The Day When We Almost Lost the Army

Debate over America's involvement in World War II came to a head in July 1941 as the Senate argued over a draft extension bill. The decision would have profound consequences for the nation.

On July 19, 1941, when Gen. George Catlett Marshall, Army chief of staff, stepped before the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, his gray civilian suit could not disguise the proud bearing of a soldier and commander of men. His shoulders squared, but not conspicuously so, his chin receding slightly, and thin lips compressed with resolution, his tall figure exuded dignity, authority, and singleness of purpose. He considered his mission that day as among the most vital of any during his distinguished 39-year career in uniform: to save the still anemic U.S. Army from emasculation. Read more »

Churchill Offers Toil And Tears To FDR

The world-shaping relationship between these two giants got off to a rocky start

Often it is said that vast long-range economic and social forces, not the efforts of leading individuals alone, make history. The course of World War II denies this seemingly rational thesis. Hitler began World War II; he and his principal adversaries—Britain’s Winston Churchill, America’s Franklin Roosevelt, and Russia’s Joseph Stalin—determined the conflict’s course and outcome. While the latter two effectively won the war in 1945, Churchill played a significant role by not losing it in 1940 and 1941.Read more »

40 More Critical Moments In American Business History

1. 1606: The Virginia Company is formed to seek profit from a new business: American settlement.

2. 1612: John Rolfe plants West Indian tobacco in Virginia, the cash crop that assures the colony’s success.

3. 1614: John Smith, finding no gold, sets his men to fishing for cod off New England, pointing the way to the area’s first economic mainstay. Read more »

Second-term Blues

Why Have Our Presidents Almost Always Stumbled After Their First Four Years?

Pity poor George W. Bush, stuck in the morass of those second-term blues! As of this writing, Mr. Bush’s poll numbers—those now ubiquitous barometers of presidential popularity—are barely creeping up after hitting record lows earlier this year.

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FDR And His Women

A novelist who has just spent several years with them tells a moving story of love: public and private, given and withheld

In the FDR Library in Hyde Park, among the effects of Anna Roosevelt Halsted, the only daughter of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, there is a scrap of yellowing paper, about four inches by five. It is covered with a penciled note in the kind of cryptic shorthand I and most writers I know use when insight or inspiration strikes. It begins, “ER: her garlic pills (Sis could smell them on her breath).” Read more »

The Churchill-Roosevelt Forgeries

The campaign to revise Hitler’s reputation has gone on for 50 years, but there’s another strategy now. Some of it is built on the work of the head of the Gestapo—who may have enjoyed a comfortable retirement in America.

RECENTLY, ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS, the American public has been made aware of evidence of plagiarism practiced, alas, by celebrated American historians. This is regrettable, but nothing new. All kinds of writers have borrowed and, worse, stolen from others through the ages. Plagiarism is a forgery of sorts, a little like the forging of a signature on a work of art. Other forgeries are less easily detectable. Moreover, the purposes of a historian’s plagiarism and of a historical forgery are different.Read more »

Liberal Imperialism

At a time when it can offer answers to urgent questions, we have forgotten America’s long history of “nation building.”

In late January 2002 Hamid Karzai, the newly installed leader of Afghanistan, visited Washington and New York. He received a standing ovation at the President’s State of the Union address, and glowing press attention, in no small part because of his gentle demeanor and splendid attire. But he did not receive what he had come for, an enlarged U.S. peacekeeping presence in his wartorn country. President Bush turned him down cold, offering him economic aid, military aid, anything but what he really wanted: U.S. troops to patrol his country and bring peace to his people.Read more »

Till Divorce Do Us Part

It has been with us since Plymouth Colony. But that’s not why it’s an American institution.

On September evening in 1918, while unpacking an overseas bag for her husband, who had returned from a fact-finding tour of war-torn Europe with double pneumonia, Eleanor Roosevelt came upon a cache of love letters from her social secretary, Lucy Mercer. Later Eleanor would write that the bottom fell out of her world. She did what any high-minded wife would have done at the time: She offered her husband his freedom. Guilty, grief-stricken, but besotted by the lovely Miss Mercer, Franklin accepted his wife’s offer.Read more »

The Conventional Wisdom Why It’s Wrong

When the two parties gather to select their candidates, the proceedings will be empty glitz, with none of the import of old-time conventions. Or will they?

 

At some point in this election-year summer, as thousands of politicians, delegates, and journalists gather for the quadrennial rites of democracy known as national political conventions, commentators will complain that the proceedings have devolved to nothing more than a long television commercial.

 
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America And The Holocaust

The United States and FDR watched the extermination of the Jews with such total indifference that they were actually accomplices— or so says a growing number of historians. Is this true?

It was Winston Churchill’s judgment that the Holocaust “was probably the greatest and most terrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world.” The Holocaust, of course, was part of a colossal struggle in which fifty-three million people were killed, where nations were decimated, where democracy’s survival was in the balance. In his campaign to exterminate the Jews of Europe, Hitler and his Nazi followers murdered six million men, women, and children for no other reason than that they were Jewish. Read more »