Eavesdropping On The Rising Sun

A young man from Queens jumps into the thick of World War II intelligence activities by translating secret Japanese messages

IN HIS MARVELOUS MEMOIR, Flights of Passage, my friend and onetime colleague Samuel Hynes, a Marine Corps combat aviator in World War II, writes that the war is the shared secret of his generation—those young men who came of age between December 7, 1941, and September 2, 1945. For those of the approximately 12 million Americans in uniform for some or all of those years, it was an experience both personal and collective like nothing before or after. Those who went through the hell of combat carry physical and emotional scars as reminders.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 »

September 11 Vs. December 7

DID AMERICANS BEHAVE BETTER BACK THEN?

Remember September 11? Or rather, remember how it was supposed to change us all, and for the better? Among all the predictions was one that held that it would lead to “the end of irony,” the sort of earnest prognostication that is bound to seem ironic in retrospect. Yet an even more civic-minded call came from Robert D. Putnam, who let us know that this was our chance to get back to the spirit of World War II. Read more »

Another Day Of Infamy

CONGRESS IS TRYING TO LEGISLATE THE HISTORY OF WHAT HAPPENED ON THE EVE OF PEARL HARBOR

What is history? Is it something we decide on the best available evidence, weighing and culling the many varied accounts of the past? Or is it, instead, something to be decreed and imposed on us, decided by what some politicians say or maybe a judge somewhere? These questions may seem banal or obvious, but they have become very real —ever since the U.S. Congress recently decided to write the main tenet of a conspiracy theory into an official bill.

 
 
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Tokyo, 1945

The author entered the conquered capital days after the surrender to meet high officers of the Imperial Navy

Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1945, I was a naval officer in Norfolk, Virginia, contemplating my inevitable return to the Western Pacific, when two bombs were dropped, the Soviets entered the war, and the Japanese emperor prevailed on his government to throw in the towel. On August 28 the first occupation forces arrived; on September 2 the formal surrender took place. A few days later Rear Adm. R. A. Ofstie, for whom I was working, called me down the hall and asked if I would like to go to Japan. Read more »

The Biggest Theater

Revisiting the seas where American carriers turned the course of history, a Navy man re-creates a time of frightful odds and brilliant gambles.

Some memories are good and some bad, but the fact is that they change over the years. All of us who were part of it can recall how angry we were about the war against the Axis Powers. We were mad at all of it: Pearl Harbor, enemy atrocities, everything. We were also angry on the personal level at the necessity of going to war, at the consequent disruptions to our lives, at the risks we had to take, the privations, and the all-pervading, constant fear. We hated it, or thought sincerely that we did.Read more »

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941…”

The bombs that fell that Sunday didn’t just knock out some battleships; they roused America into a new age. Here is how the long, unforgettable day unfolded.

 

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The Big Leak

So big was the leak that it might have caused us to lose World War II. So mysterious is the identity of the leaker that we can’t be sure to this day who it was…or at least not entirely sure.

Blazoned in huge black letters across page one of the December 4, 1941, issue of the Chicago Tribune was the headline: F.D.R.’S WAR PLANS! The Times Herald, the Tribune ’s Washington, D.C., ally, carried a similarly fevered banner. In both papers Chesly Manly, the Tribune's Washington correspondent, revealed what President Franklin D.Read more »

Navy Power A View From The Air

Seventy-five years ago a powered kite landed on a cruiser. From that stunt grew the weaponry that has defined modern naval supremacy.

For hundreds of years ships of war were of wood, moved by the wind. Their long-range weapons were simple cannon, while at short ranges, with ships locked alongside one another in deadly embrace, the sailors used cutlasses, sabers, pikes, and small arms. The strategy of sea power consisted of maneuvering, out of sight and beyond knowledge, into position where the power of the guns and their trained crews could become decisive.

The News Reaches Churchill

The scene is not America, it is London. It is late evening of December 7, 1941, and Winston Churchill has just heard the news of Pearl Harbor. “So we had won after all,” he said, “England would live, Britain would live; the Commonwealth and the Empire would live.… Once again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious we should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. Hitler’s fate was sealed, Mussolini’s fate was sealed.” The next day he went to the House of Commons to make the announcement.Read more »