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The WWII Generation (1901-1927)

FedoraFan112390

Practically Family
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643
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Brooklyn, NY
Does anyone else agree with me that the WWII Generation was the best generation of modern times, in many ways--aesthetically, morally, their "can do" attitude. This is the generation that was the Golden Era generation, the generation that produced the actors, actresses, musicians and leaders who made the Golden Era what it was, and for many of us, we had someone of the WWII Generation as a parent or a grandparent or a great grandparent. Note that when I say WWII Generation it doesn't mean simply people who served, but the entire generation.

I put it between 1901 and 1927 as being born 1901, one would be too young to serve in WWI but young enough to serve in some capacity in World War II--Many middle aged Americans served in some way--while someone born after 1926 would be too young to have fought in WWII.
 

CharleneC

Familiar Face
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89
Location
Here and There
Are you forgetting about the atrocities visited upon the world at that time? The people committing those atrocities certainly weren't any type of "best" that I would recognize.
 

Doc Smith

Familiar Face
OK, I'll bite on this one:

Generational labels are of limited usefulness. The G.I. generation had its share of losers, users, spivs, mugs, lugs, and goldbrickers. The current generation of young adults has its share of volunteers, go-getters, stellar students, muckrakers, solid citizens, and veterans of foreign wars.

Sure, I miss the sartorial style and more formal manners of an earlier time, and I find my students' ubiquitous ill-fitting black interview suits almost as distressing as the gap between their too-short t-shirts and their too-low beltlines. Still, I don't miss the unexamined racism, sexism, or homophobia of the early-to-mid 20th century.

We can celebrate the culture and example of our parents' and grandparents' times without denigrating the character of subsequent generations. In short, the generations game is pretty darn pointless.
 

LizzieMaine

Bartender
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31,065
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Where The Tourists Meet The Sea
I honestly couldn't care less about sartorialism, and I freely admit that I have all the refinement and manners of a Depression-era fishwife. It runs in the family. So those aspects of the Generation don't influence me much. What interests me is the Generation's ability to admit it wasn't the most perfect, most enlightened generation that ever lived. Spend some time immersed in the popular literature of the era and you'll find a recurring motif: "We aren't perfect. We have our warts and our faults and our failings. But we *try.* As God is our witness, we *try.*" There was very little smug self-congratulation on the part of the people who survived the Depression and the War. They just went out and did what they had to do without patting themselves on the back or praising themselves for their own enlightenment. Read Stephen Vincent Benet's "Nightmare at Noon" sometime for an illuminating look at how that generation viewed itself, its failings and its strengths.



Where they went wrong was selling their birthright for a beaverboard house in Levittown and a new Mercury every year. That was, in the end, their biggest failing.
 
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Foxer55

A-List Customer
Messages
413
Location
Washington, DC
Lizzie,

I honestly couldn't care less about sartorialism, and I freely admit that I have all the refinement and manners of a Depression-era fishwife. It runs in the family. So those aspects of the Generation don't influence me much. What interests me is the Generation's ability to admit it wasn't the most perfect, most enlightened generation that ever lived. Spend some time immersed in the popular literature of the era and you'll find a recurring motif: "We aren't perfect. We have our warts and our faults and our failings. But we *try.* As God is our witness, we *try.*" There was very little smug self-congratulation on the part of the people who survived the Depression and the War. They just went out and did what they had to do without patting themselves on the back or praising themselves for their own enlightenment. Read Stephen Vincent Benet's "Nightmare at Noon" sometime for an illuminating look at how that generation viewed itself, its failings and its strengths.

You might be on to something here. Its all about perception. The former generations were about doing it. Our current generation seems to be about the perception of doing it. Or having done it. I think they admire the generation that did do it. Some openly admit it, others disparage it in an attempt to minimise it because they can't do it or can't understand doing it. And things have changed to the point of our entire culture falling into the perception trap so everything we do today is about the lie of making things well perceived rather than well accomplished.
 

