Synopses & Reviews
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 andldquo;draftedandrdquo; to work for the War Department; a machine-gunner from Montana; a Marine wounded at Belleau Wood; the 16-year-old who became Americaandrsquo;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 andndash; the trauma that created our modern world andndash; 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.
"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. Almost a hundred years after the event, he makes that immensely consequential and partly forgotten war as alive as twenty minutes ago." and#8212; Ian Frazier, New Yorker contributor and author of Travels in Siberia and#160; "Richard Rubin has written the most riveting and astonishing book about World War I that I have read in a decade. No matter what you think about that terrible conflict, this book will lift up your heart, not only about the war but about being an American. It's unique!" and#8212; Thomas Fleming, author of The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I and#160; and#160;
"From its boffo, page-length first sentence situating the First World War in American memory (and#8216;before the Band-Aid and nylon and the ballpoint pen and sliced breadand#8217;) to its moving concluding portrait of Frank Buckles (1901-2011),and#8217;the last of the lastand#8217; of the doughboys, this book makes irresistible reading. A fusion of reportage, memoir, and history, The Last of the Doughboys is a work of learning, wit, and compassion." and#8212; Jack Beatty, author of The Lost History of 1914
and#160; "Richard Rubin has performed an extraordinary feat of World War I sleuthing. He has managed to track down numerous centenarians and#8212; centenarians! and#8212; who fought in the trenches and has skillfully resurrected their memories in a way that brings that now sepia-toned conflict into focus as sharp as a bayonet. Rubin refers to these doughboys as 'the forgotten generation.' Yet he brings them back unforgettably. And his book is addictively readable." and#8212; Joseph E. Persico, author of Roosevelt's Centurions: FDR and the Commanders He Led to Victory in World War II and#160; and#160; "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 and#8212; who have all since died and#8212; bring to vivid life a cataclysm that changed our world forever but that remains curiously forgotten here. And his research and battlefield visits help us picture the background to the survivors' stories." and#8212; Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 and#160; and#160;
"My namesake was a great-uncle who faked his age and enlisted in the Army as a teenager and#8212; shipping off to France and fighting in World War I, where he was wounded and gassed. I cherish his Purple Heart. And I remember long conversations with him as he thought back on his experiences, by turns horrific and comic. Now, in an extraordinary work that combines oral history and personal reporting, Richard Rubin relates his encounters with the last survivors of that war, centenarians all and#8212;the and#8216;forgotten generation,and#8217; as he calls them. The Last of the Doughboys is a book that puts Rubinand#8217;s trademark style on display: it is deeply researched, shrewdly observed, and warmly humane." and#8212; Cullen Murphy, editor-at-large, Vanity Fair
"Richard Rubin's The Last of the Doughboys is more than just a collection of memories. It is a moving tribute and#8212; a final salute and#8212; to a generation of men who gave their all to win the war that would, they hoped, end all wars. This intimately written book will stand at the forefront of World War I literature for many years to come." and#8212; Edward G. Lengel, author of To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918
"Richard Rubin's vivid and lively interviews with the last surviving veterans of World War I have preserved the voices and memories of the men who fought the nation's first modern war. It is an important contribution to history, an act of historical justice to soldiers whose achievements and sufferings are seldom remembered, and a fascinating view of history through the eyes of those that made it." and#8212; Richard Slotkin, author of Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality
"Richard Rubin's brilliant The Last of the Doughboys is a living, breathing monument to an almost criminally unsung generation of American heroes and#8212; and a vivid and richly detailed portrayal of their era and their war. Beautifully and knowledgably written, the book ensures that the doughboys' achievements on the battlefields of World War I, as well as at home, will never again be forgotten." and#8212; James Carl Nelson, author of The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War and Five Lieutenants
"The Last of the Doughboys is a fascinating account of the American experience of World War I and the astonishing power of memory: oral memory, literary memory, and the collective memory of monuments and cemeteries. Actually, it is not the Korean War but World War I that is truly the forgotten war in American culture, but Richard Rubin brings it to life, etched with great narrative richness." and#8212; Gerald Early, Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters, Washington University in St. Louis
"A wonderfully engaging study executed with a lot of heart." and#8212; Kirkus Reviews, starred review. **A Kirkus Best Book of 2103** "Affecting . . . Give[s] fresh texture to whatand#8217;s already known. Rubin is skillful in his interviewing, remorseless in his efforts to chase down his subjects, thoughtful of their age. . . He has brought them back to life. His book is a fitting epitaph to brave men too often overlooked." and#8212; Publishers Weekly "Fascinating and deeply moving . . . An important and masterful tribute to those who participated in a conflict that continues to shape the world today." and#8212; Booklist
"A brilliant and unexpected delight . . . Clever, engrossing, moving, and richly detailed . . . Rubin is a sensitive and terrific interviewer, a good listener, with a faultless eye and ear for detailand#8230; not only a good writer and born raconteur, with a gift for telling the reader things that are unexpected and fascinatingand#8212;American songs in World War I, women who joined the United States Navy in World War I, the sad fate of African-American soldiersand#8212;but one with a dogged determination . . . What Richard Rubin has done is remarkable--his book is at once a cultural history of a vanished America, simpler, more rural, less driven by technology and science, poorer, but infinitely more and#8220;neighborly,and#8221; in the best sense of the word, a military history of the best kind, and a chance to meet a truly fascinating group of people, I liked every one of them, and counted myself lucky that Richard Rubin has achieved the most difficult of feats, to find a new and different way of writing about World War I (which I would have thought almost impossible) and to have brought to vivid life a group of truly forgotten people, who once did something memorable, then slipped through the cracks into a long anonymity from which they might never have emerged.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
"A charming, passionate and peronal paean . . . Awash in interesting--and poignant--stories." -- Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Engaging . . . memorable . . . The book succeeds by creating degrees of connection, even as it reshapes our consciousness." - The Boston Globe "An informative, humorous and sometimes poignant account . . . This wonderful book teaches us not only about the Great War, but about life and aging and grace. And it demonstrates, even though 'Taps' has sounded for the doughboys, that history is all around us if we only look for it." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer "Nothing else equals this fine book. We are fortunate Richard Rubin has given us such a wonderful tribute to the last surviving Americans of that war and has recorded for posterity their last thoughts about their service and their sacrifice." -- Brigadier General (Ret.) Robert A. Doughty, The Military Book Club main selection
In this landmark work of history, Ferguson vividly brings back to life this terrifying period and makes a simple and provocative argument: that the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England's fault. 34 illustrations.
