Eavesdropping On The Rising Sun

A young man from Queens jumps into the thick of World War II intelligence activities by translating secret Japanese messages

IN HIS MARVELOUS MEMOIR, Flights of Passage, my friend and onetime colleague Samuel Hynes, a Marine Corps combat aviator in World War II, writes that the war is the shared secret of his generation—those young men who came of age between December 7, 1941, and September 2, 1945. For those of the approximately 12 million Americans in uniform for some or all of those years, it was an experience both personal and collective like nothing before or after. Those who went through the hell of combat carry physical and emotional scars as reminders.Read more »

Flight Of The Wasp

The Women Airforce Service Pilots seemed strange and exotic to World War II America. In fact, not even the military could quite fiqure out what to do with them.

Curiosity, patriotism, and even a hint of scandal lured the residents of Sweetwater, Texas, to the outskirts of town one April morning in 1943. The townspeople made a day of it, setting out picnic lunches near the military training base at Avenger Field and searching the sky for incoming aircraft. “Cars lined old Highway 80 for two miles in each direction from the Main Gate,” recalled 17-year-old Hershel Whittington. The first sightings came in mid-afternoon, and then dozens of planes, open cockpit and single propeller, began passing over the rolling plains of tumbleweed and cactus beyond town on the way to the base. “Here comes one,” someone shouted. “And here’s another!”

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Churchill Offers Toil And Tears To FDR

The world-shaping relationship between these two giants got off to a rocky start

Often it is said that vast long-range economic and social forces, not the efforts of leading individuals alone, make history. The course of World War II denies this seemingly rational thesis. Hitler began World War II; he and his principal adversaries—Britain’s Winston Churchill, America’s Franklin Roosevelt, and Russia’s Joseph Stalin—determined the conflict’s course and outcome. While the latter two effectively won the war in 1945, Churchill played a significant role by not losing it in 1940 and 1941.Read more »

A Funny Man Writes A Serious Historical Novel

Gene Wilder discusses his new World War I adventure

Gene Wilder, the son of russian Jewish immigrants, was born in Milwaukee in 1933.Read more »

History Now

A Funny Man Writes a Serious Historical Novel The Buyable Past Resources Pop Goes The Nation “Don’t Be a Show Off” Why Do We Say...?

Hitchcock On Location

You can go there too, even to the Bates Motel

Although Alfred Hitchcock lived in the United States for more than 40 years, becoming an American citizen in 1955, five years after his wife, Alma, he carefully retained his Britishness. Even in the warm sunshine of Southern California he always turned up for work in an immaculately tailored dark suit, and his wardrobe held dozens of them, all identical except for their varying waistbands.Read more »

Why Do We Say...?

Pork Barrel

A “Call it Pork or Necessity, but Alaska Comes Out Far Above the Rest in Spending.” This headline—from The New York Times—was for a story about the $388 billion federal Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2005. “Consolidated” is an apt word for this annual exercise: The act is nearly 1,700 pages long or, looking at it another way, more than a foot thick. Buried within it are thousands of local projects for which funds have been specially set aside. In official congressional parlance, grants of this sort are called “earmarks.” Most people call them pork .Read more »

Pop Goes The Nation

“The founding of the United States experience: 1763-1815”

The Founding of the United States Experience (Presidio Press, 64 pages, $50) earns the slightly unwieldy last word in its title, because digging into this handsome volume creates an experience much like rooting through a treasure-filled attic. Read more »

“Don’t Be A Show Off”

The book that taught GI’s how to behave in England

There were three deadly serious crimes a serviceman could commit, said the United States Army Air Corps commander Carl (“Tooey”) Spaatz; “Murder, rape, and interference with Anglo-American relations. The first two might conceivably be pardoned, but the third one, never.” Seemingly Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed. When he learned that two different-nationality officers of his integrated staff had exchanged harsh words, he sent the American one home.


The Automobile License Plate Collectors Association is the world’s largest club devoted to the hobby; members benefit from a bimonthly newsletter, an annual convention, and regional meets (ALPCA, Inc., 508 Coastal Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23451; www.alpca.org ). Great plates abound on the Internet. Start at www.alpca.org, click on “Gallery” for select examples and on “Links” for the best hobbyist sites. Skip books that spotlight clever vanity plates, and opt instead for informative volumes. James K.Read more »