Greatest Generation Essay

President Ronald Reagan’s trip to Normandy in 1984, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, was indeed a signal moment.Nobody watching TV back then forgot the Gipper’s speech on a now-silent bluff, the chill Atlantic at his back, the president gesturing toward the graying Rangers in front of him: “These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the champions who helped free a continent.

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(Of course, one might be forgiven for suspecting that Sanders is, in fact, well to the left of FDR.

Moreover, it ought to be remembered that Henry Wallace was dropped from the national ticket in 1944 for being too left-wing, and then went on to run as a pro-Soviet third-party candidate in 1948.) So yes, World War II is a memory palace with many rooms.

And speaking of one such room, we’ll soon be able to see George Clooney’s TV miniseries adaptation of Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel, might be thought of as anti-war, though war veterans loved it.

This author well remembers one old bomber crewman—no dove and not much of a reader—who nonetheless read the novel 10 times.

Yet the nation as a whole was not going to turn its back on what the nation as a whole had just accomplished.

As one tiny measure of the ubiquity of memories, we might note that a photograph of the Marine flag-raising at Iwo Jima found its way inside a conference room of the Truman White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

And on that day, he eulogized the memory of was hit by a U-boat’s torpedo. It was notable, earlier this year, that Jeff Weaver, top advisor to one of Trump’s would-be challengers, Senator Bernie Sanders, was seen sporting a Roosevelt-Wallace campaign button.

Aboard were four chaplains, about to have their rendezvous with immortality. That recalls, of course, another chapter in Greatest Generation history: the victorious 1940 presidential ticket of FDR and Henry A. It was during that third Roosevelt term that the 32nd president delivered his intended domestic blueprint for post-war America, an economic bill of rights.

At Iwo Jima, where nearly 7,000 Americans died in just five weeks of fighting, the commanding chaplain assigned Lieutenant Roland Gittlesohn, the first Jewish chaplain in the Marines, to deliver the eulogy for the fallen.

Yet the Protestant and Catholic chaplains protested, and so, in the end, three separate services were held.


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