Summer 2009 | Volume 59, Issue 2
When economic times get difficult, we feel the call to look back at our history more urgently than ever for context and inspiration.
Several of the stories we bring you this issue address how Americans over the centuries have dealt with adversity and give us useful clues for today. We asked one of the nation’s most respected historians, William E. Leuchtenburg, to walk us through Herbert Hoover’s administration as it tried to cope with the stock market crash and Great Depression. A longtime Contributing Editor of American Heritage, Bill first published a piece with us in 1957 about the Spanish American War. (Click on www.americanheritage.com and type in “Leuchtenburg” and “1957.”)
We’re also pleased to publish a remarkable story by journalists Michael and Elizabeth Norman, who have worked for the past decade on a book about the Battle of Bataan and its aftermath, one of the worst military defeats ever suffered by the United States. The Normans track the journey of Pvt. Ben Steele, who somehow found the will to survive unimaginable privations. His eyewitness collection of drawings and paintings represent the only visual diary of the Bataan Death March and the following years of captivity. Many of these illustrations are published here for the first time.
We are also delighted to bring you an adaptation from the newly published book of our Executive Editor, John F. Ross. He takes us back 250 years to the French and Indian War when a backwoods New Hampshire officer named Robert Rogers led a contingent of rangers on an extraordinary 300-mile journey into the heart of enemy territory and home, a saga that ranks as one of the most incredible and grueling in American history. In those dark days, Rogers’s leadership, courage, and creativity in the face of adversity helped him create the model of the elite special force unit. U.S. Army Rangers trace their lineage to Rogers, and they read his Rules to this day.
To illustrate this story, we lured one of our favorite artists out of retirement. Arthur Shilstone’s evocative watercolors have graced the finest American magazines and galleries for the past half-century. “Only two stories would pull me back into it,” says Shilstone, “the remarkable story of Rogers’s Rangers and Hitler’s march into Russia.”
In these stories, the spark of leadership (sometimes effective and sometimes not), hard work, and sacrifice give rich context to the trials we face today as a nation.
In the meantime, be sure to check out our new offerings of great American history bus tours with Presidential historian Richard Norton Smith (p. 19) and our cruise “North through History” (p. 5). You can count on us to bring you lively written, accurate, and relevant stories about our past both in print, our website, and in seminars, cruises, and bus tours.
Edwin S. Grosvenor, Editor-in-Chief
Email Editor