The Real First World War And The Making Of America

It has taken us two and a half centuries to realize just how important this conflict was

Two hundred and fifty years ago this winter, European courts and diplomats were moving ever closer to war. It would prove larger, more brutal, and costlier than anyone anticipated, and it would have an outcome more decisive than any war in the previous three centuries.

Confessions Of A British Invader

He was in the vanguard of that wave of young Britons who, in the 1960s stormed our shores and gave us back our musical heritage

I always used music. Pop songs were my escape chute from the austerity of postwar Britain, a drab and flaccid land where I wore thick long underwear and Wellington boots, where I was always saying good-bye to my parents and trying not to cry. On the grimy train puffing me back to boarding school by the mud gray sea, I would counter the clacking wheels by chanting such songs as “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)” preparing for the inevitability of rough blankets, bullies, the eating of toothpaste, the learning of Latin, and the mystery of math. Read more »

The Tragedy Of Bridget Such-a-one

A hundred and fifty years ago famine in Ireland fostered a desperate, unprecedented mass migration to America. Neither country has been the same since.

Walking through the woods outside Concord, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1846, amid his solitary experiment in living close to nature, Henry David Thoreau was driven by a sudden storm to find shelter in what he thought was an uninhabited hut. “But therein,” Thoreau recounts in Walden , he found living “John Field, an Irishman, and his wife, and several children,” and he sat with them “under that part of the roof which leaked the least, while it showered and thundered without.” Read more »

Lifeline To A Sinking Continent

Secretary Of State George C. Marshall received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the Harvard commencement exercise on the morning of June 5, 1947. That afternoon he spoke to a group of alumni. His message was short and grim. World War II and its aftermath had brought Europe to the brink of disaster.Read more »

Confessions Of A Sports Car Bolshevik

What it was like to be young and in the front lines
when Europe mounted an assault on Detroit
with small, snarling, irresistible machines that
changed the way we drove and thought

WHAT’S THE POINT OF BEING A BOY IF YOU DON’T GRASP THE FACT that cars are the package excitement comes in? I certainly did. By the age of eleven I was the kind of boy who knew every Dodge and Hudson and Packard of every model year by heart, tore the car ads from the magazines, rushed to the dealers’ showrooms every October for the epic unveiling of next year’s longer, lower, wider wonders. Small Ontario towns had no Bugatti dealers.Read more »

A World In The Middle Of The Ocean

At their zenith the great transatlantic liners were lean runways for Schiaparelli dresses and Sulka dressing gowns, gorgeous stage sets for ship-to-shore gossip, bon mots, cocktail shakers, and dancing all night. It still can happen.

In the days when the North Atlantic was a crowded route, to choose a ship was to start the crossing. The fastest, the biggest, the newest: Often a single liner reigned as all three, with panache to spare for anyone who booked passage. Travelers who grew beyond mere statistics, though, peered into brochures and found the most stylish or amiable ship, or the most reliable. The record for the most comfortable one ever must certainly have been set by the German liner that returned to port unsteadily and slowly after its maiden season: too much furniture. Read more »

“That Hell-hole Of Yours”

In 1943 Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Britain’s poorest, most dismal African colony, and what he saw there fired him with a fervor that helped found the United Nations

President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not look favorably on European colonialism. Like most Americans, he believed that the self-determination clause of the 1941 Atlantic Charter should apply to all peoples, not just Europeans. In the war’s early years he so disagreed with Britain’s prime minister, Winston Churchill, on the future of the British Empire that the two heads of state tacitly agreed to avoid discussing the topic.Read more »

The 36th Mission

He spent his tour of duty bombing German cities and made it home only to discover he could never leave the war behind him. Then, a lifetime later, he found a way to make peace.

My story begins in 1925. I was the youngest of nine children born to Frank and Leata Clark, factory workers in southern Wisconsin who were hit hard by the Depression. My father died when I was thirteen. In October 1943, as soon as I turned eighteen, I enlisted in the Army as a private, hoping to become a fighter pilot. Read more »

The Great Coronation War

In the infancy of television (but not of American royalty-worship) the networks fought their first all-out battle for supremacy over who would get to show Queen Elizabeth II being crowned

When American television was very young, but American royalty-worship was not, the biggest, loudest, most pointless battle for supremacy among the networks was over which would be first—by mere minutes, if necessary—to show pictures of the coronation of the British queen.Read more »

The Transatlantic Duel: Hitler Vs. Roosevelt

In 1941 the President understood better than many Americans the man who was running Germany, and Hitler understood Roosevelt and his country better than we knew

In the summer of 1940 the fate of the world depended on the duel between two men: Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill. It was a duel of nerves, and of wills. Churchill carried it off, because Hitler finally chose not to invade Britain. But even before he made that decision, he and Churchill were aware that this was no longer a duel between the two of them. Before the fall of France, Hitler had gained an ally, Mussolini. Before the Battle of Britain Churchill had gained the support of Roosevelt.Read more »