2011 — Calif.
Of the 16 million members of the "Greatest Generation" who served in the Second World War, there are less than 1.8 million of us left. The local newspaper this morning said that this year 500,000 veterans will pass away. At this rate, we will all be gone by 2014.
I'm not too sure about being called the "Greatest Generation," Most of the credit belongs to the generation before ours, the generation that produced the leaders such as General Marshal, Franklyn Roosevelt, Harry Truman, General Hap Arnold, and General Jimmy Doolittle. But I do think that we accomplished some positive things other than taking out Hitler and Tojo and Hirohito.
It has been the policy of the United States Government to reward its soldiers - veterans- after their service. Pensions have been awarded, medical benefits for the wounded and disabled with some of the benefits passing on to the widows. GI insurance was added during WW One, but near the end of WWII, congress passed a series of measures that culminated in the “GI Bill of Rights.”
The GI Bill of Rights provided education, jobs and job training, disability pensions, loans and insurance. But without Truman’s appointment of General Omar Bradley to head the VA, it would have been impossible to implement. His reorganization of the VA made it possible!
Veterans were provided with tuition plus subsistence. Colleges, universities and vocational schools were all included. Excellent examples of the response are Harvard and Stanford: Harvard’s under graduate pre-war enrollment was 8,000 while Stanford’s was 4,800. Stanford ballooned to 7,200 while Harvard expanded to 12,200! 75% of the enrollment in 1947 were veterans!
10 million returning vets entered the labor pool. Assistance was provided in the form of a “readjustment allowance” of $20 per week for a maximum of 52 weeks. It was known as the “52-20 Club.” The average time spent in this arraignment was eight weeks or less!
To purchase homes, small businesses or farms, the federal government guaranteed loans up to $4,000. This spurred on the housing industry and changed the US from a nation of renters to one of home owners! 1947 alone saw 226,000 veterans’ loans in the amount of $1 billion!
In 1947, General George Marshall, then the Secretary of State, decided on a massive economic aid program to help destitute Western Europe. The plan was to give some $17 billion in economic recovery help over a 4 year period.
Called the Marshall Plan by Truman, it was paid for from the surplus tax income! European Recovery Program of 1948, or Marshall Plan, seems almost a miraculous event. It was launched by the administration of an unelected, "lame duck" president whose loss of the upcoming election appeared to be such a virtual certainty that both press and politicians openly talked about his administration being "scheduled" to leave office in 1949. Indeed, President Harry S. Truman's personal popularity was perceived to be so low by his own party that he was actually pressed not to assist in the congressional campaign of 1946.
A recovery program of monumental dimensions, the Marshall Plan expended more than $12.5 billion (equivalent to roughly $60 billion today). The consequences of the Marshall Plan were the eventual fall of the Soviet Block.
But it was only after the first rush of returning Vets had taken advantage of their GI Bill rights and graduated from university (c. 1950) and Jack Kennedy took office that higher education saw the need for women to replace those men and made places for them to advance.
So, all in all, that growth produced: 14 Nobel Prize winners, 3 Supreme Court Judges, 3 Presidents, 12 or more senators, 24 Pulitzer Prizes, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 450,000 engineers, 240,000 accountants, 17,000 journalists, 22,000 dentists, and who knows how many lawyers, nurses, artists, writers, pilots and others along with the space program and the men, veterans of our generation who walked on the Moon - is enough for us to be proud of.
The financial problems brought on by such rapid growth forced Stanford to become entrepreneurial, to bring in industry, and the government, to pay for the research necessary to fund the expanded schools of engineering and to bring the medical school down from San Francisco; they built the Stanford Shopping Center to add to the income stream, and they subdivided the Farm and leased land to industry to build plants because they didn’t have the endowments that the great eastern universities had available. In doing so, they create a new place called Silicon Valley! All because of a little bill that Congress passed to repay us…
I ask you, what would our Valley of Hearts Delight be like without the G.I. Bill? Would San Jose State Teachers' College have become San Jose State University? Would there have been the great demand for homes and sub-divisions? Without men such as Stanford Presidents Wallace Sterling and Don Tressider would we even know what entrepreneurial means?
We, those who served during World War II, did what we did because of the previous generation. Our parents who were Victorians, our teachers who were also Victorians, raised us with their values: God, Country, Honor, Duty, and Civility. Because of those inbred standards, my generation did what we did.
So please continue to send greetings on Memorial Days and on Veterans Day, we will surely appreciate them, but don't assign us such great credit such as the Greatest Generation. Save that accolade for those who stood on the wall before we did.
Gerald M. Rosenthal
29 May, 2011 to Barbi Ennis Connolly
Lesson #1 from our GREATEST GENERATION; Honesty, Humility, Love of Country and "We Shall Never Forget" God Bless our brave men... Barbi