Articles Archive

Selected articles from past issues of the magazine’s print edition in the categories

THE WAR. THE HOME FRONT. THE PEOPLE.

The war

Just before D-Day, a U-boat shark hunt

While the greatest invasion force in history prepared for D-Day, US Navy sub hunters tracked down a U-boat. Their prize would become a permanent piece of WWII history.

Friendly fire’s deadliest day

One night in July 1943, US guns at Gela, Sicily, hurled fire at unseen planes overhead. The result was the war’s worst friendly fire incident.

The war is over

It was the end. It was the beginning. It was hope. At home and around the world, Americans celebrated like never before. By Eric Ethier

The A-bomb: Views from here and there

Sixty years ago, a pair of atom bombs scorched Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, people who helped build them and people who felt their deadly power still grapple with the bombs’ grim realities. By Terry W. Burger

A brief chronology of the A-bomb

On December 2, 1941, scientists at the University of Chicago set off the first controlled nuclear reaction. Less than four years later, atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan surrenders.

Truman: A reluctant destroyer of worlds

Responding to a letter from a hawkish USenator, President Harry Truman explains why he won’t recklessly drop atomic bombs on Japan, despite the “pigheadedness” of its leaders.

The ruinous raid on Hitler’s oil

Ploesti was Hitler’s oil supply, so it had to burn. In August 1943, 179 American bombers set out to do the job. A third of them and their crews never returned. By Jay A. Stout

The puzzle of the ‘Fifth Little Piggy’

To help boost Allied morale, British intelligence stated circulating a handout with drawings of four pigs that, when folded as directed, revealed a widely recognized fifth pig.

Nazi spies land on the coast of Maine

A rubber raft splashed ashore at Bar Harbor on the night of November 29, 1944. Clearly, the men in the raft were up to something… By Richard Sassaman

Nazi sharks in American waters

It wasn’t the US Navy or Coast Guard that controlled America’s Atlantic waters in early 1942. It was the U-boats of Nazi Germany. By Brian John Murphy

A would-be Nazi James Bond

Forty-year-old Oskar Mantel failed at snooping on the United States for the Nazis, but he seemed to enjoy his stint as a spy all the same.

The first 24 hours of America at war

The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Now they were heading for San Francisco, New York. Rumors ran rampant across America as the nation readied for war. By Carl Zebrowski

Six PT boats vs. the Japanese fleet

Just after Pearl Harbor, a half-dozen PT boats were the US Navy’s only real fighting force in the Pacific. They went at their mission with a vengeance. By Joseph Hinds

Christmas under the gun

World War II changed the way Americans celebrated their winter holidays. But those holidays of light also changed the dark experiences of war. By Terry Burger

Patton’s ghost army

The army General George Patton fielded for the 1944 Normandy Invasion was unlike any other. It was a complete and unabashed fake. By Brian John Murphy

The final march to victory over the Nazis

In the spring of 1945, Americans crossed the Rhine and crushed what was left of the Nazis. Revelers across the globe celebrated the end of the war in Europe. By Brian John Murphy

Stalag 17-B

The prison that inspired a movie and a TV comedy was a dingy, fleabag patch of hell for the Allied “kriegies” who got stuck there. By Eric Ethier

The fight with Japan begins…in 1937

The first American casualties in the conflict with Japan fell four years before the infamous surprise attack on Hawaii, on the Yangtze River in China. By James I. Marino

Facing the Fox

The GIs in Tunisia’s Kasserine Pass were in trouble. Their equipment was outdated, their leadership was weak, and Desert Fox Erwin Rommel was aiming his army straight at them. By Brian John Murphy

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam (and more Spam)

It was the grub GIs loved to grumble about—not because it wasn’t tasty, but because it was always there, sometimes three times a day. By Bruce Heydt

Riviera D-day

Operation Dragoon was part two of Ike’s one-two punch against the German’s in France. The country’s sunny southern coast was the target. By Eric Ethier

Cloak and dagger army: The OSS

Spies and saboteurs, rakes and femmes fatales, scientists and radicals: they all fought for Allied victory under the Office of Strategic Services. By John E. Stanchak

Nazis on trial

Sixty-five years ago, the world revolved around Nuremberg, Germany, where leaders of Adolf HItler’s Third Reich faced trial for Nazi crimes against humanity.