In The Pity of War, Niall Ferguson makes a simple and provocative argument: that the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely Englands fault. Britain, according to Ferguson, entered into war based on naïve assumptions of German aimsand Englands entry into the war transformed a Continental conflict into a world war, which they then badly mishandled, necessitating American involvement. The war was not inevitable, Ferguson argues, but rather the result of the mistaken decisions of individuals who would later claim to have been in the grip of huge impersonal forces.That the war was wicked, horrific, inhuman,is memorialized in part by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but also by cold statistics. More British soldiers were killed in the first day of the Battle of the Somme than Americans in the Vietnam War; indeed, the total British fatalities in that single battlesome 420,000exceeds the entire American fatalities for both World Wars. And yet, as Ferguson writes, while the war itself was a disastrous folly, the great majority of men who fought it did so with enthusiasm. Ferguson vividly brings back to life this terrifying period, not through dry citation of chronological chapter and verse but through a series of brilliant chapters focusing on key ways in which we now view the First World War.For anyone wanting to understand why wars are fought, why men are willing to fight them, and why the world is as it is today, there is no sharper nor more stimulating guide than Niall Fergusons The Pity of War.
A landmark work of history. An explosive and argumentative new book that rewrites our most basic assumptions about the causes and consequences of the First World War.
For the past decade, Richard Rubin sought every last living American veteran of World War Iand#8212;and uncovered a forgotten great generation, and their war.
About the Author
Niall Ferguson is Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford. He is the author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschilds, and The Pity of War ). He writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement, and lives in Oxford.
Table of Contents
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Prologue: No Manand#8217;s Landand#8195;ix
and#160;and#160;and#160;1.and#160;and#160;and#160;Wolves on the Battlefieldand#8195;1
and#160;and#160;and#160;2.and#160;and#160;and#160;Over the Topand#8195;15
and#160;and#160;and#160;3.and#160;and#160;and#160;The American Sectorand#8195;35
and#160;and#160;and#160;4.and#160;and#160;and#160;Cheer and Laughter and Joyous Shoutand#8195;72
and#160;and#160;and#160;5.and#160;and#160;and#160;The People Behind the Battleand#8195;94
and#160;and#160;and#160;6.and#160;and#160;and#160;The Forgotten Generationand#8195;111
and#160;and#160;and#160;7.and#160;and#160;and#160;Give a Little Credit to the Navyand#8195;123
and#160;and#160;and#160;8.and#160;and#160;and#160;A Vast Enterprise in Salesmanshipand#8195;142
and#160;and#160;and#160;9.and#160;and#160;and#160;Hell, We Just Got Hereand#8195;165
and#160;and#160;and#160;10.and#160;and#160;and#160;We Didnand#8217;t See a Thingand#8195;188
and#160;and#160;and#160;11.and#160;and#160;and#160;Loyal, True, Straight and Squareand#8195;216
and#160;and#160;and#160;12.and#160;and#160;and#160;Old Dixieland in Franceand#8195;243
and#160;and#160;and#160;14.and#160;and#160;and#160;A Wicked Gun, That Machine Gunand#8195;312
and#160;and#160;and#160;15.and#160;and#160;and#160;Wasnand#8217;t a Lot of Helpand#8195;346
and#160;and#160;and#160;16.and#160;and#160;and#160;The Last Night of the Warand#8195;389
and#160;and#160;and#160;17.and#160;and#160;and#160;The Last of the Lastand#8195;424
and#160;and#160;and#160;18.and#160;and#160;and#160;We Are All Missing You Very Muchand#8195;465