During his tour he relives his life as a US Marine. I have read a lot of history's of war but Manchester is able to bring it to life as no one else. Near the end of the book he points out how things have changed since then. He writes:
To fight World War II you had to have been tempered and strengthened in the 1930's Depression by a struggle for survival--in 1940 two out of every five draftees had been rejected, most of them victims of malnutrition. And you had to know that your whole generation unlike the Vietnam generation, was in this together, that no strings were being pulled for anybody; the four Roosevelt brothers were in uniform and the sons of both Harry Hopkins, FDR's closest adviser and Leverett Saltonstall, one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate served in the Marine Corps as enlisted men and were killed in action. But devotion overreached all this. It was a bond woven of many strands. You had to remember your father's stories about the Argonne and saying your prayers and Memorial Day, and Scouting and what Barbara Frietchie said to Stonewall Jackson. And you had to have heard Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge and to have seen Gary Cooper as Sergeant York. And seen how your mother bought day-old bread and cut sheets lengthwise and resewed them to equalize wear while your father sold the family car... so that you could enter college. You also needed nationalism, the absolute conviction that the United Sates was the envy of all other nations, a country which had never done anything infamous.... could solve anything by inventing something. You felt sure that all lands , given our democracy and our know-how, could shine as radiantly as we did....Debt was ignoble. courage was a virtue. Mothers were loved, Fathers obeyed. marriage a a sacrament. Divorce was disgraceful. Pregnancy meant expulsion from school or dismissal from a job...All these an "God Bless America" and Christmas... and the certitude that victory in the war would assure their continuance into perpetuity-- all this led you into battle and sustained you as you fought, and comforted you if you fell and, if it came to that, justified your death to all who loved you as you had love them. Later the rules would change, But, we didn't know then. We didn't know.