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

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“Richard Rubin has done something that will never be possible for anyone to do again. His interviews with the last American World War I veterans—who have all since died—bring to vivid life a cataclysm that changed our world forever but that remains curiously forgotten here.”—Adam Hochschild, author of To End All A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918

In 2003, 85 years after the end of World War I, Richard Rubin set out to see if he could still find and talk to someone who had actually served in the American Expeditionary Forces during that colossal conflict. Ultimately, he found dozens, aged 101 to 113, from Cape Cod to Carson City, who shared with him at the last possible moment their stories of America’s Great War. Nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century, they were self-reliant, humble, and stoic, never complaining, but still marveling at the immensity of the war they helped win, and the complexity of the world they helped create. Though America has largely forgotten their war, you will never forget them, or their stories. A decade in the making, The Last of the Doughboys is the most sweeping look at America’s First World War in a generation, a glorious reminder of the tremendously important role America played in the war to end all wars, as well as a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory.

“An outstanding and fascinating book. By tracking down the last surviving veterans of the First World War and interviewing them with sympathy and skill, Richard Rubin has produced a first-rate work of reporting.”—Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia

“I cannot remember a book about that huge and terrible war that I have enjoyed reading more in many years."—Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

544 pages, Paperback

First published May 21, 2013

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About the author

Richard Rubin

16 books44 followers
Richard Rubin is the author of the upcoming BACK OVER THERE from St. Martin's Press. He is also the author of The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War and Confederacy of Silence: A True Tale of the New Old South, as well as scores of pieces for The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Smithsonian, among others. A fifth-generation New Yorker, he now lives in small-town Maine, which baffles his neighbors. You can visit him at richardrubinonline.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 275 reviews
Profile Image for KOMET.
1,114 reviews135 followers
March 20, 2017
A few minutes ago (it's now 9:29 PM EST as I write this), I finished reading this book. I felt both grateful for the considerable work the author put into travelling across the country (starting in the summer of 2003) to interview personally as many of the surviving U.S. veterans (men and women alike) of the First World War as could be found --- and thankful to hear these veterans speak of their experiences. This has a special resonance to me because my maternal grandfather (who was born in 1895) had served in France as a corporal in the U.S. Army in 1918. He passed away in the early 1970s (when I was a 3rd grader) as I was beginning to come into an awareness of what war was, courtesy of Vietnam. So, it wasn't until many years later, that I came to have a special appreciation for those Americans who served in the First World War and for the changes that war wrought on this country.

Many of the persons Richard Rubin interviewed represented a broad cross-section of those Americans (both native born and immigrant) who served in uniform between 1917 and 1918. While most of the veterans he interviewed (Army, Navy, and Marine Corps) served overseas, there were at least a couple of them who remained in the United States. Indeed, one of them enlisted toward the end of the war and before he could become more fully integrated in "the Army way", the armistice was signed and he was told he could go home. He hadn't been issued a uniform and aside from receiving transit home, the Army gave him a certificate of service and a dollar.

The author also managed to interview a couple of African American veterans of the war. One of them, was George Johnson, a 111 year old living in Richmond, California in 2005. His Army experience was largely reflective of the disdain and indignities with which many African Americans who served in the U.S military during the First World War had to deal with from their white compatriots, and the general society. Mr. Johnson's case was somewhat unique in that, as a very light-skinned African American, he could have easily passed as white, had he so chose. When he speaks with the author about the experiences his brother had with the U.S. Navy (where he was thought to be white and treated as such, until in answer to a query one of his shipmates put to him, he admitted that he was 'Negro'), it was a very sad and tragic story. One that impacted on Mr. Johnson for the rest of his life and perhaps was the contributing factor that made Mr. Johnson later see himself as white and not black. The other African American veteran the author interviewed in 2006 was Moses Hardy at age 113 in Aberdeen, Mississippi. Mr. Hardy served in one of the U.S. Army "pioneer infantry" regiments in France which saw combat during the final stages of the war.
He was in one of the few African American combat units, for most African American soldiers, upon arrival in France, were placed into labor units. (According to the book: "...only 20 percent of all African American troops sent to France in World War I were used as fighting men.") This was reflective of the then widespread belief that African American soldiers were unfit for combat duties. (Never mind the distinguished service African Americans had provided the country as soldiers and sailors since the American Revolution.)

The book concludes with a series of interviews the author had with Frank Woodruff Beckles, who ended up as the last surviving U.S. First World War veteran. His story was richly fascinating, encompassing so much of the world in which he spent so much time between the wars, working on a variety of jobs.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the U.S. declaration of war against Germany (April 6, 1917), I would strongly urge any one reading this review to pick up a copy "THE LAST OF THE DOUGHBOYS" and treat yourself to one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have.
Profile Image for Jill Mackin.
356 reviews161 followers
September 17, 2018
A muddy and bloody account of The Great War in the trenches and battlefields of France by the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Forces. The author interviewed survivors in 2003, many of them 104, 105, 106 and 107. They are all deceased now obviously. An excellent read.

As an aside: My grandfather fought in The Great War and was in the battle of the Argonne. In 1972 when I went to Chicago to visit him, he pulled out an old trunk and he had his war equipment and medals inside. He also had a gas mask. I remember him allowing me to put the mask to my face and it had an awful smell. I was 9 years old and I've never forgotten that memory.

He'd also received a purple heart and a few other medals. He was a hero to me.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,135 reviews52 followers
April 11, 2019
The Last of the Doughboys was written by Richard Rubin and published in 2013. It is largely about Rubin’s interviews with dozens of American WW1 veterans who were already centenarians at the time of his research in the mid 2000’s. Some of the subjects were sailors but most were infantrymen or “doughboys”. There was some diversity in the book as well; a chapter on a woman who was drafted into the service for WW1 and a chapter on one man who was part of the Harlem Hellfighters. The author found most of his subjects through an effort by the French government in the 1990’s to honor all of America’s WW1 still-living veterans who had served in France, mostly doughboys and those sailors who were based out of French ports. One of the men interviewed by Rubin was the last WW1 veteran to appear in a military parade.

