May 1945: A Luftwaffe hangar in Leipzig - along with a quarter of the city where, two centuries ago, Johann Sebastian Bach had composed the greatest cantatas of the Baroque era - lay flattened by Allied bombers. But fighting had stopped. The Third Reich had fallen 988 years short of its millennial vow. Sheep cared not of war and peace. Life resumed.
Stunned US Army private John Ploch was one of 13,444 soldiers under UN command repatriated in 1953 from North Korean POW camps. Many told of having undergone psychological pressure so intense that it felt like torture - a practice soon dubbed "brainwashing." When an armistice was signed on July 27, the 3-year undeclared war had claimed an estimated four million lives, including those of 54,000 Americans. Yet the map of the Koreas was virtually unchanged.
The right man at the right time. Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle took his 16 B-25 bombers and succeeded in embarrassing the Japanese empire and reminded them that our uniformed men and women give as good as we get. It appears that Lt. Col. Doolittle had a sense of humor as well.
Thornton Wilder, 41, played the role of Stage Manager in a 1938 production of his new play, Our Town. This look at daily life in a fictitious Granite State village used no sets and few props (a concept borrowed from Japan's Noh plays), and the actors often directly addressed the audience. The innovative drama won a 1938 Pulitzer Prize.
On Joseph Stalin's 29-year watch, purges and planned famines killed more Soviets than did World War II. So in tears were krokodil in March 1953 as Kremlin brass bore away the 73-year-old dictator's body. After five years of savage infighting among his successors, one leader emerged: earthy Ukrainian Nikita Khruschev, 64.
In early 1945, 5 marines and a Navy medic were fixed in time raising the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima - and the morale of war-weary Americans at home. Because Iwo Jima sat within easy flying range of Japan's Home Islands, it was defended by 23,000 troops. The Imperial troops fought on for another month, until only 216 were alive to surrender. Of the 30,000-plus Americans who waded ashore, 21,000 were wounded and 6,800 were killed. Among the dead: 3 of Rosenthal's flag raisers.
Bathing beauties may have seemed uppermost in the minds of US airmen defending the Aleutians. But this was serious business; the war's only ground action on American soil was fought on this string of atolls in the North Pacific. In mid-1942, Japan landed troops on two islands; a year later, GIs evicted them. Peace reigned again. One Yank even wrote a third novel. His name: Walter Farley. His book: The Black Stallion Returns.