This year, Ball State University welcomed author Richard Rubin.
In his latest book, The Last of the Doughboys, Rubin records the stories of World War II veterans, eighty-five years after they enlisted.
Rubin describes World War I as “the most memorialized war in U.S. history, and yet the most forgotten.”
The theme of the “forgotten men” frequently appears in Rubin’s lecture, and it is clear he is passionate about the topic.
“I think they deserve better,” he said, wondering why he was the first person to interview these World War I veterans.
Rubin’s lecture barely focused on the the events that made up the “war to end all wars.” Instead, Rubin discussed the importance of oral history, and gave some insight into the process of interviewing these veterans.
Rubin admitted to wondering how much these men, ranging in age from 106 to 113, could actually remember from a war that occurred more than eighty-five years before.
Apparently, the answer is a great deal.
Amidst anecdotes about his experiences interviewing these men and women, Rubin highlighted the positives and negatives that come from interviewing these veterans.
For example, speaking of his interview with 107-year-old William Lake, Rubin discussed a heartbreaking moment in which he asked Lake the name of his father and the veteran realized he could not remember.
There were moments of triumph as well, such as a time when Rubin found out the fate of Lake’s fallen comrade, Captain Elijah Worsham.
Along with presenting the importance of oral interviews, Rubin also commented on the enduring spirit of the people he interviewed. He praised their upbeat attitudes, even in the face of some of the most challenging times in American history, including World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II.
“A lot of them had a lot of sorrow and hardship in their lives, but you wouldn’t know from talking to them,” he said.
Editor's Note: Richard Rubin's book, The Last of the Doughboys, was published in 2013. A copy is available for check out from Bracken Library for those who want to know more about the "forgotten generation."