For most of the early portion of the book, Rubin relays his interviews with the veterans, compiles their bios so that we can get to know them and tells their vignettes of the war; some veterans were clear-minded while others were not as lucid. Most of the veterans seemed to put on a brave face and many were very matter of fact about their contributions. As Rubin points out, they not only experienced the horrors of WW1 and survived but lived through the Great Depression and many other difficult times. In short they have a unique perspective on life that Rubin captured. He even interviews the world’s oldest centenarian, not a U.S. veteran, to gain some additional perspective on the super-annuated. How did they live so long? Genetics and luck are the determinant factor although some of those profiled were especially active at an advanced age, walking several miles a day well into their 80’s. This portion of this book is exciting but a little muddled.

The middle chapters discuss the author’s experiences visiting the WW1 war memorials in France mixed in with a lot of history. Some two million American soldiers and sailors were deployed to the European Theater in WW1 where more than 50,000 lost their lives. There are dozens of official cemeteries, monuments and markers specifically commemorating the Americans. .
L’Ossuaire was perhaps my favorite chapter in the author’s tour of the battlefields and cemeteries. It gets high marks on the ‘I never knew that’ meter. L’Ossuaire is the memorial to the soldiers from both sides who fought at the Battle of Verdun and contains the bones of 130,000 soldiers whose remains could not be identified because of the indiscriminate shelling. Nearly 300,000 French and Germans lost their lives over this very small area of the Western Front. Near the village are the series of famous fortresses and remains which stand on a seemingly impregnable rock protrusion.
This portion on the one hand seems out of place but as a standalone section it worked for me. The author supported the view that France and their government really cares about the World War I contributions of America’s doughboys. A few miles from Verdun sits the The St Mihiel American Cemetery which contains the remains of several thousand American doughboys, commemorating the Battle of St Mihiel where American forces defeated the Germans in one of the last significant battles of WW1.
So 2018 was the 100th anniversary of Armistice. In April Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, gave Donald Trump an oak sapling from Belleau Wood to commemorate America’s contribution in WW1. The Battle of Belleau Wood has special significance to the U.S. military and the Marine Corps in particular. This past November, President Trump skipped the memorial service at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at Belleau Wood — because of the rainy weather. I think this is exactly the type of historical indifference that many Americans have with regard to WW1 and the author seized on this view way back in 2013 when he published the book.

The concluding chapters of the book covered the following individuals.
Bill Lake in Camp Lewis Washington. Wild West Division as part of the 91st. Bill delivered machine gun ammo from depot to the front lines. As a result he was the biggest target of the German artillery. At the Meuse-Argonne, Bill Lake and his compatriots dealt Germany the coup de grace that ended the war. The author wrote “I left Bill Lake that afternoon in April 2004, with a promise that I would come see him again in July, when I planned to be back in the area. I told myself that I would be sure to bring my video camera the next time. And I did. But I didn’t get to interview him; in June, he went into the hospital to have surgery for a perforated ulcer, contracted pneumonia post-op and died.”
Warren Hileman in Illinois. He was a surviving member of American Expediton Force - Siberia. The U.S. sent billions of dollars of military supplies, guns, shells, locomotives to Russia before the Bolshevik revolution took place. The Allied governments and especially the U.S. became very concerned when Russia bowed out of the Great War. So the U.S. Sent an army to reclaim their hardware at Archangel amidst all the chaos. The force ended up hundreds of miles within Russia and they sent another force to Vladivostok on the west coast. This was at the same time that the Czech force was fighting against the Bolsheviks in Siberia. Odd, but a very real part of our history.
Frank Buckles made it to France in WW1 as part of a motor crew operating far behind the lines. After the armistice Frank was assigned to take the German POWs back to Germany by train and guarded one of the boxcars. He was shot at by a French soldier who was taking potshots at the POW train. The German prisoners treated Frank with respect as he could speak German. Years later when Frank was a civilian he was captured in WWII by the Japanese shortly after Pearl Harbor. He was on a steamship that was traveling to Manila. He was taken to Santo Thomas and imprisoned in an internment camp where he spent most of WWII.

4 to 4.5 Stars. Solid writing with genuine historical insights into the doughboys and the Great War that spurred dozens of ‘I never knew that’ moments and at times very poignant. All told a very unique approach to recording history.

As much as I liked this book, the author could have done better with the organization. Beyond the intriguing human angle around interviewing so many centenarian veterans, there are valuable pieces of history, either underreported, unknown or forgotten to the world. A lot of ground to cover. But I feel a general lack of organization prevented this book from being better, perhaps because the author is more of a writer and less of a historian. In the same vein, the chapter titles are a little too cutesy ‘We Didn’t See a Thing’ or ‘Wasn’t A Lot of Help’ and so on.
Profile Image for happy.
303 reviews96 followers
January 22, 2014
Starting in 2003 the author interviewed as many surviving World War One veterans as he could find. This is book is not just the story of the veterans, but also of Mr. Rubin’s search for them and the troubles he had in finding and interviewing extremely old people. All of the the interviewees were between 101 and 113 yrs old.

In telling their story, Mr. Rubin recounts the difficulty he had in finding them. One would think the VA would have a list, but when the author contacted them, they basically told him, we have no idea how many are still alive, good luck in your search and let us know what you find. He finally happened on a list the French gov’t had put together in the ’90s when they were awarding all surviving veterans a Legion d’Honneur. He then got on the phone and started calling people. I found his accounts of the first phone calls amusing.

In addition to giving the reader what the veteran said, Mr. Rubin also sets their actions in context with a brief summary from the historical record. Many of the vets said “Nothing much happened and I was in a pretty safe area”. Then the author recounts the vet had been in or near the trenches for most of his time in France and in some of the fiercest fighting. It seems that as a general rule the vets were a very stoic group of people.

The group of survivors interviewed covers quite a range of experiences. He interviewed both the last surviving Canadian, who had moved to the US, and US veterans, those who made it to France as well as those who did not, as well african-americans, hispanics and women and all branches of the service. It seems that except for the African-Americans, the military was a genuine melting pot. I found the treatment of the African American soldiers especially troubling, though given the society norms for the time not particularly surprising.

In addition to the interviews, Mr. Rubin gives a flavor of the culture of the early 20th century as the US edged closer to war. He makes extensive use of the music of the time comparing the prewar Tin Pan Alley sheet music, which was decidedly anti US getting involved in the war to the post declaration of War sheet music which to put it mildly was pro war. He also quotes extensively William Empey’s novel Over The Top to give some understanding to what life was like in the trenches.

