Hardships

An Airman’s Sketchbook

On April 6,1942, I joined the 40th Squadron of the newly formed 35th Fighter Group then being assembled at Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia, a suburb of Sydney. The 40th was flying training missions in P-39s, for which I for one was duly thankful, since I had only four hours of flying time in the plane we were expecting to fly in combat and I had never fired the guns. Read more »

Memory As History

Seeking the truth of an event in the memories of the people who lived it can be a maddening task—and an exhilarating one

The chords of memory may be mystic, as Abraham Lincoln described them, but how accurate and reliable they are as evidence is a dilemma every historian must face. From the time Herodotus walked through Asia Minor two thousand years ago, asking questions, tapping the recollections of hundreds of eyewitnesses, historians have depended on the retentive faculty of the human mind for information about the past, and they have learned that such reliance has its minuses as well as pluses. Read more »

Close Encounter

The mysterious thing that happened to Lieutenant Colonel Brown over Bremen in 1943 sent the pilot off on a quest that lasted his entire life. Finally he found the answer. It had been worth waiting for.

In December 1943, Capt. Charles L. Brown flew his first mission over Germany as aircraft commander of a battle-weary B-17. What happened that day is an extraordinary untold story of World War II. Recently I sat with Lieutenant Colonel Brown (USAF Ret.) in the leafy yard of his Florida home. His keen memory supported by a diary, he told me the tale. Read more »

Return To East Anglia

It is to the U.S. Air Force what Normandy is to the U.S. Army. The monuments are harder to find, but if you’re willing to leave the main roads, you will discover a countryside still eloquent of one of the greatest military efforts in history.

From 1941 to 1945 the biggest aircraft carrier in the North Atlantic was England. Once the U.S. 8th Air Force arrived in 1942, a new field was started every three days. By war’s end there were more than 700 airfields spread across the country; the 8th had built 130 of them. Enough concrete had been slathered across cornfields and cow pastures to pave four thousand miles of highway—all in an area about the size of Vermont.Read more »

Triumph And Tragedy

It was the second of May, 1945, six days before the end of the war in Europe. We were members of Headquarters Battery, 608th Field Artillery Battalion, 71st Infantry Division—one of the spearheads of Ration’s 3d Army, driving south through a conquered Germany toward Austria, the last unoccupied part of Hitler’s Reich.Read more »

The Real War

Walt Whitman said, “The real war will never get in the books.” The critic and writer Paul Fussell feels that the same sanitizing of history that went on after the 1860s has erased the national memory of what World War II was really like.

The big push” is how the G-3 journal of the 103d Infantry Division described its attack against elements of the German 19th Army on November 16, 1944. At H-plus-15, American guns bombarded enemy lines, and the regiments moved forward. In Company F of the 410th Infantry Regiment, the future author of Wartime, 2d Lt. Paul Fusse!!, was about to receive his baptism of fire and his first Purple Heart when shrapnel tore up his elbow. That was near St-Dié, on the western slopes of the Vosges Mountains of Alsace. Read more »

The Secret Of The Soldiers Who Didn’t Shoot

Slam Marshall, who is regarded as one of our great military historians, looked into the heart of combat and discovered a mystery there that raised doubts about the fighting quality of U.S. troops. But one GI thought he was a liar…

When Col. Samuel Lyman Marshall came home in 1945, he was one of millions of Americans who had served in the Second World War. Perhaps a third of them had seen combat, and Marshall, as the European theater’s deputy historian, had talked to an unprecedentedly large number of them. In a few months he began the little book that was to make him S. L. A. Marshall, a respected and highly influential military historian.Read more »

Homer Lea & The Decline Of The West

Early in the century a young American accurately predicted Japan’s imperialism and China’s and Russia’s rise. Then he set out to become China’s soldier leader.

In October 1941 Clare Boothe Luce, the playwright, journalist, politician, and wife of the magazine tycoon Henry Luce, had dinner with half a dozen army officers in their quarters on top of an ancient Spanish fort beside the harbor of Manila. The main topic of conversation was the threat of war with Japan. Everyone assumed that if hostilities began, the Philippines would be target No. 1 of the Japanese war machine. Read more »

The Big Leak

So big was the leak that it might have caused us to lose World War II. So mysterious is the identity of the leaker that we can’t be sure to this day who it was…or at least not entirely sure.

Blazoned in huge black letters across page one of the December 4, 1941, issue of the Chicago Tribune was the headline: F.D.R.’S WAR PLANS! The Times Herald, the Tribune ’s Washington, D.C., ally, carried a similarly fevered banner. In both papers Chesly Manly, the Tribune's Washington correspondent, revealed what President Franklin D.Read more »

The Example Of Private Slovik

Of the thousands of American soldiers court-martialed for desertion in World War II, Eddie Slovik was the only one put to death. One of the judges who convicted him looks back with regret.

When Private Eddie Slovik was executed on January 31,1945, he became the only American put to death for desertion since Lincoln was President. After his death he became the subject of a book that sold in the millions, numerous magazine articles, a television special, a play or two, and several public campaigns that made his case an issue and still keep it alive.Read more »