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My Brush with History

A college student in the march from Selma to Montgomery recalls the struggle for democracy in Alabama in 1965.

The author was a high school football player when a junior coach from West Point tried to recruit him. Years later the player discovered who the now-famous coach was, and learned a valuable lesson. 

One Man’s March When Jim Crow Laws Were in Full Force

I long thought that my husband, Forrest, should write his story for this column, but since he passed away recently, the task falls to me. I’ll try to tell his story and a little bit of my own.

The old man smoking a cigar looked like Winston Churchill

In the 1950s and ’60s I had the good fortune to live in New York City, right across from Riverside Park. Our 325-acre back yard offered sledding in winter, and for the rest of the year I could race my Schwinn throughout the park.

During their vacation, a couple from the United States crossed Checkpoint Charlie and had a harrowing experience as they encountered soldiers on both sides of the Berlin Wall.

In the Summer of 1978 my wife, Betts, and I drove through Europe. After touring West Berlin, we decided to visit the eastern part of the city. At Checkpoint Charlie we walked through a complicated network of wire cages.

The explosion at the Army Math Center blew in the window near my laboratory desk

On Monday, August 24, 1970, I was a graduate student in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. My research laboratory was in the chemistry building, and that morning I rode over on my bicycle to find broken glass everywhere.

Prelude to a symphony and a scandal

We were in Washington to attend a concert at the Kennedy Center. Our daughter Joan’s school orchestra, the Interlochen Arts Academy Symphony, from Interlochen, Michigan, was performing, and she would be playing the bassoon. It was a big deal for our family.

How I Protected Military Files from Cold War Spies

In the summer of 1961 I was assigned temporary duty from Headquarters Company, 3d Medical Tank Battalion, 33d Armor, Fort Knox, Kentucky, to Camp Breckenridge, Morganfield, Kentucky, as billeting officer.

Kennedy looked out the limo’s back window and kept waving and smiling, despite the pain he must have felt.


When a President Holds a Grudge


Life at an office that was not quite an embassy

Twenty-five years later I still find them

From The Commune To The Prep School

The sixties ended for me one parents Day at a New England prep school. On that brilliant October morning 20 years ago, I sat in an oak-paneled classroom, one of a small group of adults holding the nervous gaze of a young history teacher. Sitting next to me was Joan Baez.

Cold Feet In The Oval Office

There I was, standing outside a room in the White House, ready to have a one-on-one meeting with President Ronald Reagan.

An Incidental, Oddly Enduring Acquaintance

During the 1968 election, when I was 14,1 became fascinated by politics. With my grandfather’s help, I began collecting political buttons from every presidential election in the twentieth century and quite a few in the nineteenth.

A Spirit Forged In Fire

Some 1,020 people perished when the steamer General Slocum exploded in New York's East River.

Free Passes to a Movie Milestone

One of the benefits of having a grandfather who was a former mayor of Boston, John F. (“Honey Fitz”) Fitzgerald, was that he had free passes to interesting events. Just by paying the tax on a baseball ticket, I could get into a Red Sox or a Braves game.

Little-known information about the dirigible's final moments

In 1937 I was a nine-year-old living on the fifth floor of a six-story walkup in the Bronx. One warm day I went to open the kitchen window and I heard a great deal of noise from the street below. When I looked down, I saw a crowd of people staring up at the sky and pointing.

Our platoon was probably the only Allied soldiers to witness the final degradation of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

In December of 1942 I was drafted and sent overseas to Oran, Algeria, where I was assigned to the 91st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. The eyes and ears for the troops, we rode in jeeps, armored cars, and light tanks, scouting the numbers and supplies of the enemy forces.


On November 1, 1950, All Saints’ Day, my twin sister and I joined four other cheerleaders from St.


It was 1938 and I was 11 years old. My father, a captain in the Medical Corps Reserve, had to put in two weeks every summer on active duty. This year he was assigned to Carlisle Barracks, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He decided to take me with him.




On May 18, 1980, my wife Ciel and I were camped at Hampton Lakes, in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in central Washington. It was Ciel’s first true camping trip ever.

I was a writer on the staff of the Hunter College newspaper when Eleanor Roosevelt, completely alone, would stop by looking for someone to talk to.

The Roosevelt townhouse was only three blocks from Hunter College’s main building at Park Avenue at Sixty-eighth Street, and one day in 1940 Eleanor just walked in off the street. The door she opened was the entrance to Echo, the college magazine.

Gen. MacArthur designated the author as engineer of the Marine invasion at Wonsan, and told him to accompany the first wave. This would sharpen his mind, MacArthur said, "like an imminent hanging."

On June 27,1950, two days after the North Koreans invaded South Korea, I received a memorandum:

When the Japanese government vehicle came to a stop, I saw an elderly and frail-looking man in the back seat. It was Emperor Hirohito.

In May of 1977 I was a young Marine Corps lance corporal working with the Naval Security Group on Misawa Air Base, tucked away on the northern tip of the island of Honshu, Japan.

Why were twenty wounded American soldiers released on Thanksgiving in 1950, days before the Chinese attacked in Korea?

On Thanksgiving Day 1950, two months after General MacArthur’s masterly strategic stroke at Inchon, I was seventy-five miles south of Manchuria, posted to a battalion-sized 25th Infantry Division Task Force named for its commander, Lt. Col. Weldon G. Dolvin.

 “Everything I ever needed to know I learned from Abbie Hoffman.”


My would-be pen pal asked for photos of my home and school. And also the local Strategic Air Command base.

The first thing you must understand in the story of how I was recruited to spy for Albania is that when I was eight years old, I never foresaw a time when I might be embarrassed to admit that I used to read Dennis the Menace comic books.

Even admirals can swear like old salts.

I asked one of the guests to take the helm while I went to check the engine.

During the summer of 1948 I was captain of a sightseeing boat taking tourists for a waterfront view of the nation’s capital. The boat was available for charter, and in the days before air conditioning it was popular with Washington hostesses giving evening parties.

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