Mr. Rubin comes to some conclusions on both the war experience of these people and their living an extraordinary long life. In all of the interviews he had with the veterans, they were almost all very stoic and matter of fact about the experience. Some were very spry and wanted to tell their stories, while others were so feeble as to be almost unable to participate. Also to a person they were hard of hearing. Mr Rubin came to the conclusion to live to be 100+ you have to pick your parents well. Almost as a throwaway line, he says that if born today with the improvement of our understanding of nutrition, these people would probably live to be 140.

In conclusion I found this very moving account of the last of the World War I survivors and give it my whole hearted recommendation.
Profile Image for Phrodrick.
901 reviews39 followers
July 20, 2017
This is a review of the 20 hour CD set, The Last of the Doughboys by Richard Rubin. Because this is an oral history and because narrator Grover Gardner does such an exceptional job this unedited version has more life and more humanity than reading the words. Author Richard Rubin injects a little too much of himself into the book especially about his interest in period sheet music and threatening to make it a travel book about visiting battlefields but these distractions are only slightly over done. The net effect is to insure that we have historic context and a sense of the reality of what these former soldiers say and survived. Very highly recommended. In fact reading this book could be considered an act of patriotic respect for those who serve and have served our country.

Over a period of several years beginning in 2003, author Richard Rubin located and attempted to speak with every American survivor of World War I. Oddly his most important tool for identifying and locating these scattered and aged people was a list made by the Republic of France so that they could personally award every American who had served on French soil a membership in the Legion of Honor. This is very high recognition and a rebuke to American who may not think of the French as having respect for Americans or American Service in their defense.

The Veterans
In these 18 disks we get to meet at least one American, and a Canadian or two who served in any of a wide variety of mostly front line positions in the trenches. He succeeded in finding representatives from a lot more than trench line combat. Few American are aware that there was a second American Expeditionary Force, this one serving, invading from the Soviet point of view in Russia. This AEF was nominally there to recover American Arms and Weapon least they be used by the Germans, but the combat these troops saw was against Russian marauders and Soviet troops. Many American do not think the U S Navy had a role in World War I, but Rubin found some surviving sailors who can testify otherwise.

He sought out women; and that most despised 350,000 American troops, the African American soldier. Their special status was the more remarkable because Native American also volunteered into the US Army. It had not been that many years before when these people were enemies exchanging attacks between their villages and the same U S Army. At least two Native Americans and a number of hyphenated American were interviewed in the making of this book.

The Distractions

The word distraction is perhaps too strong, but I found Rubin tended toward the self-indulgent in some of the many pages not devoted to the dough-boys.

Rubin has a hobby of collecting sheet music, much of it from the Tin Pan Alley writers who wrote the songs of WWI. Some of these helped to introduce themes he intended to address in the following section, but the amount of space given to sheet music amounts to: Too mush.
With an apparent intention of keeping the reader oriented, there is too much about the business of getting to these survivors and dealing with accents thickened by aging vocal cords. One tends to agree that the various homes and facilities wherein these people would live out their last rarely seemed to think about what made these patients and tenants different.

I agree that most readers/listeners, myself included need outline introductions to specific locations, battles and campaigns of World War I, too often he got too involved with the local people now living near battle sites and perhaps maintaining local collections
Tons of metal and not a few human bones are still being recovered from French soil deposited during WW I. Part of understanding what American lived through in France over 100 years ago, is to realize how much destruction attended the trench war and how much of this destruction was visited upon the French people and their homes.

Listening to this Book,
This is an oral history. It represent what is in fact the last chance Americans had to hear the experiences of and to honor the Americans who served in WW I. The Veterans of World War I earned this recognition. We need the reminder to listen to those who went and did, and to listen before they are the last of theirs.
Profile Image for Philip.
1,439 reviews75 followers
August 21, 2016
Brilliant concept and almost flawless execution. I know I said in an earlier review of Winston Groom’s A Storm in Flanders that it feels wrong to say I actually “enjoyed” a book about such a horrific period of history, but Last of the Doughboys was just a solid pleasure from it’s amazing first sentence (see below) to the very end – fascinating, informative and surprisingly entertaining.

Most – but not all – of the book is told as oral history, through characters and in voices more real than any novelist or screenwriter could come up with. In between many of the interview chapters, however, Rubin provides separate ruminations on such peripheral – but equally interesting - subjects as the war's impact on propaganda, music – and who can forget such hits as “If He Can Fight Like He Can Love, Good Night Germany!”, “Hello Gen’ral Pershing (How’s My Daddy To-Night?)”, “We Are Out for the Scalp of Mister Kaiser Man,” and “Look What My Boy Got in France” (it’s not what you think)? - racism, etc.

Rubin’s tone is always respectful but often wry, frequently amusing and occasionally hilarious. Indeed, his insights and asides are so vital to the story that he unintentionally (but in a good way) becomes as unique and important character to his story as the men (and women) he interviews. Unlike other most WWI books I’ve read, while Doughboys necessarily highlights the unspeakable losses and horrors of the war, it is unique in the way it focuses on and celebrates the survivors (of not only the war, but then the next 80+ years as well), and so in the end is about as upbeat and life-affirming a book about WWI could be. Oh, and that opening sentence:

Before the New Age and the New Frontier and the New Deal, before Roy Rogers and John Wayne and Tom Mix, before Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, before the TVA and TV and radio and the Radio Flyer, before The Grapes of Wrath and Gone With the Wind and The Jazz Singer, before the CIA and the FBI and the WPA, before airlines and airmail and air conditioning, before LBJ and JFK and FDR, before the Space Shuttle and Sputnik and the Hindenburg and the Spirit of St. Louis, before the Greed Decade and the Me Decade and the Summer of Love and the Great Depression and Prohibition, before Yuppies and Hippies and Okies and Flappers, before Saigon and Inchon and Nuremberg and Pearl Harbor and Weimar, before Ho and Mao and Chiang, before MP3s and CDs and LPs, before Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson, before the pill and Pampers and penicillin, before GI surgery and GI Joe and the GI Bill, before AFDC and HUD and Welfare and Medicare and Social Security, before Super Glue and titanium and Lucite, before the Sears Tower and the Twin Towers and the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, before the In Crowd and the A Train and the Lost Generation, before the Blue Angels and Rhythm & Blues and Rhapsody in Blue, before Tupperware and the refrigerator and the automatic transmission and the aerosol can and the Band-Aid and nylon and the ballpoint pen and sliced bread, before the Iraq War and the Gulf War and the Cold War and the Vietnam War and the Korean War and the Second World War, there was the First World War, World War I, the Great War, the War to End All Wars.

