Long Journeys Home: American Veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam

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In the modern history of American veterans, it is sometimes difficult to separate myth from fact. The men and women who served in World War II are routinely praised as heroes; the “Greatest Generation,” after all, triumphed over fascism and successfully reentered postwar society. Veterans of the Vietnam War, on the other hand, occupy a different thread in the postwar narrative, sometimes as a threat to society but usually as victims of it; these vets returned home to a combination of disdain, fear, and prolonged suffering. And until very recently, both the public and historians have largely overlooked veterans of the Korean War altogether; the hit television show M*A*S*H was set in Korea but was more about Vietnam.
Gambone does not treat these veterans monolithically but instead puts each era’s veterans in historical context. He also explores the nuances of race, gender, and class. Despite many differences, some obvious and some not, Gambone nonetheless finds a great deal of continuity, and ultimately concludes that Korean and Vietnam veterans have much more in common with the Greatest Generation than was previously understood.

Submitted by:
Dr. Michael Gambone

About the author:
Michael Gambone is a professor of history at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division between 1985 and 1988. Dr. Gambone also served as an Army civilian contractor in Iraq in 2006.

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