Sunday, September 21, 2014

War Babies

The Generation that changed America

By Richard Pells

Author Richard Pell’s fascinating historical account explores the years of Americans born from 1939 through 1945. He states throughout the course of the book that War Babies “initiated most of the social and cultural motivations that Boomers have taken credit for over the years," often rewriting history to fit their own philosophy. He covers all sectors of this generation, including musicians, film directors, composers, actors, athletes, journalists, politicians and more. War Babies’ contribution, according to the author, has and continues “to shape our lives and culture in the 21st century. “ Pells notes that on May 30, 2012, a picture of Bob Dylan receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Obama appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and on the same day the editorial-page of the New York Times celebrated Paul Simon’s contribution to music — confirming this writer’s statements.

The Boomers were too young to have experienced the new exciting revolutions; folk music, movies like “The Graduate,” the Kennedy assassinations, McCarthyism, the Korean War, and Vietnam, just to name a few of the events that changed the course of the country. Author Pells, a war baby himself, born in 1941, takes his readers on a journey of factual memories of a special time in America's history, which has not been given the recognition it deserves. He writes of his personal life, growing up in a Jewish family — his grandmother fleeing the pogroms in Poland, just missing the coming Holocaust — only to endure ethnic discrimination in America.

This is an exceptional book in that it not only presents a cultural historical viewpoint but peppers it with background information such as Robert Zimmerman who later became Bob Dylan, as well as the troubled childhood of Faye Dunaway. This riveting, fast-paced enjoyable account of the connections and similarities of this country's most famous icons make it a hard book to put down. The author shows how War Babies from entertainers to politicians and journalists, through their own deprivations, paved the way for a new and better society in all walks of life. Their stories come from poverty, wars, struggles, and determination, laying the groundwork for a better life; the likes of which this present generation will never again experience. Nor will today's technological society fully know, understand or have the moral internal strengths, endurance and perseverance of the War Babies . . . A sad thing, a great loss.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this book is the author's ability to link and interweave the diverse personalities and achievements of both the cultural and political men and women, as he demonstrates how this generation molded the future. Known as ‘the Quiet Generation,' it made the transition from ‘the Greatest Generation’ to the ‘Lost Generation,' carried on through the legacy of parents who bestowed its benefits upon their children. Pells contends that while War Babies have managed to reshape the culture and politics of America from the 1960s until now," the author leaves us with a prognosis that “is both frightening and liberating.”

This work by Richard Pells, who is, among other things, Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin, should be used by educators as a textbook and required reading for students — as both an excellent lesson and research resource. War Babies is so saturated with cultural memories of an often forgotten past that it overwhelms the reader’s senses, but in a most positive and pleasurable way.

Micki Peluso, author of . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang


  1. Thanks for sharing this blog with us, Micki.

    As a professor for students working towards their Master Degree in education, it would be great having such a book in hand when talking to students in our multicultural courses.

    Students may also find it fascinating learning about the impact of these historians and how their lives impact us today. Sharing these stories with age appropriate students could be interesting lessons.

  2. What? I was 15 when Kennedy was killed and I was dating my husband when"The Graduate" came out. I remember the Vietnam war well. My brother fought in that war for two tours and the love of my life died there. I am a boomer. I don't remember McCarthyism but I vividly remember the day the Korean War ended. I think Richard Pell's book would be really interesting reading though.

  3. Thanks, Cherrye, I agree that it would be a lively, interesting source of americana for sturdents as well as a trip to the past for adults.

    Hi Carole, thanks for dropping by. Yes, you are a boomer. I thought I was but I'm a war baby by about five years. His book is especially fascinating in how he links the entertainment industry with politics.