74 reviews4 followers
July 2, 2013
Richard Rubin's does a great job of bringing World War I to light. As the tag line of the book states, World War I is largely forgotten, and the generation of men and women involved in that global war were largely ignored, as they are overshadowed by the next generation of vets who fought in World War II.

The strongest element of this book (some may strongly disagree) is that Rubin isn't trying to write academically. Rather, he writes from an extremely personal perspective. He isn't trying to make a point about war or politics, but rather just telling the stories of certain veterans who are largely forgotten.

In sharing these veteran's accounts, Rubin really finds and interviews some extraordinary people. The subject were all over 100 years old when he interviewed them, and really demonstrates how these individuals are folks who lived in a very very different world than the one we know. The personal accounts are at times funny, touching, and sometimes nauseating as to how much carnage and death these soldiers saw on the front lines.

Rubin also brings to light some fascinating but little known sides of the war, such as the American Expeditionary Forces that were sent to North Russia and to Siberia to (sort of) partake in the Russian Civil war at that time. Some of the stories of the US forces engaging Cossack forces are truly fascinating.

Another great strength about this book is the political background that Rubin gives about the war, and how that war really did set the stage for World War II. Not only does he describe the atmosphere from political perspectives, but he also spends a fair amount of time discussing the popular culture at the time (especially the music produced by Tin Pan Alley in New York), and how the ethnic makeup of the US at that time affected war outlooks.

A brief, but powerful segment of the book is Rubin's discussion of how the veterans were treated after the war ended. in the hard times ahead during the early 1930s, WWI vets marched on Washington seeking veteran's bonuses that were promised to them, and how President Hoover ordered a brutal crackdown. Moreover, some of the military brass involved in suppressing this Veteran's march were people we consider heroes today, including the likes of Patton, MacArthur, and Eisenhower.

The biggest weakness of this book is that it is very long. Rubin has a tendency to go off on tangents about his personal thoughts, which is fine at times, but he does it often and in a very long winded manner. He really did drag out the discussion of music during the era, and some other side discussions did drag on a little too long. But overall, a great read for any history buff.
Profile Image for Leanda Lisle.
Author 7 books308 followers
January 31, 2014
This was part of my reading as a judge for the Guggenheim-Lehrman Military History Prize - and one of my favourites. Oral histories can be pretty weak, but this one is original, moving, and witty. Rubin interviews the last living Americans to have served in WWI - all well over a hundred years old. They are a very mixed bag - some never even got to France - but that makes it all the more interesting. We get an unusually rounded view. Its not all about the front line. Not just a book for military history buffs- and really a must read as we approach the centenary anniversary of the war. I loved it.
Profile Image for Dany Le Goaix.
275 reviews15 followers
May 17, 2015
Expected alot more. The author's continuous insertion of himself into the conversations was really annoying and distracting. Too much time spent on historical context of each individual he was interviewing. I was hoping to get individual perspectives of the war but these were far and few between. Really perplexed on how well reviewed this book is. Good have done with some serious editing.
Profile Image for Cindy.
39 reviews24 followers
January 25, 2016
The Last of the Doughboys weaves early 20th century history through interviews with the last living American vets of WW1 - interviews conducted from 2003 to 2011 when the last of the last died - interviews given to each vet after they had passed the centenarian mark.

The book is not so much an academic history as it is a human interest story, though there is plenty of well researched and documented history, specifically of WW1, in its pages. From the details of his methodology for finding the remaining living WW1 vets to his fascination with Tin Pan Alley sheet music, the author shows us the forgotten generation and the forgotten war through his own unique perspective and experiences in studying the subject matter. In many ways, I felt I learned more about the author than the vets through the reading of this book.

Nevertheless, the content was mostly captivating, and Rubin ably described many facets of the war and its lingering effects through the personalities of his interviewees. Rubin used not only the words of these centenarians but also their character, body language, and personal circumstances ... not to mention, other random unrelated observations such as weathered memorials, to help the reader envision how war shaped both national and individual human psyches.

Overall I enjoyed the read as it provoked some thoughtfulness. However, while the subject matter was interesting, I gave it 4 stars for its need of better editing. I found the author rambled too much, repeated unnecessary information, and included lengthy lists of details where smaller lists would have accomplished his purposes. For instance, at first I was enthralled by how he described the American relationship to WW1 through the history of Tin Pan Alley music written during that era. It was a fresh perspective of the war as seen through pop culture of the day, but it seemed he felt it necessary to include every piece of music he had ever collected when a much fewer well-chosen examples was sufficient to make his point. As such, I found myself skimming to the end of several chapters.

I do recommend the book if for no other reason than the respect it affords to senior adults and their amazing lives even when they can no longer remember those lives in vivid detail. I commend the author for tackling such a project when the world had already forgotten these precious lives.
Profile Image for Valerie Cotnoir.
Author 5 books32 followers
July 27, 2020
Full review to come. But in the meantime, whoa. Wow. One of the best books, not just that I've read in 2020, but in my life. Thanks a million, R.R.

Full review:

Beginning in 2003 until 2013, Richard Rubin set out to do something no one else will ever be able to do again. He interviewed the last surviving American veterans of World War 1. These men and women ranged from ages 103 to 113 by the time he found them, all scattered throughout the nation. In 2011, the very last World War 1 veteran, not just of the United States, but of the world, passed away at the age of 110. This man, Frank Woodruff Buckles, was just sixteen when he enlisted into the Army. Once Rubin had interviewed as many of these veterans as he could find, he started to write a book about them. He titled this book The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War. At first he expected these veterans to be, essentially, like everyone else, only older. He quickly discovered that he was wrong. Not only were these men and women different because of what they went through, they were different because they grew up in a different time. And yet, there’s nothing especially extraordinary about them. As different as they are, they are human just like us. Nevertheless, these individuals have been largely forgotten, neglected and ignored throughout their lives. Ultimately, the stories of these ordinary men and women who served during World War 1 demonstrate that they did extraordinary things in a strange time in history. Therefore, they have earned the right to be heard, remembered and so much more.
Richard Rubin had a big project on his hands.

