Reader responses to our January/February issue

From the Editors Among the dozens of readers who responded warmly to “Lone Star,” the photo essay about watermelon farmer Ray Halliburton, was Veronica Ross of Diamond Point, New York: “I was moved and saddened by the fact that our World War II veterans are fading away. My father, Anthony Lewis Szabo, now 97, is one of them.” Teresa Holton Bullock of San Diego also recalled her father’s service: “He too was a small-town-Texas 18-year-old, who found himself sleeping in the snow and eating frozen Brussels sprouts in the Battle of the Bulge.” But Peg Gluntz of Loveland, Ohio, whose father is also a veteran in his 90s, offered a dissenting point of view: “The tone of the written words and the photographs are pitying, almost maudlin—the antithesis of what this man and everyone in his generation stood for.” Readers took special note of Jo Marchant’s intrepid feature on cave paintings in Indonesia. “An amazing link to these ancient civilizations. I can’t get enough of articles like this,” Kelly Woodhams said on Facebook.

Jesus’s World

It brought a tear to my eye as I read about an ordinary American from Texas whose life was changed forever by the events of the Second World War. I was fortunate to serve during a peaceful time after the Vietnam war, but I can’t imagine what it must have been like during Ray Halliburton’s time. He is an example of a true hero and an honorable man amongst many others that we should never forget.

Tony Razionale, Ardmore, Pennsylvania

I was pleased to see the article about artifacts from the time of Jesus (“Unearthing the World of Jesus”), but was sorry that your timeline of major events in the life and death of Jesus totally missed the most important one of all: his resurrection from the dead. Without the resurrection, there would not be millions of Christian churches around the world.

Matthew Crews, Barnhart, Missouri

The archaeological excavations presently being conducted in the land of Jesus not only are attempting to learn more factual knowledge about Jesus, but also about the origin and growth of Christianity. The more that we learn about the seed from which Christianity sprouted and bloomed, the more we can understand this social phenomenon, which is all the more monumental considering the humble start it received.

Richard Adamski, Waterbury, Connecticut

Autism in History

Fascinating article (“Autism in Early America”). It seems clear that the spectrum has been with us throughout history. A person can recognize the symptoms in historical records, older relatives and quirky classmates—all prior to current vaccines.

Paula Thoele, On Facebook

Park Politics

I was enjoying “Into the Wild” and admiring Robert Redford’s interest and contributions to our national parks, while also recalling some wonderful visits I have made, when I ran smack into this quotation: “The right has such antiquated ideas—if they took charge I think they would want to close the parks, open the land up for development.” Quite likely I am not the only right-wing conservative Smithsonian reader who enjoys our national parks and values them!

Cathy Viney, Via Email

Drop Zone

Although I flew 31 combat missions with the Eighth Air Force during World War II as a bombardier, the one I remember most is the Oranienburg mission of March 15, 1945, described in your story (“Bombs Away”). Early in the morning we were briefed on the new type of bombs we would carry—the AN-M65. As a bombardier, I was individually briefed on the hazards of this unique bomb. Our orders were that if we could not release the bombs on target we were to jettison them over the North Sea on our way back to England. Under no conditions were we to land with the bombs, as they could not be disarmed. Fortunately, all planes were able to drop on target.

Joel Friedman, Ventnor, New Jersey


In our January/February issue, “Reef Madness” mistakenly attributed the cause of coral bleaching to ocean acidification, which is related to rising carbon dioxide levels. In fact, scientists say that coral bleaching is caused primarily by global warming, another consequence of carbon dioxide increase.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.