Ploesti: A Pilot's Diary

A thousand miles behind enemy lines, Liberator bombers struck Hitler’s Rumanian oil refineries, then headed home flying so low that some came back with cornstalks in their bomb bays

Benghazi, Libya, July 23,1943. Something new is in the air! This morning we were introduced to a Major Blank, an expert in low-level bombing, who lectured us on a new bombsight, which was a converted gunsight. He explained how A-20s had been making low-level attacks and that experiments were being made with B-24s. He said that he didn’t know if the new sights would ever be used, but we assumed the Air Force wouldn’t be running experiments that far out in the desert for nothing, so we decided to get interested in low-level bombing.Read more »

On Omaha Beach

Along this narrow stretch of sand, all the painstaking plans for the Normandy invasion fell apart. One of the men who was lucky enough to make it past the beachhead recalls a day of fear, chaos, grief—and triumph.

I WAS A CAPTAIN in the Stonewall Brigade when I first went into battle at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Our outfit was directly descended from the famed command of Gen. Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson and proud of it, and D-day was for me much as the First Manassas had been in 1861 for a Capt. Randolph Barton, CSA, of the Stonewall Brigade, who wrote: “I think I went into that action with less trepidation than into any subsequent one.Read more »

Not Forgetting May Be The Only Heroism Of The Survivor”

Years after one of the bloodiest and most intense battles of the war in the Pacific, a Marine Corps veteran returns to Tarawa

WAR IS A COUNTRY no traveler ever forgets. It haunts those who survive the journey as no other experience. The memories of war cling to the mind with astonishing tenacity, and sometimes in the dark of night when the glow of your cigarette is a distant fire on an island most people have never heard of, nothing seems to equal their demand for attention. Why? Possibly because the memories raise so many questions about oneself, particularly the unanswerable one: Why am I the one here to remember?Read more »

The Great North Sea Mine Barrage

An extraordinary World War I naval operation is recounted by the commander of a decaying coastal steamer crammed with a terrifying new explosive

When my father, Rear Adm. D. Pratt Mannix 3rd, died in 1957, he had served as a midshipman on a square-rigger and lived to see the atomic bomb dropped on Japan. Born in 1878, he had fought in eight wars, been awarded six medals, and had seen action against Moro pirates and the Imperial German Navy. He had watched the United States grow to be the most powerful country in the world. As the U.S. Navy was responsible for much of this growth, he had had an opportunity to see, firsthand, history being made.Read more »

Mother And Son

MY MOTHER DIED in Pittsburgh on the evening of Thanksgiving Day, that is, on November 25, 1937. If she had lived three weeks longer, she would have been seventy-three. Read more »

Facing Zanuck

It was a great life being a contract writer for a major studio during the high noon of the American movie industry—but it could also be a nightmare. A survivor recalls the pleasures and ardors of working at 20th Century-Fox forty years ago.

“COME ON OUT, DAD. SWANIE.” These homely words unlocked the gates of paradise, opened the road to fortune and easy living. They were from my West Coast agent, H. N. Swanson, and climaxed the telegram announcing the sale of my story Low Pressure to the 20th Century-Fox Film studio and giving the terms. It was a nice deal—a tidy sum for the story and a six-week writing contract, all traveling expenses paid, first class of course—the 20th Century Limited to Chicago, the Santa Fe Chief to L. A.Read more »

My Radcliffe

The author recalls two generations of “Cliffie” life—hers and her mother’s—in the years when male and female education took place on opposite sides of the Cambridge Common and women were expected to wear hats in Harvard Square

My mother was a member of the class of 1899 at Radcliffe College, having come east from St. Paul, Minnesota—a sort of reverse pioneer. She was one of the two or three students from west of the Berkshires and was considered rather exotic by her classmates because of her Midwestern background, which she loved to describe in exaggerated detail, implying that a fresh Indian scalp was hung over the fireplace every week or so. Her years at Radcliffe were, it seems, passed in a state of continual euphoria.Read more »

If You Ran A Small-town Weekly

… you could battle for clean government, champion virtue, improve the public school, defend the consumer, arbitrate taste, and write lean, telling prose. Or at least that was the author’s dream. Here’s the reality.

It was three in the morning, two days after St. Patrick’s Day, 1958, when I disembarked from a Greyhound bus and stepped into the snowdrifts at the entrance to the Kennebunk Inn, in Kennebunk, Maine. A startled night clerk called the police; he could conjure no other service that might help me go the final mile of my trip in a snowstorm. My journey ended when I said good night to patrolman Frank Stevens, slammed the cruiser door, and entered the cottage where Sandy Brook waited for his new partner. Read more »

Meet Me In St. Lewis, Louie

A collection of little-known early-twentieth-century photographs of St. Louis recalls the author’s unfashionably happy childhood

Fireflies? Glowworms? Whatever the right name for them, in St. Louis we called them lightning bugs. On summer evenings we used to chase them across our lawns, which were not divided from one another, and collect them, when caught, in little medicine bottles. We had grandiose ideas of getting enough lightning bugs together to make lamps, but it never worked out like that because they died first. I remember that they had a not unpleasant smell when clutched in my sweaty hand, a smell like that of a dilute miner’s lamp, and their glow was greenish.Read more »

Life With My Ancestors

Walter Cronkite , news commentator: Shortly after the turn of this century a woman who represented herself as a genealogist advertised for anyone bearing the name Cronk, Kronk, Kronkhite, Cronkhite, or several other variations to get in touch with her immediately. She claimed to have knowledge of a longlost will in the Netherlands leaving a considerable estate to the seventh son of the seventh son of one of the original Krankheidt settlers of Manhattan.Read more »