Fall 2008 | Volume 58, Issue 5
I am a second generation subscriber. The editor’s letter in your Spring/Summer issue called the return of American Heritage “revolutionary . . . ‘in the sense of turning back to an early state.’” That issue carried out that promise brilliantly. I felt that in recent years the magazine had leaned a little too heavily upon what you described as “cultural history and newsworthy pieces.” This new issue is a worthy successor to the days when the hardbound American Heritage was first making a name for itself. I am thrilled to be part of that tradition as it moves into the future.
—Rev. John E. Hissrich
Toil and Tears
To suggest as John Lukacs does (“Churchill Offers Toil and Tears to FDR, Spring/Summer 2008”) that had Herbert Hoover been president at the time, his isolationism would have rebuffed Churchill’s implorations makes for an incongruous comparison, what with the eight-year time gap between their presidencies. Further, to group him with Charles Lindbergh and Joseph Kennedy as being opposed to our entering the war is like comparing apples and oranges. The two latter individuals were Anglophobic. Hoover, a Quaker and pacifist, resisted for moral reasons.
—James L. Giorgi
Infamous Robert Rogers
In John F. Ross’s article (“Battle for Ticonderoga, Spring/Summer 2008”), he refers to Rogers Rangers as “. . . the now infamous Rogers Rangers.” “Infamous” is a strong word that implies wickedness, disgracefulness, shamefulness—serious moral deficiency. Nowhere in Mr. Ross’s article does he justify this powerfully negative slur.
Infamous? Come on! I’ll buy savage men in a savage time in a savage world;
but no more and no less bad than their times and their enemies.
Rocky Hill, CT
The narrative, “Battle for Ticonderoga,” by John F. Ross was wonderful. So enlightening and descriptive. I could envision the entire battle.
Gingrich as a Historian
I believe that Newt Gingrich’s portrayal of Reagan as a Cold War hero (“The Evil Empire, Spring/Summer 2008”) is pure fiction. The U.S. political heroes during the Cold War were Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. Truman saved Western Europe by initiating the Marshall Plan. He played a vital role in organizing NATO and rallied the United Nations to come to the aid of South Korea. Eisenhower and JFK continued Truman’s legacy with integrity and vision. The Berlin Airlift and winning the Space Race are just two examples. Gingrich credits Reagan with ending the Cold War by making the arms race too expensive for the communist regime in Russia. I believe Reagan kept the Cold War alive because it was a profit-making enterprise for his political allies and corporate benefactors.
Newt Gingrich’s viewpoint was well done except for the blatant political slant. He writes about “the side which was right,” “the side that was fundamentally wrong,” and the current conflict. Clearly he means conservatives, liberals, and the Iraq War. He also writes that “almost no one accepted” Reagan’s views, that Reagan’s own staff opposed him, and that Nixon, Ford, and Carter followed variations of the traditional Cold War strategy. Only Reagan was right; everyone else was wrong.
A better conclusion is that great leaders rarely come along—when they do, they are widely opposed—and that lesser leaders will try to imitate the great ones with lesser results.
New Orleans, LA
Newt Gingrich’s assessment of Ronald Reagan’s role in ending the Cold War in his two speeches is faulty. The praise is due the Solidarity Union in Poland and Pope John Paul II. After Solidarity was suppressed in December 1981, the Pope’s first trip to Poland broke the fear that was the basis for control. His second pilgrimage in 1983 broke the hopelessness and despair following the imposition of martial law. Pope John Paul II’s third visit to Poland in June 1987 laid the moral and philosophical foundations for the reestablishment of the Solidarity Union. On June 4, 1987, free elections were finally held in Poland. Throughout this period, Solidarity remained faithful to its non-violent roots. Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church in Poland preached “the transcendent dignity of the human person, who is by his very nature the subject of rights which no one may violate.”
None of your authors in the Spring/Summer 2008 edition were women, and only two of seven of your authors in the Winter 2008 edition were. Please consider asking some of the bright women historians who are making important contributions to our field to write articles for American Heritage.
—Sara Winstead Fry, Ph.D.
Lost at Gettysburg
Your enthusiasm for the new visitors’ center at Gettysburg Park (“Gettysburg Redux”) needs to be tempered. The ‘Electric Map’ that served so admirably to educate generations in the complexities of the collision at Gettysburg is gone, replaced by a discombobulated set of flat-screen projections featuring psychedelic, in-your-face blurs of red and blue rectangles. Result? The map, which once drew rapt attention, now only merits a passing glance and a shrug.
—William D. White
Robert E. Lee, Terrorist? Cont.
Letter writer Hosea Martin (“Letters to the Editor, Spring/Summer 2008”) describes Robert E. Lee as a “terrorist” in the category of Osama bin Laden. The forces of the Confederacy did not try to overthrow the U.S. Government, but rather tried to validate the secession of the southern states and separate from the Union. The Civil War certainly resulted in great carnage to Americans, but this was hardly in the same category as
what is being carried out by Bin Laden and his associates.
Gen. Robert E. Lee was a rebel (surely) and a revolutionary (probably), but he was no terrorist.
—Robert A. Fink, M.D.
The editor of the “Letters to the Editor” was woefully deficient either in not providing corrections to this blatantly wrong letter or just in printing it at all. First, neither Lee nor the Confederacy “tried to overthrow the U.S. Government.” They tried to secede (leave) as they believed they had the right under “states rights.” Second, it was the North that first attacked/invaded the South. Third, there are NO terrorist-like actions that Martin can point to by Lee. He was a military general and oversaw military campaigns. His methods of operation were studied by military men of many countries, including the U.S. Army because of their brilliance. It is interesting that Martin says “thousands of Americans were killed by his troops” and ignores that his troops were also Americans and thousands of them were killed by other Americans.
—Davis R. Reese
Bryn Mawr, PA