Benét And The Ensign From Alabama

THE BOOK reached me in Argentia, Newfoundland, where my squadron, VP-84, was on antisubmarine patrol. The inscription, “To Ev—this incontestable evidence of performance,” had a special impact, as my brother knew it would. Aircraft performance, along with flying ability and luck, are what a pilot lives by in war. But it was a different performance, the kind evident on every page of Stephen Vincent Benét’s John Brown’s Body , that my brother was referring to in his gift marking my twenty-sixth birthday.Read more »

Ploesti: A Pilot's Diary

A thousand miles behind enemy lines, Liberator bombers struck Hitler’s Rumanian oil refineries, then headed home flying so low that some came back with cornstalks in their bomb bays

Benghazi, Libya, July 23,1943. Something new is in the air! This morning we were introduced to a Major Blank, an expert in low-level bombing, who lectured us on a new bombsight, which was a converted gunsight. He explained how A-20s had been making low-level attacks and that experiments were being made with B-24s. He said that he didn’t know if the new sights would ever be used, but we assumed the Air Force wouldn’t be running experiments that far out in the desert for nothing, so we decided to get interested in low-level bombing.Read more »

Churchill’s Dream

The great man’s daughter-in-law draws a portrait of the statesman at the top of his career and at the bottom

FOR A SHORT, fierce time during the war, I knew Winston Churchill very well. After the war and until his death, I saw him less often. But my memories of him at the height of his power have never left me. Winston Churchill was, above all, a romantic whose power lay in his capacity to shape the world to his vision. He led men and women to outdo themselves, to accomplish far more than they had thought they could.Read more »

“yes, By Damn, We’re Going Back To Berlin”

After two false starts, the B-17s got through. A pilot relives the 8th Air Force’s first successful daylight raid on the German capital .

IN MARCH THE NIGHTS were long and black over the airfield at Bassingbourn, which lies just north of London. Its latitude is about the same as that of Hudson Bay, and this proximity to the Arctic Circle means long summer days and long winter nights. During the cold months the B-17s of the 91st Bombardment Group took off in the dark: a blackout was strictly enforced, all the windows had heavy curtains, and even the flashlights had recessed bulbs. Read more »

On Omaha Beach

Along this narrow stretch of sand, all the painstaking plans for the Normandy invasion fell apart. One of the men who was lucky enough to make it past the beachhead recalls a day of fear, chaos, grief—and triumph.

I WAS A CAPTAIN in the Stonewall Brigade when I first went into battle at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Our outfit was directly descended from the famed command of Gen. Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson and proud of it, and D-day was for me much as the First Manassas had been in 1861 for a Capt. Randolph Barton, CSA, of the Stonewall Brigade, who wrote: “I think I went into that action with less trepidation than into any subsequent one.Read more »

The Man Who Planned The Victory

An Interview With Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer

In 1936 the Germans permitted a captain of the U.S. Army to attend their War College as an exchange student. What he learned there helped him develop the master strategy with which the Allies won the war. At eighty-six, one of the last of the commanders looks back. Read more »

Not Forgetting May Be The Only Heroism Of The Survivor”

Years after one of the bloodiest and most intense battles of the war in the Pacific, a Marine Corps veteran returns to Tarawa

WAR IS A COUNTRY no traveler ever forgets. It haunts those who survive the journey as no other experience. The memories of war cling to the mind with astonishing tenacity, and sometimes in the dark of night when the glow of your cigarette is a distant fire on an island most people have never heard of, nothing seems to equal their demand for attention. Why? Possibly because the memories raise so many questions about oneself, particularly the unanswerable one: Why am I the one here to remember?Read more »

Escape From Vichy

One of the most ingenious and least known rescue missions of World War II was engineered by a young American dandy, Varian Fry, who shepherded to safety hundreds of European intellectuals wanted by the Nazis

ALL WARS , great and small, can be counted on to produce four things: misery, death, destruction, and refugees. As far as the first three are concerned, the Second World War differed from its predecessors only in scale. In the matter of refugees, however, the conflict produced a wholly new phenomenon: the mass transplanting of the intelligentsia of one continent to another continent.Read more »

Scientists At War

THE BIRTH OF THE RAND CORPORATION During World War II, America discovered that scientists were needed to win it—and to win any future war. That’s why RAND came into being, the first think tank and the model for all the rest.

ALONG THE jagged coastline of Southern California, past the hills and forests of Malibu, five miles down from the Santa Monica Mountains, just short of Muscle Beach and the town of Venice, there sits some of the most quaintly decrepit oceanside property in America. The Santa Monica beach hardly looks different from the way it did a few years after World War II: the same huge arch along the entryway, the same calliope with the lighthouse-shaped apartment on top, the same small seafood diner. Read more »

The President’s Best Friend

If he’d been the closest companion of the president of IBM, you might happen across his name in a privately printed memoir. But LeMoyne Billings was John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s best friend from Choate to the White House—and that makes him part of history.

CROATE, 1935 Read more »