When he began to compile these interviews into one comprehensive book, he decided to also include whole chapters on several different topics concerning World War 1 in order to give his readers a broader perspective of the period. Some examples include a chapter on songs composed during the war, a chapter on the experience of immigrants and African-Americans serving in the war and even another on soldiers’ biographies written either during the war or within a decade after it ended. This style helped break up the long line of interviews while also giving Rubin a chance to share all he had learned from the research he had made. Almost all of this research was inspired by the stories the veterans told him. Several times a veteran would remember part of something he had participated in while serving, but not know the whole context behind it. In these situations, after the interview, Rubin would painstakingly research as much as he could to find out what, or where, or how what the veteran had tried to describe to him had happened. In the process, he often found out about obscure pieces of history that no one else seemed to know about, or at least talk about. Besides detailing the veterans’ interviews, Rubin also discussed his thoughts (and research) on what he called the Forgotten Generation that these men and women were a part of. This helps readers feel that these men and women he interviewed were real—as if we have met them, too. At the end, he always asked the veterans what life was like for each of them post-war and in the process, found out how they perceived the war eighty-five years after it had ended.

Rubin interviewed veterans of all backgrounds: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from Southern farmer to Northern immigrant, from Army to Navy to Marines, from white to black, from man to woman. They all had different stories to tell. However, they almost all had one thing in common: why they had enlisted in the first place. This was clearly demonstrated in Frank Buckles’ simple response to Rubin’s question of why he wanted to go to France: “Oh, well … I wanted action, of course.” However, not all who volunteered to serve participated in combat. Some did not even make it to France. One of the amazing things about World War 1 was that the action that happened in France, the action we think of as moving the war forward (or backward), could not have happened without millions of soldiers doing hard work behind the scenes. For example, the Allied Navy blockade of Germany throughout the course of the war prevented the Germans from receiving food, ammunition, supplies and a great number of the valuable things they needed to survive as a country. This, in turn, weakened the German army, which gave the Allies on the war front a chance to start pushing them back in France. Another example is the 20th Engineers who cut down trees for much needed lumber before sending it off to the front. Veteran Arthur Fiala was one of them. After describing his experience behind the front lines to Rubin, he suddenly cried out, “Listen! The people behind the battle were just as important as the people in the battle! … I don’t know why the hell they put me in with the engineers! I didn’t ask them to do it! I wanted to be in the battle, but they put me in with engineering.” Fiala mistakenly believed that his service was not as important or valuable as those who had served in combat. Just because he did not see any “action” did not mean he and the 20th Engineers did not contribute to the war effort. Furthermore, there were some people, as mentioned above, who had been drafted in late 1918 and were in the midst of training when the Armistice was signed. One Harold Gardner had even so far as boarded a train—his ultimate destination being France—when they were told they would not have to go after all. They never made it across the Atlantic Ocean. Rubin feels, however, that “something about [World War 1] carved in them a furrow so deep that for the remaining eight or so decades of their lives, they needed, now and again, to run a finger or memory through that groove, to feel it again for a few minutes, an hour, two hours.” This was something Rubin gave them the chance to do. He was also given the chance to validate their experiences and their title as World War 1 veteran. They had more claim to it than any of us had.

Of the two million Americans who served in the Great War overseas, around 300,000 of them were African American. While African Americans in the United States were still longing for equal rights, in France much of the existing prejudice evaporated. It was not perfect, but in many ways, African Americans were treated with more respect overseas than they were at home. Rubin noted that “it is strange to think of the Army, an institution that is by definition hierarchical and authoritarian, as being more progressive, more sensitive, more caring than the society it protects; and yet, that’s exactly how things were in America during the First World War.” Rubin was able to interview two African American veterans of World War 1 as well as discuss race relations with other white veterans. While colored troops were, tragically, often forced to do the “dirty work” that the other troops did not want to do, there was a surprising level of admiration between the black and white soldiers. The war gave many a chance to experience a life they may never have even glimpsed if they had just stayed at home where they were born. In their cases, a life where prejudice no longer fits.

As the subtitle suggests, Rubin views these World War 1 veterans as belonging to what he calls the Forgotten Generation. What exactly does he mean when he uses that phrase? In one particular chapter in the book, Rubin gives a glimpse into the world these veterans grew up in. Within their short life before the Great War began (as all the veterans he interviewed were between the ages of fifteen and twenty-two when they enlisted), they had experienced the Panic of 1907, infant mortality was still very high, Jim Crow laws were still in effect, and many teenagers dropped out of high school, and never even considered college, in order to work to help provide for their families. They were the parents of what we call the Greatest Generation—the brave men and women who survived World War II. But were their parents any less great? Rubin argues that “[t]he parents of the Greatests—let’s call them the “Forgotten Generation”, since they are—grew up with all of the hardships I just listed, then went off to get the scalp of Mr. Kaiser Man, fighting in muddy, filthy trenches, battling tedium and lice as they ducked bullets, shells, and poison gas.” The Forgotten Generation deserves just as much respect as the Greatest, not because they are greater than the Greatest, but because they also endured much and made it on the other side of great suffering. Because of their experiences, their perspective on the world is different and unique compared to generations before and after them. During an interview with veteran J. Laurence Moffit, Rubin asked him what his secret to longevity was and whether or not it was difficult adjusting to life after the war. Moffit replied simply, “I take things as they are, and I don’t let problems bother me. I never have problems … Nothing has ever been hard for me. I just live.” While it is hard to believe that Moffit never experienced any problems in his life, he was obviously slow to complain about them. The key words “I just live” show a sense of dignity, perseverance and character in this man who had seen more in a few years than we will hopefully ever have to see in a lifetime.

