Letters to the Editor
400 Years Ago
Your special New York section, “Encounters 400 Years Ago,” in the Spring 2009 issue contains a terrific set of articles! It is so good to hear the details of other explorers besides Captain John Smith. I have lived in Vermont and in Maine, and it made me happy to see Samuel de Champlain and Captain George Popham given some credit too.
Ask any WASP what was the most important event that changed her life, and she will proudly say—“I was a WASP.”
We entered the training in 1942–44 as Civil Service employees at our own expense, with no benefits. My life insurance was cancelled because I was entering hazardous duty.
In 1945, many of us returned to civilian life as mothers and wives, without even thinking of ourselves as “different or pioneers” in aviation. As we grew older and bolder, the 1970s gave us a voice again. We gathered as a determined group to tell our story to both Houses of Congress. In 1977, President Carter signed the bill, which finally recognized WASPs as military veterans.
Fort Wayne, IN
Your article “Flight of the Wasp” in the Spring 2009 issue struck a chord with me. Five years ago, I discovered a box of my paper dolls in my childhood home. My mother, who never threw anything away, had saved them. I was born in 1941, and my paper dolls included the Bumstead Family, movie stars wearing gorgeous gowns, Raggedy Ann and Andy . . . and young women wearing military-style outfits? I was mystified because I felt certain there were no female military pilots during WWII.
A friend who had flown in the Korean War recognized the paper dolls as Women Airforce Service Pilots. My paper dolls have “outfits” just like those on pages 63 and 67 of the article in the spring issue. My WASPS and their garb are now framed and hanging on the walls of my great room. I am saving magazine articles and a video about the WASPS so that my young granddaughters will have a bit of women’s history that seems to have been largely forgotten.
Did Kennedy OK a Castro Assassination Attempt?
As counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee responsible for a 1975 Report on “Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders,” I know that American Heritage’s Winter 2009 article, “Did Castro OK the Kennedy Assassination?” has made a major contribution to our knowledge of the Kennedy Administration’s 1962-63 anti-Castro paramilitary operations by unearthing intelligence of Castro’s possible “OK” of Oswald’s plans to assassinate President Kennedy.
What we don’t know is whether Robert Kennedy (and, by extension, his brother, the President) authorized the CIA to assassinate Castro, as authors Gus Russo and Stephen Molton indicate Robert Kennedy did. In fact, the thousands of highly classified documents that we reviewed—and declassified for our public report—and the sworn testimony of White House officials and CIA leaders and operatives never showed conclusive evidence of such presidential (or “brotherly”) authorization.
What we did find regarding authorization versus “plausible deniability,” came out most tellingly in an exchange between Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland and former CIA Director Richard Helms: Senator Mathias: “Let us draw an example from history. When Thomas Beckett was proving to be an annoyance, as Castro, the King said, ‘Who will rid me of this man?’ He didn’t say to somebody, ‘Go out and murder him.’”
Mr. Helms: “That is a warming reference to the problem.”
—Robert K. Kelley
Chevy Chase, MD
In the Spring 2009 edition of American Heritage there is a half-page article about Edgar Allen Poe with the headline, “Poe Turns 200” and beneath that the numbers 1709-2009. Is there some significance to 1709–2009, a span of 300 years?
Good eye! As many astute readers have noticed, Poe was born in 1809, not 1709.