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American History: February '97 Letters

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: August 11, 1997 
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WIVES DESERVE CREDIT

Let me give you my reflections about Mr. Haydock's excellent article on the G.I. Bill in the September/October 1996 issue of American History.

His description of the college years under the G.I. Bill is interesting and truly accurate. But he failed to mention one thing–the contribution that many wives made to their husbands' educations.

I went through those college experiences, enrolling in Oregon State College in Corvallis, Oregon (now Oregon State University) in June 1946. Four years later, I became one of the 450,000 engineers of whom he wrote.

The student housing service found my wife and me a room in an old fraternity house that was then being used for housing married couples. We had one bedroom, with communal kitchen privileges. By the end of the first quarter, we had found an apartment.

We were fortunate in that my wife had a job when we moved to Corvallis. She had worked at a hometown bank while I was in the service and so had no difficulty in finding a job in a Corvallis bank.

There is one thing we still remember about the 1950 commencement exercise. The speaker, and we have long forgotten his name, told his audience there was a degree that he wished he could give to students' wives, the PHT–Putting Husband Through.

David L. Weiss
Salem, Oregon

CATLIN'S WORK BETTER

I was surprised to read in the September/October issue the statement that Seth Eastman was "widely regarded as the foremost pictorial historian of the American Indian in the nineteenth century." I had always understood this position to be held by George Catlin.

In comparing the work of the two artists, I would say that, for artistic quality and fineness of detail, Catlin wins hands down. And for sheer volume of output, he would be hard to surpass in terms of historical value.

Anthony S. Florence
Albuquerque, New Mexico

COAST GUARD PICTURE INACCURATE

John Witt's painting of Ida Lewis rescuing the two soldiers (September/October 1996) is dramatic and may be the only thing available in color, but it is inaccurate in a number of details, no doubt partly because of faulty information given him by the U.S. Coast Guard when they commissioned the work.

Ida was not the brawny, middle-aged woman shown, but slender, fair, and only 27 years old at the time, and her brother Hosea not a middle-aged man, but even younger than she was. The soldiers, Sergeant James Adams and Private McLaughlin, were also young.

Several accounts, including that of George D. Brewerton mentioned by Mary Louise Clifford, say that a severe storm had struck Newport that day. The soldiers, who were returning from leave in Newport late that afternoon, were anxious to get back to Fort Adams, which was on a spit of land projecting into Narragansett Bay, without going the long way around on land. They hired a 14-year-old boy to take them across the harbor in his sailboat, which was hardly big enough for the three of them and unseaworthy. Moreover, the boy was not the sailor he claimed to be. About half way to the fort, a gust of wind rocked the boat. The boy panicked, shoved his tiller in the wrong direction, capsized the boat, and threw all aboard into the raging water.

Ida was ill with a cold, warming her toes in stocking feet, when her mother saw the soldiers floundering in the water. Calling Hosea to come with her, Ida threw a towel around her neck, ran out with no other wrap or even her shoes, and shoved off in her skiff with Hosea. Before Ida reached the men clinging to the overturned sailboat, the boy was swept away and drowned. Ida and Hosea pulled the survivors in over the stern. Apparently it was Witt's idea to show Ida extending her oar to the soldier, but that was never the way she rescued anyone.

The lighthouse in the background is incorrectly shown with windows toward the bay. In reality, the walls on either side of the lighthouse tower, which Ida's father called a "sentry box" because of its shape, were blank, perhaps so designed to make the beacon more identifiable.

Ida was indeed, as reported by the United States Life-Saving Service, a woman of unquestionable nerve, presence of mind, and dashing courage. And she was more. In all her long life of service, she was dutiful, self-sacrificing, and unassuming.

Donna Hill
New York City

OSWALD PHOTOS MISSING

Congratulations on the fine article on the documents concerning the JFK assassination [July/August 1996 issue] that have been concealed from the public for more than thirty years. It is the first review of such materials that I have seen in the press. Your courage is to be applauded.

As one who is familiar with the subject, I will say that the author's presentation was mild, even understated. In my own investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald's photographic equipment, I encountered a very disturbing fact. The Dallas police took hundreds of photographs of the items they confiscated from Oswald's residence shortly after the assassination. Then they were persuaded to turn the film over to the FBI for development. The FBI returned only a handful of prints. The rest were never seen, not by the Dallas police, not by the Warren Commission, not by the American people. The sad fact is that more than two hundred close-up photographs of Oswald's possessions are missing from the record. All that is available today from the National Archives are a few group shots of many items spread out on the floor–too distant for detailed analysis.

With censored investigations as the basis for our historical facts, future Americans will not be able to look back upon the real American history, but only the politically acceptable myth that the government thought was safe to tell people.

Edward T. Haslam
Albuquerque, New Mexico


© 1996, Weider History Group, a division of Weider History Group. All

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