Trap with a gap

Two months after D-Day, the Allies were poised to capture two German armies near Falaise, France—if they could just cut through British-American red tape.

The battling bastards of Bataan

They were starving, sick. Many were untrained. Their weapons were obsolete. And their top general lived elsewhere. Bataan’s defenders were truly on their own.

Pigeons of war

In fierce fighting and deep in enemy territory, American pigeons carried life-or-death messages that radio and field phones could not.

The impossible raid

Just when Axis Japan felt invincible, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle hit Tokyo with a daring bomber raid that shattered Hirohito’s peace of mind.

Tom Cruise and the plot to kill Hitler

The unfolding of the ambitious effort code-named Valkyrie was tailor-made for the silver screen. Does the new blockbuster movie do the story justice? And does it get the history right?

Japan’s Pacific blitz

Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only target left in flames when imperial Japan seized power in Asia and the South Pacific in December 1941.

Chocolate! The War’s Secret Weapon

Our GIs went to war well supplied with weapons and clothing—and chocolate! By Terry W. Burger

VE!

Rooting out pockets of Nazis one by one, American troops and tanks rolled steadily across the Rhine and on to victory in Europe. On May 8, 1945, the Germans officially surrendered and the celebration began. By Brian John Murphy

The Ghost Army

The director of a PBS documentary tells the once-secret story of how phantom US troops, inflatable tanks, and Hollywood sound effects fooled the Wehrmacht. By Rick Beyer

The home front

A fine time to be an American

It was a time when cars had curves, cigarettes weren’t bad for you, (most) movies were black and white, and war was good versus evil. By James P. Kushlan

The miracle of margarine

How did a little-known bread spread that looked like lard, and every bit as appetizing, win a permanent place on the American dining table? By Carl Zebrowski

Getting ready for air raids

From San Francisco to New York and Fargo to Birmingham, Americans worried that enemy planes might fly over at any moment and bomb their homes to rubble. They prepared for the worst. By Carl Zebrowski

Ynamre gets the bomb

Never mind that the 1944 story was set on another planet. The feds believed the deadly bomb of the evil Sixa powers sounded too much like the Manhattan Project’s biggest secret. By Richard Sassaman

When Uncle Sam set the menu

Everything from rubber and leather to beef and cooking oil was scarce. What was it like to have the federal government telling you how much you could buy of what? Carl Zebrowski

The railroad’s last hurrah

The iron horse was about to take its dying breath. But before it bequeathed the American landscape and imagination to the automobile, it stole one more moment of greatness. By Carl Zebrowski

Gardening for victory

Soon after the war broke out, America began to worry that there wouldn’t be enough food to go around. So with help and encouragement from the federal government, citizens in city and country alike planted gardens so they could feed themselves. By Carl Zebrowski

How to collect home-front treasure

What were once everyday knickknacks and doodads in a nation at war are valuable antiques today. Learn how to start your own collection. By Martin Jacobs

Watching the radio

Music, news, and entertainment crackled warmly from radio speakers in living rooms across the country—uniting wartime Americans in a common cause and culture. By Judy P. Sopronyi

Fun at the pictures

Everyone loved the movies. People flocked to them for much needed diversion. Hollywood made a fortune. Even patriotism benefited—sometimes due to a little unsolicited intervention by Uncle Sam. By Carl Zebrowski

The number one song on Pearl Harbor Day

The day the United States was dragged into World War II, Glenn Miller and his big band had the best-selling hit in America—the quintessential train song “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” By Carl Zebrowski

The other national anthem

Kate Smith sang such a stirring rendition of “God Bless America” that a lot of people wanted to make it the new national anthem. Smith said thanks but no thanks. By Carl Zebrowski

Tanks and shacks and the American dream

As factories popped up all over the country to supply the war effort, workers migrated to them for good jobs. But often the short-term price for eventual prosperity was living in squalor in a wartime boomtown. By Carl Zebrowski

A heil of a wacky hit

Making fun of Hitler was a popular pastime during the war. When Spike Jones and His City Slickers recorded a tune from an anti-Nazi Donald Duck cartoon, it sold 1.5 million copies. By Carl Zebrowski

Norman Rockwell and FDR’s Four Freedoms

When bold words from the State of the Union address stirred a beloved American artist to action, the result was a set of paintings that forever captured the country’s spirit. By Bruce Heydt

FDR implores the nation to fight

In a speech delivered on January 6, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt spells out what what difficult steps America must take to protect the freedoms that make their nation what it is.

