chapter
19 Pages

Introduction

The Mnemonic Structure Reagan, Ambrose, Spielberg, and Brokaw Built
ByJonathan M. Bullinger

World War II was so great a victory for the U.S. that it cast a long shadow of remembrance on the country throughout the twentieth century. This shadow never quite dissipated and was reinforced by the war’s large catalog of propaganda. Yet, this chapter will show how a very distinct type of World War II remembrance began with U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1984 with his “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” Normandy speech and was subsequently built upon by newscaster Tom Brokaw, historian Stephen E. Ambrose, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, and actor Tom Hanks. These prominent children of “the Greatest Generation” venerated their parents’ wartime accomplishments during a time of their own middle-age self-reflection. Their era of World War II commemoration is unique due to their familial relationship to their subjects, their behavior as a self-aware celebrity cohort, and their relationship to media as members of the Baby Boomer generation.