The Long Goodbye to the Greatest Generation

23 Dec
Photo from the National Archives

From the National Archives: ” GI’s at the Rainbow Corner Red Cross Club in Paris, France, whoop it up after buying the special edition of the Paris Post, which carried the banner headline, `JAPS QUIT.'” T3c. G. Lempeotis, August 10, 1945. 111-SC-210208. National Archives Identifier: 531309

As Christmas nears, I am moved to make mention of the declining number of World War II veterans who are alive and with us today. The National WWII Museum in New Orleans cites the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “They are dying quickly—according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, only 620,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2016.” [1] Illustrated another way, 620,000 represents just 3.875% of the 16 million Americans who served during that war. This low percentage is sobering and is projected to be 0.5% (80,000) in ten years. The percentages could be similar for those other nations that fought for the Allied and Axis Powers, depending on mortality rates and standards of living in those countries.

In the liner notes of his 1985 CD Scarecrow, John Mellencamp wrote: “There is nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands.” It is needless to paraphrase Mellencamp’s quote or explain its appropriateness here. The long goodbye accelerates as we “change hands” with the men and women of the Greatest Generation. If you still have a loved one among this group, hold them close this Christmas season.

[1] The National WWII Museum, Accessed 23 December 2016.

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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in World War II - General


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