After the war ended on November 11th, 1918, these veterans eventually returned home throughout the year 1919. Many were able to return to their previous jobs, relationships and pursuits they had been in the midst of before they left. Many others were less fortunate. While the veterans were received well in 1919, often greeted with parades and ceremonies, it did not take long before Americans tried to put them—and the war they were associated with—behind them. Many veterans did not receive their promised bonuses, many were turned away from potential jobs, many more were suffering mentally from shell shock or physically from wounds that never fully healed. Life was not easy for them. After the Roaring Twenties passed them by, they were soon engulfed in the Great Depression, followed closely by World War II. There was no peace for them. Yet, as the world moved forward, many of these veterans carried with them throughout their lives burdens of the past. While most of the veterans Rubin interviewed were stoic, one in particular, George Briant, was very transparent with his emotions. Toward the end of the interview, Rubin asked him about his experience of the last night of the war. Briant replied that the Germans and the Allies knew the end was near, so they launched all the shells they had left on the other side, for one final push. The next morning, Briant went out to observe the carnage. He could not hold back tears as he told Rubin: “It was a sad affair, when I went along there and saw these men laying there, dying—six, seven, eight at that time. And I—I cried for their parents.” … He turned away, narrowed his eyes and tensed his lips—and sobbed. “The last day of the war!” he gasped. “They sacrificed their life!” … “On the edge of the woods, figuring they were safe—and they sacrificed their lives without knowing it…I had nothing to do.”

Briant had been carrying this burden for eighty-five years and would take it with him to his grave. Some burdens—some memories—never leave you.
The veterans of World War 1 experienced a world no one ever had before—or since. During one of his interviews with Frank Buckles, Rubin asked him if he felt the world was smaller now than it was before. He was shocked when Buckles said that it felt smaller in the past compared to now, not the usual answer. Rubin admitted: “It took me years, and many more conversations with World War 1 veterans … to begin to understand what [Buckles] meant by that, and more years still to understand that that’s the greatest legacy of the Great War. It made the world a much larger place for everyone involved … They left the world they knew … for far-off places they’d never heard of, much less imagined, and there beheld things that even the people who’d always lived in them had never seen. They set off for a world war, and came back with a world. A much larger world. And left it to us.” So often people in the modern age believe the world is better, smaller, larger—however they would word it—because of advances in technology and travel. While this is in one sense true, in many ways, the world becomes smaller to you once you have traveled and seen the world for yourself. Oftentimes in doing so, preconceived ideas and prejudices fade away and you begin to understand the truth of reality. Our reality.

Richard Rubin accomplished many things in writing The Last of the Doughboys. He not only interviewed the last couple dozen surviving World War 1 veterans in America; he not only brought to light aspects of the war that few people know about or understand in an engaging way; he not only took the time and dedication such a project needed to be done properly; ultimately, he convicted his readers, me included, that we cannot allow these brave men and women to be forgotten. They were once—they must not be any longer. Rubin said of his book that “[m]ost of all, it is about how much of [World War 1] that we can still find, and see, and hear, and touch, if we just open our eyes and understand where, and how, to look. Because it really is everywhere—even now that the last of the doughboys have left us” (11). In 2017, the United States commemorated 100 years since they had entered the Great War. Beginning the following year, Washington D.C. put together plans for a World War 1 memorial, as every war that the United States has ever participated in has a memorial in D.C. except the Great War. In 2020, they began building. Soon, there will be a constant reminder of the Forgotten Generation in Washington D.C. itself. Then, perhaps, the war’s veterans and everyone else who lived during that terrible time, will come to be known as the Remembered Generation. As Robert Laurence Binyon wrote so eloquently in his poem “For the Fallen”, “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.” I certainly hope so.
Profile Image for J.S..
Author 1 book54 followers
September 12, 2014
The First World War has been mostly forgotten in America. With the Great Depression and a Second World War coming soon after maybe few *wanted* to remember. The monuments and plaques have faded into the landscape and few remember anymore the places and streets that were named to honor those who served. An online search of my own town turned up only Pershing Square in downtown L.A., a grimy and graffiti-covered monument near the 10 freeway, and "Clover Field" (now known as Santa Monica Municipal Airport) named after a local boy killed in the war. Few people I talked to even knew American soldiers in that war were called "doughboys." And it's a shame, really.

Richard Rubin spent the last ten years tracking down every veteran of WWI who was still living that he could find - all of whom were over 100 years old and all of whom are gone now. Some served in combat, others drove ambulances or trucks or trained for duties which they never got to perform. A few never even made it overseas before the Armistice was declared. One even fought in Siberia. (Siberia?!?) While Rubin recounts the experiences "over there" of those he met and interviewed this is not a collection of mini-biographies of those two or three dozen veterans. Instead he fills in the details of what it was like to live at that time, what their lives were like growing up and following the war, and why they enlisted. I found myself cringing at some of the stories and laughing at others, feeling outraged at the discrimination a few experienced, and sorrowing at the human cost. And yet I also felt a great sense of pride at the heroic deeds and the unassuming way they rebuilt their lives following the war.

Rubin also talks of his experiences interviewing the "forgotten generation" - how the interviews went, what it's like to talk to centenarians (most were hard of hearing), and the old 78 rpm records and sheet music from that era he has collected. He also tells of his own visits to those battlefields and still finding the scars of that war: the trenches and bomb craters, old shell casings in freshly plowed fields, and the multitude of monuments that show the French haven't forgotten the Great War, or the role Americans played in it. I was surprised at these "asides" at first, but soon found they not only put events into context but added a richness and color to the narrative, bringing it to life and making that time so long ago more relatable. This book probably doesn't have the kind of battlefield depth and detail a scholarly historian would be looking for, but for the rest of us amateur historians who just like a good history I can't recommend it highly enough.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,729 reviews751 followers
March 11, 2014
Richard Rubin has done lots of work in researching this book. He has had to travel all over the country to meet with the veterans for the interviews but the most difficult problem was in finding them. He had to be a detective hunting down the last of the survivors of world war one. This is an engaging book with wonderful tangents such as songs of the conflict; Rubin had gathered sheet music as well as old vinyl records of world war one songs. He also read many memoirs about the conflict. I have on my list to read next, one of the books he went into detail about, “Over the Top “written in 1918 by Arthur Guy Empey. Rubin travel widely employing a keen eye, he made almost a travelogue of World War One monuments and statues. He noted almost every town or city in the country has at least one memorial monument if not more in honor of local people who served in WWI. He also traveled through the WWI cemeteries in Europe also well as monument to the American troops who fought there. Rubin also found African-Americans that had served in the various armed services as well a few women. At the end of the book he discussed the terrible treatment given the veterans of WWI or should say lack of any treatment or service. Apparently the man President Harding appointed to head the Veterans Affairs abscond with millions of dollars he had embezzled. The author also gave some explanations about how the term Doughboy came about. I hope someone will do the same for the WWII veterans before it is too late. If we were on the ball we would be gathering the stories of veterans of all the wars we have fought we are losing so much of our history. I really enjoyed this book; it was at times funny at times serious but always delightful. I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible. Grover Gardner did a great job narrating the book.
Profile Image for Glynn.
299 reviews24 followers
April 21, 2015
This is an amazing book. The author set out to interview as many WWI veterans as he could find. In 2003 this was a difficult task. Most of the doughboys that he found were between 104 and 113 years old already. The US seems to have all but forgotten these veterans. To date, there is still no US National monument honoring these people. As opposed to “the greatest generation,” this is the “forgotten generation.” The author was only mostly successful because, unlike America, France did not forget what these people did for the world. In 1998 , the French government tried to give the French Legion d’Honneur medal to as many as they could find, and largely because of this the author was able to track down and interview many remaining doughboys. He writes about interviewing people over 100 and muses that people who have lived so long are not like you and I. There is something definitely different about them that let them live that long. Today there are no more doughboys left alive. The very last doughboy was Frank Buckles (whom the author interviewed as well as many others.) This book documents a forgotten time and war and does so with great respect, and honors the men and women who were the parents of the so-called greatest generation. These people were just as great. I highly recommend this excellent book.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,107 reviews139 followers
January 28, 2014

