The Greatest Generation, Minus One

First, sorry it has been a bit since I last posted. Work has been heavy, and my son is getting ready to start at George Mason this fall. Unlike his wastrel father (BA, Political Science, MA, Ph.D in History), the boy is somewhat more motivated and realistic (Applied Computer Science, Simulations Design). So, I've been putting off anything extra lately, including blogging, to get some actual work done.

I was reading this morning (always good for a Monday morning chuckle from the reader-submitted headlines), when I ran across this link.

Like many of you, I've spent the last two Sunday nights enjoying the HBO miniseries The Pacific. Very well done and a good companion piece to their Band of Brothers miniseries. One thing has always stuck in my mind about 'the Greatest Generation'--and I do believe they were exceptional--where are all the women at?

We all know about the role of women on the homefront (Rosie the Riveter, et al). Of mothers with blue (in service) and gold (killed in action) star flags hanging in their windows. Dear John letters, "Don't Go Under the Apple Tree," USO shows and so on. What about the women like Mrs. Nash? They didn't get the medals or the recognition. No homecoming parades for them. We all recall nurses on the battlefield, and the occasional female pilot or other service role that women played in World War II. But we tend to forget about the women who served, who went overseas, and came back home and attempted to rebuild their lives, just as their male counterparts did.

I wonder how many women suffered from PTSD or other effects from their war service, but were never really recognized for what they did.

I encourage you to visit the obit site for Mrs. Nash and send a note to her family. Just reading her obituary makes me feel quite sad that I could never spend an afternoon just talking to someone who had lived a life that full. One of the sad parts of studying history is that you rarely have the opportunity to speak with your subjects. As a Civil War historian by preference, this has always greatly bothered me--just being a generation or two off of talking to someone who had actually been at Gettysburg or Vicksburg.

We are losing our World War II veterans--men and women--at an alarming rate. Within a decade, most will be gone. For those of you who are lucky enough to still have relatives who lived through those years, spend some time with them. Ask about what it was like to be at home, in a factory or in a warship or bomber. What it was like when the war started, and when it ended.

Mrs. Nash was just one woman of that generation. One whose story will most likely never be written, which is truly tragic.