The Jump Into Sicily

“For This Challenge, I Had Come Three Thousand Miles and Thirty-six Years of My Life”

The future General James M. Gavin of the celebrated 82nd Airborne Division was a thirty-six-year-old colonel in July 0f 1943, facing his first combat assignment. The target was Sicily, and he was to lead a regiment of the 82nd in the first large-scale, organized invasion of Europe by airborne troops. Gavin had trained the men believed in them, was eager to prove their value in battle.

 
 

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Pursuit: Normandy, 1944

An infantryman remembers how it was

Victory in Europe seemed sure and near for the Western Allies in late summer, 1944, as their armies broke out of a shallow beachhead on the Channel coast of France and rolled, seemingly unstoppable, across Normandy, Brittany, Flanders, on to Paris, and up to the borders of Germany itself. But here, braked by worn-out men and machines and an outrun fuel supply, the advance slowed and halted. The dark winter of the Ardennes followed, and it was spring before Germany was finally reduced to the smoking, starving ruin that constituted defeat. Read more »

Samuel Eliot Morison Award

to Joseph P. Lash for Roosevelt and Churchill, 1939–1941: The Partnership That Saved the West

If Joseph P. Lash had decided, back in 1942, to write a book on the wartime friendship between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, he would have been off to a lucky start. He happened to be a guest at the White House on the occasion of the British leader’s first transatlantic visit after Pearl Harbor, and found himself seated next to the famous man at lunch. Read more »

“i Am Become Death…”

The Agony of J. Robert Oppenheimer

In the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer-the American physicist and scientiststatesman who directed the building of the first atomic bombs at Los Alamos, New Mexico, during World War II, whose government, discerning “fundamental defects” in his character, denied him security clearance in 1954, who died of throat cancer in 1967—some have professed to see embodied the moral ambiguities of twentieth-century science, science charging breakneck over human institutions, scientists waking compromised from Faustian dreams.Read more »

Ordeal At Vella Lavella

Six thousand miles southwest of San Francisco lie the Solomon Islands, scene of perhaps the bitterest fighting ever waged by Americans at war. Here, in 1942-43, the United States and its allies battled the empire of Japan for mastery of the South Pacific. Read more »

From Austerlitz To Moscow

An American Success Story

A dreadful prospect opened up for mankind when Napoleon’s Grande Armée won the battle of Austerlitz and swept on to conquer all of Europe. The enthusiastic multitudes of revolutionary France had placed at Napoleon’s disposal the resources of an entire nation, and he had fashioned from them a mighty new weapon: the mass citizen army, the Grande Armée. War was no longer a game for kings and small hired armies; it had become a cataclysm into which entire nations were hurled.Read more »

The Way I See It

A new column

The great job of the historian is to enable people to understand how things were and why they happened so in a time and at a place that are gone forever. Somehow he has to reach the irrecoverable past. Living in one era, he must work in another, trying his best to lay his hands on something that is forever beyond his grasp, to hear voices that have been stilled for generations and to interpret the aspirations and motivations of minds and hearts that returned to their elements long since in the mists beyond the Jordan.Read more »

The Knave Of Boston

IN ALL THE PACK, DAN COAKLEY DESERVED TO BE CALLED

They are all gone now—those vivid, venal characters who for a half century up to World War IIAC moved with insouciant relentlessness across the spotted field of Boston politics.Read more »

July, 1944: St. Lô

A soldier remembers a great battle

Three decades ago a battle was fought for St. Lô , Normandy, France, in the second of the great world wars of this century. To have been young at St. Lô and now to be old is a matter of personal amazement, for the time lapse seems instantaneous. In rank, the battle is in that heavily populated tier of major bloodlettings that have determined the course of campaigns, as opposed to the few decisive Gettysburgs and Waterloos on which history itself has turned. In keeping with this stature, St.Read more »

“I Am Not A Very Timid Type …”

The American public, reeling from a series of defeats at the onset of World War II, was thrilled by the dramatic announcement that, on April 18, 1942, a flight B-25 medium bombers had successfully struck Tokyo and other targets on the Japanese mainland. To keep the enemy off-balance rigid security was imposed on the details of the surprise carrier-launched raid. “Shangn-La,” a smiling President Franklin D. Roosevelt replied when asked where the attack had originated.

 

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