American Heritage

Articles from Vol. 56, No. 3, June-July

10 Indispensable Books
IT WAS NOT UNTIL 2004, 59 YEARS AFTER THE end of the war, that a World War II memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. The eyewitness accounts of World War II are a different story. They began appearing while the war was going on, and as late as...
A Note from the Editor
During the First World War, Vachel Lindsay wrote a poem that achieved a good deal of fame in its day. It is called "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight," and it begins: It is portentous, and a thing of state That here at midnight, in our little...
"A Straight Path through Hell": Stationed near Nagasaki at the Close of the War, a Young Photographer Ventured into the Devastated City, and Stayed for Months
I HAD TRAINED AT PARRIS ISLAND THINKING I WAS going to the Pacific to fight the Japanese or at the very least to photograph American troops fighting the Japanese. That whole time it had been drummed into us Marines how fiendish the Japanese were. We...
Down to the Sea: There's a Lot More to the Often Overlooked Mid-Coastal Maine Than Lobster. but the Lobster Is Amazing
AMONG THE ELABORATE Victorian houses on Congress Street in Belfast, Maine, is a bed-and-breakfast called the Mad Captain's House. The name doesn't entirely spring from B & B whimsy but reflects a maritime disaster woven into the region's rich seafaring...
"Here I Have Lived": Exploring the Land of Lincoln
THE FIRST TIME I EVER VISITED LINCOLN'S HOMETOWN of Springfield, Illinois, 25 years ago, I was a green young historian with just a few magazine articles under my belt--not yet a single book to my credit. But apparently I had garnered enough of a reputation...
High Tariff: 1930 Overprotection
75 YEARS AGO ON JUNE 17 PRESIDENT Herbert Hoover signed a law that was meant to avoid a nationwide depression but instead created one. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act boosted already high tariffs by 50 to 100 percent, to their highest levels in history,...
Horace Hagedorn's Little Miracle: A Fortune in Other People's Back Yards
NO ECONOMY IN HISTORY HAS produced as many fortunes as the American economy has. Many of them came from the country's great industries, such as railroads (Cornelius Vanderbilt), automobiles (Henry Ford), and computers (Bill Gates). Others came from...
"How Would You like to Be Attached to the Red Army?" A Cameraman at Yalta Tells What It Was like to Spend a Few Days in Claustrophobic Luxury with Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt-And to Be Offered a Job by Joseph Stalin
Robert Hopkins was 15 years old when he first met Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the inauguration of New York's Triborough Bridge in 1936. His father, Harry Hopkins, ran the WPA, which had built the bridge. Of course Hopkins remained FDR's close lieutenant...
"Just One More River to Cross": The Final Hours of the War Were Every Bit as Perilous as All the Other Ones for This American POW
WORLD WAR II WAS ENDING WITH MORE OF A WHIMPER than a Waterloo for the Anglo-American forces in Europe. The Battle of Berlin was shaping up just 60 miles to the south of where I stood, but, by design, the American and British forces were to have no...
Land of Grant; Land of Reagan: Two Other Presidents Have Home Ties to the State
BAD LUCK BROUGHT ULYSSES S. GRANT TO ILLINOIS, BUT IT TURNED for him there most spectacularly. In 1854, just as he was promoted to captaincy, Grant, 32, resigned from the Army, perhaps involuntarily, and embarked on a valiant yet chronically inept...
"Scholarship and Showmanship": A Conversation with Richard Norton Smith, Executive Director of the New Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum
In April 2005--the 140th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination--the long-awaited and occasionally controversial Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum finally opened in downtown Springfield, Illinois. Its executive director, the historian...
The Buyable Past: Shaker Boxes
THE COMMUNAL SHAKER ORDER included master woodworkers whose classic nineteenth-century designs anticipated modernist attitudes by a hundred years or more. Their furnishings, "plain without superfluity," perfectly suit the precisionist paintings and...
"The So-Called Charge Was Murder": A Young GI Making the Journey from War to Peace, and from Enmity to Friendship, Finds amid the Most Tremendous Change Smoldering Embers of an Old Tyranny
IN THE SPRING OF 1952, I, LIKE MANY COLLEGE GRADUATES THAT year, received an official government letter whose contents we knew before the envelope was opened. Army basic training followed, with daily, almost hourly, assurances that in a matter of months...
The Top 10 Makers of the Modern American Summer
On a blowy March day during a season of cold rain that felt as if it might very well be eternal, the editors pondered the distant pleasures of summer with the goal of choosing the 10 people who are most responsible for the season as we experience it...
Voices of Authority
"IT'S IRONIC," SAID IRWIN SMOLER CHEERFULLY OF SOME long-ago acquaintance, "He joined the Navy, but he got killed anyway." Irwin Smoler (father of our contributing editor Fredric) was not in the Navy; he was in the infantry and survived the awful Ardennes...
"We Knew That If We Succeeded, We Could at One Blow Destroy a City": A Final Interview with the Most Controversial Father of the Atomic Age, Edward Teller
ON OCTOBER 31, 1952, HALLOWEEN WAS JUST GETTING ROLLING in California when, half a world away on the South Pacific island of Elugelab, the firing circuits closed on Ivy-Mike, the first practical test of the prototype hydrogen bomb. Ghosts and goblins...
"You Will Be Afraid": Next to Winston Churchill, Gen. George Patton Gave the War's Most Famous Speeches. but Nobody Knew Quite What He Said-Until Now
MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE PATTON, which begins with a view of the general standing before a giant American flag giving a speech to his troops. The actor George C. Scott gave a superb performance in this film; all who ever saw the general...