Remembering the Greatest Generation and their parents. Despite incredible hardships, they were very patriotic and built America into a superpower. The Greatest Generation refers to those born between 1900 through the 1920s. Many later members of that generation became parents of the Baby Boomers.
Note: This Letter to the Editor was published in The Economist on June 4, 2020
Imagine being born in 1900 at the beginning of the 20th century of war and wonder.
You are 14 years old when World War I begins and ends when you are 18, with 22 million dead.
Shortly after a world pandemic, called the ′′ Spanish flu”, kills 50 million people. You survive and are 20 years old.
Then at the age of 29, Wall Street crashes and a global economic crisis begins.
The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.
There was rampant hunger, the crisis would last a decade, and unemployment was at 25%.
Your generation learned to live on less and be grateful for the things they had, no matter how humble.
One of their popular mottos was “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
Adolph Hitler and his Nazis came to power when you are 33.
You are 39 when World War II begins and on your 41st birthday, the United States enters the conflict.
Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war including 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.
Smallpox was epidemic until you were in your 40’s, and it killed 300 million people during your lifetime.
When you are 52, the Korean War begins and 5 million perish.
From your birth, until you are 55 you dealt with the fear of Polio epidemics each summer.
You experience friends and family contracting polio and being paralyzed and/or die.
At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years.
During the Cold War, you lived each day with the threat of nuclear annihilation.
On your 62nd birthday there was the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War.
When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends after 4 million people perished.
Some of their grandchildren would complain about hardships, but it would be difficult to match the struggles and triumphs of the Greatest Generation and their parents.
Harder and harder to find these days.