The Sage of Black Rock

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite underwent a dramatic change of heart during the Vietnam War—and in doing so, changed the face of broadcast journalism

On February 6, 1965, Vietcong guerrillas attacked the U.S. base at Pleiku, killing eight American soldiers and wounding 126. The Johnson administration quickly retaliated, commencing another vicious cycle of lightning reprisals and military escalations. Suddenly U.S. “advisers” in Vietnam were recognized as combat troops; 23,000 U.S. personnel grew to 181,000 by the year’s end. On March 8 CBS Reports broadcast an hour-long debate between pro-war Sen. Gale McGee (D-WY) and antiwar Sen. George McGovern (D-SD).Read more »

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 »

How America Met The Mob

Organized crime? Mafia? A lot of people, including J. Edgar Hoover, said it was mere folklore—until one day in 1957 an alert New York state trooper set up a roadblock in a small town. What followed was low comedy with high consequences.

The day was mild for November; the blanket of sodden clouds promised rain. By noon the hilltop estate was fragrant with the prehistoric aroma of roasting meat. The visitors, dressed in silk suits, white-on-white shirts, gleaming shoes, and lush camel’s hair coats, looked distinctly out of place in the tiny upstate New York hamlet of Apalachin. “A meeting of George Rafts,” an observer would note.

 
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The Carpetbaggers

As Hillary Clinton campaigns for a New York Senate seat, she’d do well to study the career of another effective outsider

New Yorkers knew they were in for a long, hot summer this year when Hillary Rodham Clinton made an early political foray into their state and was greeted by demonstrators whom the state GOP had urged to dress up as blackflies. One of Mrs. Clinton’s aides had made the mistake of remarking that the First Couple would not be vacationing in the Adirondacks because of the flies.Read more »

The President’s Best Friend

If he’d been the closest companion of the president of IBM, you might happen across his name in a privately printed memoir. But LeMoyne Billings was John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s best friend from Choate to the White House—and that makes him part of history.

CROATE, 1935 Read more »

A Postage Stamp History Of The U.S. In The Twentieth Century

Here is the federal government’s own picture history of our times—and it tells us more than you might think

FEW ARE AWARE of a major publishing project that has been sponsored by the federal government and some of our leading citizens over the past eight decades. It is a lavishly illustrated history of the United States in our times and it comes in parts—on postage stamps, to be precise. The story it tells may say as much about how we see ourselves as about what we’ve done since 1900. Read more »

Repeating History: America as a Gun Culture

As this issue goes to press, Governor George Wallace of Alabama lies gravely wounded by bullets fired from the handgun of a would-be assassin while he was campaigning for the Presidential nomination in Maryland. It made us think, sadly, of this passage from an essay we published in October, 1970, by the late Richard Hofstadter, called “America as a Gun Culture”: Read more »

Houdini’s High-flying Hoax

Harry Houdini, the American magician and escape artist who became famous in the first quarter of this century, spent a great deal of his time exposing frauds. He insisted that all his own marvellous tricks were just that, accomplished entirely without supernatural assistance; he also exposed numerous “spiritualists” whose claims to otherworldly connections were hoaxes of one kind or another. Over the years he built up a tremendous reputation for uncompromising honesty.Read more »