“Before It Is TOO LATE” – Catching the G.I. Generation

Is it possible to characterize a generation: the G.I. Generation, the Baby Boomers, Millennials, etc.? Everyone has their own personal stories, but as I completed interview after interview with people who lived through WWII; there was something about the generation as a whole that fascinated me.

My parents were born in the 1950’s. They are referred to as Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers are the children of those who lived through and fought in WWII. Baby Boomers were raised by members of the G.I. Generation, or “the Greatest Generation,” who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. “The Greatest Generation” is a term coined by onetime NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw to describe Americans (or westerners) that were young adults during the World War II era. These individuals were thought by many to be “great” as a result of the strife and turmoil they endured. In addition to prevailing against war (in Europe and Japan), the WWII generation also suffered through the Great Depression. “The Greatest Generation” is also known as the G.I. Generation.

One study defines Generation X as those born between 1961 and 1981, though others sources tag Generation X as those born starting in 1964.  Those individuals born in the mid-1980’s and later are referred to as Generation Y. Generation Y is also known as the Millennials. Generation Z is one name used for the cohort of people born after the Millennial Generation. There is no agreement on the exact dates of the generation with some sources starting it at the late 1990s or from the mid-2000s to the present day. This is the generation which is currently being born. We are at the point in history where many from generation Y are having children and their children are the members of generation Z.

As a millennial in my twenties, from 2008 until 2015 it became my pursuit to speak with the G.I. Generation. I was on a mission to speak with as many people who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in and/or experienced WWII as I could. I spoke with people in their upper eighties and nineties. What could this G.I. Generation teach me, a millennial and what could I tell generation Z that the G.I. generation taught me?

When someone from a younger generation asks his elders questions, he/she learns stories. The astonishing part was when I spoke with people from the WWII generation; some of them would tell me stories about their grandparents. Their grandparents lived through the Civil War. So there I was living in the 21st century and in the midst of a story, I would hear someone’s personal account from the days of the Civil War. History that seemed so far removed was actually just a few stories away.