“Just One More River To Cross”

The final hours of the war were every bit as perilous as all the other ones for this American POW

World War II was ending with more of a whimper than a Waterloo for the Anglo-American forces in Europe. The Battle of Berlin was shaping up just 60 miles to the south of where I stood, but, by design, the American and British forces were to have no part in that carnage. I was unaware that Roosevelt and Churchill had ceded this piece of real estate to Stalin.Read more »

“You Will Be Afraid”

Next to Winston Churchill, Gen. George Patton gave the war’s most famous speeches. But nobody knew quite what he said—until now.

Millions of people have seen the movie Patton, which begins with a view of the general standing before a giant American flag giving a speech to his troops. The actor George C. Scott gave a superb performance in this film; all who ever saw the general in action will agree that he came as close to being George S. Patton, Jr., as is humanly possible. The script for the movie speech itself was a fair representation of the talks to soldiers that Patton actually gave on several occasions. Read more »

World War II 1941 To 1945

Those Yanks of World War II are white-haired now. Great-grandchildren play about their feet. The grand parades and great commemorations are over. Only a few monuments to their achievements are yet to be built. But we can still see them as they were, striking the casual pose, caps and helmets tilted toward the big adventure, cigarettes dangling from a smile. The picture is all innocence.Read more »

Airpower’s Century

Powered flight was born exactly one hundred years ago. It changed everything, of course—but most of all, it changed how we wage war.

Walter Boyne’s résumé makes for unusual reading. He is the author of 42 books and one of the few people to have had bestsellers on both the fiction and the nonfiction lists of The New York Times. A career Air Force officer who won his wings in 1951, he has flown over 5,000 hours in a score of different aircraft, from a Piper Cub to a B-IB bomber, and he is a command pilot. Boyne retired as a colonel in 1974 after 23 years of service (in 1989 he returned for a brief tour of duty to fly the B-IB).Read more »

Empire Of The Winds

In the Aleutian Islands you can explore a landscape of violent beauty, discover the traces of an all-but-forgotten war, and (just possibly) catch a $100,000 fish

 

One summer 30 years ago I found myself on a DC-3 bound for Unalaska, my string bass strapped into the seat next to me. I anchored the rhythm section of a high school band in Anchorage, and we were going to show students in this remote village on the Aleutian chain how much fun it could be to play a musical instrument.

 
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Where Berlin And America Meet

Our common history isn’t all pleasant, but seeing it firsthand is deeply moving

Berlin’s history intersects with America’s at many points, and tourists who seek these intersections will arrive at the first of them sooner than they expect. Americans who came of age soaking up reruns of Twelve O‘Clock High, The World at War, and Victory Through Air-power may find that flying into Berlin is a slightly disconcerting way to approach the place.

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Did Truman Need to Drop the Bomb?

Recently discovered documents shine a new light on the President’s biggest decision

What did President Harry S. Truman and his senior advisers believe an invasion of Japan would cost in American dead? Is In recent years this has been a matter of heated historical controversy, with Truman’s critics maintaining that the huge casualty estimates he later cited were a “postwar creation” designed to justify his use of nuclear weapons against a beaten nation already on the verge of suing for peace. The real reasons, they maintain, range from a desire to intimidate the Russians to sheer bloodlust.

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The Churchill-Roosevelt Forgeries

The campaign to revise Hitler’s reputation has gone on for 50 years, but there’s another strategy now. Some of it is built on the work of the head of the Gestapo—who may have enjoyed a comfortable retirement in America.

RECENTLY, ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS, the American public has been made aware of evidence of plagiarism practiced, alas, by celebrated American historians. This is regrettable, but nothing new. All kinds of writers have borrowed and, worse, stolen from others through the ages. Plagiarism is a forgery of sorts, a little like the forging of a signature on a work of art. Other forgeries are less easily detectable. Moreover, the purposes of a historian’s plagiarism and of a historical forgery are different.Read more »

September 11 Vs. December 7

DID AMERICANS BEHAVE BETTER BACK THEN?

Remember September 11? Or rather, remember how it was supposed to change us all, and for the better? Among all the predictions was one that held that it would lead to “the end of irony,” the sort of earnest prognostication that is bound to seem ironic in retrospect. Yet an even more civic-minded call came from Robert D. Putnam, who let us know that this was our chance to get back to the spirit of World War II. Read more »

Grab Shot

A DICTATOR’S END, CAPTURED UNEXPECTEDLY

In December of 1942 I was drafted and sent overseas to Oran, Algeria, where I was assigned to the 91st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. The eyes and ears for the troops, we rode in jeeps, armored cars, and light tanks, scouting the numbers and supplies of the enemy forces. The 91st did so well that Gen. George Patton insisted we do his reconnaissance all through Africa and Sicily. At the end of the fighting, the 91st had a record of 341 combat days. Read more »