"The Life Cycle of a Myth" Timeline
In order to fully understand the effects of this mentality on individual as well as national consciousness, it is important to look at seemingly unrelated or distantly related events that perpetuate the idea of “The Greatest Generation,” and the idea of World War II as a “Good War.”
Within the timeline there are several themes that carry throughout. The first is the Munich Analogy, which started as a result of World War I fallout, and impacted how the United States and other former Allied powers interacted with international threats. The Munich Analogy refers to the struggle Allied powers faced as they attempted to reconcile with Germany’s growing fascist government in the wake of the Great War. Through these negotiations, the Allies determined that trying to compromise with dictators led only to prolonged war and conflict.
The timeline also includes a great deal of movies, television shows, and works of literature. Entertainment media provide insight into the shifts and sympathies of national sentiment about the war. Works both fictionalized and “based” in truth reflect how people living and consuming, who are touched by the war enough to want to engage with it as entertainment, think about or want to think about World War II. Media and entertainment shows us what we are willing to accept as truth.
It is also important to pay attention to the different people that have played an important part in defining World War II cultural memory for Americans. This extends beyond politicians to movie stars, historians, authors, etc. A timeline makes it easy to see who has had a lasting impact on the Greatest Generation and Good War narratives since 1945.
Lastly, it is important to know not only when the narrative seems to be particularly relevant and alive, but what causes it to gain traction at that time. Like most cultural sentiment, it ebbs and flows depending on circumstances. In particular, the Greatest Generation and Good War narratives arose starting more in the 1980s, with a huge spike throughout the 90s and early millennium. By this point, most World War II veterans are in their 70s, and more and more passed every day. Remembering the War became Memorializing the War, and the things we chose to remember, as well as the values in which we put worth, became so important that it is now a part of our national identity.
Click HERE to see the timeline, based on "The Life Cycle of a Myth" from The Best War Ever by Michael C.C. Adams.