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War, Honor and...Cats

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

For "In Their Footsteps" Donovan Webster retraced the torturous 65-mile forced march in the Philippines by captured American and Filipino soldiers in 1942. With every step he took, his admiration for the G.I.s grew. "I was there at roughly the same time of year as the prisoners, and the temperatures were sweltering. I hadn't just spent four months fighting in the jungle with little in the way of supplies, and I wasn't sick, as most of the troops were in 1942." Today the Death March route is paved with asphalt and packed with cars and motorcycles. In towns, the air is blue from vehicle exhaust. "But along the road," says Webster, "there are banana and rubber trees and kids selling seafood from shacks. It's actually quite beautiful."

"You might assume that Alexander Hamilton's famous duel with Aaron Burr had to be some kind of fluke—that Americans busy casting off the aristocratic traditions of Europe wouldn't have much use for ritual gunplay over arcane points of honor, especially when it cost a life as valuable as Hamilton's," says Ross Drake, who wrote " Duel!". In fact, dueling in pre-Civil War America remained a lively tradition, with its own set of formalities (widely abused in practice), preferred combat venues (often chosen to evade legal scrutiny) and a gallery of dangerous characters. Hamilton wasn't the first, even in his own family, to die on the so-called field of honor, and, regrettably, he wasn't the last. So why did sensible men take such risks? "The reasons," says Drake, "—temper, pride, fear of humiliation—may not seem compelling today, but at the time were hard to ignore."

A word about our 2003 photo contest. We received more than 12,000 entries! Our director of reader services, Karla Henry, did the counting (bless her heart) and reports: "For the Natural World category we got a lot of deer, large water birds and pets. But the most common entries were close-ups of flowers, especially flowers with insects, and most especially, purple coneflowers with butterflies. For People, we got a lot of baby pictures and pictures of the elderly. For the Arts, we got tons of statues and paintings. The most popular Americana subjects were Civil War and Revolutionary War reenactors. And cats! We have cats entered in Americana, the Arts, the Natural World, Travel and, believe it or not, in People."

As promised, we plan to notify finalists by March 31, and the winners soon after. We're awarding five $500 first prizes (plus a $1,000 grand prize), and Canon has donated five EOS Rebel Ti 35mm film camera kits and one EOS Elan 7e kit to the winners. We will publish the best photographs sometime this year. Thanks so much to everyone who participated.

About Carey Winfrey
Carey Winfrey

Carey Winfrey was Smithsonian magazine's editor in chief for ten years, from 2001 to 2011.

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