Synopses & Reviews
and#8220;Richard Rubin has done something that will never be possible for anyone to do again. His interviews with the last American World War I veteransand#8212;who have all since diedand#8212;bring to vivid life a cataclysm that changed our world forever but that remains curiously forgotten here.and#8221;and#8212;Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914and#8211;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 Americaand#8217;s 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 Americaand#8217;s 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.
and#8220;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.and#8221;and#8212;Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia
and#8220;I cannot remember a book about that huge and terrible war that I have enjoyed reading more in many years."and#8212;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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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." and#8212;Michael Korda, The Daily Beast
"A charming, passionate and peronal paean . . . Awash in interestingand#8212;and poignantand#8212;stories." and#8212; Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Engaging . . . memorable . . . The book succeeds by creating degrees of connection, even as it reshapes our consciousness." and#8212; The Boston Globe
"In this deeply moving history of the so-called Great War, those opposing its mindless folly receive equal billing with the politicians, generals, and propagandists obdurately insisting on its perpetuation. Implicit in Adam Hochschild's account is this chilling warning: once governments become captive of wars they purport to control, they turn next on their own people."--Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War
"Adam Hochschild is the rare historian who fuses deep scholarship with novelistic flair. In his hands, World War I becomes a clash not only of empires and armies, but of individuals: king and Kaiser, warriors and pacifists, coal miners and aristocrats. Epic yet human-scaled, this is history for buffs and novices alike, a stirring and provocative exploration of the Great War and the nature of war itself". -Tony Horwitz, author of A Voyage Long and Strange
"In prose as compelling as a masterful novel, Hochschild illuminates the lives of those who consigned millions to oblivion, and also introduces us to those who fiercely opposed the carnageand#8212;those who imagined, as we might, that the world could be otherwise. We emerge from this exemplary book with the knowledge that war is not inevitable, and those who work for its abolition inherit their dedication from sane men and women of great moral strength who recognized, as we must, that the future depended upon them. and#160;Hochschildand#8217;s accomplishment, as a writer and historian, is formidable and inspiring."- Carolyn Forchand#233;, editor of AGAINST FORGETTING: 20th Century Poetry of Witness
"The lives of the authorand#8217;s many characters dovetail elegantly in this moving, accessible book...An ambitious narrative that presents a teeming worldview through intimate, human portraits."- Kirkus Reviews
"An original, engrossing account that gives the war's opponents (largely English) prominent place . . . Hochschild paints equally vivid, painful portraits of now obscure civilians and soldiers who waged a bitter, often heroic, and, Hochschild admits, unsuccessful antiwar struggle." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
"In this deeply moving history of the so-called Great War, those opposing its mindless folly receive equal billing with the politicians, generals, and propagandists obdurately insisting on its perpetuation. Implicit in Adam Hochschild's account is this chilling warning: once governments become captive of wars they purport to control, they turn next on their own people." -- Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War "Adam Hochschild is the rare historian who fuses deep scholarship with novelistic flair. In his hands, World War I becomes a clash not only of empires and armies, but of individuals: king and Kaiser, warriors and pacifists, coal miners and aristocrats. Epic yet human-scaled, this is history for buffs and novices alike, a stirring and provocative exploration of the Great War and the nature of war itself". -- Tony Horwitz, author of A Voyage Long and Strange "The lives of the authorand#8217;s many characters dovetail elegantly in this moving, accessible book... An ambitious narrative that presents a teeming worldview through intimate, human portraits." -- Kirkus Reviews "An original, engrossing account that gives the war's opponents (largely English) prominent place ... Hochschild paints equally vivid, painful portraits of now obscure civilians and soldiers who waged a bitter, often heroic, and, Hochschild admits, unsuccessful antiwar struggle." - Publishers Weekly, starred review "Riveting... [Hochschild] has assembled an irresistible, unforgettable cast of characters." -- Associated Press "Superb... Brilliantly written and reads like a novel... [Hochschild] gives us yet another absorbing chronicle of the redeeming power of protest." -- Star-Tribune "This is the kind of investigatory history Hochschild pulls off like no one elseand#8230; Hochschild is a master at chronicling how prevailing cultural opinion is formed and, less frequently, how it's challenged." -- NPR's Fresh Air, Maureen Corrigan "This is a book to make one feel deeply and painfully, and also to think hard." -- Christopher Hitchens, New York Times Book Review "Hochschild brings fresh drama to the story, and explores it in provocative ways . . . Exemplary in all respects." -- Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post "Hochschild has once again produced a moving account of one of the most terrible events of the recent past, bringing this story to life like few historians writing today." -- Seattle Times "Compelling . . . A gifted storyteller, with an eye for the telling detail, Hochschild effectively and eloquently brings to life the senselessness of the war." -- Oregonian
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.
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.
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.
In a riveting, suspenseful narrative with haunting echoes for our own time, Adam Hochschild brings WWI to life as never before, focusing on the long-ignored moral drama of its critics, alongside its generals and heroes. A brilliant new history of the Great War that raises the eternal question of why such a terrible war was ever fought.
World War I stands as one of historyand#8217;s most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation. In a riveting, suspenseful narrative with haunting echoes for our own time, Adam Hochschild brings it to life as never before. He focuses on the long-ignored moral drama of the warand#8217;s critics, alongside its generals and heroes. Thrown in jail for their opposition to the war were Britainand#8217;s leading investigative journalist, a future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and an editor who, behind bars, published a newspaper for his fellow inmates on toilet paper. These critics were sometimes intimately connected to their enemy hawks: one of Britainand#8217;s most prominent women pacifist campaigners had a brother who was commander in chief on the Western Front. Two well-known sisters split so bitterly over the war that they ended up publishing newspapers that attacked each other.and#160;
Today, hundreds of military cemeteries spread across the fields of northern France and Belgium contain the bodies of millions of men who died in the and#8220;war to end all wars.and#8221; Can we ever avoid repeating history?
About the Author
ADAM HOCHSCHILDandnbsp;has written for The New Yorker, Harperand#39;s, The New York Review of Books, Granta, The New York Times Magazine, and many other newspapers and magazines. In King Leopoldandrsquo;s Ghost, To End All Wars, and other books, Hochschild has earned a reputation as a master of suspense and vivid character portrayal. His skill at evoking such struggles for justice has made him a finalist for the National Book Award and won him a host of other prizes.
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