led to a job at Stearman Aircraft Division, a branch of Boeing where they were working on a supersecret project: the development of the B-29, the Superfortress, the long-range bomber. They worked seven days a week, often 12 to 14 hours a day. Boeing tried to find farm boys for their workforce. They were inventive and good with their hands.

Just four years earlier, Boeing had produced a total of 100 airplanes. Now the military wanted more than 5,000 a year, including the new long-range bomber...the first mass-produced, pressurized heavy bomber.

I have just read "Three Women and How They Served." Now for a chapter called the ROMEO Club...Retired Old Men Eating Out. I keep skipping around.

— Country Cousin

Castle Creek
03 - 26 - 19
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