Special Forces

The least-understood branch of our military was born 60 years ago but today is coming into prominence as never before

 

“BUT, DAD, THOSE DON’T LOOK LIKE American soldiers.” My son was right. The bearded young men leaping from a white pickup truck in a TV news clip were dressed in an curious assortment of Western and Afghan garb. Yet even in the few seconds of broadcast images, one could see by their quick, purposeful movements that the newsman’s call was correct: The men securing a forlorn Al Qaeda safe house were U.S.

 
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The Corps

The United States Military Academy turns 200 this year. West Point has
grown with the nation—and, more than once, saved it.

BATTALION AND REGIMENTAL leaders unsheath sabers for the issuance of shouted orders, and as drum and bugle corps thump and shrill, a great mass, 4,000 strong, moves into its mess hall of thick overhead beams below vaulting ceiling heights and the size-of-a-house painting of history’s groupedtogether Great Captains: Richard the Lion-Hearted on his charger, Joan of Arc, Napoleon, Alexander, Grant, the rest.

 
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Chosin

Fifty years ago in the frozen mountains of Korea, the Marines endured a campaign as grueling and heroic as any in history

The deeds of our heroes are based, all too often, on the arrogance of higher authority. The list is long: Xenophon’s Ten Thousand, the Light brigade at Balaklava, Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, the British infantrymen at the Somme in 1916. Fifty years ago, the United States Marines at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea joined this list. • Marines tell this story alongside those of Belleau Wood, Tarawa, and Iwo Jima. The scene is quickly set. On June 25, 1950, the armies of the People’s Republic of [North] Korea invaded South Korea.

 
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My Grandfather’s War

How the discovery of a long-forgotten trunk inspired an artist to spend years recording the quiet remnants of a wrenching military career.

My grandfather spoke to me about his experiences in the first World War only once, and that was abruptly and in anger. As young boys, my brothers and I would spend part of our summer vacations with my grandparents. One sweltering August night I climbed down from the attic guest room to ask my grandmother if I could sleep on the screened porch. She helped me gather up my pillows and sheets, and as we were rounding the second-story landing, my grandfather appeared unexpectedly.Read more »

Colonel McCormick’s War

The newspaper baron Robert McCormick was a passionate isolationist—yet his brief service in France in 1918 shone for him all his life and gave birth to an extraordinary museum

 

Cantigny.

 
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Straight Talk From Camp Humbug

A soldier’s timeless meditation on the frustrations of military life

In the autumn of 1856, 1st Lt. Orlando Bolivar Willcox was dispatched with his regiment to the malaria-infested swamps of Florida to participate in the Third Seminole War. Willcox, an 1847 West Point graduate, had previously seen service in Mexico and on the Great Plains and would one day establish an outstanding record of service as a Union general in the Civil War. Yet it was the eight long months he spent in Florida that proved the most trying service of his career.

 
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“I Learn a Lot from the Veterans”

Reminiscences of World War II’s European Theater add up to considerably more than a bunch of good war stories

Last fall the author published his book Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944-May 7, 1945 . It quickly bounced onto bestseller lists across the country, and the reason this happened is suggested in the rich and moving correspondence it had the power to generate among its readers.

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The San Patricios

Most of them were American soldiers who fought with skill, discipline, and high courage against a U.S. Army that numbered Ulysses Grant in its ranks. The year was 1847.

The court-martial of Capt. John O’Reilly was one of twenty-nine convened by the United States Army at the San Angel prison camp in Mexico on August 28, 1847: thirty-six other men of O’Reilly’s San Patricio Battalion faced courts-martial on that same day at nearby Tacubaya. Read more »

The Liberation Of Paris

I am told that many people have difficulty in deciding the most exciting moment in their lives. Not I. For me it was August 25, 1944—the day of the liberation of Paris half a century ago. I was there as a war correspondent courtesy of the American 4th Infantry Division. Read more »

The Warfare State

A scholar searches across two centuries to discover the main engine of our government’s growth—and reaches a controversial conclusion

Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1835 that America had no neighbors and hence no enemies. Indeed, the New World Republic was the ultimate island power, with the Atlantic Ocean providing a protective moat nearly a hundred times as wide as the English Channel. The German philosopher Hegel, writing at about the same time as Toque, cited this isolation as one reason “a real State”—a powerful, centralized, European-style state—could never exist in America.Read more »