Excerpt — November 11, 2016, 5:27 pm

The Grace of God

An excerpt from George McGovern’s diary.

1940s-WWII-GM-plane-climbing_edited-1 WEB

McGovern climbing into a training aircraft, 1943. Courtesy the Senator George McGovern Collection, Dakota Wesleyan University Archives, Mitchell, South Dakota

From My Life in the Service: The World War II Diary of George McGovernBefore he was a celebrated politician, Senator George McGovern served as a B-24 bomber pilot in World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving the lives of his crew. My Life in the Service features a facsimile of the diary McGovern kept from his first days of basic training to the end of the war. Hastily jotted in his exacting hand (a typed transcription is included), the pages convey the immediacy of McGovern’s wartime experiences. Purchase the diary here
Dec 20 spread

Click to enlarge.

Dec. 20, 1944. I worked up a good sweat again today. We had another rough one—again in 279, the same ship that landed on one wheel two days ago. Our target today was Brux, but I lost an engine short of the target. We had no sooner started for home than I last no. 3 engine and could not feather it. The first engine no. 2 came came back in partially after we came down from altitude but in the meantime no. 3 had caught fire. It continued to windmill until it froze up. I could hold altitude but couldn’t depend on no. 2 which was running rough. In addition to that we were low on fuel and the weather was bad. We had a 1500 foot ceiling and it was so hazy that the navigator could hardly help me at all. Sam was not with me and the navigator Lt. Vince apparently was unable to do much of anything. Ralph contacted “Big Fence” and they gave us a heading to the Isle of Viz—a little island near the eastern side of the Adriatic. We finally found the island and located the landing strip. It is a British fighter strip and too short for a heavy bomber to land on, but we made it O.K. by the grace of God. A C-47 which was taking off saw us coming in; so they waited for us to land and then brought us back to our base. We lost several planes and crews today in crash landings due to the shortage of fuel and bad weather. One of them is still unaccounted for.

Purchase McGovern’s diary here.

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More from George McGovern:

From the October 2006 issue

The way out of war

A blueprint for leaving Iraq now

From the December 2002 issue

The case for liberalism

A defense of the future against the past

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Secrets and Lies·

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

Seeking Asylum·

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Out of sight on Leros, the island of the damned

Poem for Harm·

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

Good Bad Bad Good·

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

Some taxonomies were inarguable. The O.C., a Fox series about California rich kids and their beautiful swimming pools, was delightfully Good-Bad. Paul Haggis’s heavy-handed morality play, Crash, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, was gallingly Bad-Good. The films of Francois Truffaut, Good-Good; the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Bad-Bad.

Life after Life·

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.

I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:


A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

A solid-gold toilet named “America” was stolen from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, in Oxfordshire, England.

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