The Buyable Past

The License Plate


Before back-seat video screens, countless children amused themselves on road trips by looking at license plates, thrilled to spot their initials, birthdates, or examples from distant states. Thousands of adult collectors share that enthusiasm.

Antique plates promote their states’ agricultural products, distinctive contours, or mineral wealth (the Arizona plate is made of copper).
tim stentiford2007_2_12
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The Trial Of General Homma

Was he the Beast of Bataan, or was his true war crime defeating Douglas MacArthur? A troubling look at the problems of military justice

On the morning of December 16, 1945, Lt. Robert Pelz steeled himself to meet a monster. A young Army lawyer not long out of Columbia Law School, Pelz was stationed in Manila, where he had been assigned to work on the trial of the most notorious Japanese war criminal of them all: Masaharu Homma, the general who had handed America a staggering military defeat—the surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on the Philippine island of Luzon.Read more »

The Quietest War

We’ve kept Fallujah, but have we lost our souls?

The war in Iraq has been going on for three and a half years now. That’s about the same amount of time America spent fighting World War II. This seems almost impossible considering how firmly the Second World War is embedded in our collective memory. We have even come to think of an entire generation—The Greatest Generation—in terms of that struggle. Cliché or not, we can still see the sharp cut of their uniforms, and those sharp 1940s civvies, the way they wore their hair back then, the America they lived in.Read more »

Why Do We Say...?


Rooster is the common term today for a male chicken, and most people utter it without realizing that it is a euphemism, a “good” word employed in place of a “bad” one. Read more »

The War At Home

Near Filed 60 Years Later


He was, to Americans of a certain age, the urbane, well-bred, well-read, well-connected Englishman who hosted “Omnibus,” a cultural lighthouse that shone over the wasteland of network television in the 1950s. Later, from 1971 to 1992, he presented “Masterpiece Theatre,” the American shop window for the best drama from the BBC. Read more »

Now You Can Offer S--- On A Shingle

...To 100 Friends!

In How to Feed an Army: Recipes and Lore From the Front Lines (Collins, $15.95), J. G. Lewin and P. J. Huff survey the solutions to a problem that, as they say, has been vexing our armed forces “from the day Thomas Mifflin took over as the first quartermaster general in August 1775.” Dozens of recipes chart the gustatory history of the American soldier, most of them giving directions on how to feed 100 troops and, should this be beyond the needs of the reader, 10.Read more »

History Now

The War at Home Why Do We Say...? Now You Can Offer S--- On A Shingle Book $ale

Book $ale

The Top 10 Treasures From Abe’s First 10 Years

This June marked the tenth anniversary of, an Internet operation that has made things much easier for American Heritage editors along with countless thousands of other people. Read more »

Boomer Century

What’s going to happen when the most prosperous, best-educated generation in history finally grows up? (And just how special are the baby boomers?)

Just a matter of weeks from now, on December 31, as millions of Americans don party hats and pop champagne corks to usher in the New Year, Kathleen Casey, the Philadelphia-born daughter of a Navy machinist and his wife, will likely find her phone once again ringing off the hook. It happens every decade or so.


Two boys stroll down a sidewalk—and into a future they and their generation will create.
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“The So-called Charge Was Murder”

A young GI making the journey from war to peace, and from enmity to friendship, finds amid the most tremendous change smoldering embers of an old tyranny


In the spring of 1952, I, like many college graduates that year, received an official government letter whose contents we knew before the envelope was opened. Army basic training followed, with daily, almost hourly, assurances that in a matter of months we would be holding Korean hilltop positions, where Old Joe Chink, as the Army then liked to term the enemy, was momentarily expected. Read more »