MisterCairo

I'll Lock Up
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6,946
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Gads Hill, Ontario
Well, as I'm not a member of the Chocoholics' Forum and I prefer Smarties to M and Ms, I'll weigh in and suggest that while the moniker "greatest generation" has oft been used to describe those participating in, to some degree, the Second World War era, I agree with the likes of Mark Steyn and others who point out that they did what any generation ought to have done - stuck in and fought the good fight. I believe the First World War generation did the same, and with equally natty clothing for what ever that's worth.
My father was a Second World War vet, he joined up in fact before the war started (April 1939). Not sure how great this makes him sound, but while he and others received a special Territorial Army medal for that fact, the main reason he joined was for extra money (he was apprenticing as a chef) and the fact birds liked a man in uniform!
They were a great generation, like many before. The "greatest"? I don't know.

Now, where to find some more Smarties to get my chocolate fix.....
 

LizzieMaine

Bartender
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31,065
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Where The Tourists Meet The Sea
It's important to keep in mind that the "Greatest Generation" didn't come up with that term. An author and his marketing director did. And I've yet to hear a single bona-fide member of that generation refer to themselves by that term.
 
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Doc Smith

Familiar Face
LizzieMaine: thanks for recommending SVB's "Nightmare at Noon." It's on my to-read list now.

I'll fully agree that some members of that generation were, as you said, opposed to smug self-congratulation. One of the ways we can see this is in satires like Sinclair Lewis's "Babbitt." Of course, satires only work when people can recognize the type of character that's being satirized. So, I think it's fair to say that there were some members of that generation that were fully engaged in lives of smug self-congratulation.

Probably not that many, though, and certainly none of the ones I've known. Except for one -- and his martini-fueled stories of aviation history were always too entertaining to be worth doubting, anyways.
 

LizzieMaine

Bartender
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31,065
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Where The Tourists Meet The Sea
Ah, but Babbitt wasn't a member of the early-20th-Century generation. He was a middle-aged man in 1922, so he would have likely been born in the 1880s -- he would have represented the parents of the WW2 generation, not that generation itself, the generation of Bruce Barton reading Wall Street worshipping Keep Cool With Coolidge Rotary Club Boosters that ended up dragging us into the Depression. It was that kind of smug My Way Is The Right Way exceptionalistic self-absorption that Sinclair Lewis couldn't abide.

It's my argument that the defining characteristic of the WW2 generation was its acute awareness of its own vulnerability, not its self-promoting hubris. This sets it far apart from certain other subsequent generations which shall be nameless.
 

Doc Smith

Familiar Face
That's an entirely reasonable argument, if you accept the validity of any one characteristic defining a set of people that contains both (for instance) Medgar Evers and Bryon De La Beckwith. I obviously don't, and mostly see this as a way of expressing disdain for another equally inhomogenous group of people, often in response to the misdemeanors of a minority of that group's members.

Heroes and villains, stoics and whiners -- every generation has them, and (as usual) those who most stridently try to tell us otherwise are the ones with something to sell.
 

LizzieMaine

Bartender
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31,065
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Where The Tourists Meet The Sea
I don't think it's an either-or proposition. While you can find any number of individuals who go against the grain of their generation in any generational group -- technically I'm a late-run Boomer, but I have no more in common with "The Boomer Generation" in terms of experience or general worldview than I have with a Papuan headhunter -- I suggest that it's nonetheless possible to discuss the overall zeitgeist of a generation. You could argue on that basis that Evers and De La Beckwith were both very much men of their generation -- a generation given to strong, contrary views which drove its members to take strong, contrary stands on either side of the question at hand. Theirs was not an era or a generation given to moderate examination of the problems of the day. Read the rhetoric flashing around in the early sixties, and you can't help but come to that conclusion -- sure, it was the time of the Freedom Riders and Martin Luther King and "We Shall Overcome," but it was also the time of the Birchers and the Black Muslims and Billy James Hargis and Barry Goldwater suggesting we lob a bomb into the men's room at the Kremlin.

In the same way, I suggest the "WW2 Generation" was less the generation of Captain America blasting forth to punch Hitler in the face than it was the generation of poor, overworked, underpaid, potbellied Joe Blow -- the average workaday person who knew there was dirty business to be dealt with and it was going to have to get done, and he was going to end up being the one who had to do it, because that's the way it always goes. The whole "Great Crusade" thing was something nice for a general to talk about, but the average person of the Era looked at it as no more heroic than cleaning out a nest of cockroaches behind the refrigerator. It was a rotten, stinking job, but you had to do it and might as well just get it over with.
 
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