Remember Pearl Harbor!

Striking a match, sending a postcard, or even getting dressed, WWII Americans heard the same rallying cry over and over: Remember Pearl Harbor!

Play ball!

There was a day when “America’s national pastime” was more than just a marketing slogan. During World War II, “the thinking man’s game” was the game. By Carl Zebrowski

The ship that weeps for her dead in Pearl Harbor

A sombre monument honors the 1,177 men who died aboard the USS Arizona. In the water below, the sunken battleship still cries black tears after 65 years. By Allyson Patton

A product with legs

It was an age when women might have asked, “What’s a girl to do without stockings?” When nylon had to be saved for military use, they had to find an answer. By Carl Zebrowski

Iwo Jima’s heroes: Realer on film?

Mount Suribachi’s flag-raisers step out of their iconic photograph as less and more than heroes in the Clint Eastwood movie Flags of Our Fathers.

Jitter and jive

Once upon a time, couples actually danced together, moving in sync on the floor. Big bands supplied the music, and Saturday night became a night off from the war. By Carl Zebrowski

A silly song for a sober time

“Mairzy Doats” wasn’t exactly a classic tune. It wasn’t written by Cole Porter or Irving Berlin. It wouldn’t win any awards. It was just a nonsense ditty. And it worked. By Carl Zebrowski

Guarding the home skies

When the Army Air Corps flew off to war, the civilian volunteers of the Civil Air Patrol filled the void left behind–even driving Nazi subs from US coasts. By Carl Zebrowski

The heartfelt wish of homesick GIs

King of Yule Bing Crosby crooned right in tune with the hopeful holiday sentiment of an America at war in “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” By Carl Zebrowski

From Hollywood with love

Actresses of the silver screen inspired the boys overseas by posing for leggy glamour shots that adorned many a barracks wall. By John E. Stanchak

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em

Movie stars smoked. FDR smoked. Moms and dads smoked. The tobacco business boomed like the gun business. Too bad about all those casualties. By Carl Zebrowski

Americans for Hitler

On the eve of World War II, the German American Bund insisted the Nazi salute was as American as apple pie.

That lovable Lili

The Germans weren’t very popular. But somehow the most popular song in the world happened to be German.

Killer balloons over America

Giant gas-filled paper globes drifted serenely across the Pacific in 1945, on their way to terrorize the United States with random bomb strikes.

A real Rosie

Rosie the Riveter was as critical to victory as GI Joe. Meet Mae Graybill, a Pennsylvania teen who moved to Baltimore to rivet bombers that helped crush the Axis powers.

Your number’s up!

The time for depending on volunteers had passed. The world war had come to America, and men had to be forced into uniform right away to fight back. By Carl Zebrowski

Boogie Woogie Bounce

Uncle Sam kept hoping someone would turn out the WWII equivalent of the morale-boosting WWI anthem “Over There.” It never happened. But the Andrews Sisters gave World War II a new type of theme song with their swinging “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” By Carl Zebrowski

The Captain

America needed a hero, and when skinny Steve Rogers quaffed a serum designed to turn him into a Super Soldier, it got one, inked in red, white, and blue and ready to punch out the Axis. By Arnold T. Blumberg

Uncle Sam’s comics

Wartime Americans paid attention to the funnies, and whenever people pay attention to something, someone will tap into the audience for sales. The US Office of War Information used cartoons to sell the war effort. By Arnold T. Blumberg

