Doing Battle and The Greatest Generation Comes Home

As I’m a discussion leader tomorrow I’ll be brief-ish.

Paul Fussell’s Doing Battle covers such traditional aspects of war that we often read about. The civilian boy trained to be a killing machine, the loss of innocence and basic human compassion that comes with seeing and causing death, the guilt over losing comrades, and more (even the classic crush on a war nurse while hospitalized). Fussell learned many lessons after only a few months in combat, including the job of a lieutenant (sort of useless and mostly symbolic), not to trust novel equipment, to carry everything in your pockets, survival techniques and the dangers of friendly fire, that night operations (for him) never work, and about courage and its diminishing storage after each battle.

The book discusses the changes Fussell goes through, the causes, and the results. At this point, we haven’t quite read about the results, but we have read about Fussell’s growing disrespect for the army as it becomes even more pronounced than it was before, especially during his description of the military’s desire to keep him in service after the war’s end.

The Greatest Generation Comes Home covers just what the title suggests. The first chapter discusses the soldiers’ view of home, what it meant, and how it changed the longer the war went on. Gambone writes about, as Fussell also frustratedly described, the demobilization process and the point system to send soldiers home. As usual, the process was slow and the soldiers and their families were irritated and angered. When the veterans finally returned home, they found that things had changed (less regional differences, for instance), and they had to deal with the difficulties of postwar life (inflation, housing shortages, employment problems, etc.). They also had to adjust to family life, as in the case of fathers and husbands whose children didn’t know them and wives who had grown accustomed to working. On top of it all, veterans also had to deal with their actions in the war, the friends they lost, and the violence and destruction they saw, while trying to live a normal life that was about more than just simple survival.

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