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In 2003, eighty-five years after the armistice, it took Richard Rubin months to find just one living American veteran of World War I. But then, he found another. And another. Eventually he found dozens, aged 101 to 113, and interviewed them. All are gone now.

A decade-long odyssey to recover the story of a forgotten generation and their war led Rubin across the United States and France, through archives, private collections, battlefields, literature, propaganda, and even music. But at the center of it all were the last of the last, the men and women he met: a new immigrant, drafted and sent to France, whose life was saved by a horse; a Connecticut Yankee who volunteered and fought in every major American battle; a Cajun artilleryman nearly killed by a German airplane; an eighteen-year-old Bronx girl “drafted” to work for the War Department; a machine gunner from Montana; a marine wounded at Belleau Wood; the sixteen-year-old who became America’s last World War I veteran; and many more.

They were the final survivors of the millions who made up the American Expeditionary Forces, nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century. Self-reliant, humble, and stoic, they kept their stories to themselves for a lifetime, then shared them at the last possible moment so that they, and the war they won—the trauma that created our modern world—might at last be remembered. You will never forget them. The Last of the Doughboys is more than simply a war story; it is a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Richard Rubin has performed an extraordinary feat of World War I sleuthing. He has managed to track down numerous centenarians—centenarians!—who fought in the trenches and has skillfully resurrected their memories in a way that brings that now sepia-toned conflict into focus as sharp as a bayonet. Rubin refers to these doughboys as ‘the forgotten generation.’ Yet he brings them back unforgettably. And his book is addictively readable.”

    Joseph E. Persico, New York Times bestselling author of My American Journey

  • “Richard Rubin has done something that will never be possible for anyone to do again. His interviews with the last American World War I veterans—who have all since died—bring to vivid life a cataclysm that changed our world forever but that remains curiously forgotten here. And his research and battlefield visits help us picture the background to the survivors’ stories.”

    Adam Hochschild, New York Times bestselling author of To End All Wars

  • “Richard Rubin has written the most riveting and astonishing book about World War I that I have read in a decade. No matter what you think about that terrible conflict, this book will lift up your heart, not only about the war but about being an American. It’s unique!”

    Thomas Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of The Illusion of Victory

  • “Before the Greatest Generation, there was the Forgotten Generation of World War I, the remaining members of which are depicted in this gloriously colorful swan song…A wonderfully engaging study executed with a lot of heart.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Affecting…Rubin is skillful in his interviewing, remorseless in his efforts to chase down his subjects, thoughtful of their age. He also wisely fills in their stories with biographical facts and establishes the contexts of the specific battles they fought in and what was at stake…His book is a fitting epitaph to brave men too often overlooked.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Determined to obtain and document the remembrances of the surviving ‘doughboys,’ journalist Rubin began an effort to locate and interview many of them a decade ago. The result is this fascinating and deeply moving collection of individual stories…This is an important and masterful tribute to those who participated in a conflict that continues to shape the world today.”

    Booklist

  • “Richard Rubin’s The Last of the Doughboys is more than just a collection of memories. It is a moving tribute—a final salute—to a generation of men who gave their all to win the war that would, they hoped, end all wars. This intimately written book will stand at the forefront of World War I literature for many years to come.”

    Edward G. Lengel, author of To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918

  • “Richard Rubin’s brilliant The Last of the Doughboys is a living, breathing monument to an almost criminally unsung generation of American heroes—and a vivid and richly detailed portrayal of their era and their war. Beautifully and knowledgably written, the book ensures that the doughboys’ achievements on the battlefields of World War I, as well as at home, will never again be forgotten.”

    James Carl Nelson, author of The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War and Five Lieutenants

  • “Richard Rubin’s vivid and lively interviews with the last surviving veterans of World War I have preserved the voices and memories of the men who fought the nation’s first modern war. It is an important contribution to history, an act of historical justice to soldiers whose achievements and sufferings are seldom remembered, and a fascinating view of history through the eyes of those that made it.”

    Richard Slotkin, author of Lost Battalions

  • “Grover Gardner provides the perfect easy-toned American voice for these personal stories of WWI…Gardner’s reading is warm and clear. Most important, it reflects the author’s satisfaction at knowing that these men and women, who all simply said they were just doing their duty, will never be forgotten. A very special listening experience. Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award.”

    AudioFile

  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, May 2013
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
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About the Author

Richard Rubin is the author of Confederacy of Silence. He has written for the Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, New YorkerSmithsonian, and New York magazine. He lives in New York and Maine.