Author: Roger D. McGrath (Roger D. McGrath)

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Merian Cooper, Conquering Hero
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Merian Cooper, Conquering Hero

With the war in Ukraine dangerously close to Poland, the specter is raised of the forgotten Polish-Soviet War of 1920. American pilots came to Poland's aid in that war, most importantly World War I veteran and King Kong director Merian C. Cooper.

The Admiral of American Movies
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The Admiral of American Movies

When the brilliant Orson Welles was asked to name his three favorite directors, he replied, “The Old Masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford.” John Ford was arguably Hollywood’s greatest director, churning out 140 movies and documentaries and winning the Academy Award for Best Director a record four times. Nine...

California Exodus
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California Exodus

In the 1950s grammar schools of the Golden State we kids substituted “Oh, California!” for Stephen Foster’s “Oh, Susanna!” The tune was the same, but the lyrics came from the pen of John Nichols just before he climbed aboard the bark Eliza in December 1848 at Salem, Massachusetts, for the voyage to California. I come...

A Tale of Two Withdrawals
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A Tale of Two Withdrawals

It’s difficult to characterize President Biden’s precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan as anything but a shameful debacle. It’s also difficult to determine who was responsible for the lack of a strategic withdrawal plan. Can the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff be that incompetent or feckless if an immediate and unconditional...

When Cali Was Conservative
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When Cali Was Conservative

Facing a recall election, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced the state would pay all back rent for qualifying tenants and then, sounding like Jack Bailey in the 1950s TV show Queen for a Day, said, “And that’s not all. The state will also pay all past due water and utility bills!” “Qualifying” renters include all...

Canceling Uncle Tom
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Canceling Uncle Tom

The only thing those on the left hate more than a conservative white male is a conservative black male. It simply infuriates leftists when a black man rejects their socialist dogma and espouses such conservative ideals as individual initiative, freedom from government, self-reliance, responsibility for decision making, and competing in the marketplace. How dare he! A...

Middle American Aviatrix
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Middle American Aviatrix

Taking Flight: The Nadine Ramsey Story; by Raquel Ramsey and Tricia Aurand; University Press of Kansas, 2020; 312 pp., $29.95   Taking Flight tells the remarkable tale of a courageous woman, Nadine Ramsey, who survived a difficult childhood to become Kansas’ first female commercial pilot, a World War II WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilot), an instructor of male fighter...

The Machines of Enslavement
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The Machines of Enslavement

The historically ignorant and leftist-driven “1619 Project” of The New York Times posits a grand design to enslave blacks in the American Colonies and to perpetuate the institution by revolting against British rule and establishing the American Republic. That slavery in the colonies was the result of the genetic constraints imposed by malaria rather than a grand design...

Slavery’s Ironic Twist of Fate
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Slavery’s Ironic Twist of Fate

The historical ignorance of The New York Times’ 1619 Project is difficult to accept. Is the newspaper truly that ignorant or is it disinformation in a propaganda campaign to destroy our country? What I know for certain is most colleges no longer require the U.S. History and Western Civilization courses once considered essential, and that leftist professors...

That Damn Cowboy
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That Damn Cowboy

His statue in front of the Museum of Natural History in New York City is scheduled for removal, which is certainly ironic for one of New York’s most accomplished, adventurous, self-sacrificing, and patriotic sons, Theodore Roosevelt. Although he never owned slaves and was a recipient of both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Medal of Honor,...

The Chinese Exclusion Act
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The Chinese Exclusion Act

In 1882 Congress took steps to control Chinese immigration with the passage of “An Act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese.” The act later became known misleadingly as the Chinese Exclusion Act. In high schools and colleges it’s taught that the act was simply another example of American racism.  The real story is more...

Epidemic for the Record Books
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Epidemic for the Record Books

As the hysterical coronavirus overreaction crashes our economy, I can’t help but think of the Spanish flu, which took some 675,000 American lives in 1918 and 1919. Adjusting for the difference in the size of the American population then and now, that number would be equivalent to two million deaths today. I’ll be surprised—I’m writing...

Jackson and the American Indians
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Jackson and the American Indians

Everyone knows that Andrew Jackson wanted American Indians annihilated, defied the Supreme Court in a famous challenge to Chief Justice John Marshall, and forcibly removed the Five Civilized Tribes of the Southeast to lands west of the Mississippi River. What everyone knows is not true. Once a venerated American hero, Andrew Jackson has been attacked...

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Books in Brief

Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America, by Mary Grabar (Regnery; 327 pp., $29.99). Mary Grabar has performed an invaluable service by taking the time to dissect Howard Zinn’s polemical attack on America, A People’s History of the United States (1980). Although she doesn’t cover every topic Zinn addresses,...

George O’Brien: American Star
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George O’Brien: American Star

WWI veteran George O’Brien became a star in Hollywood with his breakout performance in John Ford’s silent film epic, The Iron Horse. Handsome and built like the top athlete he was, O’Brien appeared in 11 more Ford movies and 85 films altogether, a successful career punctuated by voluntary and selfless distinction in two more wars,...

