Special Forces

The least-understood branch of our military was born 60 years ago but today is coming into prominence as never before

 

“BUT, DAD, THOSE DON’T LOOK LIKE American soldiers.” My son was right. The bearded young men leaping from a white pickup truck in a TV news clip were dressed in an curious assortment of Western and Afghan garb. Yet even in the few seconds of broadcast images, one could see by their quick, purposeful movements that the newsman’s call was correct: The men securing a forlorn Al Qaeda safe house were U.S.

 
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How My Father And President Kennedy Saved The World

The Cuban Missile Crisis as seen from the Kremlin

THE WORLD CAME CLOSE TO A NUCLEAR CLASH THREE times during the half-century of the Cold War. The first was in Korea when China’s intervention snatched imminent victory from General MacArthur. Only a nuclear strike could save the situation, but President Harry Truman firmly rejected it. The second time came in 1962, at the moment of greatest tension around Cuba, 40 years ago this October. And the last was in Vietnam when many American military and political leaders believed that atomic weapons alone could redress the failure of the war’s progress. Read more »

The Key To The Warren Report

Seen in its proper historical context—amid the height of the Cold War—the investigation into Kennedy’s assassination looks much more impressive and its shortcomings much more understandable

In September 1994, after doggedly repeating a white lie for forty-seven years, the Air Force finally admitted the truth about a mysterious 1947 crash in the New Mexico desert. The debris was not a weather balloon after all but wreckage from Project Mogul, a top-secret high-altitude balloon system for detecting the first Soviet nuclear blasts halfway across the globe. Read more »

“The Lines Of Control Have Been Cut”

Jack Kennedy came into the White House determined to dismantle his Republican predecessor’s rigid, formal staff organization in favor of a spontaneous, flexible, hands-on management style. Thirty years Bill Clinton seems determined to do the same thing. He would do well to remember that what it got JFK was the Bay of Pigs and the Vietnam War.

In early October of 1963, Rep. Clement Zablocki, a Wisconsin Democrat, led a House Foreign Affairs Committee fact-finding delegation to South Vietnam. Invited to the White House when he returned, Zablocki told President John F. Kennedy he thought that removing President Ngo Dinh Diem would be a big mistake, unless the United States had a successor in the wings. Remember Cuba, Zablocki said. “Batista was bad, but Castro is worse.” Read more »

The Pentagon’s 50th … And The Future For America’s Defense

It was August 1941, and Congressman Sam Rayburn was worried about the draft. He personally had no fear of being called; rather, as Speaker of the House, he wanted very much to pass a bill that would keep the Selective Service Act in force. That law had whooped through Congress a year earlier, just after the fall of France and with the Battle of Britain on every front page. But the British had held, and the Nazis had directed their armies against the Soviet Union. It was possible to believe that war might spare our country after all.

 
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“Explaining What You Are After Is The Secret Of Diplomacy”

This century’s most powerful Secretary of State talks about the strengths and weaknesses of the Foreign Service, the role of the CIA, the rights of journalists, the contrast between meddlers and statesmen—and about the continuing struggle for a coherent foreign policy

THE CONDUCT of American foreign policy has changed radically since the days when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was essentially his own Secretary of State. AMERICAN HERITAGE believes it is a matter of importance to examine those changes through the eyes of an expert. Few people, we think, better qualify as such than Henry A. Kissinger, who not only had a hand in those changes but who probably exercised greater power than any Secretary of State in this century. Dr.Read more »

Spying For The Yanks

The safest, fastest, most convivial operation in the annals of espionage

A little autobiography is needed. I was born a U.S. citizen, in Lenox, Massachusetts, to be precise, and educated in France and England. I therefore speak French with a French accent and English with an English one. Now this is not allowed of Americans. An American can quite legitimately speak with a Latvian, Korean, Irish, German, Italian, or Greek accent and no one cares, you are an okay American. But if you speak with an English one, people ask if you are “really” American.Read more »

What We Got For What We Gave

The American Experience With Foreign Aid

Imagine a person of great wealth with a habit of giving away vast sums and lending more. In order to understand his character, we should examine how the money is dispensed and why. Who are the recipients? What does the donor expect of them in return? How does he react if his expectations are not fulfilled? By asking the same questions of a wealthy and seemingly generous government, we can acquire a similar insight into its character. Read more »

The Time Of The Angel

The U-2, Cuba, and the CIA

In the still of the October night, the slender, birdlike plane lifted into the sky from its base in California, climbed sharply on a column of flame, and headed east through the darkness. Pilot Richard Heyser, in the cramped, tiny cockpit, had good reason to be apprehensive, but he had little time to worry.Read more »

The Birth Of The CIA

When and how it got the green light to conduct “subversive operations abroad”

The history of successful ideas is sometimes marked by a trade-off. In his old age General William J. Donovan, founder of the United States intelligence service, may have reflected on the phenomenon. The trade-off goes something like this:

 
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