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The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World Warby Richard Rubin
Synopses & Reviews
“Richard Rubin has done something that will never be possible for anyone to do again. His interviews with the last American World War I veterans—who have all since died—bring to vivid life a cataclysm that changed our world forever but that remains curiously forgotten here.”—Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918
In 2003, 85 years after the end of World War I, Richard Rubin set out to see if he could still find and talk to someone who had actually served in the American Expeditionary Forces during that colossal conflict. Ultimately, he found dozens, aged 101 to 113, from Cape Cod to Carson City, who shared with him at the last possible moment their stories of Americas Great War. Nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century, they were self-reliant, humble, and stoic, never complaining, but still marveling at the immensity of the war they helped win, and the complexity of the world they helped create. Though America has largely forgotten their war, you will never forget them, or their stories. A decade in the making, The Last of the Doughboys is the most sweeping look at Americas First World War in a generation, a glorious reminder of the tremendously important role America played in the war to end all wars, as well as a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory.
“An outstanding and fascinating book. By tracking down the last surviving veterans of the First World War and interviewing them with sympathy and skill, Richard Rubin has produced a first-rate work of reporting.”—Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia
“I cannot remember a book about that huge and terrible war that I have enjoyed reading more in many years."—Michael Korda, The Daily Beast
"To write this affecting book, Rubin (Confederacy of Silence) traveled the country to interview the last American survivors of WWI. At the time (10 years ago), all were over 100 years old, and one was 113. Even with their understandably imprecise memories, they could recall the realities of their long-ago service, much of it in battle. While their recollections add little to our overall understanding of that distant 'War to End All Wars' and the United States' contributions to it, they give fresh texture to what's already known. Rubin is skillful in his interviewing, remorseless in his efforts to chase down his subjects, thoughtful of their age. He also wisely fills in their stories with biographical facts and establishes the contexts of the specific battles they fought in and what was at stake. In tying his forgotten men — as the parents of WWII combatants — to the vogue of the 'Greatest Generation,' Rubin stretches things a bit too far. They stand, as they stood, on their own record. Nevertheless, he has brought them back to life. His book is a fitting epitaph to brave men too often overlooked. Agent: Kristine Dahl, ICM." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
For the past decade, Richard Rubin sought every last living American veteran of World War I—and uncovered a forgotten great generation, and their war.
In 2003, 85 years after the armistice, it took Richard Rubin months to find just one living American veteran of World War I. But then, he found another. And another. Eventually he managed to find dozens, aged 101 to 113, and interview them. All are gone now.
A decade-long odyssey to recover the story of a forgotten generation and their Great War led Rubin across the United States and France, through archives, private collections, and battlefields, literature, propaganda, and even music. But at the center of it all were the last of the last, the men and women he met: a new immigrant, drafted and sent to France, whose life was saved by a horse; a Connecticut Yankee who volunteered and fought in every major American battle; a Cajun artilleryman nearly killed by a German aeroplane; an 18-year-old Bronx girl “drafted” to work for the War Department; a machine-gunner from Montana; a Marine wounded at Belleau Wood; the 16-year-old who became America’s last WWI veteran; and many, many more.
They were the final survivors of the millions who made up the American Expeditionary Forces, nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century. Self-reliant, humble, and stoic, they kept their stories to themselves for a lifetime, then shared them at the last possible moment, so that they, and the World War they won – the trauma that created our modern world – might at last be remembered. You will never forget them. The Last of the Doughboys is more than simply a war story: It is a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory.
When World War I ended over one million American vets came home, and every town in the nation built a memorial in hopes that the unprecedented conflict would never be forgotten. Yet, over the next century, it was.
Ten years ago, Richard Rubin set out to interview every last living doughboy—several dozen, aged 101 to 113. They shared with him, at the last possible moment (all are gone now), their story of Americas Great War. They were nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century: self-reliant, humble, and stoic; never complaining, still marveling at the immensity of the war they helped win. A decade in the making, The Last of the Doughboys is a sweeping new look at our forgotten world war, and a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory.
About the Author
Richard Rubin is the author of Confederacy of Silence. He has written for the Atlantic, the New York Times Magaz
Table of Contents
Prologue: No Mans Land ix
1. Wolves on the Battlefield 1
2. Over the Top 15
3. The American Sector 35
4. Cheer and Laughter and Joyous Shout 72
5. The People Behind the Battle 94
6. The Forgotten Generation 111
7. Give a Little Credit to the Navy 123
8. A Vast Enterprise in Salesmanship 142
9. Hell, We Just Got Here 165
10. We Didnt See a Thing 188
11. Loyal, True, Straight and Square 216
12. Old Dixieland in France 243
13. LOssuaire 285
14. A Wicked Gun, That Machine Gun 312
15. Wasnt a Lot of Help 346
16. The Last Night of the War 389
17. The Last of the Last 424
18. We Are All Missing You Very Much 465
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