Grow up as good revolutionaries

In 1955, Argentinean-born Che Guevara met Fidel Castro and quickly joined his efforts to oust Fulgencio Batista as leader of Cuba — a revolution in which he would go on to play a major role and which would lead to Guevara becoming Finance Minister under Castro’s rule. By 1965, Guevara was keen to spread his

Sleep well my love

The following heart-rending love letter was written by American World War II veteran Brian Keith to Dave, a fellow soldier he met and fell in love with in 1943 while stationed in North Africa. It was penned on the occasion of their anniversary and reprinted in September of 1961 by ONE Magazine, a groundbreaking pro-gay magazine first published in

To Hell with Hitler

In 1940, a year after fleeing Nazi Germany and setting up home in New York, the writer of the following letter attempted to enlist with the U.S. Armed Forces; however, his application was denied for one incredible reason: his uncle was Adolf Hitler. He wasn’t deterred, and two years later, a few months after his

You will then know how to talke to me

In September of 1864, as the American Civil War approached its conclusion, a slave-turned-soldier named Spotswood Rice wrote the following furious letter to his former owner, Katherine Diggs, and sternly warned her that she would soon be seeing him again: he was returning to Missouri, together with a thousand-strong army of black soldiers, to rescue

I shall always be near you

In 1861, as the American Civil War approached, a 32-year-old lawyer named Sullivan Ballou left his wife of five years and two sons at home, and joined the war effort as a major in the Union Army. On July 14th of that year, acutely aware that particularly perilous times were ahead, he wrote, but didn’t

The price for ridding society of bad is always high

In June of 1945, a striking letter arrived at the home of 3-year-old Dennis Helms in Washington, written on a chilling sheet of Adolf Hitler’s letterhead and dated V-E day. It had in fact been penned by Dennis’ father, Lt. Richard Helms, an intelligence operative with the Office of Strategic Services who, following Germany’s surrender

Please ask Ike to bring Elvis back

The following pleading letter is just one of thousands sent by desperate fans of Elvis Presley to the White House in the late-1950s, in an effort to have the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll returned to the United States from Germany, where he was posted with the U.S. Army. This particular missive was sent by

11 ALIVE…NEED SMALL BOAT…KENNEDY

On August 2nd of 1943, whilst serving as commander of the PT-109 during World War II, John F. Kennedy and crew  (pictured above, JFK on the right) were rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri; their boat instantly halved by the impact and two of the crew killed. Six days later, stranded in the Solomon Islands with

Permission to land

Top-left: A Huey thrown overboard; Top-right: Buang-Ly lands safely; Bottom: A rapturous welcome On April 30th of 1975, with the Vietnam War coming to a close and the U.S. evacuating as many people as possible from South Vietnam in Operation Frequent Wind, crew aboard the USS Midway were surprised to see a small two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird

The War is officially ended

On August 15th of 1945 – following six years of conflict, two atomic bombs, and the deaths of over 50 million people – Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan to the Japanese population, effectively bringing World War II to an end, and as word soon spread through various channels a sigh of relief slowly swept across the globe. Below is

Your products are stronger than the atomic bomb

On August 6th of 1945, at 08:15hrs, the Enola Gay B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. 43 seconds later, it detonated. Tragically, very little survived the explosion, including many thousands of the city’s inhabitants and countless buildings, but the letter seen below–sent five years later by the manager of

Be an unbeatable person and avenge my death

On the evening of May 23rd, 1945, in the Japanese town of Chiran, Masanobu Kuno sat down and hand-wrote the following farewell letter to his 5-year-old son, Masanori, and 2-year-old daughter, Kiyoko. The next day, Captain Kuno proudly boarded his explosive-laden aircraft, took to the skies and, as did thousands of other Kamikaze pilots during World War

Tesla’s Death Ray

In his later years, the supremely gifted Nikola Tesla announced to the public the ongoing development of Teleforce, a stunningly powerful, highly controversial new invention that was to act as an instrument of national defense. Dubbed ‘The Death Ray’ by press, Tesla’s charged particle beam weapon promised, initially via a 1934 New York Times article: [to]

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade

On the evening of June 5th, 1944, just hours prior to the D-day landings in Normandy, copies of the letter seen below – Eisenhower‘s Order of the Day – were distributed to members of the allied forces. The meticulously crafted, highly encouraging call-to-arms was drafted by Eisenhower himself over a period of four months, and

FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT

October, 1918: Trapped behind enemy lines in Charlevaux, France, and surrounded by hundreds of German troops, the few hundred surviving members of the Lost Battalion soon had another problem to deal with in the form of friendly fire. His men rapidly succumbing to the onslaught and with two birds already shot down, Major Charles Whittlesay

