PROBE: May 28, 2001

May 28, 2001

QUESTION: I just saw Tom Brokaw again promoting his book "The Greatest Generation" on television. Aren't you a little sick of the World War II veterans? — Anti-War, Holtville

Bite your tongue. The World War II generation saved the world from Hitler. They liberated Europe, they rescued Asia from the Japanese, they endured the Depression …

Yeah, you are right, we are sick of them.

Born in 1932, we were 9 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Since then our generation toiled in the shadow of the men who shipped out to the war zones for the "duration," and the women they left behind.

"For the duration" meant once the ship sailed, the guys were not coming back until they were seriously wounded, "killed in action" or won the war. Choices like that can focus the mind on the task at hand.


The women who waited, bought slacks, tied their hair up in bandannas and went to work in war plants — and waited for the guys to come home.

Their role model was Rosie the Riveter.

If you were 9 years old, you collected scrap metal for the war drive, forgot what chocolate tasted like, saved grease (fat was used to make explosives for bombs) and your pennies for "war stamps."

Although we were as patriotic a kid as the next, we adulterated the bacon grease with mayonnaise and sold our grease for 16 cents.

Did we keep saving until we had a quarter for a war stamp? No, we bought a Popsicle, two used comic books and a penny bubble gum. Having confessed, we feel better.

Good leather shoes were rationed but there were lots of huaraches (leather sandals) available without ration stamps in Mexicali. We planted a Victory Garden but nothing came up!

We remember the men of the "greatest generation" were so handsome! There were 40,000 sailors, all 17 or 18 years old, camped five miles from Holtville.

They didn't want to talk to a 10-year-old girl. When we turned 12, they still didn't want to talk to us. They wanted to talk to Aunt Ruby, who was 19, with black hair, "olive skin" and gray eyes. She was gorgeous but she was married to a serviceman serving in the Pacific.

Before we turned 13 in 1945, the war was over! We had missed the whole thing.

With the help of the returning WWII vets who had put families on hold, we created the Baby Boom, if not the greatest, the biggest generation in history. You never saw so many kids in your life.

Korean War veterans call theirs the "forgotten war." Technically, it was a United Nations' "police action," or, according to Republicans, "Mr. Truman's War."

The Boomers grew up just in time for the fracas in Vietnam — and to declare, "Hell, no, we won't go!"

Compared to WWII and the Korean War, the Vietnam War was a piece of cake! No more "duration of the war" stuff for soldiers, just 12 months in and then out!

But no war could compare to WWII. The vets endured the Depression, fought the war, raised families. Theirs was the glamour generation.

Hey, we went through the Depression. We stayed home, saved grease, collected scrap metal, helped win the war on the "home front." We raised kids, passed school bonds and joined the PTA, but we got no respect. We want a monument! At least a pat on the back.

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