The British Invasion of the Ozarks
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The British Invasion of the Ozarks

Chronicles readers may recall my “Old Route 66” (September 2013) and “Keep the Water on Your Right” (February 2015) motorcycle travelogues, in which I rode through small towns and rural areas to reconnect with the land and people of America. A road trip can do this like no other kind of journey, and doing one...

The Old West’s Deadly Doctor
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The Old West’s Deadly Doctor

Most Americans know of Doc Holliday only as Wyatt Earp’s sidekick. He was much more than that. He was not only one of the most colorful characters in the Old West but also one of the most feared. He acquired the nickname “Doc” honestly, earning a degree in dentistry and practicing in several towns. However,...

Getting Real About Reparations
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Getting Real About Reparations

The call for slavery reparations is reverberating throughout the land once again. It will be entertaining to watch the Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 position themselves on this topic. They must know the very idea is irrational and entirely impractical, but at the same time they will worry that one candidate or another will endorse...

James Howard: Two-Theater Double Ace
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James Howard: Two-Theater Double Ace

One would think the only American fighter pilot to earn the Medal of Honor in World War II in Europe would be remembered and honored, or at least mentioned in history textbooks in high school and college.  No such luck today.  For those of us who grew up in the aftermath of the Second World...

William Lundigan
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William Lundigan

Of our 20th-century wars World War II stands alone.  In a sneak attack early on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Japanese naval forces bombed Pearl Harbor.  As reports were broadcast throughout the day American shock turned to anger.  The following day Congress, with but one dissenting vote—pacifist Jeannette Rankin—declared war on Japan.  We were a...

Butch Cassidy, Part 2
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Butch Cassidy, Part 2

A station agent tried to telegraph Price, Utah—the direction the outlaws were headed—but Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay had cut the wires.  The paymaster had the train’s engine uncoupled.  Men grabbed a variety of weapons and jumped aboard.  The locomotive steamed down the narrow gorge of Price Canyon right past the unseen robbers, who were...

Bob Mathias
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Bob Mathias

From the August 2013 issue of Chronicles. One of the greatest Olympians of all time, Bob Mathias, is all but forgotten today.  He was born in 1930 in Tulare, in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley.  Robert Bruce Mathias was his name, but everyone called him Bob. Bob had extraordinary coordination from infancy onward. ...

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Butch Cassidy, Part 1

Starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a smash success when it was released in 1969.  Surprisingly, the movie generally follows the actual events of Butch Cassidy’s outlaw life.  It’s a fun romp from beginning to end.  Most of the casting is not bad for Hollywood: Believe it or...

Cowboy Heroes
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Cowboy Heroes

From the July 2005 issue of Chronicles. Whatever happened to Randolph Scott ridin’ the range alone? Whatever happened to Gene and Tex And Roy and Rex, the Durango Kid? Whatever happened to Randolph Scott His horse plain, as can be? Whatever happened to Randolph Scott Has happened to the best of me. So sang the...

David Crockett
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David Crockett

“Watch what people are cynical about,” said General Patton, “and one can often discover what they lack.”  Since the 1960’s I’ve been watching what are often called revisionist historians trying to destroy the American heroes I grew up admiring.  At first I couldn’t understand why such historians would be so hell-bent on tearing down figures...

Parry O’Brien
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Parry O’Brien

It’s difficult to explain today that, from the 1920’s through the mid-1960’s, track and field was a major sport in Southern California.  There were several reasons for this.  There was no Major League Baseball anywhere on the West Coast—Chicago and St. Louis were the westernmost cities to field teams.  We had only a minor-league circuit,...

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Hang ’Em High

I was recently watching Westward Ho, one of the many dozens of B Westerns I have in my collection, and it struck me that until the 1940’s vigilantes were most often portrayed in the movies as the good guys.  Following the credits at the beginning of Westward Ho we read, “This picture is dedicated to...

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The Long Sadness

From the July 2014 issue of Chronicles. William Ball was just shy of 19 and living in the town of Souris on the prairies of Canada when war erupted in Europe in August 1914.  The region was still something of a frontier, devoted to trapping and trading with Indians, and inhabited by hearty, adventurous types,...

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The Klondike Stampede, Part II

For Part I of “The Klondike Stampede,” see Sins of Omission in the December 2017 issue. The 250 Indians who inhabited Dyea on the eve of the gold rush were Chilkats, members of the Tlingit tribe.  They were short and stocky, and excellent packers.  They commonly carried packs of 100 pounds or more.  They charged...

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The Klondike Stampede, Part I

It has always surprised me that the last great gold rush in North America is mostly absent from American history textbooks, especially those of more recent vintage.  It’s as if the stampede to the Klondike never happened.  Part of the answer lies in geography: The Klondike region is in Canada’s Yukon Territory.  However, most of...

