American History: August ’98 Letters


In “The Optical Aleutian,” featured in your March 1998 issue, author Russell Martin laments the needless Kiska campaign, and well he might. Admiral Thomas Kinkaid’s remarks that it would be a “super dress rehearsal, good for training purposes,” will not likely ever be etched in stone.

I was on the nearby island of Amchitka at the time. Of the 30,000 troops there, hardly a person believed that the Japanese were still on Kiska. Our bombers had not met with return fire for more than two weeks; there had been no radio beams.

The Japanese got out of Kiska with a very old trick. About 16 days earlier, the whole North Pacific had been put on an alert about a hostile task force heading our way. We later heard that when it was about 300 miles from us, the force turned during the night and went home. During the excitement, the enemy on Kiska made their escape. The Japanese government made this into a great moral victory.

Morris Bell
Gatesville, Texas


I was glad to see the Howard Jones article, “All we want is make us free!” in your February 1998 issue, about the 1839 slave revolt on the ship Amistad. Mr. Jones was on my Amistad tour of Farmington in November 1997 and admitted that history, in most cases, has omitted the fact that following the 1841 Supreme Court decision, all of the remaining 36 Mendi were brought to Farmington by sympathetic supporters, where they lived in freedom for the next eight months before returning to Africa. Only in Farmington can you walk the same streets, see where they lived, worshiped, and farmed and visit the grave of Foone, one of the Mendi buried in the Riverside Cemetery after he drowned “bathing in the canal basin.”

I am also responding to “Diary Omissions,” a letter written by Mr. Charles R. Nichols and published in the “Mailbox” section of the March 1998 issue. Mr. Nichols writes that Samuel Colt presented an 1885 Colt Revolving Artillery Carbine to a member of a Japanese delegation. This would have been difficult to do as Colt died in 1862. Perhaps 1885 should have been 1858?

Ernest R. Shaw
Farmington, Connecticut

Editors: Our apologies, it was a typographical error. The date should have read “1855.”


I have read your June 1998 issue and was especially interested in the article about the Berlin Airlift.

Every account I have read about the airlift states that our agreement with the Soviets guaranteed a corridor of access to Berlin. Truman’s response to the Soviet blockade should have been a column of tanks escorting our supplies the next day. Instead, he organized the airlift.

My father always said, “The guy with the biggest mouth is the easiest guy to bluff.” Harry got bluffed! This show of weakness probably caused the Korean War and might have caused the Vietnam War. Harry Truman was responsible for some good things, but this was not one of them.

Albert Kissel
Cincinnati, Ohio


While reading about Alger Hiss in your June 1998 issue, I recalled some pertinent events that occurred in the spring of 1945. At that time I was a hospital patient and had the opportunity to read the eventful news concerning the formation of the United Nations.

Having just spent two years in the Southwest Pacific, I approved of the daily progress of this organization whose objective was world peace. This euphoric feeling was shattered one day when our state department representative, Alger Hiss, proposed that the name of God be deleted from the charter because that name might be offensive to certain nations. The resolution was passed! Then, and ever since, I have had no faith in the United Nations as a peacekeeping force.

Leo Kimmett
Cañon City, Colorado


Your June 1998 article on the presidential election of 1948 brought back fond memories. I was attending Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah, at the time, when the school’s Forensic Club held a mock election shortly before the general election to acquaint the students with the election process.

While the media was trumpeting Dewey as our next president, our high-school electors chose Truman by a landslide. It was exciting to participate in this process, especially when our surprise choice was confirmed nationally. In that election Truman took Utah by only a 25,000-vote majority, less than half of what Roosevelt garnered four years earlier.

Janice Page Dawson
Layton, Utah


I hope you can assist me in my search for information concerning my brother-in-law, First Lieutenant Clarence Raymond Stephenson, 0-754300, who was killed in an air crash in England during World War II. Lt. Stephenson was the pilot of a B-17 bomber with the Eighth Air Force, flying missions out of England. His death occurred on September 6, 1944.

I would appreciate any assistance you or your readers can offer as to what caused the crash, the type of mission he was on, if there were any survivors, etc. I was unsuccessful in trying to obtain information from the army records center in Missouri because many of their records had been destroyed by fire.

William Gregg
New York, New York

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