Nightly News   |  May 26, 2013

Remembering the Greatest Generation

This Memorial Day, a new book is reminding the country of the heroics and sacrifices of World War II veterans. NBC’s Tom Brokaw reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the march of time on this memorial day weekend is a powerful reminder that we are losing many of the americans who sacrificed so much during world war ii . particularly those who fought the brutal battle of normandy . pulitzer prize winning historian rick atkinson has written a new book called "the guns at last light," about the valiant men and women who fought in that tee sisive campaign for the liberation of europe. he sat down with nbc's tom brokaw at the national world war ii museum in new orleans.

>> it is one of the greatest stories in the history of humanity. and it is a story ultimately about humanity. the individuals are invariably men with feet of clay, which makes them more interesting.

>> here at the world war ii museum i met a member of the 82nd airborne , he said for four days we felt everyone involved in the invasion had bailed. we thought we were all alone.

>> things didn't go according to plan. they rarely do in airborne operations . it took them a better part of the week to either get captured, get killed or make their way into some sort of cohesive unit.

>> very quickly just off the beach it becomes really primal warfare.

>> it is a lot of atrocity. normandy is something we don't like to think about because we don't think to thing of our soldiers committing atrocities. but the germans were brutal right from the beginning and it created a cycle of reprisal and atrocity that really went on until 1945 .

>> and the frechbnch civilians in that part of france to a degree that no one really appreciated for a long, long time took enormous casualties, terrible suffer.

>> there were very few towns or villages in normandy that escaped unscathed. and the fact that you can go to more mandy tod more n normandy today and be received as redendants of heroes.

>> everybody it is all in. everybody had a role. now it is less than 1% of the population.

>> it is incumbent as citizens. it is part of our duty to the republic that understand even if we don't have a blood stake in the way so many did during world war ii , their flesh and blood . we should consider them our grandsons and granddaughters in the same ways fas they literally were. i think that's something that we owe to those generations that came before.