101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

You Asked for It

When American Heritage suggested last year that I put together the article that became “101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know about American History,” I accepted the assignment eagerly. None of the many articles I have published in this magazine over the years have attracted half so much attention, and I became so absorbed in thinking of items to include that I soon had far more than could fit into an article. I therefore decided to gather still more.Read more »

Inventing A Modern Navy

Chaos and farce and catastrophe played a big part. But so did a few men of vision.

This is the story of the efforts of naval officers to bring steam, coal, iron, steel, and high explosives together in satisfying combination during the last century. It was a time of transformation and change when the U.S. Navy made its way from the old sailing ships of the line to the dreadnought, also known in its first American version as the Skeerd of Nuthin . What we know of all this is still pretty much what the historian Frank M.Read more »

Why The Military Can’t Get The Figures Right

A former Department of Defense adviser—one of Robert S. McNamara’s Whiz Kids—explains why we tend to overestimate Russian strength, and why we underestimate what it will cost to defend ourselves

Twenty years ago Alain C. Enthoven was one of America’s most controversial intellectuals in the field of military affairs. He had gone to the Pentagon in 1961 to act as a civilian adviser to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. By training he was an economist, with degrees from Stanford (1952), Oxford (1954), and MIT (1956). From 1956 to 1960 he worked at the RAND Corporation, doing contract research for the Air Force. Read more »

Dime-store Doughboys

Fifty years ago these rough-and-ready tin soldiers were sold from bins cheap and by the handful. Today collectors are seeking them for their bright, simple vitality.

Commercially made metal toy soldiers date back to the late eighteenth century, when German tinsmiths began casting two-dimensional or “flat” figures of the sort immortalized by Hans Christian Andersen in “The Steadfast Tin Soldier.” European firms went on to develop sturdier, solid-cast three-dimensional figures of lead alloy, and in the 189Os an English toy maker named William Britain revolutionized the field with a line of less costly hollow-cast toy troops.Read more »

3.when Generals Sue

Westmoreland and Sharon embarked on costly lawsuits to justify their battlefield judgments. They might have done much better to listen to Mrs. William Tecumseh Sherman.

War is hell—and so is the coverage of war. Gen. William Westmoreland and former Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, claiming injury as a result of press reports, retaliated with batteries of lawyers armed with videotapes, classified documents, and loaded depositions. Have the risks of soldiering taken on new dimensions in the last half of the twentieth century? Are the reporters, the editors, the publishers, the producers of recent decades so antagonistic that they provoke unprecedented courtroom battles? How else can a military man combat his detractors?Read more »

2.from Normandy To Grenada

A veteran reporter looks back to a time when the stakes were really high—and vet military men actually trusted newsmen.

One week in August 1942 several stories on the British war effort appeared on the wires of the Associated Press, written by an AP reporter based in London named Drew Middleton.

What the readers did not know was that Middleton had spent part of that week not in England but under enemy fire in a boat off the coast of France, watching an Allied commando raid on a German strongpoint.

The Germans didn’t know either, which was the point. Read more »

1.the First News Blackout

The Civil War ignited the basic conflict between a free press and the need for military security. By war’s end, the hard-won compromises between soldiers and newspapermen may not have provided all the answers, but they had raised all the modern questions.

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was a good hater, and he hated few things more than newspapermen. His encounter with the correspondent Floras B. Plympton of the Cincinnati Commercial in September 1861, five months into the Civil War, was typical. Plympton approached the general on a railroad platform in Kentucky and asked him for an interview. He handed over letters of introduction, including one from Sherman’s brother-in-law.Read more »

Military Medicine

How our wartime experience conquered a wide range of problems from hemorrhagic shock to yellow fever

WHEN HIPPOCRATES wrote in the fifth century B.C. that “he who would learn surgery should join an army and follow it,” he illuminated the central irony of military medicine. Destructive as war is, it makes possible quantum leaps in the art of healing. And it is the surgeon who benefits most directly: war has been described as an “epidemic of trauma,” and the vast supply of wounded men provides opportunities for experimentation and innovation unthinkable in a world at peace.Read more »

The New Army Helmet

… is more comfortable and safer than World War II’s “steel pot. ” The problem is that it looks just like the One Hitlers troops wore.

THE NEWS PHOTOGRAPHS that appeared following the lightning invasion of Grenada by United States troops last November were almost as surprising as the invasion itself. The pictures showed troopers of the 82d Airborne wearing gull-winged helmets that stirred up memories of the old German Wehrmacht. Since when, more than one journal editorialized, did American soldiers start looking like the Waffen SS?Read more »

Truman Vs. MacArthur

When the President fired the general, civilian control of the military faced its severest test in our history

AT 1:00 A.M. ON THE morning of April 11, 1951, a tense band of Washington reporters filed into the White House newsroom for an emergency press conference. Hastily summoned by the White House switchboard, they had no idea of what was to come. The Truman administration, detested by millions, had grown hesitant, timid, and unpredictable. The Korean War, so boldly begun ten months before, had degenerated into a “limited war” with no discernible limit, a bloody stalemate.Read more »