From the Editors: Our annual Secrets of American History” issue is sparking debate in social media. Some think the story “Did Marco Polo Discover America?” was wrongheaded because there were “already indigenous people on the North American continent,” as Judi Nixon Burnside puts it. But others echo reader Jan Vannieuwkerke, who says, “In the 13th century the Chinese sent several fleets to chart the Earth, so it is not impossible Marco Polo saw these maps.” The magazine’s exclusive tour of one of the nation’s most secretive museums, at CIA headquarters in Virginia, upset some readers who lamented they could not visit the restricted facility. Others, including Kendra Roggasch, expressed outrage at its mere existence: “Why are tax dollars going to support a secret collection only a small number of citizens value when bridges are collapsing and education is being cut?” Lawrence Jackson counters that although “some items may still be classified, or embarrassing to us or other nations,” they are a “part of history worth preserving.”
What a fascinating look [“Dead Letters,” about packets left by Rudolf Hess while in prison] into the mind of a man who by all accounts was totally convinced that he was being tortured by the British. It’d be interesting to see results of analysis of the food he was given, just to prove one way or another whether he was totally crazy or not.
I find it very sad and disappointing that Douglas Kelley’s papers are being secreted in a basement by his family. Hopefully his family will have enough respect for his insights to donate his papers to an archive of its choice so all of us, present and future, can learn from what he learned. An archive can ensure that the papers are properly stored. Basements can be prone to all sorts of problems that destroy stored items.
The notion of the nuclear football [“Nuclear Option”] as a “symbol of supreme authority” is profoundly disturbing. The need for an American president to order the immediate launch of a retaliatory strike before a significant portion of our nuclear forces were destroyed vanished with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war. A relic of the MAD (mutual assured destruction) strategy, giving one man the power to kill tens of millions of people is an insult to the checks and balances so carefully woven into our government. While the time may not have come for the current nuclear football to move to a Smithsonian exhibit case, it is time for it to be retired to a locked vault, only to be activated if some future threat once again required consideration of an immediate nuclear response to an attack.
Col. Michael R. Gallagher
In answer to the question (How can humans save the Pacific Northwest’s salmon?, “Swimming Upstream”): Of course human ingenuity can find the answers, but it will take money to clean up the pollution and mess we humans created that resulted in fewer salmon reaching the spawning grounds.
In “Hall of Spies,” a caption for a Minox subminiature camera mistakenly identified it as a CIA-produced device. Also, the story should have made it more clear that Stanley P. Lovell developed the silencer for the Hi-Standard .22, not the pistol itself.
“The Origin Story of Wonder Woman,” said that Joye Hummel Kelly was 18 in March of 1944; in fact, she was then 19.
The brief report “Did Marco Polo Discover America?” said that an Italian immigrant named Marcian Rossi arrived at Ellis Island in 1887; though sources suggest that he entered the United States around that time, the Ellis Island immigration center did not open until 1892.
In our March 2014 issue, the photograph of Carl Sagan on page 75 was miscredited. The photographer is Bill Ray.