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Books  >>  History

Richard Rubin

The Last of the Doughboys

Richard Rubin The Last Of The Doughboys The Forgotten Generation And Their Forgotten Worl
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Main description:

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.

 

Review quote:

"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." — 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!" — 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 (‘before the Band-Aid and nylon and the ballpoint pen and sliced bread’) to its moving concluding portrait of Frank Buckles (1901-2011),’the last of the last’ 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." — 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 — centenarians! — 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." — 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 — who have all since died — 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."Prologue: No Man’s 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 Didn’t See a Thing 188
11.   Loyal, True, Straight and Square 216
12.   Old Dixieland in France 243
13.   L’Ossuaire 285
14.   A Wicked Gun, That Machine Gun 312
15.   Wasn’t 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
Acknowledgments 477
Bibliography 479
Index 481


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