“No One Returns Alive”

Too often overlooked today, the New Guinea campaign was the longest of the Pacific War, with 340,000 Americans fighting more than half a million Japanese.
Soldiers in the Imperial Army of Japan had a saying: “Heaven is Java; hell is Burma; but no one returns alive from New Guinea.” For nearly four years, they struggled to hold onto the mountainous, jungle-choked island, fighting first with the Australians, then with Americans commanded by Douglas McArthur. Because holding onto New Guinea was central to the Japanese strategy for the war, they poured a vast number of troops, ships, and warplanes into the effort, pulling away resources from other fronts that contributed to Allied successes elsewhere.
Date of Event: 
Saturday, July 22, 1865
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O’Hare’s Last Flight

The author took part in the first night action from carriers, in which the famous World War II ace Butch O'Hare(for whom Chicago's airport was named) lost his life.

By 1943, the war was moving fast—new carriers, new airplane squadrons—and in November our air group, commanded by Lt. Comdr. Edward “Butch” O’Hare, was loaded aboard ship for the Pacific Theater. O’Hare was a hero of the early war, having shot down five Japanese planes in one day and probably saving the carrier Lexington at the Battle of the Coral Sea. Read more »

Date of Event: 
Friday, July 7, 1865

Ike’s Decision

Eisenhower's call to proceed with D-Day was anything but inevitable

It has been 65 years since D-Day—the early June day when the United States and its allies launched a massive attack on the shores of Normandy in a bid to liberate western Europe from the Nazis. It's been long enough for most people who still remember the date to have come to think of its success as natural and foreordained. Read more »

Date of Event: 
Monday, September 12, 1864

50 Years Ago

Historian S. L. A. Marshall Tells How He and “Papa” Hemingway Liberated Paris

Ernest Hemingway told a wonderful story about his liberation of Paris. He claimed he was one of the first to enter the city, taking over the bars at the Crillon and Ritz hotels. Famed World War II historian S.L.A. Marshall corroborated Hemingway’s account in American  Heritage. —The Editors

From the war there is one story dear to my heart of which I have never written a line. There are reasons for this restraint: a promise once made; the unimportance of trying to be earnest about that which is ludicrous; and the blight of the passing years on faded notes. Read more »

Ike's Son Remembers George S. Patton Jr.

The author, who once served under General Patton and whose father, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was Patton's commanding officer, shares his memories of "Ol' Blood and Guts"

On the morning of December 19, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower strode into the gloomy school building in Verdun that housed the main headquarters of General Omar Bradley’s Twelfth Army Group. He had called a meeting of all the senior commanders under Bradley. More than just the building was gloomy; the weather outside was a dark gray, and the tactical situation facing the American Army in Europe was also dark. Adolf Hitler’s gigantic Ardennes counteroffensive had been launched three days before, and German Gen.Read more »

The Day When We Almost Lost the Army

Debate over America's involvement in World War II came to a head in July 1941 as the Senate argued over a draft extension bill. The decision would have profound consequences for the nation.

On July 19, 1941, when Gen. George Catlett Marshall, Army chief of staff, stepped before the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, his gray civilian suit could not disguise the proud bearing of a soldier and commander of men. His shoulders squared, but not conspicuously so, his chin receding slightly, and thin lips compressed with resolution, his tall figure exuded dignity, authority, and singleness of purpose. He considered his mission that day as among the most vital of any during his distinguished 39-year career in uniform: to save the still anemic U.S. Army from emasculation. Read more »

Girl Computers

In a top-secret program, talented, young female mathematicians calculated the artillery and bomb trajectories that American GIs used to win World War II

The air at 20,000 feet above Schweinfurt, Germany, was icy cold, but the bombardier crouching in the nose of the B-17 hardly noticed. Sweat poured down his forehead as flak rocked the aircraft, periodically spattering his compartment's Plexiglas bubble with fragments. He focused intently on preparing for the final bombing run.Read more »

The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson

He was a lieutenant in the Army of the United States: he saw no reason to sit in the back of the bus

ON JULY 6, 1944, Jackie Robinson, a twenty-five-year-old lieutenant, boarded an Army bus at Fort Hood, Texas. Sixteen months later he would be tapped as the man to break baseball’s color barrier, but in 1944 he was one of thousands of blacks thrust into the Jim Crow South during World War II. He was with the light-skinned wife of a fellow black officer, and the two walked half the length of the bus, then sat down, talking amiably.Read more »

Pacific War Museum

If HBO’s 10-part Pacific series has fired your interest in World War II’s Pacific Theater, consider visiting the newly renovated and much expanded George H. W. Bush Gallery of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. Inside the 33,000-square-foot gallery, whose architecture evokes an aircraft carrier, pill box, and Pacific island beachhead, is a Japanese midget submarine and a B-25 bomber flown on the 1942 Doolittle Raid, along with exhibits about the war’s origins and the major battles from Coral Sea to Okinawa. Read more »

The Naked Truth Of Battle

A preeminent author reports on his experience as one of America's first combat historians, among a handful of men who accompanied soldiers into the bloodiest battles to write history as it was being made

Editor’s note: Fresh from Williams College’s history program, the author entered World War II as a 24-year-old combat historian, earning four combat medals and a Bronze Star. He would go on to become a leading presidential historian, writing a two-volume biography of FDR, the second book of which won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. He has also written notable books on John F. Kennedy and the subject of leadership. Read more »