The Desperate Election of ’44

It was time to elect a president who could lead America through dark days of global war. If anyone could do it, it was Franklin Roosevelt. He had gotten the nation through the Depression and the war’s end. But FDR had a secret: he was dying. By John E. Stanchak

Amid War, A Thankful Nation

Nearly every family had empty chairs at its table. And many traditional foods were hard or impossible to get. But World War II couldn’t stop Thanksgiving. By Patrice Crowley

The people

Captain Swing

US forces got a secret weapon in the fall of ’42: Glenn Miller, king of velvet swing. Miller revved Allied morale in Europe—then disappeared without a trace. By Tom Huntington

Lucky Louie Zamperini

Lou Zamperini was lucky. He survived a risky, put-up-your-dukes childhood and made it into the Olympics. But in May ’43, in a B-24 over the Pacific, his luck seemed to run out. By Martin Jacobs

The navy cook who fought back

Because Dorie Miller was black, the navy didn’t let him do much more than household chores. But when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, he dropped the laundry he was collecting, manned a big gun, and earned himself the Navy Cross.

America’s most decorated WWII hero

There Rejected twice for war service, the scrawny Texas farm boy Audie Murphy finally found his way into the army and then proceeded to earn more medals for bravery than any other veteran. And he became a movie star, too. By Tom Huntington

GIs return home with foreign brides

First came love. Then came marriage. Then came life in a strange new land, and farewell to everything familiar. Most GI war brides wouldn’t have traded it for the world. By Brenda J. Wilt

The war bride: A symbol of peace and promise

About a million foreign women married GIs they met during the war. Many left their homes to settle in a United States aglow with optimism. These war brides stand as symbols of the possibilities of a world at peace. By James P. Kushlan

Get your veteran to tell his or her war stories

A recorder, a few guidelines, and a little patience are all you need to collect gripping, eyewitness history from the WWII vets in your life. By Judy Sopronyi

Who were America’s most famous kissers?

Did the sailor and the nurse in the famous V-J Day kiss scene know each other? No, they didn’t. Do we know who they are today? Well, maybe… By Tom Huntington

Haunted by the horrors of war

Did the soldiers of the Good War really come home psychologically unscathed by the horror and stress they experienced? Or did they simply suffer in silence? By Mark D. Van Ells

Ken Burns and the ‘Good’ War

Ken Burns’s PBS series The War paints World War II as earth’s darkest hour—and the Americans who endured it as people whose stories we need to hear. By Tom Huntington

Bob Hope and the road to GI Joe

There was nowhere Bob Hope wouldn’t go to entertain the best audience he ever had-America’s service men and women. By Richard Sassaman

War mother

No mother had more at stake in the war than widow Esther McCabe, whose 11 sons all served overseas

Rescuer in Yugoslavia

An OSS man from Toledo tells how he retrieved downed American airmen.

The best way to die

As a torpedoed US troop ship sank nearby, Charles W. David, Jr., plunged into the freezing saltwater to pull survivors out of a life raft.

World wars winner

Frank Buckles was America’s last remaining World War I veteran, but he had a World War II story to tell, too–a grueling story of survival. By Joe Razes

Getting inside Hitler’s head

When America’s spymaster hired a psychiatrist to figure out the Fuhrer, the result was disturbing–and, as history showed, accurate. By Brian John Murphy

Captain Hollywood

Mobbed by women and sought for capture by his fan the Fuhrer, Clark Gable never got his wish: to be an ordinary B-17 gunner.

Saved by shrapnel

Read the uncut version of infantryman Sam F. Loeb’s I Was There account of combat service with the 99th Infantry Division across Germany, all the way to victory.

The faithful four

On a torpedoed troop ship in the icy North Atlantic, four army chaplains made a heroic choice to put other men’s survival before their own. By Richard Sassaman

Ernest Borgnine Recalls WWII Navy Days

The late actor Ernest Borgnine (better known as Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale of McHale’s Navy) tells his World War II story in a summer 2010 interview with America in WWII.

Major Dick Winters

The late Major Dick Winters was a true American hero who became a legend. But to his credit, he was very real. Read about his life and service. By Colonel Cole C. Kingseed