chapter  4
31 Pages


Spielberg’s Film and Brokaw’s Book
ByJonathan M. Bullinger

This chapter covers the two major 1998 releases related to U.S. World War II memory, director Steven Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan and newscaster Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation. As the chapter shows, while many point to 1998 as the year this particular type of World War II remembrance broke through and became popular, both are really effects of years of previous groundwork laid beginning in 1984. Alison Landsberg’s metaphor of prosthetic memory is used to interpret Spielberg’s film to show how the bookend graveyard scene is used to transfer memory across generations. Other scenes are used as case studies—such as the character of Private Mellish—to reinforce certain lessons expected to arise from this type of World War II memory. While Brokaw’s book is shown as the culmination of the newscaster’s 1984 and 1994 television work and that similar to his muse, historian Stephen E. Ambrose, the book’s utility is diminished due to an excess of nostalgia that hinders any attempts to construct useful arguments or lessons.