I can hold my silence no longer.
Tom Brokaw is now being given credit for inventing the phrase "the greatest generation." In fact, he catergorically took credit for it on a radio/TV show last week.
I was using that construction long before Brokaw even became the NBC anchor.
Maybe I did not invent it, and I have never claimed to have done so.
But it is sure as can be that Brokaw did not.
In fact, it is my theory that he copped the whole idea of the greatest generation from me.
And this is how my theory goes . . .
Jane Pauley, who was a colleague of Brokaw's at NBC, used to visit this area quite regularly because, as I understand it, her mother lived in Belleair.
Back at that time, I was acquainted with the golf maven at the Belleview-Biltmore golf course (the old Pelican) who said he had given Pauley golf lessons.
At that time, I was quite friendly with Ed Imperato, a Belleair resident now deceased, who was a retired Air Force colonel and who had been associated with Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific during WW2.
Ed had also written several books. I was a frequent visitor to his library and study that was located apart from his house which was the house once occupied by Dan Topping (then New York Yankees owner) and film star Lana Turner.
Imperato flew the first plane into Japan after the surrender in August, 1945, and I wrote a column about that and him and the greatest generation.
It is my firm belief that Pauley read that column, saw the reference to the greatest generation, shared it with Brokaw who then proceeded to write a book.
All of which I am very happy about because with Brokaw's high profile he could get out and publicize this greatest generation rather than an old obscure patch in the pants newspaperman like I.
But, please Tom, don't take credit for inventing the term, "greatest generation."
I was using that term years ago and extolling the virtues of that generation -- that varied in age, but shared the distinction of having come of age in the Depression and then had to face the war or came of age and were dumped right into combat.
They weathered that and then went on to take advantage of the GI Bill and get educated or buy homes, build solid lives and never (it seems like never anyway if that is not exactly accurate) complained.
That greatest generation did its duty in war and then in respnsible civilian life.
I was ecstatic when Brokaw came forward with his book and I don't mind at all that he has made what could be a living off that book and its offshoots and spinoffs since.
But he does not get credit for coming up with the greatest generation formulation.
I can call forward my friend John Plunkett up in Maryland who might recall my stirring encomiums of that generation when well oiled with fruit of the vine.
I am afraid I became rather tiresome about it. Others at the time may well remember it, too.
The bottom line is that it is wonderful that those born between about 1910 and 1925 (those are loose margins, not exact) had their lives interrupted in a terrifying fashion and stood up to the challenge.
They occupy a special place in my heart. And they were the greatest generation.
And it does not make any difference who made up the two words.
But it wasn't Brokaw. That's for sure.
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