JFK On Our Nation’s Memory

Forty seven years ago, the president wrote for American Heritage that the study of history is no mere pastime but the means by which a nation establishes its sense of identity and purpose

There is little that is more important for an American citizen to know than the history and traditions of his country. Without such knowledge, he stands uncertain and defenseless before the world, knowing neither where he has come from nor where he is going. With such knowledge, he is no longer alone but draws a strength far greater than his own from the cumulative experience of the past and a cumulative vision of the future. Read more »

Shooting The Moon

Practical rather than idealistic reasons pushed President Kennedy to challenge America to land a man on the moon within the decade

Gazing up at the Texas night sky from his ranch, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson did not know what to make of Sputnik I, the first artificial Earth satellite launched into orbit by a Soviet missile on October 4, 1957. But an aide’s memorandum stoked his political juices.Read more »

The Greatest Moments In American Mountaineering

A list like this is bound to stir controversy among mountaineers. A climb on a given mountain may be significant because it’s a “first,” but it may not be as physically challenging as a second or third ascent of the same mountain by other routes, or in other seasons, or when it is accomplished alone, or without the use of bottled oxygen. But here are 10 strong contenders, and a few sure bets, for anybody’s “greatest” list:—M.I. Read more »

Highest Adventure

The farthest, coldest outpost of President Kennedy’s New Frontier turned out to be in the Himalayas.

At One O’Clock on May 1, 1963, Jim Whittaker, a 34-year-old native of Seattle on his first Himalayan expedition, stepped onto the summit of Mount Everest. The six-foot-five-inch mountaineer, known as “Big Jim” to his fellow climbers, was the tenth climber and the first American to reach the top of the world’s highest mountain, 29,035 feet above sea level. Nawang Gombu, a 27-year-old Sherpa climber on his third expedition to Everest, accompanied him to the

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The Postwar Years 1945 To 1974

In his kaleidoscopic novel U.S.A., a trilogy published between 1930 and 1936, John Dos Passos offered a descriptive line that has always stayed with me. America, he wrote, is “a public library full of… dog-eared history books with protests scrawled on the margins.” Historical writing at its best is composed not only of facts but of thoughts and directions. And in this fastpaced country, where currents are very much subject to abrupt change, it is often hard for a history book to take root.Read more »

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 »

Mr. Smith Goes Underground

The strangest of all Cold War relics also offers a clue to why we won it

At six-thirty on Monday evening, October 22, 1962, 146 members of the Folding Paper Box Association, highballs and filter-tipped cigarettes in hand, swung into the cocktail party preceding the group’s evening banquet at the venerable Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

 
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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.

 
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