Share This Article

Your article by Harold Holzer in the July/August issue of American History on portraits of Southern gentlemen brought to my mind a childhood memory. I asked my mother what it was like when she was a little girl. She was born in 1884 in the tiny village of Big Fishing Creek in West Virginia. On one side of the creek lived her Grandfather Morgan and his family. On the other side of the creek lived her Grandfather Newman and his family. Mother’s childhood duty was to churn their butter.

Grandfather Morgan, cousin of John the “Raider,” was a Southerner. He owned slaves . . . . Grandfather Newman had gone to West Point and though from Virginia had fought on the Northern side against his own Virginia cousins. They never owned slaves.

Somehow love united my grandmother, the Northerner, with my grandfather, the Southerner, and mother was born of their union. Mother’s deepest memories of when she went to churn were the portraits held with deep reverence, Robert E. Lee in one home and Ulysses S. Grant in the other. [Her grandparents] taught her Civil War tunes, but the portraits left the greatest impression.

Frances M. Dudley
Ridley Park, Pennsylvania

I appreciated Earl Clark’s Saturday Evening Post boy-salesmen story in the March/April 1996 issue of American History,even though those boys were my competition. I was a Liberty magazine boy-salesman in Milwaukee during grade school and high school. I sold my business for five cents per customer to another “boy salesman” who attended Marquette University.

Just like the Saturday Evening Post boys, we received one and one-half cents for selling each five-cent magazine plus one Greenie for each five magazines sold or one Brownie for each 25 sold. As I recall, there was a “23 club” and then a “49 club”with some reward for reaching those sales goals. I belonged to the 49 club. The boy next door sold the

Saturday Evening Post and had more than one hundred customers, but his mother sold most of them for him at the gas company where she worked.

Liberty hit the newsstands on Wednesday, and that’s the day the customers expected delivery. The ability to deliver and collect was about as important as the ability to sell. It was necessary to go outside the neighborhood to get enough customers,and that made a delivery problem.

I lusted after a Wright-Ditzen “Comet” tennis racquet pictured in the seductive catalogue, and after sending in 78 [coupons] for it (1,950 magazine sales), I received a much lower quality racquet than the “Comet.” I protested to my distributor to no avail,so I finally wrote my complaint to the publisher, Bernarr MacFadden. He didn’t reply, and I gave the racquet to my sister since I already had a better one. I haven’t forgiven MacFadden to this day.

Richard O. Bade
Fort Wayne, Indiana

The sense of outrage that I feel over the whitewash of the war crimes by the Chinese and Japanese during the Second World War has never been greater than right now, after reading this very insightful and well-written article [March/April 1996 issue]. I sense that Mr. Pelz knew first hand of the miscarriage of justice that he was observing. Even a casual reader can easily discern that this trial was a mockery of justice. The impression that I get from this article is that General Homma Masaharu was merely the scapegoat chosen by General Douglas MacArthur due to a personal grudge. This means that the real perpetrators of the war atrocities were never brought to justice.

Sharon K. Howard
Springfield, Missouri

The MacArthur article in your May/June 1996 issue pointed out the insubordinate character of the general. History shows that General John J. Pershing had trouble with him following orders during World War I. President Herbert Hoover, as commander in chief, ordered MacArthur not to fire on the bonus marchers in 1932, but of course he did. As a matter of fact, President Hoover always thought this was one of the many reasons for his election defeat in 1932.

General MacArthur, as we know, kept President Harry Truman waiting for him at Wake Island. Again showing disrespect for the president, he greeted him not in appropriate dress but wearing his old greasy campaign hat.

When the general and his family returned to the United States and moved into the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City,he had the effrontery to send his aide to President Hoover’s apartment suggesting the general was now ready to receive the president. The former president sent back word to MacArthur that when he wanted to see the general, he would send for him.

William H. Perkins
Riverside, Illinois

When Douglas MacArthur left the American Embassy (his residence) in Manila for the last time [May/June 1996 issue], his route to the airport was lined with Japanese police and then with American soldiers. As the car drove by carrying him and General Matthew Ridgway, I was there with my carbine and came to “present arms”; I knew that history was being made.

As a 19-year-old, I knew that I very much resented what President Harry Truman had done. I still resent it. Relieving MacArthur was probably necessary at some point in time, after all he was 71. But the quote in Colonel Harry Maihafer’s article says it all. The real Truman comes out in it. “The son of a bitch,” he said, “isn’t going to resign on me! I want him fired!”Fifty-two years of service to your country count for nothing.Donald W. Killmeyer
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

MacArthur did attempt to carry his case to the American people [May/June 1996 issue]; we thought he would kill them, too.He spoke at the graduation at Michigan State University, taking the opportunity to defend his choices. It was a blazing hot day,and people in the football stadium were passing out from the heat–and from his one-and-a-half-hour speech. It is not hard to understand those who found him egomaniacal and self-possessed.

John Herr
Bonita Springs, Florida


I am also of that certain age that just remembers the end of World War II. But, by the time the Korean War came around, I was very much politically aware. I was reading the daily news and communiqu?s in The New York Times and had a pretty good idea of what was transpiring. By the time I got to University, I was a history minor and political science major who was widely read on General Douglas MacArthur and his “glory.”

You have got it backward in the article on him. His was a poor record both on military matters and on general moralities. He repeatedly refused to obey civilian command and utilized the press for his own self-aggrandizement. His profiteering in the Philippines between the wars was typical of his rationale that there was a different code for “Mac” than for lesser soldiers.Having a clear warning of Japanese intents, he left the U.S. Air Corps on the ground in the Philippines to be destroyed before battle had begun. He used up his soldiers at a greater rate than did the Navy-oriented mid-Pacific wing of attack in the war.Instead of cutting off Japanese garrisons as the Navy did, he insisted on hitting each one seriatim. His behavior in Korea and politically after his relief was overt politicking akin to that of General George McClellan in the Civil War.

Yes, in many ways MacArthur was a good soldier and served his country fairly well. But, that was what he was paid to do.His intervention in the politics of Japan post war was first class. However, it was clear that, in the American theme of things,MacArthur was insubordinate beyond the pale and only his self-made reputation kept him from being severely disciplined earlier in the game. One of our many blessings as a country is that we have avoided the deadly plague of a politicized military;he came as close as anyone to having changed that.

Paul L. Feinsmith
Hollywood, Florida

One of General MacArthur’s greatest accomplishments [May/June 1996 issue] was his tenure as the head of occupation in post-war Japan. He raised the status of Japanese women, made the Japanese emperor less divine and more accessible,encouraged workers’ rights, kept the Russians out of the occupation picture, and in general tried to do the near-impossible,that is to change a conquered nation’s attitude in a fair and reasonable way. The general deserves as much credit for a job well done during this period as he received for his illustrious battlefield activities.

Robert Boorman
Phoenix, Arizona