The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 518 pages
3 Reviews
In 2003, 85 years after the armistice, it took Richard Rubin months to find just one living American veteran of World War I. But then, he found another. And another. Eventually he managed to find dozens, aged 101 to 113, and interview them. All are gone now.

A decade-long odyssey to recover the story of a forgotten generation and their Great War led Rubin across the United States and France, through archives, private collections, and battlefields, literature, propaganda, and even music. But at the center of it all were the last of the last, the men and women he met: a new immigrant, drafted and sent to France, whose life was saved by a horse; a Connecticut Yankee who volunteered and fought in every major American battle; a Cajun artilleryman nearly killed by a German aeroplane; an 18-year-old Bronx girl “drafted” to work for the War Department; a machine-gunner from Montana; a Marine wounded at Belleau Wood; the 16-year-old who became America's last WWI veteran; and many, many more.

They were the final survivors of the millions who made up the American Expeditionary Forces, nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century. Self-reliant, humble, and stoic, they kept their stories to themselves for a lifetime, then shared them at the last possible moment, so that they, and the World War they won – the trauma that created our modern world – might at last be remembered. You will never forget them. The Last of the Doughboys is more than simply a war story: It is a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory.


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Thanks for your book. My father and father-in-law served in World War I. Unfortunately, I didn't ask them for much information about their experiences. My dad lived with a French family in France and drove a motorcycle in the Occupation. My father-in-law was in the Polar Bear Expedition in Russia and was from Detroit. He had a pocket diary that I read years ago, mainly concerned with quitting smoking so he could sell his cigarettes, talking about the Ruskies and the Reds. He brought back several newspapers and pamphlets printed by his division(?). I have them in my garage somewhere if anyone would be interested in looking them over.
Again, thanks and thanks for the photos. I kept referring to them as I read.
Betty Harris

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No Mans Land
1 Wolves on the Battlefield
2 Over the Top
3 The American Sector
4 Cheer and Laughter and Joyous Shout
5 The People Behind the Battle
6 The Forgotten Generation
7 Give a Little Credit to the Navy
12 Old Dixieland in France
13 LOssuaire
14 A Wicked Gun That Machine Gun
15 Wasnt a Lot of Help
16 The Last Night of the War
17 The Last of the Last
18 We Are All Missing You Very Much
Back Matter

8 A Vast Enterprise in Salesmanship
9 Hell We Just Got Here
10 We Didnt See a Thing
11 Loyal True Straight and Square
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About the author (2013)

Richard Rubin is the author of Confederacy of Silence . He has written for the Atlantic , the New York Times Magazine , The New Yorker , Smithsonian , and New York magazine. He lives in New York and Maine. Learn more about Richard Rubin at or follow him on twitter @LastDoughboys.

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