America In London

Within the city’s best-known landmarks and down its least-visited lanes stand surprisingly vivid mementos of our own national history

On a recent pilgrimage to Abilene—that epic little town on the Kansas plains that briefly marked the uttermost frontier of the Western world —I stepped into the old timber-frame homestead of the Eisenhowers and felt that part of my life had completed a circle. There, in the cluttered formality of the tiny parlor with its dainty drapes and edifying literature, so bravely genteel compared with the dusty cattledriving life outside, Dwight David Elsenhower was raised for leadership in the greatest military adventure of the twentieth century.Read more »

How I Became A Royal White Elephant, Third Class

A distinguished American poet recalls one of his more unusual jobs

When I was twenty-five, I spent a year tutoring the son of the king of Siam and his friend, the son of the Siamese prime minister. Fifty-five years later I am still filled with wonder when I think about it. 1 had just finished two years at Cambridge University in England and was full of myself. I had returned home a month before the 1929 Crash, which changed the lives of everybody and changed mine right away. Here I was, filled with energy and enthusiasm for life and feeling good about my career at Cambridge.Read more »

Land Of The Candy Bar

It was born in America, it came of age in America, and in an era when foreign competition threatens so many of our industries, it still sweetens our balance of trade

The candy bar as we know it was born in America. So too, many centuries earlier, was chocolate itself. Mexican natives cultivated the cocoa bean for more than twenty-five hundred years before Hernán Cortés took it to Spain with him in 1528. Spanish royalty drank a cold, sweetened beverage made from the beans, but they liked it so much they kept it a secret from the rest of Europe for the remainder of the century. Not until the 1840s did a British firm, Fry and Sons, make the first chocolate bar.Read more »

The Dangerous Summer of 1940

For a few weeks Hitler came close to winning World War II. Then came a train of events that doomed him. An eloquent historian reminds us that however unsatisfactory our world may be today, it almost was unimaginably worse.

In the summer of 1940 Adolf Hitler could have won the Second World War. He came close to that. Had he won, we would be living in a world so different as to be hardly imaginable. So let us contemplate that dangerous summer. It was then that the shape of the world in which we now live began to take form. Read more »

The Toughest Flying In The World

These World War II airmen had one of the most dangerous missions of all, piloting unarmed cargo planes over the Hump—the high and treacherous Himalayas

Cookie Byrd is punching my card. We’ve just met in the convention center at Harrah’s, in Reno. Cookie is the official chaplain of the Hump Pilots Association, and he hands out plastic “chaplain’s cards” at all the association’s reunions, to remind the guys of World War Il days, flew the Hump. “Hump” is GI understatement: the Hump was the Himalayas, and they flew over them to supply Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalist Army by air from India after the Japanese occupied eastern China and southeast Asia early in the war.Read more »

Four Months On The Front Line

A former Marine recalls the grim defense of Guadalcanal in 1942

July 1942. Winter in Wellington, New Zealand, brought long, slanting sheets of rain that drenched the U.S. Navy transports looming huge and dark along the city’s docks. The men of the 1st Marine Division labored around the clock to combat-load the ships. The artillery, tanks, and communications gear were distributed among all the vessels so that if one or more were sunk by enemy fire, no vital component would be irretrievably lost. Read more »

V-J, 1945

On a foggy Saturday morning in the last summer of World War II, a B-25 bomber smashed into the seventy-ninth floor of the Empire State Building, killing the crew and eleven civilians, mostly young office workers. As an undergraduate at Columbia, just turned eighteen, it seemed to me that this catastrophe on my doorstep was almost more momentous than the daily news of the war we were wrapping up in the Pacific. Even the announcement a week later of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seemed muted by comparison.Read more »

Why We Didn’t Use Poison Gas in World War II

In a conflict that saw saturation bombing, Auschwitz, and the atom bomb, poison gas was never used in the field. What prevented it?

Forty years ago, on August 6 and 9, 1945, American B-29s dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, killing at least 110,000 and possibly 250,000 Japanese and speeding that nation’s surrender. During four years of bitter fighting, World War II had become for the United States virtually total war, in which morality had slowly been redefined to allow the intentional bombing of civilians. Read more »

Landing At Tokyo Bay

Two letters from a Navy lieutenant to his wife tell the story of the last hours of World War II

YOKOSUKA 9·4·45

My dear: Read more »

The Last Cruise Of The YP-438

His job was to destroy German submarines. To do it, they gave him twelve men, three machine guns, four depth charges, and an old wooden fishing schooner with an engine that literally drove mechanics mad.

On July 6, 1942, I was standing on the fantail of the minesweeper Fulmar off Portland, Maine, when the signal tower started blinking away. By the time I could get to the bridge, the message had already been typed up. It was for me.

ENSIGN RUSSELL E. SARD, USNR HEREBY DETACHED X PROCEED TO PORT YP-438 X MAKE REPORT IMMEDIATE SUPERIOR IN COMMAND IF PRESENT OTHERWISE BY DISPATCH X DUTY IN COMMAND YP-438 Read more »