Ike’s Decision

Eisenhower's call to proceed with D-Day was anything but inevitable

It has been 65 years since D-Day—the early June day when the United States and its allies launched a massive attack on the shores of Normandy in a bid to liberate western Europe from the Nazis. It's been long enough for most people who still remember the date to have come to think of its success as natural and foreordained. Read more »

Date of Event: 
Monday, September 12, 1864

Miracle Workers

More than a million children participated in the Salk poliomyelitis vaccine trials of 1954, the largest public health experiment in American History

On April 26, 1954, six-year-old Randy Kerr stood first in line at his elementary school gymnasium in McLean, Virginia, sporting a crew cut and a smile. With assembly-line precision, a nurse rolled up his left sleeve, a doctor administered the injection, a clerk recorded the details, and the next child stepped into place. “I could hardly feel it,” boasted Kerr, America’s first polio pioneer. “It hurt less than a penicillin shot.” Read more »

“Don’t Be A Show Off”

The book that taught GI’s how to behave in England

There were three deadly serious crimes a serviceman could commit, said the United States Army Air Corps commander Carl (“Tooey”) Spaatz; “Murder, rape, and interference with Anglo-American relations. The first two might conceivably be pardoned, but the third one, never.” Seemingly Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed. When he learned that two different-nationality officers of his integrated staff had exchanged harsh words, he sent the American one home.

The Corps

The United States Military Academy turns 200 this year. West Point has
grown with the nation—and, more than once, saved it.

BATTALION AND REGIMENTAL leaders unsheath sabers for the issuance of shouted orders, and as drum and bugle corps thump and shrill, a great mass, 4,000 strong, moves into its mess hall of thick overhead beams below vaulting ceiling heights and the size-of-a-house painting of history’s groupedtogether Great Captains: Richard the Lion-Hearted on his charger, Joan of Arc, Napoleon, Alexander, Grant, the rest.

 
Read more »

Eisenhower's Farewell

In his last speech as President, he inaugurated the spirit of the 1960s

Whatever the calendars say, in some figurative sense America’s 1950s ended, and the 1960s began, on January 17, 1961, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the most memorable farewell address by a Chief Executive since another old soldier, George Washington, warned his new nation back in 1796 to stick together always in the cause of its founding principles. Ike, of course, had led the Allied forces in Europe to the triumph of democracy in World War II, a century and a half after General Washington had won America’s freedom in the Revolutionary War.Read more »

The Day We Shot Down The U-2

Nikita Khrushchev’s son remembers a great turning point of the Cold War, as seen from behind the Iron Curtain

On May 1, 1960, a Soviet V-750 surface-to-air missile (known in America as the SA-Z “Guideline”) shot down a U-2, one of the “invulnerable” American spy planes. The plane was a phantom—of all the secret projects of those years, perhaps the most secret. Even now, when it seems there are no secrets left, not everything connected with the U-2’s last mission can be explained from the standpoint of normal human logic.

 
Read more »

The Cold War Through The Looking Glass

Nikita Khrushchev’s son recalls a world where the United States was the Evil Empire—and Soviet superpower a carefully maintained illusion

 

When the Cold War began, people my age were in school, and when it ended, we were increasingly thinking about our pensions. Our whole lives were spent amid the fear that our great national enemy would strike a fatal blow if we made the slightest false step or showed the least weakness. Who “we” were and who the enemy was depended on which country we considered our own, the Soviet Union or the United States.

 
Read more »

Sputnik

FORTY YEARS AGO THIS MONTH the Soviet Union orbited a “man-made moon” whose derisive chirp persuaded Americans they’d already lost a race that had barely begun

IT WASN’T THE BEST OF TIMES, BUT IT WASN’T THE worst of times either. Although a mild recession had cooled down the post-Korean War economy, many families were living comfortable lives in the autumn of 1957. There were 170 million Americans now, and more of them had taken a vacation that summer than ever before, just like the swells out in Southampton.

 
 
Read more »

The Biggest Decision: Why We Had To Drop The Atomic Bomb

On the morning of August 6, 1945, the American B-29 Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later another B-29, Bock’s Car , released one over Nagasaki. Both caused enormous casualties and physical destruction. These two cataclysmic events have preyed upon the American conscience ever since.Read more »

1954

America looked good to a high school senior then, and that year looks wonderfully safe to us now, but it was a time of tumult for all that, and there were plenty of shadows along with the sunshine

It was a very good year. Certainly it was if you were seventeen. I was a senior in high school in 1954, a member of the class of January 1955, at Lincoln High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. They told us these were the best years of our lives, so we had better enjoy them. We all laughed at that, of course, but as I look back, they may have been right, particularly in September of 1954, when the first Thunderbird and the totally new 1955 Chevy V-8 lit up our limited horizons. Read more »