The Greatest Generation?


My father’s record in combat spoke for itself. I have here on display in my office his Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal with three bronze service stars, each awarded for “action against the enemy” at Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa, respectively. Furthermore, when I was a young boy, his fellow warriors elected him to be the Commander of the local American Legion Post, a distinct honor as he saw it. He brought along my mother, my sister, and me for the installation ceremony and dinner that night.

My father had nothing good and nothing bad to say about the Japanese Imperial Army and its soldiers. But it was obvious from his tone of voice that he considered them to be dangerous warriors who were prepared to fight to the death, as large numbers of them did at his hands. He never expressed any regret about killing them. Nevertheless, my father and mother never raised any of us eight children to be biased or prejudiced against the Japanese or any other people for that matter.

My father was extremely proud of his combat service in the Marine Corps against the Japanese Empire that had attacked his country, and for the rest of his life continued to consider himself to be a Marine, as is true for most Marines. But he never bragged about his combat experiences in the war to me or to anyone else that I was aware of. He never said that he was a “hero” or that he had ever done anything “heroic.”

,My father never said anything about being part of some “greatest generation.” Indeed, he never told me there was anything “great” about having fought that war. I never got the impression from my father that he believed fighting the Japanese Imperial Army had made him “great” in any way. In fact, my father was just “grateful” to the Almighty that he had survived the war.

As I learned from my father, there is nothing “great” about fighting a war. And fighting a war does not make you “great” either. All the rest is just pro-war propaganda.

Francis Anthony Boyle, Junior is a law professor and author of Protesting Power: War, Resistance and Law (Rowman & Littlefield)

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