FDR A Practical Magician

Fifty years ago this March, Roosevelt took the oath of office and inaugurated this century’s most profound national changes. One who was there recalls the President’s unique blend of ebullience and toughness.

THAT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT was, and preeminently so, the dominant political figure of this century—that he stood astride its first half like the Colossus itself—will not be in doubt. Nor are the reasons subject to serious dispute. It was his fate and fortune to face the two great tragedies of the time and to guide its greatest social achievement. The tragedies were, of course, the Second World War and the Great Depression, and few will quarrel as to the bearing of these two events on the Roosevelt transcendence.Read more »

The Ship That Died Of Carelessness

The Normandie has been gone since World War II, but many people still remember her as the most beautiful passenger liner ever built. It is the saddest of ironies that she fled her native France to seek safety in New York Harbor.

SHE WAS THE largest moving object that mankind had ever built. She was the first liner to cross the Atlantic at better than 30 knots, the first to exceed 1,000 feet in length, the first truly modern ship. She coddled her passengers with a spaciousness, luxury, and cuisine that has never been equaled. She was the Normandie, France’s pride and America’s joy. She lived a life of glory and acclaim. And she died horribly, at the hands of strangers. Read more »

Winston Churchill And “the Natural Captain Of The West”

Fifty years after FDR first took office, a British statesman and historian evaluates the President’s role in the twentieth century’s most important partnership

Franklin Roosevelt was, and remains, a hero to the British. During his rise to power we were detached from and ignorant of American internal politics to an extent that is not easily imaginable today. The Atlantic in the twenties and thirties was still very wide. The majority, including those politically involved and informed, never crossed it. Very few did so frequently.Read more »

The Agony Of The Indianapolis

She was the last major American warship sunk during World War II, and her sinking was the single worst open-sea disaster in our naval history. How could it have happened?

On July 16, 1945, the heavy cruiser Indianapolis departed the California coast for the Pacific island of Tinian. On board was a heavily guarded top-secret cargo destined to end the war. Only hours before the Indianapolis began her high-speed journey, the first successful atomic detonation had ushered in the nuclear age. The cruiser itself carried vital elements of the atomic bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima. Even Captain Charles B.Read more »

Looking For The Good Germans

The victors divided the Germans into three groups: black (Nazi), white (innocent), and gray—that vast, vast area in between

I was one of these moralists in khaki. A newspaperman and radio writer in civil life, only a few days after the German surrender in May, 1945,1 took my place behind a battered pine desk in a bomb-cracked building in Munich that originally had served as an old-folks home and later as headquarters for the German army service of supply. Read more »

“Suddenly, There Were The Americans”

A British schoolboy sees the quiet English countryside come alive with excitement toward the end of 1943 when …

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II. Bats Away!

It is early 1945. An American bomber crew is anxiously nearing the now familiar islands of the Japanese Empire. Flak begins to burst around the plane as the target comes into view. The bombardier releases the payload, and the crew watches as thousands of incendiary bats plummet toward the paper cities of Japan. Read more »

A Painter At War

The Combat Art of Albert K. Murray

The camera is a marvelous instrument,” says the portrait artist Albert K. Murray, “but when it comes to covering a war, it has its limitations. The artist’s imagination can go where the lens cannot and adds a unique distillate to everything he paints.” Born in 1906 at Emporta, Kansas, Murray was already a well-known painter when he joined the Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor as one of only six American Navy combat artists.Read more »

A Postage Stamp History Of The U.S. In The Twentieth Century

Here is the federal government’s own picture history of our times—and it tells us more than you might think

FEW ARE AWARE of a major publishing project that has been sponsored by the federal government and some of our leading citizens over the past eight decades. It is a lavishly illustrated history of the United States in our times and it comes in parts—on postage stamps, to be precise. The story it tells may say as much about how we see ourselves as about what we’ve done since 1900. Read more »

History And The Imagination

As three recent films show—one on the atomic bomb, one on women defense workers during the Second World War, one on the government arts projects of the thirties —this history of our times offers film makers arresting opportunities. Footage shot on the spot supplies a measure of raw actuality, and survivors are still available for interview. The real problem is to give abundant but diffuse materials a shape and structure. This is not, however, a problem that automatically solves itself. Read more »