Readers Respond to the December Issue

On the morning of June 6, 1944 ("Ike at D-Day"), I was in an Army hospital in Chamblee, Georgia. It was still dark when an attendant whispered to a patient near the door. Two words—"It's started"— went from bed to bed. Radios went on. All you could see were radio dials and the glow of cigarettes. There was no talking. I think every one of us was praying for those men who were going into France by sea or by air.
Charles E. Porter
Ocala, Florida

D-Day Intelligence
Important information about whether German forces were anticipating the Normandy landings came from pictures taken by the 423rd Night Fighter Squadron early on the morning of June 6th. Its photo- graphs of the roads of the Cherbourg Peninsula provided good, last-minute evidence that the Germans were not making any military movements of consequence toward the Normandy area. This had to have answered some of the main questions in General Eisenhower's mind on that fateful morning.
Bill Clark
Las Vegas, Nevada

While there has long been controversy about the origin of the expression "the whole nine yards," Michael Korda, the author of "Ike at D-Day," repeats the unlikely etymology that it referred to the length of a machine gun belt in a U.S. bomber. The saying may indeed have been used to describe such belts, but it's much more plausible that it originated in the fabric trade. The standard bolt of cloth was nine yards. When a buyer took the "whole nine yards," there would be no remnant, which a merchant might have trouble selling.
Arnold Wilson
Menlo Park, California

Revolutionary Real Estate
Isaac Franks, who first rented his house in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to George Washington in 1793, was not a colonel in the Continental Army ("Revolutionary Real Estate"). He became known as "Colonel" Franks after he was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the Philadelphia County Brigade in 1794. Though Franks billed Washington for several items after the president's two-month stay, including a missing flatiron, a large fork and three ducks, Washington rented the house again the next summer.
Irwin Miller
Stamford, Connecticut

For his article "Keepers of the Lost Ark?" about the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's claim that it holds the biblical ark of the covenant at a chapel in the town of Aksum, Paul Raffaele studied a documentary movie and read published works on the subject before conducting interviews in Ethiopia and elsewhere. Among the books he consulted was Graham Hancock's The Sign and the Seal, originally published in 1992. In a letter, Hancock has expressed dismay that Raffaele's article does not acknowledge The Sign and the Seal, even though the article follows much the same itinerary as the book and uses some of the same language. We have looked into the matter and concluded that Raffaele's approach to the subject was his own, dictated by the logic of the story itself. But Raffaele's words echo Hancock's in one significant instance. Hancock writes in his book, "the Ark of the Covenant was worshipped by the Israelites as the embodiment of God Himself. . . . Biblical and other archaic sources speak of the Ark blazing with fire and light . . . stopping rivers, blasting whole armies." Raffaele writes in the article, "Jews came to revere the ark as an earthly manifestation of God. The Old Testament describes its enormous powers—blazing with fire and light, halting rivers, blasting away armies." Raffaele apologizes for inadvertently failing to cite Hancock's book as a source for the passage. We, too, express our regret for the lapse, to Hancock and to our readers. —Ed.

The toy in Emmet Gowin's 1971 family portrait ("Married With Camera") is not a train set, as described, but a Hot Wheels racetrack.

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