Cashed it in early on this book. While I enjoyed some of the remembrances by surviving World War I veterans and appreciated Rubin's efforts to tie their memories into larger themes, in the end it felt like he was so overawed at finding centenarians to talk to that he felt obligated to use all their stories, and as anyone who has dealt with a very old person knows, sometimes those memories are vague or their role in the war was not interesting enough to warrant separate chapters.

I think this book could have been about half the length.
Profile Image for Don.
Author 4 books41 followers
February 24, 2014
I try to be stingy with books that I give 5 stars to. Grading on a curve makes a 5 star book stand out as it should. That said, I have to give this book an unexpected 5 stars.

I picked up the audio version of the book to listen to while I did yard work. This being the 100th anniversary of the start of WW I, I thought it would be an interesting read, despite the fact that I am already pretty well read on the subject.

This book will appeal to an audience that is not always interested in military history. Richard Rubin is very much part of the story as he describes his efforts to find and interview the last of the American WW I veterans who were all over 103 years old when he talked to them. Each had a fascinating story of their WW I experience. Rubin fills in the information between the interviews with background about the various aspects of the war. By the end of the book, someone who knew very little of WW I will be quite knowledgeable as well as greatly entertained by a series of great stories told in the first person by soldiers that were there.
Profile Image for Christopher Saunders.
931 reviews861 followers
May 24, 2017
Richard Rubin's The Last of the Doughboys is a work of journalism than a history book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Rubin interviewed the last surviving World War I veterans in the 2000s and combined that with a broad, conversational overview of the war and American culture in the early 20th Century. The book's light on battlefield experiences but it's excellent exploring topics like jingoistic war songs, racial and gender segregation, and the postwar experiences of a generation of servicemen (and women) largely forgotten by their successors.
Profile Image for John Nellis.
89 reviews7 followers
January 3, 2018
I found this to be a very informative and enjoyable book. The stories from the last living Great War veterans, along with the stories and facts added by the author to tell the tale of America in World War One. It gave me a better understanding of what America went through during the Great War. As well as how the first world war shaped the world and this country. This was an easy read and kept me interested from beginning to end.
Profile Image for Don Alesi.
91 reviews43 followers
September 16, 2018
To say that I found this book fascinating and intense is an understatement. In 2003 the author decided to interview every surviving American servicemen and women (there were a few) and tell their story.
What made this book so interesting was how he was able to locate the people who were well over 100 years old, set up and interview them, and intersperse it with a bit of enough history about the "Great War". He spends and entire chapter about the music and poetry of the time. What the culture was like and how books were written at the time.
The men and women interviewed had trouble remembering what they had for breakfast that day but many could recall with great detail what they saw, did and who died next to them. I had trouble putting the book down.
This is not a history of WW1. It's a story of the men and women who survived the almost forgotten war. Next time you are walking in a Cemetery and see a stone with the name of a WW1 veteran, say thanks to them. Over 100,000 of them died.
Profile Image for Christopher.
734 reviews40 followers
April 24, 2016
It was a war that cost millions of lives and involved the great powers of the day: Germany, Russia, France, Britain, Japan, the United States, and many others. Terrible atrocities were committed during this time and the world would never be the same again. If you though those two sentences were about World War II, you would be wrong. World War I was a calamity unlike anything the world had seen before, but has since become forgotten in the wake of the even more destructive war that followed it. Because of this and because our involvement barely covered 20 months, America's role in the Great War has been forgotten or even downplayed. Yet in this wonderful book, Mr. Rubin reexamines America's involvement in war to "Make the world safe for democracy" and even makes it accessible to us by interviewing some of the last American veterans to be alive. The last one died in 2010, but Mr. Rubin had the passion and the foresight to begin this project in 2003, while there were still a handful yet alive and lucid enough to remember the Great War. For the most part, the structure of the book alternates between chapters where one or more veterans talk about their experiences and some general history of the war that Mr. Rubin has been researching since 2003. It is both surprisingly complete and approachable. You don't have to be an expert in World War I history to like this book. And many of the stories the last surviving doughboys are able to convey are fascinating. Mr. Rubin makes an effective case for seeing America's involvement in the Great War in its true context. America did not arrive too late to effect the outcome as some current history textbooks would have you believe. America's involvement was crucial in hastening the end of the war. The battles American soldiers did take part in were just as grand and horrific as any World War II battle you can think of. And though the world's leaders botched the peace, the Great War and America's role in it marked the end of the Victorian and Edwardian era and signaled the beginning of the American century. The last two chapters do drag on a bit, but I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about World War I and America's role in it.
Profile Image for Elliott.
331 reviews63 followers
April 10, 2015
I loved this book, loved, loved, loved it. This is such a beautiful book in every aspect, in its construction, and its execution there can no longer be any parades of this sort ever again to paraphrase another book I love on this time period, and the passage of this time period-which is now not just gone in a spiritual sense, but in a literal sense as well. They're all gone now, every one of them.
I love this book because of my own connection to this war, which I feel like sharing here because this is the sort of book-which is another facet of its beauty-that asks its readers to share. My grandfather's uncle (my great-great uncle) Charles Andrew Beesaw 89th Infantry Division, 354th Regiment, died November 1st, 1918 during the Battle of Meuse-Argonne from wounds he had received. He was 22 years old, and he had brown hair, blue eyes, was short in stature, and rail thin. When I first found this information about him I was 22 years old myself, and short, and brown haired, and blue eyed, and formally thin. My only connection to him-my grandfather who'd known him-had been dead six years. The distance from his death to my birth was 72 years, which is the same distance from today to the North African Campaign in World War II. Meanwhile my generation has been pegged the Second Lost Generation, compared to the first-my great-great uncle's.
The point of this digression is the passage of time, and the passage of those memories onward. I am linked intimately with the First World War, as is everyone else in the world, and the few members of that world which Richard Rubin managed to speak with, while separated from our own by over a century and a quarter now are still and always shall be part of our present though they are all gone now. This book was an excellent reminder of that.
Profile Image for David.
1,630 reviews111 followers
February 22, 2021
The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War by Richard Rubin has been on my list for longer than I like to remember. The author explores the massive build up and unleashing of forces of war that everyone thought would be over quickly. He starts by trying to locate any living soldiers from that conflict and surprisingly turned up quite a few even 85 years after the end of that war. He then arranged to interview as many as possible over a period of months as they were mostly in their 90's and 100's and some died after he interviewed them but before the book was published. More than just a chronicle on the horrors of war, this book is a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory. All are gone now. His research took him a decade of travel 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 including an 18-year-old Bronx girl “drafted” to work for the War Department; a Marine wounded at Belleau Wood; and the 16-year-old who became America’s last WWI veteran; and many more. With memories disappearing as fast as the remaining participants it was a race against time for the author to pull this history together before it was lost forever. This was the first worldwide conflict with new and modern weapons of war that caused death and casualties on a massive scale and ended with creating the seeds for the second global conflict a few short years later with even more devastation!
Profile Image for Caitlin.
837 reviews68 followers
August 21, 2022
This isn't a book that you could sit down and read in one sitting (it is almost 500 pages, not including appendices and all that) but it's one that I found I couldn't help but return to over and over again. Rubin found and interviewed several dozen of the remaining veterans of World War I about their experiences and what I loved is that he finds the full spectrum of those who experienced the war. He interviewed "doughboys" who had served on the front lines, "doughboys" who never made it Over There before the armistice, Navy Yeomanettes who did clerical work and were some of the first women to serve in the Armed Forces, African Americans who were segregated and often restricted to manual labor because the idea of a black man with a gun was too upsetting to some and others. I've been obsessed with both World Wars and he revealed things I never knew about the first one, which was wonderful. He gives you a full sense of the war, not just one small aspect of it. And what I thought was best of all were the personal experiences and personalities of the interviewees. Rubin really made you feel like you were getting to know these people that were a decade or more in the grave and made you feel their loss more keenly than just hearing a news story about how the last WWI veteran had died. Excellent book and one I would definitely recommend to any history fan!
Profile Image for Maria.
4,003 reviews103 followers
August 13, 2015
Rubin started in 2003 to interview all surviving World War I veterans. Each of his subjects was over 100 years old, some several years past that. This book weaves their memories with history and Rubin's personal observations.

