Chaplain Kidder’s Song

A D-DAY VETERAN’S GRANDSON ATTEMPTS TO FIND THE ANSWER TO THAT MOST IMPENETRABLE QUESTION: WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

The Reverend Maurice Kidder used to wake at five to write sermons in his dark study where the beagle slept; that early hour seemed to give him the clarity to compose his lectures, which he delivered in an unaffected but commanding baritone voice each Sunday at his All Saints’ Church in western Massachusetts. By the time I knew him my grandfather had been giving sermons for more than thirty years. He was a tall, powerfully genial man with blue eyes, a colonial-looking head of wavy white hair, and a long, squared jaw.Read more »

D-Day: What It Meant

A soldier who landed in the second wave on Omaha Beach assesses the broadest implications of what he and his comrades achieved there

A conjecture, worthy of a certainty, is that no American soldier on Omaha Beach at high noon, June 6, 1944, gave thought to being present at a turning point in world history. Any abstract thinking he may have done was more likely along the lines of being in a major debacle. The English Channel to his back, his weapons, fouled by saltwater and sand, he was largely naked before an enemy firing down from trenches and massive concrete bunkers along high bluffs looming to his immediate front.Read more »

“Hope Is Not A Method”

It is dawn in Washington as Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, walks quickly from his helicopter at Andrews Air Force Base to board the jet bound for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Waiting for him there is a classroom full of the Army’s most successful and promising officers, colonels, and lieutenant colonels newly chosen to command brigades and battalions. Some of these officers will have fought in Grenada, in Panama, in the Gulf War, or all three. It is possible they will have to lead their soldiers in some other conflict before they leave command. Sullivan wants them to know who leads them.

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Build-down

After every war in the nation’s history, the military has faced not only calls for demobilization but new challenges and new opportunities. It is happening again.

Not many people appreciate a military base closing. Like the shutting of a factory, it can devastate nearby towns, throwing thousands of people out of work. Merchants face losses and even bankruptcy as sales fall off. Home-owners put their houses on the market at distress prices and sometimes simply walk away from their mortgages. Even long-established military centers are not immune; the current round of closings includes the Mare Island Naval Base near San Francisco, which has operated since 1854. Read more »

The Seventeenth Largest Army

The old Regular Army, part fairy tale and part dirty joke, was generally either ignored or disdained. But its people went about their work with a dogged humdrum gallantry—and when the storm broke, they helped save the world.

 

“What do you want to go back to the Army for?” she cried. “What did the Army ever do for you?”

“What do I want to go back for?” Prewitt said wonderingly. “I’m a soldier. ” Read more »

Search And Destroy

The United States Army has always been secretive about its defense installations. In the summer of 1864 a breach of security took place on the tiny island fortress of Alcatraz that reverberated all the way back to the War Department in Washington.

Alcatraz Island, squatting in the middle of San Francisco Bay, is the twenty-two-acre cork in the mouth of the Golden Gate. Read more »

Prescott’s War

A civilian adventurer gave us the best artist’s record of America in Vietnam.

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"I Had Prayed To God That This Thing Was Fiction…"

He didn’t want the job but felt he should do it. For the first time, the soldier who tracked down the My Lai story for the office of the inspector general in 1969 tells what it was like to do some of this era’s grimmest detective work.

In the early spring of 1969 I was an Army colonel recently assigned to the office of the inspector general in Washington, and I was not particularly happy about it; I have always disliked living in Washington, and I think that most infantry officers would rather serve with troops than investigate allegations about irregularities in procurement, which was most of what the IG’s D.C. office did. Our job was to look into complaints sent to us from the Executive Branch or the Congress, and seven or eight fresh ones circulated in each morning’s Read File.Read more »

Triumph And Tragedy

It was the second of May, 1945, six days before the end of the war in Europe. We were members of Headquarters Battery, 608th Field Artillery Battalion, 71st Infantry Division—one of the spearheads of Ration’s 3d Army, driving south through a conquered Germany toward Austria, the last unoccupied part of Hitler’s Reich.Read more »

West Point In Review

The old school is alive with the memory of men like Lee, Grant, Pershing, and Eisenhower

Each year most of West Point’s three million visitors enter the U.S. Military Academy through the Thayer Gate. They drive past the cluttered main street of Highland Falls, which the historian Samuel Huntington described as a town of a sort “familiar to everyone … a motley, disconnected collection of frames coincidentally adjoining each other, lacking common unity and purpose.” A moment later the visitors are in, as Huntington put it, “a different world [of] ordered serenity….Read more »