Joan of Arc’s Call for Arms

November 9th, 1429, with her forces’ weaponry and other supplies severely depleted following months of successful fighting, Joan of Arc dictated and signed the following letter to the population of Riom in the hope of rounding up replenishments in time for the Siege of La Charité. Approximately 17 years of age and illiterate, Jeanne was more

Fifty Lady Sharpshooters Await

As the Spanish-American War loomed in April of 1898, celebrity sharpshooter Annie Oakley – a Buffalo Bill performer so famous that she was essentially the world’s first female superstar – decided to donate her resources to the government by sending the following letter to then-U.S. President William McKinley. The offer was simple: Oakley would supply the

When a real and final catastrophe should befall us…

On April 9th, 1948, a month before Israel declared independence, just over one hundred residents of Deir Yassin were massacred by members of two militant Zionist groups – Lehi and Irgun – as part of an effort to cleanse the area of its Arab population. The next day, Albert Einstein wrote the following passionate letter

The Quill Letter

I’ve spoken before about the secretive communication methods used during the Revolutionary War – see The Masked Letter and Fire or Acid – and here’s another, decidedly lower-tech example: The Quill Letter. The idea was simple and effective: messages were delicately written on long, extremely thin strips of paper, then rolled up and inserted into

This rain of atomic bombs will increase manyfold in fury

At 11:00am on August 9th, 1945, just a minute before the second atomic bomb in the space of three days was dropped on Japan, a B-29 bomber named The Great Artiste quietly dropped three canisters from the sky. Inside each of the canisters, alongside a shockwave gauge designed by American physicist Luis Alvarez, was an

THIS IS NO DRILL

At 07:58am on December 7th, 1941, Commander Logan C. Ramsey ordered the following telegram to be sent to all ships in the Hawaiian area after watching a low-flying plane drop a bomb on Ford Island. Ramsey had in fact just witnessed the very beginning of a coordinated attack on Pearl Harbor in which the Japanese, over the

Slaughterhouse Five

In December of 1944, whilst behind enemy lines during the Rhineland Campaign, 22-year-old Private Kurt Vonnegut was captured by Wehrmacht troops and subsequently became a prisoner of war. A month later, Vonnegut and his fellow PoWs reached a Dresden work camp where they were imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse known by German soldiers as “Schlachthof

Thousands of other Daddies went too…

On October 21st of 1942, not long after being called to New Guinea to fight the Japanese forces during World War II, a young Australian soldier named John Byrnes decided to write to his 2-year-old daughter in an effort to explain his situation. His letter can be seen below. It’s beyond beautiful. (Update: It seems

If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong

Three years into the American Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln wrote the following letter in order to summarise on paper some points he had previously made regarding the recruitment of slaves as Union soldiers and, ultimately, their freeing from the institution of slavery itself. Come the end of the war, all slaves in the

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Two years into World War I, on January 16th of 1917, the following coded telegram was sent by German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann (via the German Ambassador in Washington) to the German Ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt. In it, Zimmermann told Eckardt to approach the President of Mexico with a view to forming a

Einstein’s One Great Mistake

On August 2nd, 1939, after consultation with fellow physicists Leó Szilárd and Eugene Wigner, Albert Einstein signed the following letter to then-U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt. The letter warned that the construction of an atomic bomb using uranium was indeed possible, advised the U.S. Government to invest time and money into its research, and then hinted that

We all feel like that now and then

At the height of World War II on April 6th, 1943, the British Ambassador to Moscow, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, wrote a letter to Foreign Office minister Lord Reginald Pembroke in an effort to simply brighten up his day–a letter which has since become a classic piece of correspondence for reasons that will soon become

Fire or Acid

American physicist Benjamin Thompson wrote the following letter in 1775 at the start of the American Revolutionary War, a war during which Thompson, a loyalist, acted as a spy for the British Army. The letter actually contains two different messages. The first, longer message spans three pages, was readable by all and is notable in

The things I saw beggar description

The concentration camp in Ohrdruf was the first to be liberated by U.S. forces during World War II, and just a week later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower paid a visit in order to survey the scene. The following letter, in which Eisenhower describes said experience, was written by the future President three days later and

It was hard to give five sons to the Navy

November, 1942: Five brothers, all serving on the same vessel during World War II, are killed in action as a result of said warship sinking at the Battle of the Solomons. Two months later, after hearing no word from the Navy regarding her sons’ well-being, Alleta Sullivan writes the following, deeply moving letter to the

For the sake of humanity

On July 23rd of 1939, as tensions mounted in Europe following Germany’s occupation of Czechoslovakia, Mohandas Gandhi, the famously non-violent leader of the Indian independence movement, wrote a letter to the man who was orchestrating what would become World War II: the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler. As it happens, Gandhi’s letter—a clear and