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The Indians Who Never Were

Portland and Seattle have developed sizeable communities of disaffected leftists who are antagonistic toward everything that is traditional America.  Hundreds of young folks are ready at a moment’s notice to flood into the streets to protest the offense du jour.  They block traffic, vandalize cars and stores, break windows, start fires, and attack people.  They...

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Ace of Aces: Richard Bong

From the October 2012 issue of Chronicles. He was an all-American boy who became an American hero in World War II.  Born in 1920 to a father who, at the age of five, had immigrated to the United States with his family from Sweden and an American-born mother of Irish, Scottish, and English descent, Dick...

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The Real McCoy

In the early 1950’s when my family got our first TV set—it had a whopping 12″ screen with a green tint—we kids tuned in to The Tim McCoy Show, which aired early Saturday evenings on a local Los Angeles station, KTLA, Channel 5.  McCoy told stories about the Old West, gave lessons in Indian sign...

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White Slaves

For many years I taught a U.S. history survey course.  One of my lecture topics was American slavery.  I made a real effort to put the peculiar institution into historical perspective.  I noted that slavery was not something reserved for blacks here in America but was as old as man himself and recognized no racial...

Kit Carson
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Kit Carson

Though the mountain men were responsible for blazing nearly every trail to the Pacific Coast, discovering the natural wonders of the Trans-Mississippi West, and providing the muscle that fueled the fur trade—a major component of the American economy—few gained national recognition.  An outstanding exception was Kit Carson.  During the 1840’s and 50’s, John C. Frémont...

Butch O’Hare
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Butch O’Hare

For years I taught a course on the history of World War II.  I liked to ask the students if any of them had ever flown into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.  Invariably, one or more in each class had.  This was not surprising, because for the last 40 or 50 years O’Hare has been the...

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Corsair Ace Ken Walsh

Americans have always loved their real-life Horatio Alger characters.  They fired our imagination as children and were worthy of emulating.  I hate to see many of those who were an inspiration to me disappear from our histories. A perfect example is Kenneth Ambrose Walsh. Ken Walsh was born in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York.  His...

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No Apologies

I am one of those who has hoped for a Trump victory since he announced his intention to run in the Republican primary. It was simple. He came out forcefully on the issue of immigration, which normally caused Republican candidates to be struck dumb and blind. We here in California have seen the deleterious effects...

The Gunfighter: Myth or Reality?
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The Gunfighter: Myth or Reality?

The reality of the Old West does not sit well with many in academe, who take pride in thinking they are debunking what they call cherished myths of the American people.  I think this is especially the case when talking about gunfighters.  There is clearly an impulse to attempt to destroy what most of us...

An Aroused Populace—With Guns
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An Aroused Populace—With Guns

At the Pulse nightclub on June 16, Omar Seddique Mateen, a Muslim on his own personal jihad, opened fire on the crowd of more than 300.  No one shot back.  Some tried to hide in the bathrooms.  One of those in a bathroom texted his mother, “He’s coming.  I’m gonna die.”  He was right.  Mateen...

The Okie From Oildale
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The Okie From Oildale

A boyhood pastime when I was growing up was building radios.  We did it in Cub Scouts and again, at a more sophisticated level, in Boy Scouts.  Various kits were available, but we all started with a simple crystal set.  It seemed almost magical that with a few components, essentially wire and a crystal, and...

Hollywood’s Lone Ace
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Hollywood’s Lone Ace

He is virtually unknown to Americans today, though he appeared in 65 movies and was the only actor to become an ace during World War II.  Born in Los Angeles in 1914 to Nebraskan Bert DeWayne Morris and Texan Anna Fitzgerald, he would be christened with his father’s name but go by Wayne Morris.  While...

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Lee Marvin, Marine

I first met Lee Marvin in 1964.  I had seen him around town for several years.  He lived on Latimer Road in Rustic Canyon, a part of our then small, quaint hamlet of Pacific Palisades.  He had four children, but his marriage was on the rocks, and he was spending many an evening drinking at...

Dining With The Donald
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Dining With The Donald

When Donald Trump started making noise about running for president, I knew next to nothing about him.  Since I don’t watch television, I’m not sure whether I could even have identified him in a lineup.  I knew only that he was a New York-based real-estate mogul and had a series of beautiful wives.  So it...

A Perversion of History
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A Perversion of History

If you think the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the South Carolina capitol was the end of flag controversy, you may be surprised to learn that an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times declared, “It’s time California dump” the Bear Flag, “a symbol of blatant illegality and racial prejudice. ...

Belleau Wood
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Belleau Wood

Within the Marine Corps the World War I Battle of Belleau Wood is legendary.  Outside the Corps it is relatively unknown.  Yet the battle was a turning point in the history of the Corps, clearly demonstrating that the Marines could operate at brigade strength in conventional warfare.  Until then Marines were used principally as landing...

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An American Sniper

A galloglass was a professional warrior hired by an Irish chief.  The practice of employing such men became common in the decades following the Norman invasion, when it became obvious that heavily armed and mail-clad fighters were needed to contest the battlefield.  One Irish contemporary described how the Gaels of Ireland had gone into battle...