Why I started this book: It's been on my shelf for a while, and after reading about the first month of World War I in The Guns of August, I wanted to read a history that covered the rest of the war.

Why I finished it: This was not an overall history of the world and was not what I was expecting. I should have read the blurb. It's been on my list for so long that I didn't realize that it was going to be a lot more folksy oral history than a definitive overarching history. And expectations affect enjoyment.
Profile Image for Fishface.
3,099 reviews228 followers
April 19, 2021
This was an unexpectly great read! I was afraid it was going to be terribly reverent, in that way thst stultifies any reader, or over-focused on the dullsville details that make so many of these books bog down. The book was nothing of the sort. The writing is upbeat and often very funny. (Don't be alarmed by the page-and-a-half-long sentence that starts the book off; the author quickly gets his oars back in the water and he doesn't do that to you again.) The life stories in here are fascinating and well told, and like the author I found myself regretting that he didn't talk to many more of these old soldiers. I didn't think I was interested in the story of the AEF, but Rubin set me straight. Don't miss this book!
Profile Image for Bruce.
97 reviews1 follower
April 18, 2017
Rubin devoted a great deal of time interviewing the last American military personnel who served in WW1. Most were over a 100 years old at the time; all are gone now. The result was a fascinating glimpse into what WW1 looked like from the point of view of the average American serviceman (One gal was interviewed. She had been drafted to serve in a Washington DC office.)

Rubin's idea was of course to record the memories of the veterans before they passed.

I wanted to learn more about WW1 since I knew little especially prior to the US involvement. This book gave a real feel to the era and is a great human interest read.
Profile Image for Michael.
962 reviews149 followers
August 7, 2014
One of the best books I've read in 2013. Rubin goes on a quest to interview as many living veterans of the first World War as possible - a daunting task considering that all of them are at least 100 years old. The resulting story is a compelling biography and a very approachable "average joe's" history of the war. Between the interview chapters, Rubin talks about the war's effects on the people back in the US. The whole thing was very enjoyable and informative. I'm now even more grateful for the service of these soldiers.
Profile Image for Allison.
180 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2013
Excellent book. How fortunate that Mr. Rubin embarked on his project when he did, had he waited another year or two it may have been too late! WW1 Seems like such a long-ago war, it's been 99 years since the start of it all. But hearing from actual living veterans makes it seem much more recent and relevant. Highly recommended for any history buff.
105 reviews
June 6, 2013
Completely fantastic. Indispensable to an understanding of the American experience of WWI. Not to mention what it might be like to be a centenarian. A great great book.
Profile Image for Iowa City Public Library.
703 reviews71 followers
July 24, 2017
From Anne: "Published a few years ago, Richard Rubin’s The Last of the Doughboys is the product of interviews Rubin conducted in 2003 with remaining World War I veterans. At the time of the interviews, the participants were over 100 years old, but many of them enlisted as teenagers. From what the trenches were like to witnessing aerial combat to being away from home for the first time, Rubin’s interviews provide a fresh and human perspective on the Great War. Rubin also provides context to the events, battles, battalions, as well as the culture giving the interviews larger meaning. This book is all the more important now that this generation is lost to the ages."
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