December 2019 Discussion

Readers respond to our stories on Nazi map data, Che Guevara and letters from the war front

Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

“I do believe the spirit of Jack London was with Richard Grant,” Tawnya Ison in Medford, Oregon, wrote about our November cover story retracing the Call of the Wild author’s Yukon journey. “Fantastic writing and a true adventure to read!” Don M. Pike of Crawford, Texas, was struck by “Behind the Lines,” about a secret mission to capture Nazi mapping data: “We’re all certainly indebted to these courageous people and the risks and sacrifices they endured.” The story that provoked the biggest response (most of it, admittedly, negative) was “Che’s Kid Hits the Road,” about a motorcycle tour of Cuba given by a son of Che Guevara, one of the leaders of the country’s revolution. Though the travel article mentioned Che’s brutality, many readers said the piece glorified the rebel leader and didn’t go far enough in criticizing the Communist government.

The Map Hunters

My sister Holly and I grew up with these stories and only later when our father, Ray Johnson, committed them to writing did we understand the impact of these events on his life. Now, to see some of the same observations put into a deeply researched narrative is very powerful and moving. He never dreamed that his manuscript would contribute to an important and intriguing national story.

— Paula Eastwood | Albuquerque, New Mexico

My father was a Scout/Ranger with the Fourth Infantry Division spotting artillery as a forward observer from Utah Beach to the occupation of Germany. I imagine the data gleaned from the recovered documents was applied by the 29th Field Artillery as it battled across Europe: information that aided his survival—and my eventual existence.

— George R. Clark | Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin

Another Side to Che

What a whitewashing of the life and effect of Che Guevara (“Che’s Kid Hits the Road”). Although he helped Castro dispose of a dictator, what was the result? He helped create and support an even more repressive regime, from which thousands have been desperate to escape over the past 60 years. No one immigrates to Cuba, it has never been able to support itself under this regime, and the non-elites are unvaryingly suffering from shortages of food and medicine. A more balanced article would better serve your readership.

— Darryl Engle | Chandler, Arizona

Maybe you could interview some of the Cuban-Americans who survived Castro and Che’s regime. They would have a different perspective on what kind of man Che was.

— Steve Moore | Oceanside, California

Letters From the Front Lines

What a treasure trove! As we now head toward a totally digital world, these letters (“The News From Over There”) are an invaluable look at a world before iPhones and computers. They give us a window into not only the day-to-day lives of these fighting men, but also the day-to-day lives of their families—something no newsreel will ever show.

— D.L. Moore | Hesperia, California

I am moved by the dedication of Mr. Carroll and his staff in this endeavor. It is a vital opportunity and responsibility to collect, save and cherish the thoughts and feelings of our military.

— Christy Collins | Goshen, New York

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus