BOOK REVIEW - Against All Enemies
By Richard A. Clarke
Free Press, 304 pages, $27

Reviewed for by Richard Miniter, April 1, 2004

Against “Selected” Enemies? A year ago, I thought Richard A. Clarke, President Clinton's counter terror czar, was a hero. He and his small band of officials fought a long battle to focus the bureaucracy on stopping Osama bin Laden long before 9/11. For my own book, I interviewed Mr. Clarke extensively and found him to be blunt and forthright. He remembered whole conversations from inside the Situation Room.

So I looked forward to reading “Against All Enemies”. Yes, I expected him to put the wood to President Bush for not doing enough about terrorism — a continuation of his Clinton-era complaints — and I expected that he might be right. I assumed, of course, that he would not spare the Clinton team either, or the CIA and FBI. I expected, in short, something blunt and forthright — and, that rarest thing, nonpartisan in a principled way I was wrong on all counts.

Forthright? One momentous Bush-era episode on which Mr. Clarke can shed some light is his decision to approve the flights of the bin Laden clan out of the U.S. in the days after 9/11, when all other flights were grounded. About this he doesn't say a word. The whole premise of “Against All Enemies” is its value as an insider account. But Mr. Clarke was not a Bush insider. When he lost his right to brief the Cabinet, he also lost his ringside seat on presidential decision-making.

Mr. Clarke's ire is largely directed at the Iraq war, but its preparation was left to others on the National Security Council. He left the White House almost a month before the war began. As for its justification, he acts as if there is none. He dismisses, as “raw,” reports that show meetings between al Qaeda and the Mukhabarat, Iraq's intelligence service, going back to 1993. The documented meeting between the head of the Mukhabarat and bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1996 — a meeting that challenged all the CIA's assumptions about “secular” Iraq's distance from Islamist terrorism — should have set off alarm bells. It didn't.

There is other evidence of a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda that Mr. Clarke should have felt obliged to address. Just days before Mr. Clarke resigned, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations that bin Laden had met at least eight times with officers of Iraq's Special Security Organization. In 1998, an aide to Saddam's son Uday defected and repeatedly told reporters that Iraq funded al Qaeda. South of Baghdad, satellite photos pinpointed a Boeing 707 parked at a camp where terrorists learned to take over planes. When U.S. forces captured the camp, its commander confirmed that al Qaeda had trained there as early as 1997. Mr. Clarke does not take up any of this.

Curiously, about the Clinton years, where Mr. Clarke's testimony would be authoritative, he is circumspect. When I interviewed him a year ago, he thundered at the political appointees who blocked his plan to destroy bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan in the wake of the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Yet in his book he glosses over them. He has little of his former vitriol for Clinton-era bureaucrats who tried to stop the deployment of the Predator spy plane over Afghanistan. (It spotted bib Laden there three times).

He fails to mention that President Clinton's three “findings” on bin Laden, which would have allowed the U.S. to take action against him, were haggled over and lawyered to death. And he plays down the fact that the Treasury Department, worried about the effects on financial markets, obstructed efforts to cut off al Qaeda funding. He never notes that between 1993 and 1998 the FBI, under Mr. Clinton, paid an informant who turned out to be a double agent working on behalf of al Qaeda. In 1998, the Clinton administration alerted Pakistan to our imminent missile strikes in Afghanistan, despite the links between Pakistan's intelligence service and al Qaeda. Mr. Clarke excuses this decision — bin Laden managed to flee just before the strikes — as a diplomatic necessity.

While angry over Mr. Bush's intelligence failures, Mr. Clarke actually defends one of the Clinton administration's biggest ones — the bombing of a Sudanese “aspirin factory” in 1998. Even at the time, there were good reasons for doubting that it made nerve agents. He fails to mention that in 1997 the CIA had to reject more than 100 reports from Sudan when agency sources failed lie-detector tests and that the CIA continued to pay Sudanese dissidents $100 a report, in a country where the annual per-capita income is about $400. The soil sample he cites, supposedly showing a nerve-gas ingredient, is now agreed to contain a common herbicide.

Last year Mr. Clarke made much of such failures. But this year he treats Mr. Clinton with deference. Indeed, the only man whom he really wants to take to the woodshed is President Bush. Mr. Clarke believes the Iraq war to be a foolish distraction from the fight against terrorism, driving a wedge between the U.S. and its Arab allies. In fairness, he might have noted that, since the war started, our allies (e.g., Saudi Arabia and Sudan) have given us more intelligence leads, not fewer. Considering its anti-Bush bias, maybe Mr. Clarke's book should have been called “Against One Enemy.”

Or, better, “Against All Evidence.” Mr. Clarke misstates a range of checkable facts. The 1993 U.S. death toll in Somalia was 18, not 17. He writes that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed became al Qaeda's “chief operational leader” in 1995; in fact, he took over in November 2001. He writes (correctly) that Abdul Yasim, one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, fled to Iraq but adds the whopper that “he was incarcerated by Saddam Hussein's regime.” An ABC News crew found Mr. Yasim working a government job in Iraq in 1997, and documents captured in 2003 revealed that the bomber had been on Saddam's payroll for years.

Mr. Clarke gets the timing wrong of the plot to assassinate bin Laden in Sudan; it was 1994, not 1995, and was the work of Saudi intelligence, not Egypt. He dismisses Laurie Mylorie's argument that Iraq was behind the 1993 World Trade Center blast as if there is nothing to it. Doesn't it matter that the bombers made hundreds of phone calls to Iraq in the weeks leading up to the event? That Ramzi Yousef, the lead bomber, entered the U.S. as a supposed refugee from Iraq? That he was known as “Rasheed the Iraqi”?

In recent days we have been subjected to a great deal of Mr. Clarke, not least to replays of his fulsome apology for not doing enough to prevent 9/11. But he has nothing to apologize for: He was a relentless foe of al Qaeda for years. He should really apologize for the flaws in his book.

Mr. Miniter is the author of “Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror. (Regnery).



by George H.W. Bush

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by Byron D. Varner, U.S. Navy (Retired)

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The interesting format of this book immediately puts you at ease, as if you were reading letters from a relative or friend, or at least they will seem so by the time you have read the last chapter.

Being a contemporary of the former president in age and Navy flight training, I was impressed by his clarity in defining the American culture of those times and the strong influence that home, church, moral ethics and patriotism had on the average 18-year-old suddenly involved in World War Two.

Most 18-year-olds of today probably couldn't imagine being the straight arrows their grandparents were, but from my own experience I can tell you the majority of us thought just like George did. And, generally we were just as naïve as he was when we left home to go to war!

The many letters, diary entries, and other items in this book, attest to his high moral concepts and the importance of family and friends throughout his business experience, and political career as a Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ambassador to China, Director of the CIA, Vice President and President. And these writings give you a look, warts and all, at a thoughtful, humble, funny, proud, loving, gracious, loyal and caring person whom most of the national media never seemed to know, nor wanted to!

Historically, politically and personally, this book is worthy of a place in your library. Vicariously, you will meet people from all walks of life, enjoy personal glimpses of foreign government leaders, and learn something about the intricate problems that face an American president. You will also get a revealing look at our national media and their utter disrespect, as well as an insight to partisan congressional politics, neither of which is a very pretty sight.

Shining through it all is his obvious great love for “Bar” and their children, their grandchildren, many friends and family dogs. It seemed a trait of the Bush clan to give family and friends special nicknames. His own was Pops.

George Bush is a prolific letter writer (I'm amazed that he saved so many of them) and has a special talent with words that made them special to recipients and enjoyable to readers of the story. The highlight of his own letters, I thought, was the one at the end of the last chapter — which on its own merit tells much about the “real George Bush.” He prefaces it with these words:

“This letter is slightly out of chronological order, but I decided it was a good way to end this book as I approach age seventy-five. It's a letter about 'life its ownself' and about a man who is very happily growing old.”

Too bad the media tried to sell the American public on the George Bush they fabricated, instead of the person he really was — the one you will meet and surely appreciate when you read his book.


By Gen. Tommy Franks, with Malcom McConnell
Copyright 2004
Regan Books, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
590 Pages, $27.95
ISBN 0-06-073158-3

Reviewed for Keeping Apace by William Thompson, RAdm U.S. Navy (Ret), former Navy Chief of Information.

I have been reading several books the past few years that some day I may pick up again to complete. That is not so with General Tommy Franks' memoirs, American Soldier. I kept returning to it, most times staying awake past my normal bedtime. And soon, I finished it, all 590 pages. My reaction was that I felt fulfilled, I learned a few things and it was like I had a new friend, an Army guy who knew what he was doing and the book was written so well that it communicated. It was as if he was sitting next to me, chatting away and we were getting along real well.

I could relate to Tommy Franks' early life and his getting into the military without la clue that it would be his career. He was, and is, a diligent man who worked hard at what he was doing and that caused the Army to move him along a tough, demanding career path with combat in Vietnam, Gulf War and of course Afghanistan and Iraq where he was the Commander, Central Command, in charge of all Coalition Forces.

What did I learn? Primarily, the extensiveness of planning that went into the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, from Day 1, which was 9/11. From that time on, it was almost 24/7 to augment the existing plans for Afghanistan and later, Iraq. The process was interesting, enduring and assuring. He worked well with the tough, demanding SECDEF, the Chairman, JCS and the President and they in turn evinced confidence in him. He cajoled the service chiefs that these campaigns were “joint expeditions” and not a patch work of “turf oriented” individual service's participation. Gentle argument turned to much stronger dialogue and at one time led to a reaffirmation from SECDEF that “General Franks is the Commander.”

Afghanistan was a success as was Iraq. General Franks relied heavily on technology advancements and the basic element of SPEED. He moved his forces in Iraq like General Patton of WWII except he did it much faster. His comments about the media, particularly CNN, Al-Jazeera and the GAM (Great American Media) with the liberal commentators, backed by retired generals who criticized the strategy and tactics daily, were interesting.

Generally, he ignored the coverage because the TV guys and NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc., were biased and the pundits were usually ne'er-do-wells who didn't understand modern warfare and the state of the art technology. They were truly oriented to WWII warfare. An interesting correlation of moderation warfare was described at A-Hour when Coalition air attacks on Baghdad started the invasion of Iraq. General Franks and his staff in Kuwait could hear the voices of pilots dropping their bombs and other weapons and knew the designated targets. They tuned in CNN to watch the hits and explosions.

It is impossible to cover Afghanistan and Iraq wars in a memoir. For instance, he generally praised the Marine Corps and its actions but his intimate descriptions were Army oriented. I can forgive him for that. The book is heavily laced with acronyms, so much so that he has included a glossary. Again, I can't fault him for the use of acronyms but it is disconcerting to have to turn to the glossary several times a page to understand some of his descriptions. It is especially difficult for one with a short retention span.

If you would like to get a better handle on the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, I recommend reading Tommy Franks' book. It is an excellent read and you will put it down and avow that “Tommy Franks is a great American, a great general and he deserves a restful retirement. We will remember him for a long time.”



AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service — and How It Hurts Our Country (Hardcover)
Kathy Roth-Douquet (Author), Frank Schaeffer (Author)

Reviewed by Brendan Conway, editorial writer at The Washington Times, September 5, 2006

It's old news that military service has all but disappeared among the upper classes. That's why no one is surprised to hear that Harvard — which still bans ROTC — graduated all of nine ROTC cadets this year (MIT hosts them down the river).

Not everyone suffers from outrage fatigue, though — certainly not Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer. The authors of AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from the Military — and How It Hurts Our Country are appalled at their peers' lack of knowledge, even rudimentary knowledge, of the military.

Mrs. Roth-Douquet, a former Clinton Pentagon official, and Mr. Schaeffer, a novelist and nonfiction writer, both travel in “elite” Boston-New York-Washington circles, and both also happen to belong to military families. This joins with a healthy dose of outrage for a lively, first-hand look at a problem in plain sight.

“From the earliest days of my marriage, people said little things, questions probing how it could happen that someone like my husband — so smart, so versatile — ended up in the military,” writes Mrs. Roth-Douquet. “Said one mother to me, 'I've raised my sons to be sensitive to others, and to be critical thinkers, so I don't think they'd be well suited for the military.'”

We should carefully evaluate what went wrong,” a head-shaking Brown University history professor said when Mr. Schaeffer's son, John, joined the Marines. The authors vent at the snobbery.

“These days some members of our upper classes are so hostile to the idea of service that they have all but banned military recruiters from our best high schools and college campuses, lest anyone even suggest to their young people that military service is an honorable interruption in the rush to elite colleges and socially acceptable jobs and lots of money,” they write.

Elsewhere: “Ivy League students are ignorant about the military. Like others in society, the Ivy League gains most of its knowledge from the media and few have experiences with a close friend or family member who has served in the military.” But it's not just East Coast liberals. It's also a Bush administration that has declined to ask for much of a national sacrifice in the current war.

“Since 9/11 we have not had a national war effort. Our military is 0.4 percent of the population, and though it seems to be terribly understaffed, there is no serious political effort to increase the size — so that a tiny proportion of the population bears an enormous burden in this war,” they write.

And then, it's also the larger culture — specifically the Vietnam-era Baby Boomer generation. “If you wanted to join, fine. If you didn't, that was fine too,” the authors write, describing the ethos after the introduction in 1973 of the all-volunteer force. “Military service became just another item on an ever-lengthening list of personal choices.”

So, now the culprits are identified, and it's just about everyone. What next?

For starters, the authors want a cultural change, which is fair enough. They want military recruiters to stop perceiving Ivy Leaguers as “short-timers” who aren't worth pursuing. They want ROTC to become a floating scholarship as a means of expanding choice; they want the services to promise a top engineering student a spot in the Army Corps of Engineers if that's what he wants. They also want better tax incentives, a 15-month “citizen-soldiers” service option and a “national service lottery” which sounds like a watered-down draft. Some of these ideas are better than others, but all are worth debating.

Still, though, the question remains: How much does the “elite” disconnect with the military even matter? Clearly it's a problem, but how serious is it? It matters less as an “elite” issue than as a subset of the broader problems associated with the all-volunteer force.

Scholars who study “the gap” between civilians and the military find that public confidence in the military, the numbers and types of conflicts the country enters into, and cooperation between the military and the political leadership are all affected when direct connections to the military attenuate. This has happened, and drastically so, since 1973.

The authors can reasonably hope to have nudged public awareness of these facts somewhat, amid some healthy and rather deserved punches at “elites.”

Brendan Conway is an editorial writer at The Washington Times and a 2006 Phillips Foundation journalism fellow.



A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News
By Bernard Goldberg

Published by Regency Publishing Company, ISBN 0-89526-190-1, 232 pages, hardcover.

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by CDR Byron D. Varner, USN (Ret)

Click to buy book. []
There is a good reason why the network news programs are losing viewers at an ever-increasing rate. Thinking people are switching to the “tell-it-like-it-is” cable programs such as Fox News Network. This and many other revealing facts are included in one of the most intriguing stories to hit the bookstores in recent times.

Whether you are liberal, conservative or somewhere in between, BIAS is a book you must read.

Conservatives will find it supportive of what most of them have known or suspected all along about the liberal bias of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, et al, and their networks, as well as most of the leading print media, particularly the New York Times and Washington Post.

Liberals will learn what all the fuss is really about, and how these elitist mainstreamers are out of touch with the concepts of the majority of Americans across the country. (Whether they will agree may be doubtful.)

Moderates may become more appreciative of whatever conservative beliefs they have.

Bernard Goldberg's 28-year career with CBS gives him a decided edge in believability. This book provides the long-needed exposure of arrogance and blatant lack of objectivity that has gradually converted network news from journalism to an entertainment form — and telling us what they want us to believe instead of reporting both sides of the story.

While the apolitical Goldberg's primary concern is fairness in journalism, his book sheds a lot of light on the political spectrum as well.

As one who believes that what has been happening in our nation as the result of this money and politically driven obsession borders on mind control, I think BIAS is a wake-up call. Read it and see what you think.


A history of American military helicopter operations from World War II to the War on Terror
By Robert F. Dorr
New York: Berkley Caliber Books 2005

Chopper is a beautiful, new hardbound book (100,000 words and 100 photos) that covers U.S. helicopter pilots and crews in combat from the very beginning straight up to today's headlines. The cover price is $24.95. Bookstores and are offering Chopper at discounted prices.

What's different about this history of rotary wing combat is that the story is told in the first-person, in the words of the men (and one woman) who were there —- from the first, primitive Air Commando R-4 combat rescue in 1944 to a battle between Marine AH-1W Cobras and Iraqi tanks in 2003.

There's a new and different look at the battle of Ia Drang Valley in the words of men who flew UH-1D Hueys, and it covers events This is a story of helicopter pilots and crews in rescues, in covert operations, and in straightforward, point-blank fighting. There are extended segments on Medal of Honor missions. The first-person memoirs in this book cover all military service branches.

About the book's price: For weeks, has been offering “new” and “used” copies for different prices. In fact, ALL of the copies available on are in mint, new condition. It's a new book and there are no used copies. This is a $ 24.95 book sold by for prices as low as $12.


To receive a personally inscribed copy for $30.05, the undiscounted cover price plus priority mail expense, contact:
Robert F. Dorr
3411 Valewood Drive
Oakton VA 22124
(703) 264-8950



By Robert Quinn

Writers Club Press,, Inc.

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by Byron D. Varner

Click to buy book. []
America's culture in the 1930-40s era was vastly different from what it is today and, to a great extent, accounted for the unabashed patriotism and love of country by its youth.

After the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor brought the nation headlong into WW II, recruiting stations of all services were inundated by millions of young men and women eager to do their part in the war effort. A surprising number who were too young to serve lied about their age and entered the services under false pretense — a feat that today would be almost impossible.

DAMON is the story of one such lad of 16, written as fiction but paralleling to some degree the actual experiences of its author. However much he embellished the facts is of little consequence as far as the entertaining, well-written and compelling story is concerned. Having become personally acquainted with him, I would suspect much of it falls under the category: “Truth is stranger than fiction.” It kept me up until the wee hours two nights in a row from start to finish.

DAMON will bridge the generation gap. Veterans of WW II (and their wives) will love it. So should youth of today - who have no idea about the hard times their counterparts (the grandparents of today) experienced growing up in that time — nor about the war itself — nor about the culture of that era. Through Damon they will learn vicariously about these things while enjoying great adventure, a touching love story, a form of history they will actually enjoy, and the reason why this so-called “greatest generation” is so special.

It is a great read for all age groups, but a “must” read for teenagers.

See also Keeping APAce article: VUMS []



By Walter Lord

Henry Holt and Company, New York, May 2001

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by Byron D. Varner.

Click to buy book. []
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 .. a date which will live in infamy .. the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan…” Those who heard these haunting words by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a national radio address before Congress on December 8, 1941 will never forget them. This catastrophic event changed the world overnight.

The nation had only recently begun recovery from the major financial disaster of the 1930s great depression and the military was at its peak of unpreparedness. The bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent swift losses of most American forces in the Philippines would soon emphasize that awful state of readiness. The average American had no idea of just how badly unprepared we were, nor how serious was the damage to our naval fleet during that surprise attack. Even now, those of us who remember it or have studied it find these revelations by author Walter Lord astonishing.

Many books have been published about Pearl Harbor during the past 60 years, but none capture the human drama as forcefully, meticulously or dramatically as has author Lord. The reader is right there with those officers, enlisteds, civilians, dependents, and enemy forces as the chronology of this fateful event unfolds.

Originally published in 1957, Henry Holt & Company has republished it in paperback form at a time in our history when all Americans, especially those in our government who make the laws and control our defenses, could use a strong dose of realism about what military unpreparedness can mean, especially in the atomic age.

The reader will be astounded by the human experiences — the heroism, stupidity, brilliance, gullibility, common sense, comedy of errors, laxity, security, false suppositions, rumors, inspiration, hopelessness, patriotism, defeatism, and all the other incredible actions and reactions that took place in such a short time span.

As author James Michner wrote in The New York Times, “It stuns the reader with the weight of reality.”


Book Review

   The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton
   Compromised America’s National Security

By Lt. Col. Robert “Buzz” Patterson, USAF (Ret.) © 2003

Regnery Publishing, Inc.
An Eagle Publishing Company, Washington, D.C.
216 pages
ISBN 0-89526-140-5

Reviewed for Keeping Apace by CDR Byron D. Varner U.S. Navy (Ret)

Other than through TV news bites and occasional newspaper or magazine features, the average American seldom is privileged to what actually occurs within their President’s day-to-day efforts, decisions, and demeanor with his White House staff, or to the actions of the First Lady. Usually such stories are politically driven, either for or against, and public reaction generally depends on who is telling the tale and why.

In this instance, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson uses an entirely different set of values for the judgments he states throughout his book about President William Jefferson Clinton - values based upon the authors own concepts of honor, dignity, integrity, high principles and service to his country, forged in his personal family upbringing and further embedded through his military experience.

Perhaps those of us with military backgrounds may appreciate this book more than the average citizen who has not had the benefit of such experience, but this story is one that every American should read with an open mind - political favoritism aside, if possible.

Unfortunately, the electorate does not always give a lot of credence to warning signs. Too often we vote “Party” instead of person. American voters elected Bill Clinton for two successive terms. The question is, “Would they have re-elected him after his first term had they known what Buzz Patterson knows?”

In retrospect to the media expose of Bill Clinton's sexual escapades and impeachment proceedings, however, (little or none of which was included in this story) readers can well take to heart what Patterson has to say in his book as reasonable truth, at the very least.

The following summary in the last chapter says it all:

“When the guard from the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service closed the gate behind me on my last day in the Clinton White House, all I could feel was tremendous relief. There was no sadness. There was only the sense that the man in the Oval Office had sown a whirlwind of destruction upon the integrity of our government, endangered our national security, and done enormous harm to the American military in which I served.

“He inherited a New World Order, where peace and opportunity were expected for the foreseeable future, but he left behind a world in disarray, where the symbol of America’s wealth and modern prosperity - the World Trade Center towers in New York - would be destroyed within months of his departure. His administration’s impact on the U. S. armed forces in terms of capability and readiness will truly be known only as this first decade of the new millennium concludes.

“He assumed command of the mightiest army the world has ever known, yet he left it eight years later as a significantly smaller force - significantly reduced in capability and decayed infrastructure. His impact on the military in terms of morale and discipline may never be known. Members of the armed forces, when left with no other choice, vote with their feet.

“During the Clinton administration we voted with our feet in record numbers, myself included. Events since then have only strengthened these beliefs in me. And now, after those years of destruction, there is so much work to be done. I pray that it will.”

After reading this book, two things come to mind that could be as bad or worse than the Clinton presidency:
1. Electing Hillary President.
2. Electing Kerry President.



by Roy Boehm with Charles W. Sasser, 1997

New York: Pocket Book, 308 pages. Reviewed by Byron D. Varner, U.S. Navy (Retired). Click here to order book. []

Psychologists might be hard pressed to figure out what makes Roy Boehm tick, and the reader may wonder at times if parts of the story are true. But for those who like unabashed blood-and-guts, an overabundance of foul language, and macho soldier-of-fortune-type prose, this book is made to order.

Roy is a highly decorated combat veteran who rose from seaman to officer during three decades of military service. In the process, he was the driving force in creating the world's most aggressive and highly skilled military commando group – the U. S. Navy SEALS. Thus the title, FIRST SEAL.

It is unfortunate that the Vietnam portion of Boehm's experience wasn't told to the media when he returned from his first tour there in the 1960s. With proper hype, it might have had an impact on shortening the U.S. involvement there.

During my own naval career time line that paralleled his, I witnessed many strange occurrences and met a lot of unusual characters, but most of them pale by comparison to Roy Boehm. Charles Sasser's professional writing perhaps overdresses the story with metaphors that sometimes seem out of character for Boehm's seventh-grade public education and four-letter word mentality, but otherwise keeps the story moving at a fast pace.

Whether you like or dislike Roy Boehm, his methods, or his mouth, he did some incredible, heroic things that few others would have the guts or patience to attempt. This intensive story is a page-turner from beginning to end.

Don't expect to find “political correctness” in anything Boehm says or does. He was out of sync with most of his peers and practically all of his superior officers, finding his most ardent supporters among those he trained and led into combat. By today's standards, he could never have accomplished all that he did in that era, which shows how much America and the military have changed in thirty years –not that Boehm's experience was typical of all military men.

As a green 18-year old in WWII, with Japanese shrapnel embedded in his head and body, Boehm jumped from his flaming ship and, with his unconscious buddy in tow, treaded water until dawn – only to be attacked by sharks. It was the beginning of a succession of death-defying episodes throughout an extraordinary naval career.

His work as a Navy Diver led to eventual Underwater Demolition Team training. Despite a bad knee, he became the oldest man in his unit to complete the brutal course and qualify as UDT specialist – the initial step to fulfill his dream of making a unique unconventional warfare force a reality.

In this quest to become the FIRST SEAL, Boehm refined the art of cumshaw, broke rules and ruffled the feathers of superiors, “bean-counters” and bureaucrats alike, to establish this innovative program despite quiet opposition by some Navy leaders. His clandestine work in Cuba eventually brought him face to face with President John Kennedy, who then added the necessary influence to put the SEAL program on solid footing to assure its success.

In addition to being an action-packed adventure story, FIRST SEAL provides a warrior's up-close-and-personal perspective of early stealth military operations in Vietnam, along with a remarkable personal experience with both the North and South Vietnamese people, emphasizing the utter futility of that war.



by James Bradley Book Review by Gregory McNamee

Click to order book. []
The Battle of Iwo Jima, fought in the winter of 1945 on a rocky island south of Japan, brought a ferocious slice of hell to earth.

In a month's time, more than 22,000 Japanese soldiers would die defending a patch of ground a third the size of Manhattan, while nearly 26,000 Americans fell taking it from them. The battle was a turning point in the war in the Pacific, and it produced one of World War II's enduring images: a photograph of six soldiers raising an American flag on the flank of Mount Suribachi, the island's commanding high point.

One of those young Americans was John Bradley, a Navy corpsman who a few days before had braved enemy mortar and machine-gun fire to administer first aid to a wounded Marine and then drag him to safety. For this act of heroism Bradley would receive the Navy Cross, an award second only to the Medal of Honor.

Bradley, who died in 1994, never mentioned his feat to his family. Only after his death did Bradley's son, James, begin to piece together the facts of his father's heroism, which was but one of countless acts of sacrifice made by the young men who fought at Iwo Jima.

Flags of Our Fathers recounts the sometimes tragic life stories of the six men who raised the flag that February day — one an Arizona Indian who would die following an alcohol-soaked brawl, another a Kentucky hillbilly, still another a Pennsylvania steel-mill worker — and who became reluctant heroes in the bargain. A strongly felt and well-written entry in a spate of recent books on World War II, “Flags” gives a you-are-there depiction of that conflict's horrible arenas — and a moving homage to the men whom fate brought there.


Keeping Apace archives include a book review of James Bradley's FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, written during its initial promotion run before it became a national best seller.

Consequently, we recently received an advanced copy of his second book, FLYBOYS. It is set for national release in September 2003, and may also reach that lofty best seller position.

In it, he reveals a side of that war few of us knew about during that era and for many years afterward, when our government's classified security kept this knowledge from the American public.

At that time in our young lives, few of us who served in WWII had much knowledge or awareness of what was happening outside our own sphere of involvement. Like the civilians on the home front, we relied mostly on filmed newsreels, newspaper and radio dispatches for the brief overall picture.

But in the interest of security and morale, particularly after the early loss of American bases and lives of our out manned forces in the Pacific, much of the news was slanted to our successes - especially when the tide began to turn in our favor after many months of conflict.

The government's censorship control buried many untoward aspects of that war. Only in recent times has access to this information become possible, revealing in retrospect many ugly things about the enemy (and ourselves) that we scarcely knew was happening at the time. The few who did know were sworn to secrecy.

Now, more than a half-century after the fact, I personally have learned some things I didn't know by reading this intriguing book to write the following review of it:

By James Bradley
Little, Brown and Company

Reviewed for Keeping Apace by Byron D. Varner, CDR, U.S. Navy (Retired), a veteran of WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam eras.

The general theme of James Bradley's FLYBOYS centers on nine American Navy pilots and crewmen who were shot down in action over Chichi Jima while trying to destroy the Japanese communication station that fed information to its forces throughout Asia. Eight of these men were captured. One was rescued by a nearby submarine and eventually became President of the United States.

The Japanese on Chichi Jima expected an invasion and a fight to the death just as would occur on Iwo Jima. It never came. Ironically, allied war planners never slated this island for invasion - bypassing it instead in the successful island-hopping tactics that stranded untold thousands of Japanese military without support or supplies to fend for themselves in the jungles of the Pacific theater.

What happened to those Americans taken prisoner on Chichi Jima reveals not only a startling practice of Japanese cannibalism, but also an insight into the warlord mindset that controlled Japan at that time. It highlights the fanatic reverence of the Japanese people for their Emperor god as well as the blind obedience of its warriors to their military leaders.

During their war crimes trials conducted later, many of these junior officers and enlisted men could not understand that they did anything wrong because they were merely carrying out orders from their superiors.

Bradley's research on the fate of these individual Navy men at Chichi Jima, and the anguish of their uninformed families, personalizes this story of the average American teenagers of the 1940s. Until the war began they knew very little about the world outside their hometowns, nor could imagine the scope of the dangerous adventure they were about to begin.

It typifies the patriotism and unselfish desire to serve their country in great time of need that was a common denominator of the youth of that era. For those of us who lived and served during that war, it brings back many memories of our youth and naivety that were unlike youth of today. Yet it also describes our generation well and perhaps will serve to enlighten today's youth about their grandparents' and great-grandparents' culture.

FLYBOYS emphasizes the first major use and tremendous effectiveness and dangers of aviation warfare.

In preparation for a war that would surely come, President Roosevelt's arm-twisting of Army and Navy Brass to accept and accelerate air power as the third dimension of war not only changed our strategies that would later hasten the end of WWII, but provided a jump-start of aerospace science that today reaches for the stars.

This is a well-documented mini-history of the imperialism and cultures of both America and Japan that helps the reader better understand each side of the conflict, how it came about, and man's inhumanity to man.

The Japanese did not honor the concepts of the Geneva Convention for Prisoners of War. They looked upon war with little value for human life and had a totally different view than did the Americans. Yet, the unrelenting day and night napalm bombing by our Christian nation that systematically burned most of their major cities in a living hell was more devastating and seemingly inhumane than our two atom bombs that ended the war. There seemed to be no middle ground when attaining victory in war.

Those steeped in one-sided concepts may not like the references to bad acts by Americans, as if there were none during this and other wars, but these truths underscore the brutality of war and its effect on the senses, regardless of the nation or degree of its misdeeds.

Only those who experience war really know what it is like, but I heartily recommend this book as intriguing reading for all age groups, particularly those who were born since 1945. Veterans of WWII may also learn a thing or two.

A descriptive line on the book's jacket provides this very appropriate closing statement: “It is an unforgettable story of young men's heroism and the never-ending horrors of war.”



The Douglas Invader in Foreign Military and U.S. Clandestine Service
By Dan Hagedorn and Leif Hellström

Midland Publishing Limited, England 1994, 200 pages: 8.5”x11” hard cover. ISBN 1-85780-013-3 Now out of print.

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by Byron D. Varner.

Click to buy book. []
For model builders, “war bird” enthusiasts, or those interested in history, war, soldiers of fortune, and aircraft, (especially the A-26 — the most versatile and unsung of all military combat attack bombers), Foreign Invaders probably is as well researched as any book you will find on the subject.

Best known in America for its service during WWII and Korea, the A-26 also has been used by more than 20 air forces worldwide, not including numerous clandestine and paramilitary units. It has flown in more than a dozen wars, armed conflicts, and coups. It has served as a bomber, attack aircraft, night-fighter, courier, crew trainer, artillery spotter, courier, photo-reconnaissance, glider tow, target tow, air command post, maritime surveillance, and other roles. Yet, for all of its activity, the A-26 has not received as much publicity as a number of less important aircraft types. Until now, that is. It is all documented here.

With more than 250 photographs to support the interesting information presented (much of it for the first time), the authors gain immediate respect as researchers, writers and aviation enthusiasts — as well as veteran pilots with hands-on experience in this jack-of-all-trades aircraft.

Some of the covert operations included Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, The Congo, and the Cuba Bay of Pigs, all of which made world headlines in times past as well as others not so well publicized…if at all.

This is a book you may not find in your local library. Try the Articles of War Web site [], or other resellers. Average price may be $35.


Book Review:
Freedom Just Around The Corner

By Walter A. McDougall

Forwarded by the Foreign Policy Research Institute with the following notation: “We are pleased to publish the excerpt below from this just-published book. Walter A. McDougall is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Co-chairman of our History Institute for Teachers. McDougall is also the Alloy-Ansin Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and a Vietnam veteran. We publish this excerpt from the preface of the book with permission of the publisher, HarperCollins. McDougall's Book Talk in Philadelphia, sponsored by FPRI, will take place on May 13. For details about this event and other book talks by McDougall, visit our website [].”

The creation of the United States of America is the central event of the past four hundred years. If some ghostly ship, some Flying Dutchman, were transported in time from the year 1600 into the present, the crew would be amazed by our technology and the sheer numbers of people on the globe, but the array of civilizations would be recognizable.

There is today, as there was then: a huge Chinese Empire run by an authoritarian but beleaguered bureaucracy; a homogeneous, anxious, suspicious Japan; a teeming crazy-quilt of Hindus and Muslims in India attempting to make a state of themselves; an amorphous Russian empire pulsing outward or inward in proportion to Muscovy's projection of force; a vast Islamic crescent hostile to infidels but beset by rival centers of power; a dynamic, more-or-less Christian civilization in Europe aspiring to unity but vexed by its dense congeries of nations and tongues; and finally an Iberian/Amerindian culture in South America marked by relative poverty and strategic impotence.

The only continent that would astound the Renaissance time-travelers would be North America, which was primitive and nearly vacant as late as 1607, but which today hosts the mightiest, richest, most creative civilization on earth - a civilization, moreover, that perturbs the trajectories of all other civilizations just by existing.

One might object that the most salient features of modern history have not been territorial and demographic, but intellectual and political: the invention and spread of enlightened ideas of human rights and democratic self-government on the one hand, and the scientific and technological explosions in human power on the other hand. That is so, but the rise of America goes far to explain the rapidity and scale of their triumphs.

North America was simply the greatest prize in the world circa 1600, and the fact Britons won that prize rather than Spaniards, Frenchmen, Chinese, or Russians explains the shape of modern history more than anything else. I used to disparage American history as a relatively provincial field of research. I now realize trying to make sense of America is nothing short of heroic (unless it be foolish). For if historians aim to explain change over time, then the United States is the most swiftly moving target of all because nowhere else has more change occurred in so short a span. America was not just born of revolution - it is one.

At an early stage I chanced to describe this new project to a distinguished senior colleague and mentor. I expected to receive a blessing from this man of good will that might relieve the anxiety I felt over the undertaking. Instead, he asked me a question: “Do we really need another American history?” My eyes fell to the pavement of the Lower Manhattan street, and I croaked, “I don't know. Probably not.”

What after all, did I have to say about the United States that had not already been written by Henry Steele Commager, Samuel Eliot Morison, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Richard Hofstadter, Oscar Handlin, Carl Degler, and others? How many times did the stories of Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, Valley Forge and the Constitutional Convention, the Erie Canal and Civil War, the Progressive Era and Great Depression, World War II and the Civil Rights Movement need to be told?

What could I say about our national past that would be both original and defensible? What indeed, given I was not even formally trained in American history and thus risk whatever remains of my professional reputation? But the faith of others won out, for better or worse.

Cass Canfield, Jr., and Hugh Van Dusen of HarperCollins hatched the idea of a narrative history that would avoid the extremes of condemnation and celebration of the American past characterizing the Howard Zinn and Paul Johnson titles already on their list. They imagined a cool, objective book telling Americans candidly “who and why we are what we are.”

Steve Fraser suggested my name to them and Gerry McCauley urged me to take up their offer. I thought it all over during a solo automobile trip to New Hampshire and back. Did I have some new notion of what made Americans exceptional - some additional insight into the American character? Perhaps not, but I had lots of ideas about specific eras and themes I wanted to test. For instance, existing U.S. histories, whatever their slant, display little appreciation (much less forgiveness) of the flawed human nature that make Americans unexceptional.

Perhaps that is why our great national narratives contain so little humor: whether they extol or condemn the American experience, they take it terribly seriously. I also realized while driving through upper New England how much I love the fifty United States (all of which I have lived, worked, or traveled in save North Dakota and Oregon). At length, I decided to learn the history of my country whether or not I had much to teach.

But I couldn't tell that to the editors. So I sent them upon my return a list of themes worthy of emphasis in a new U.S. history:

First, geography - being the reconnaissance, conquest, and settlement of the North American continent, and the challenges and chances posed by its lands, woods, and waters.
Second, technology - being the tools Americans fashioned to tame and develop the continent.
Third, demography - being the ways in which the numbers, origins, customs, and values of those who peopled America expanded and sometimes restricted the nation's choices.
Fourth, mythology - which is to say the construction of America's civic religion and its problematical coexistence with multiple forms of Christianity.
Fifth, the federative power - a concept coined by Ambassador Robert Strausz-Hupe to describe the unique power of American institutions and ideology to knit together diverse territories and peoples while relieving the tension between their ideals of liberty and equality

I also imagined special features that might justify a new U.S. history. I wanted to pay more attention to all regions and states so that Kansas, for instance, would not exist only when it was “bleeding.” The Midwest, in particular, has received far less attention than it deserves in synthetic histories, while the “new Western history” demands a correction of traditional interpretations of the frontier. I hoped to be genuinely inclusive by making room not only for African, Asian, and Hispanic Americans, but for European ethnic groups such as the Germans, Irish, Italians (indeed, Catholics generally), Slavs, Scandinavians, and Jews. I meant to treat all these as people rather than icons, recognizing that no American is “just” a member of a group, but a person with loyalties to kinfolk, region, occupation, religion, and political party as well as ethnicity.

Next, it seemed imperative to stress how the United States, despite its reputation for xenophobia and isolationism, grew on the strength of immigrant labor, foreign capital, and imported technology.

Last but not least, I wanted to study the unique experiment in religious liberty. As Bob Dylan wrote, in a striking poetic inversion: “I heard the Sermon on the Mount and knew it was too complex / It didn't amount to anything more than what the broken glass reflects.” Of course, the Sermon on the Mount is not complex, but terrifying in its simplicity. Rather, the effects of Biblical religion, filtered through the lenses of American consciences and projected on to law, society, and politics, are what seem kaleidoscopic.

A good plan…or so it seemed to me then. But the moment I dove into the research, much less writing, I realized the plan was madly ambitious. Given how much exciting new scholarship in American history appears every month, trying to synthesize it all is like trying to dam the Mississippi River. What levees might I build just to channel the flood? Shall I portray Americans as individualists or community builders, pragmatists or dreamers, materialists or idealists, bigots or champions of tolerance, lovers of liberty and justice for all, or history's most brazen hypocrites?

Did succeeding waves of immigrants make the United States what it is, or did the land make Americans of immigrants? Are words such as capitalism, republicanism, and democracy abstractions best not used at all, or can the lexicon of social and political science help us to shrink our own heads?

Some of the answers emerged from the telling. But it quickly dawned on me that one of the book's major themes would be none of the above. It is the American people's penchant for hustling — in both the positive and negative senses. It emboldens me to call this book candid. It is novel enough to require a whole chapter of explanation.


Book Review: Glory Denied
By Tom Philpott
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company; (May 2001)
ISBN: 0393020126

Reviewed by John J. Miller,

Army officer Jim Thompson's horrific experience in a series of North Vietnamese prisons was nasty and brutish — but definitely not short. He was held as a prisoner of war for nearly nine years, longer than any other American POW.

His treatment was torturous: “I was put into a horizontal cage maybe two feet wide, two feet high, and five feet long. There I was kept for four months, chained hand and feet.” And sometimes he was just plain tortured: “I sat there with a pen in hand as they shouted at me to write,” he recalls of a time his captors tried to make him issue a statement condemning the American war effort. “Periodically they hit me with bamboo. Not hard enough to knock me unconscious or to break the skin. Just enough to hurt. They kept at it for eight, ten, twelve hours a day.” (He eventually gave in, and signed a statement.)

The irony is that Thompson's life improved little upon his return to the United States. His wife had taken up with another man, his family fell apart, he drank to excess, and his son was convicted of murder.

Readers will be at once tempted and reluctant to call Thompson a hero — tempted because of how much he suffered for serving his country and for his numerous escape attempts, but reluctant because Thompson was himself responsible for much of the pain he brought on himself and his family following his return.

Military journalist Tom Philpott has produced an oddly fascinating book about Thompson's ordeal. Glory Denied is not a piece of narrative nonfiction, but an oral history. It tells Thompson's story through the words of Thompson and those who knew him. Philpott's book may come closer than other such books to capturing the agony so many Americans continue to associate with Vietnam.



The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the extraordinary story of its survivors
By Doug Stanton.

333 pages. Hardback. $25 USA. $37.95 Canada. Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY.

A harrowing, adrenaline-charged account of America's worst naval disaster at sea — and of the heroism of the men who, against all odds, survived.

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by Byron D. Varner.

Click to buy book. []
On July 30, 1945, after completing a top secret WWII mission to deliver parts of the atom bomb “Little Boy,” which would be dropped on Hiroshima, the unescorted battle cruiser USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine. An estimated 300 men were killed upon impact; close to 900 sailors were cast into the Pacific Ocean, where they remained undetected by the navy for nearly five days. Battered by a savage sea, they struggled to survive the never-ending attack of sharks that picked them off one by one, hypothermia, physical and mental exhaustion, and, finally, hallucinatory dementia. By the time a purely accidental rescue occurred, all but 321 men had lost their lives; four more would die in military hospitals shortly thereafter, and their captain would soon become the only officer in naval history to unjustifiably face court-martial for loss of a ship in wartime.

Ironically, news of this incredible tragedy and eventual rescue was first delayed by the navy, then completely overshadowed by the world news accounts of the bombing of Hiroshima, then Nagasaki, followed shortly thereafter by the announcement of Japan's surrender. As a consequence, knowledge of the incident was greatly limited by events and a population eager to forget war and get on with their lives. Other books have been written about it since that time, but more as an historical narrative than as the critical drama of human events. This approach and the author's writing style sets In Harm's Way apart from all the rest

Everything about it is superb — the research, presentation order, clever use of photos and captions for each chapter, but mostly the writing. I particularly liked the prologue, which, for those unfamiliar with the story, had a surprising end. It certainly set the scene and created a desire to read further. Doug Stanton is masterful in telling a story, describing the characters, using realistic dialogue, leading the reader to frequent climaxes time after time and knowing where to stop. He has a unique talent that is lacking in most writers: He can simplify technical information for the layman, but not offend those who are familiar with it. Also, and this is a rarity in this day and time, the language is relatively clean. (At last, an author who doesn't need excess profanity to appeal to the reader's intelligence level.)

Why did he write it? Stanton described it in these words:

“I first became interested in this story in the summer of 1999, when a small local newspaper item caught my eye. It described a reunion being held for a group of survivors from a ship called the USS Indianapolis. I had heard of the Indy before; immortalized by Captain Quint in Jaws, the ship occupied a mythical status in American popular history, a kind of larger-than-life existence. But, I realized I knew little about the real-life incident.

“Something clicked. A few weeks later, I was on a plane to Indianapolis, on my way to the survivors' reunion. My plan was to write a short, 5,000-word article. When it was over, I'd be on to the next assignment. But then I met the survivors, about eighty-five of them. And I was amazed by their generosity, their courage, their dignity. The reunion marked the beginning of a series of correspondences, interviews, and visits that continue today. It also marked the beginning of my absolute commitment to these men and to telling their story.”

And what a splendid job he did! It is one of the best books about the sea I have read and one I could hardly wait to get back to when I had to temporarily lay it aside. The survivors should be greatly pleased by this outstanding work and you will be highly rewarded by reading it. A movie is bound to come, but it can't possibly be as good as the book.

For a publisher's presentation of In Harm's Way, click here. []



By David McCullough
Pulitzer Prize-winnning author of Truman

Published by Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0684813637, 752 pages, hardcover.

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by CDR Byron D. Varner, USN (Ret).

Click to buy this book. []
Author David McCullough chronicles those American revolutionary times in a manner that keeps the reader turning pages in want of more, despite his heavily detailed research — or perhaps because of it. One gets a clear picture of the unbelievable odds against a successful breakaway from British rule — of a war between a woefully ragtag group of militia against an overpowering force of professional fighters — and of the workings of a Continental Congress whose members were divided in their sentiments about remaining loyal subjects of the crown or seeking independence as a separate nation. That the nation survived is miraculous.

Equally intriguing is his expert research on John Adams, the patriot — who, because of his common New England upbringing and lack of charisma and riches of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, et al, has been somewhat overshadowed in importance, and minimized by some historians of the past. However, this author shows that without John Adams' dogged determination, adherence to principle, and respect by most of his peers, the Declaration of Independence may not have happened at the propitious time that caused its effectiveness, if at all.

Adams had an unusual personality that affected people in different ways, too frequently in the negative, but the author presents him in what would seem a fair and reasonable light that differs from those of his detractors.

A continuing thread weaving throughout is the endearing love story of John and Abigail Adams despite “war, plague, and abject loneliness,” as she described her circumstances in one of her many letters to him during their long separations. Abigail, a patriot in her own right, was talented and proficient well beyond the typical New England wife of those early times. In many ways she was the forerunner of today's liberated women — yet one who would always put her beloved John first. She became politically adept and a steadying influence on her husband.

Next in prominence in the story was Thomas Jefferson and the friendship with him that blossomed early in the formation of the Declaration of Independence, grew during their days together in France, faded and almost died during and after Adams' presidency, then was regained in the latter stages of their lives through personal letters. Known as the “voice” and the “pen” of independence, both men died on the same day — July 4, 1826 — the 50th anniversary of the signing of that hallowed instrument.

An interesting sidelight, in addition to the everyday life of early America, were the benefits of European education and worldliness for son John Quincy Adams during his formative years, while accompanying his father during assignments in France, Holland, and England. This was before he followed in father's footsteps to attend Harvard, and eventually in those footsteps to become an ambassador, senator, secretary of state, and our sixth president.

John Adams, a collector of books and a voracious reader, strongly believed the future of the country rested in education. He wrote, “The education of a nation instead of being confined to a few schools and universities for the instruction of the few, must become the national care and expense for the information of the many.” He considered establishing the Library of Congress to be one of his greatest accomplishments as President. But he was equally proud of the effort he gave to establishing our Navy.

As bad as our modern day politicians and mainstream press can seem at times, they pale by comparison to those early day politicos and malicious writers who made life miserable for John Adams' presidency, with a no-holds-barred, vitriolic press, fed subtly by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and others, through jealousy, envy, and desire for power. This character assassination eventually led to the Seditions Act, which was later repealed.

In our own 21st Century upheaval, it is well to revisit those days of our nation's founding and grasp a better understanding of our history and the basic principles of our constitution. This book is one I heartily recommend as an ideal one to start such study.


Book Review: Light This Candle
The Life Story Of Alan Shepard, America's First Spaceman
By Neal Thompson
Crown Publishing Company, New York
444 pages Hardcover $27.50
Reviewed for Keeping Apace by Byron D. Varner , 4/2/04

In Light This Candle, author Neal Thompson presents a highly interesting and intriguing historical chronicle of the American space program through an “up close and personal” look at the astronauts - spotlighting Alan Shepard, the best of the original seven.

This book was a revelation to me in several ways, primarily about Alan, who with his family was a part-time member of the Lakeway community near Austin where my family and I lived for some 26 years. I must add that I knew him only superficially, however, not as a personal friend. My two sons dated two of the daughters and we knew his wife Louise through church affiliation. I also personally knew several others in the story and attended Alan's memorial service at the Houston Space Center.

My own naval aviation service roughly paralleled Alan's during WWII, completing our flight training at NAS Corpus Christi within the same year.

When one knows something personal about the subject of a biography, there is a tendency to judge the entire story on the accuracy of presenting those particular known facts. While lacking in a few areas he didn't understand, such as Christian Science, the author generally passed the test.

As one who didn't know Alan well - and according to the author there were many in that same category that were with him on a regular basis - I noted in the book's Bibliography that Thompson never personally interviewed either Alan or Louise Shepard. Thus his story relies entirely on hearsay evidence of those who knew them or worked closely with Shepard.

That tends to be a tricky road to the truth because of divergent opinion based on personal likes and dislikes of Alan Shepard - particularly among the original seven who, for the most part, were “competitive cutthroats” vying for the honor of who would be the first one in space. According to the author, Alan led the pack in that regard - but it also was a two-way street.

Thompson's historical research was quite thorough, and much of it based on access to official records, yet his hearsay research seemed excessive in Shepard's shortcomings. Not until the final chapters did he praise more than he damned. The truth about Alan Shepard is more likely somewhere in the middle.

Nonetheless, this story is a great read historically and Thompson generally keeps your interest at a relatively high level throughout the book.

No history is totally accurate, particular when written through hindsight that depends on varied opinions, but this book is probably closer to the truth than was Tom Wolfe's book that became the movie The Right Stuff - or any other of the many stories previously written about the astronauts.

NOTE: After this review went on line, I received the following E-mail from the author:
Hi Mr. Varner, just wanted to say thank you for the strong, balanced review of my bio of Alan Shepard. I apreciate Keeping Apace's interest in Shepard's story, and am grateful to be included in your list of reviewed books. It's interesting, too, to hear the perspective of a naval aviator, and someone who knew the Shepard family.
All the best,


AUTHOR'S NOTE: This true life adventure may read like fiction but it isn't. As a former Navy pilot, my training experience paralleled that of Rolan Powell's, although the similiarty ends there. He seemed to encounter danger at every turn and somehow live to tell about it — cheating death time and time again during three wars, and as a test pilot and CIA mercenary. We became good friends during the creation of this book and I can easily rate him as one of the most interesting characters I have ever met.


by Byron D. “Jug” Varner

Paperback edition. Softcover, 196 pages, Published 1996, Overnight Press Texas.

Reviewed for Keeping APAce By Dan Hagedorn, Adjunct Curator, Latin American Aviation Archives Division – MRC 322 National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC

During the course of my own historical research, I have been intrigued by the number of senior pilots I have encountered who have said something to this effect: “Oh, I didn't do anything special; no one would be interested in that.” After reading Living on the Edge: An American War hero's Daring Feats as a Navy Fighter Pilot, Civilian Test Pilot, and CIA Mercenary, by Byron D. Varner, I was left with the impression that Rolan Powell — the pilot that Varner has chronicled — may well have uttered those same words at some point.

Fortunately for posterity, Byron Varner apparently got Powell talking.

I have known pilots who have managed, in the course of their careers, to engage intensively in service aviation, in test flying, foreign missions, working with “non-traditional agencies” and commercial and corporate aviation. However, I have never encountered one who has done it all, so to speak.

This slender volume (but 196 pages), is a compact compilation of an amazing flying career that, in more than one instance, rubbed shoulders with history-in-the-making. For myself, the epic single-handed mission to train Brazil's first carrier-based pilots on T-28s was, alone, “worth the price of admission,” as it is doubtful if this little-known episode would have otherwise ever have seen the light of day, given the circumstances.

My only criticism is that the chronicler's editor missed a few typos and misspellings that should have been caught, but these in no way detract from the accuracy of the account or the manner in which the facts, as they unfold, are recorded. The central character, we are left believing, although candid and forthright in his testimony, also seems to have perhaps restrained his comments about his dealings with “The Company.”

He would not be the first to have done so, due to the particular constraints that such “employment” almost invariably entails. It remains, nonetheless, an affront to a free society that any citizen who has given so much should fear any form of retribution from an agency of our own creation, beyond control.

This book gives us a rare insight into the “making of a universal pilot,” in a form that seems almost uniquely American. Hopefully, at some future date, a major publishing house will seize upon this title, tidy it up a bit, and give it the exposure that it deserves.

To purchase a copy of Living On The Edge send $15.95 $US check or money order and your return address to:
Byron Varner
11 Sunset Dr #306
Sarasota FL 34236
No mailings outside the United States.


Excerpt from
Man of Steel and Velvet: A Guide to Masculine Development
Mass Market Paperback
By Aubrey Andelin
Forwarded by Don and Beth Waterworth

An unusual tribute was paid to Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandburg. The poet wrote, “Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as rock and soft as drifting fog, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect.”

Lincoln demonstrated then and now how a person can possess both a will of iron and a heart of tenderness. Nothing deterred the president during the American Civil War from his “noble” cause, and few persons have ever endured more criticism and detractors than Lincoln. Yet he was no more a man of steel than one of velvet.

When General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army, Lincoln sent an unexpected message to the enemy commander. “Tell your men they may keep their horses; they'll need them for plowing,” said the president. Then this: “Tell your men they may keep their rifles; they'll need them for hunting.” When Lee read those words he wept.

For each of us there is a time for toughness and a time for tenderness. A time for resolve and a time for compassion. An iron will is not the same as an iron spirit.

Another courageous American, Martin Luther King, Jr. some hundred years later encouraged us to exhibit tough minds and soft hearts… not the other way around.

Be mentally tough; your resolve and determination will overcome great obstacles along life's path. But let your heart be soft; your compassion and love will make the journey worth it.


By Zell Miller
Excerpts from The Washington Times 11-6-03 book review.

(The first two paragraphs refer to previous paragraphs about Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.)

These two men, each the greatest of his century, knew the horrors of war. But they also knew wars are sometimes necessary, that there is more to civilization than just comfortable self-preservation.

Soft-belly peaceniks believe war is politically pointless and foreign policy like so much fuzzy-feeling social work. I reject that. Sometimes a short war must be fought to prevent a longer war. Sometimes hundreds may die to save thousands. Sometimes the long view of history must be taken.

In my Senate office in the Dirksen Building, I have a 3-foot-by-5-foot painting of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. I had it behind my desk at the State Capitol in Atlanta when I was governor of Georgia.

To me, that image of six men raising an American flag on Mount Suribachi in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought is one of the world's most vivid symbols of the price of freedom. The photograph from which it was painted is the most reproduced in the history of photography.

Those flag raisers were young men, just boys really, six of America's best from all corners of our country. A coal miner's son from Pennsylvania, a farmer's son from Kentucky, a mill worker's son from New England. Another farmer's son from Wisconsin. One came out of the oil fields of Texas, and one was a Pima Indian from the Gila Reservation in Arizona.

Three of those boys would never leave the island and would be buried in that black volcanic ash. One would leave on a stretcher. The other two would come home to live miserable lives of drunkenness and despair.

Only one would somehow be able to overcome that island and the event with any degree of peace of mind. He was the one who left on a stretcher, a Navy corpsman assigned to the Marines to help with their wounded and dying.

His name was John Bradley. In 2000, his son James Bradley wrote a memorable book, “Flags of Our Fathers.” The great historian Stephen Ambrose called it the best battle book he ever read. I recommend it highly.

It is easy to miss one of the most important things about this image of courage and sacrifice at Iwo Jima six decades ago. James Bradley points this out: There are six in the group, but unless you look closely you see only five. Only the helping hand of one is visible. Most significantly, they are virtually faceless. Only a somewhat vague profile of one can be seen.

Isn't that the way it has always been with most of freedom's soldiers - unknown and, all too often, unappreciated? They are those faceless, nameless “grunts” that fight our wars to keep us free.

One does not have to wear a uniform or hold a public office to be one of freedom's soldiers. One does not have to carry a gun or brandish a sword. One only has to be armed with courage and love of liberty.

Rosa Parks was a soldier of freedom when she refused to move to the back of the bus in Birmingham. That young minister named King up at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church took up the cause and, with words sharper than any bayonet and deadlier than any bullet, slayed the evil of segregation and brought freedom to millions. Young John Lewis risked his life at Edmund Pettis Bridge as he marched for liberty, just the same as those farmers had at Concord Bridge.

Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cody Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Mary Wollstonecraft were all freedom's soldiers, fighting for women's liberty.

Some of freedom's soldiers used the pen instead of the sword. John Stuart Mill with his essay “On Liberty” and Thomas Paine in “Common Sense” provided inspiration to freedom lovers who read their words.

But there are times when the only solution is war, when, as that great hymn goes, we must “rise up and put our armor on.”

I admire the songwriter Kris Kristofferson. His words and music elevated country music to a new, inspiring level. But that line in “Me and Bobby McGee” about “freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose” has always disturbed me.

I do not believe it. I reject it. It is not true. Kristofferson wrote it in the late 1960s; about the same time I recall seeing a news photograph of a protesting student in the days of the Vietnam War. He was carrying a sign with the words “Nothing is worth dying for.”

I remember thinking then, as I do today, that if there is nothing worth dying for in our America, then there is truly nothing here worth living for, either.

I watched the war with Iraq with pride, but could not help marveling: “Where do we keep getting these young men and women?”

Consider how many young people on our college campuses and in our workplaces do not have this love of country and willingness to die for it. Either amnesia has set in or there is total apathy about our history and the huge price paid for freedom.

Hubris is best defined as “outrageous arrogance.” And if you study the lessons of history, which we don't anymore, you would find that hubris has time and time again brought down powerful civilizations.

We are in grave danger of that happening today. There is no greater example of outrageous arrogance than in Hollywood, from those who live in a make-believe world and think they carry more influence than they do.

I am fed up with Hollywood weenies like Martin Sheen and Sean Penn making millions of dollars playing soldiers in films like “Apocalypse Now” and “Casualties of War” and then, in real life, giving the finger to those who really wear the uniform. To me, they are lower than a snake's belly, hypocrites at best, all gurgle and no guts.

Rapper Ice-T is just as bad. This hypocrite got rich with “Cop Killer,” his hit in the early 1990s, and its refrain “Die, die, die, pig, die! [Expletive] the police.” And then he portrays a pony-tailed detective on the popular TV show, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”

That's hubris. That's hypocrisy. That's a disgrace.

It's time these so-called public figures wake up.

It's also time for a wake-up call in the House of Representatives. A few elected members there, sworn to preserve and protect, visited the enemy in Iraq and became unwitting toadies and tools for dictators and wannabe Hitlers through their reluctance to make tough decisions.

I also saw hubris in the Senate where, almost casually, a few union jobs were put above the security of a nation in wrangling over homeland security.

But where you would not see it was in the Bush White House and at 10 Downing Street in London. For President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, like Lincoln and Churchill before them, understood there is always the ongoing struggle between good and evil - and one must have steel in one's spine to take a stand.

History will be especially kind to these two 21st-century soldiers of freedom.

I fear that some of the Democratic presidential candidates are treading on very dangerous ground for the party and, more importantly, for the country.

I do not question their patriotism; I question their judgment. They are doing what politicians often do, playing to the loudest, and most active and most emotional group of supporters, feeding off frustration while clawing to find some advantage. I've done it myself and lived to regret it. My concern is that, without meaning to, they are exacerbating the difficulties of a nation at war.

Some of the liberal media excuse these actions by calling them “populism.” Populism, my butt. It's demagogy, pure and simple. They should stop this, or at least modify it into a more civil discourse.

Howard Dean, while not alone, is the worst offender, and it says a lot about the current Democratic base that he has emerged as front-runner for the nomination. Angry and red-faced, these doom-and-gloomers need to take some “calm-me-down” pills. They should realize their overheated rhetoric is dividing the country when they should be helping unite it.

Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie didn't stoop to this demagogy in 1940 when he ran against President Roosevelt during those dangerous times on the eve of World War II. And Neville Chamberlain didn't do it to Winston Churchill, who had replaced him as British prime minister. They understood there are some things more important than making political points when a nation is in peril.

Frankly, I cannot understand the candidates' shrill, manufactured opposition. We've freed a nation from a cruel and oppressive dictator. A free Iraq, most everyone agrees, can transform the Middle East.

Isn't that what presidents have wanted to do for many years? Give it time. Of course, it's going to be difficult. Of course, it's going to be costly. Regrettably, more of our American sons and daughters will die.

There will be times when it looks like it's not worth it. But in the long stretch of history, it will be worth it.

Copyright Zell Miller, 2003. All rights reserved. For information, visit [].



The True Story of a Man and a Nation Under Attack
By Michael Gannon, author of Black May

A John McCrae Book, Henry Holt & Company, New York, 339 Pages, Hardcover. ISBN 0-8050-6698-5

Reviewed for Keeping APAceKeeping APAce by Byron D. Varner.

Click to buy book. []
Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in December 1941, has long been maligned as the man most responsible for the alleged military incompetence that allowed Japan's victorious sneak attack against Pearl Harbor.

Some adversaries and historians believe President Franklin D. Roosevelt was so intent on going to war against Germany that he purposely allowed that disaster to happen.

Author Gannon's disputes both of these theories with a finely researched book both historically important and captivating for any seeker of the true facts about Pearl Harbor. For that genre of readers, this would be a timely and much appreciated Christmas gift.

Having read several books on this subject — AT DAWN WE SLEPT…DAY OF INFAMY…SCAPEGOATS…and others — I was impressed by information I had not read before. Certainly, his perspective of major players such as the president, several cabinet members, congress, and the Army and Navy hierarchy in Washington — in the days before there was a Department of Defense — gives a realistic view of that era of American isolationism and geopolitics of Europe and Asia.

Those who did not live in those times (and some who did) will learn about the Great Depression's negative effect on military budgets, and why the consequence of inadequate arms and materials was as much or more to blame than human error. Of course, there was an ample supply of that factor, much of it in Washington.

I highly recommend this book to you, if for no other reason than the dangers of military unpreparedness, and the importance of history. But there are other reasons for enjoying it. Above all, it is a good strong vote of approval for Admiral Kimmel's exoneration, long past due.


Forwarded by JayPMarine
   From the book, Swift, Silent, and Surrounded by Sgt Andrew A. Bufalo USMC (Ret). A compilation of stories about the Corps, written and collected by a former Force Recon Marine. Contributing authors include Fred Reed, Colonel David Hackworth, James Webb and many others. (331 pages) A portion of the proceeds are donated to the 15th MEU Memorial Fund, to benefit the families of seven Marines killed in a training accident at Camp Pendleton.       
   Available at []

On a spring day in 1983, Marine Staff Sergeant Robert Menke was waiting for a hot enlistment prospect he had talked to on the phone. Hunched over paperwork in the Corps' Huntington Beach California recruiting station, Menke heard the front door open and looked up. In came a boy in a motorized wheelchair, followed by his father. Menke noted the boy's frail body and thin arms. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“Yes,” the boy answered firmly. “My name is John Zimmerman.”

It took the startled Marine a moment to realize that this was indeed his prospect. “I'm Staff Sergeant Menke,” he said, shaking his visitor's small hand. “Come on in.”

Menke, a shy man, uncomfortable with recruiting, quickly found himself captured by the articulate thirteen year old youth with an easy, gap-toothed grin. For more than an hour they spoke -of training and overseas assignments and facing danger. The kid loved the Marine Corps. Not a word was exchanged about the younger Zimmerman's condition or the wheelchair.

There was one basic reason behind the visit to the Marine Corps recruiting office that day. From the moment Richard and Sandra Zimmerman learned their fourteen month old son had Werdnig-Hoffman syndrome, a rare neurological disease, they vowed to treat him like a normal child. Told that John probably would not live past age two, they refused to believe he would die.

Despite tremendous weakness in his legs and back and susceptibility to colds, John simply looked well. They had him fitted with a rigid body jacket to help him sit upright and took him on vacation trips allover the country. They didn't get a wheelchair for him until he was three. Even then, Richard Zimmerman often carried his son, who weighed around thirty pounds, lugging him through amusement parks, into restaurants and to movies.

Werdnig-Hoffman syndrome victims have difficulty fighting off upper respiratory problems. Before the age of five John was hospitalized three times with pneumonia, with each bout putting him on the edge of death. Richard Zimmerman believed Chicago's cold winter climate was partly to blame, and in 1975 he arranged a job transfer so the family could move to Southern California. There, the boy suffered fewer bouts with respiratory illness.

John, then six, was enrolled in classes for orthopedic handicapped children at the Plavan School in Fountain Valley. About this time he became aware of the Marine Corps at a week-long summer camp for disabled children. Many of his counselors at the camp in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park near San Diego were Marine volunteers. Each summer John would get to know another Marine through the camp's one-to-one counseling program. This sparked an interest that evolved into a passion.

While other children worshipped athletic heroes and rock stars, John gathered every bit of material about the Marines he could find. He plastered his room with Corps recruiting posters, his wheelchair with Marine stickers. His hero was John Wayne. He even dressed like a Marine and, much to his mother's consternation, got a Corps “burr” haircut.

After his initial visit to the Huntington Beach recruiting center, John kept in contact with Menke and Menke's boss, 31 year old Gunnery Sergeant John Gorsuch. Occasionally he dropped by with his father. More often, he phoned to ask questions or just to talk. He frequently devoted his school reports to Marine tactics, campaigns or equipment. When new recruiting posters arrived, Menke or Gorsuch would mail or personally deliver one to John. In turn John built model airplanes, trucks and tanks for his Marine buddies. Though delicate and intricate chores were difficult -and even painful -for him, John would work night after night on the models.

While Marines inspired John, he gave back as much as he got. One afternoon Gorsuch had scheduled seven appointments for potential recruits. Five hadn't shown up, and the other two had to be disqualified. John called to ask questions for a school report. “What's wrong, Gunny,” John asked. “You don't sound right.” Gorsuch explained. “Ah, come on Gunny,” John said. “Look, you're a smooth operator, and for every one you lose you'll get two more.” Gorsuch began to laugh. “You're right Johnny,” he said. “You know…you're right.”

An attempt to move John into a standard fourth-grade class at Plavan failed; because he could not write quickly, he could not keep up. But he made it in the sixth grade after his teachers allowed him to dictate some of his work.

John's family also benefited from his forceful personality. When told something couldn't be done, John would respond, “but did you ask?” Although he realized he probably never could hold a regular job he had no fear of talking with strangers, and figured one day he could help his father, a commercial real estate broker, by making the “cold” call the elder Zimmerman dreaded. As close as he was to his Marine friends, he was even closer to his father. Richard Zimmerman helped his son dress in the morning, helped him with baths and put him to bed each evening.

John rarely talked about the consequences of his disease, but he understood. On a trip to Hawaii in 1982, as the family visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the famed “Punchbowl,” John whispered to his father, “I want to be buried here when I die. Can we do it?” Richard Zimmerman was taken aback. “I don't know if it's possible. But sure, John. Sure.”

In the spring of 1984, not long before John was to graduate from the eighth grade, his condition began to worsen. His twisted spine was pressing into his internal organs, pinching nerves that sent searing pain through his back and legs. He had difficulty digesting food, and he began to lose weight. But he was determined to attend graduation.

On the night of the ceremony John was weak and nauseated, but to his surprise a Marine sergeant was there to escort him. He and the sergeant led the procession of students into the auditorium. John, thin and twisted, had to use the armrest of his wheelchair to prop himself up. His head, normal size, looked much too large for a body that was deserting an able mind. But to a rousing ovation, he flashed his biggest smile. Then another surprise: it was announced that John was a co-recipient of Plavan's Sergio Duran award, given annually to the handicapped graduate who best overcomes his limitations.

That summer John's condition improved slightly, and he entered Fountain Valley High School in the fall of 1984. During the first semester, however, his condition began to decline again, and his weight dropped to less than forty pounds. While he would have preferred to stay home and sleep, he attended school, confiding to his sister that he went “mainly because it makes Mom and Dad happy.”

On New Year's Eve John went into respiratory failure and was rushed to the hospital. Gorsuch and Menke visited daily. Realizing their fifteen year old friend's remaining days would be few, they set out to make him a Marine.

Menke secured permission to name John an honorary member of the Corps. Then one of Menke's friends penned a one-of-a- kind proclamation. On January 15, in a hospital room crowded with family and Marines, Major Robert Robichaud, area recruiting director, read the document. “By reposing special trust and confidence in the fidelity and abilities of John Zimmerman, I do hereby appoint him an Honorary Marine.”

Two days later John looked at Sandra and said, “I'm a fighter, Mom. A helluva fighter.” That night, he spoke to his nurses about dying, saying that his only fear was how his parents and sister would fare without him. In the early hours of January 18, John Zimmerman, U.S. Marine, passed on.

In a eulogy at John's memorial service Gorsuch, his voice cracking, said, “Marines learn never to give up, and John definitely had that quality. We have a motto in the Marines, the Latin words for always faithful. This is for Johnny Zimmerman,” he concluded. “Semper Fi.”

After the service the two Marines approached John's casket. Slowly, Menke and Gorsuch unpinned the Marine emblems from their coat collars and gently placed these symbols of fidelity into the casket with their friend.

During the final week of his life, no longer able to talk, John had scrawled a note to his father, reminding him of a promise made nearly three years before. “Punch bowl -will you visit me?” His father nodded. “If that's what you want, we'll do it,” he said.

In reality, Richard had no idea if it would even be possible. Yet his son's favorite phrase kept coming back to him: “But Dad, did you ask?” Richard looked into the matter and discovered that such cemeteries are reserved for military personnel and their families. Even though Menke had volunteered to give up his cemetery plot, the Veterans Administration would not permit it, or grant John's wish. Richard decided to try again. This time he wrote to California Senator Pete Wilson and learned that to circumvent the rules he would need authorization from the President. The Senator, a former Marine, was willing to help.

“He never had the opportunity to serve his country in the Marine Corps as he so wished he could have,” Wilson wrote to President Reagan. “However, his dedication and courage no doubt had very positive effects on many young Marines and civilians…”

The President granted the request, and the Marine Corps went into action. At Camp Smith on Oahu, about thirty Marines volunteered for the funeral detail. And on a windy day in the Punch bowl, with the cemetery's flag at half-staff, John Zimmerman was put to rest with full military honors.

Prior to a 21-gun salute, U.S. Navy Chaplain Jack Graham spoke. “Courage isn't limited to battlefields,” he said. “The Marines have a saying: 'The Marines need a few good men.' They found one in John Zimmerman.


The following letter to the editor of the WASHINGTON TIMES is reprinted here as an interesting and timely sidelight to my book review on Scapegoats, elsewhere in this section:

“The Norman Polmar letter about the correctness of the demotions of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Walter Short because of the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is just a bunch of nonsense ['Revisionist History,' Letters, June 28, 2001].

“Mr. Polmar is, indeed, a well-known and often respected 'naval historian and author,' but he was not there. His studies, which indicate 'the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and Army Air Forces were psychologically and materially unprepared for war,' do not reflect on General Short nor Admiral Kimmel.

“I was involved in the attack. At 0745, I took over the deck of the battleship Nevada. When alerted to the attack about 0800, I went to my battle station directing the starboard anti-aircraft battery. About 0805 a bomb hit our AA gun deck, the aircraft swung around and one of its strafing bullets went completely through my left hip. I had no idea how serious the wound was, but it was not until April 1946 that I was returned to duty. For the rest of the morning, until forcibly removed from Sky Control in the face of a fire that destroyed the station, I functioned as the senior AA officer present.

“Why did Mr. Polmar conclude that we were 'psychologically unprepared?' I have yet to find a single authenticated statement that a single person, Army or Navy, shirked their duty, ran from obvious danger, or failed to do their best with whatever they had available to them. This is an out and out tribute to the full credit of our leaders, General Short and Admiral Kimmel. Their people were totally prepared psychologically to react. And they did so with outstanding valor.

“Materially' we were not prepared. I have talked to scores of former AA officers who were there, and not one of them made any claim whatsoever that the 3-inch and 5-inch anti-aircraft guns in the fleet ever hit a single aircraft, although thousands of rounds were fired. Why? The guns weren't worth a damn. This was not the fault of General Short (who had a total of six AA guns to protect the entire island of Oahu) or Admiral Kimmel. The fleet practiced and practiced with those guns. They stunk. They proved they couldn't hit anything despite 'Washington's' assurance that they could. Even the lousy 1.1-inch guns, which a couple of ships had, failed. What few planes the Japanese lost were hit by .50-caliber guns, and possibly one to a .30-caliber gun.

“As it was, all the ships 'sunk' at Pearl Harbor save the battleships Arizona and Oklahoma lived to fight another day. Why? Because Pearl Harbor is only 40-feet deep, and ships that sink in 40 feet of water often do not even have their decks awash. Had we been at sea, we would have lost ships in hundreds of fathoms of water because our guns were useless; again no fault of Admiral Kimmel.

“The powers in Washington who conducted or participated in all the investigations kept their rosy little noses clean either to hide their own derelictions, or to 'protect through loyalty' whomever, whether anyone was actually derelict.

“Kimmel and Short were leaders who showed their battle-ready mettle, and were outstandingly brave, and they lost their stars. This is one of the outstanding outrages of military history, Mr. Polmar, Sen. John Warner (R-VA), and a lot of other know-it-alls-but-weren't-there-experts notwithstanding.

“It will not cost the taxpayers a penny to restore General Short and Admiral Kimmel to their ranks. It will make the vast majority of Pearl Harbor survivors feel far better that we are no longer held to be 'psychologically unprepared' or badly led.”

Joseph K. Taussig, Jr. Annapolis, Md.



A Defense of Kimmel and Short at Pearl Harbor
By Edward L. Beach, Captain, USN (Ret.)

Naval Institute Press. Annapolis, MD 1995

Reviewed by Byron D. Varner, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

Click to buy book. []
Author Edward L. Beach, a highly-decorated naval warrior, historian and novelist (most notably, RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP, which was made into a motion picture) has done an outstanding job of researching a seemingly endless source of conflicting information.

Included in this virtual sea of paper were the findings of ten different official investigations or hearings from 1941 through 1995, and numerous books written by ranking historians and persons involved in the December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor disaster.

The result of Beach's effort is a well-documented conclusion in defense of restoring the honor of two “scapegoats” besmirched by the actions of their superiors thousands of miles from the scene. Top military and government officials withheld vital information that could have made a difference in the outcome of the attack.

Explaining his reasons for this book, Beach wrote: “My purpose is not to revise history, or to rewrite it, but to interpret it. Adm. Husband E. Kimmel and LtGen. Walter C. Short, the military commanders in Hawaii in 1941, paid a high price for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They were deprived of their good names while others of equal or greater guilt — MacArthur, Marshall, Stark, even Roosevelt — were absolved or not even accused. It may have been politic because there was a war to win.

But now, half a century later, we have an obligation to address the question of truth and justice, one of the founding canons of our national system. Our country must not continue to perpetuate a lie.”

Thus the author has joined the efforts of surviving family members and a few people in high places, including some congressional members, in trying to right a wrong that is long overdue.

His work exposes intriguing and questionable actions on the part of many historically heroic figures - in the manner of a detective unfolding clue after clue to solve the mystery. Some of these require deductive reasoning because actual proof no longer exists or has yet to be uncovered. Nonetheless, his presentation is masterful, logical, thought provoking, and generally convincing.

Those who participated in or are old enough to remember WWII will especially appreciate SCAPEGOATS because they can recall the vast difference between our military structure then and now.

They also remember the U.S. military's 1941 unprepar-edness, engendered by both the great depression of the 1930s and the isolationist concept in the Congress at the time. Despite many new national programs initiated by President Roosevelt, government was still comparatively small.

Censorship, high security and other wartime measures limited access of information to news media, making it easier to suppress or hide facts considered “detrimental to the war effort.” Persons in high authority were able to cover up a sensitive issue in that type of environment.

Now, the Freedom of Information Act allows researchers to delve into items that were once off-limits, giving hope that someday the question of the missing facts will be answered.

In today's society, which seems to place decreasingly less value on moral standards of our civilian and military leaders, the larger question may be, “Are there enough people who really care about the concept of honor to make possible its restoration to these deceased scapegoats?”

Captain Beach obviously thinks the government should do so and perhaps you might think so, too, after you have read his book.

Footnote 1: “I was there, and you weren't.” []
Footnote 2: A congressional bill to restore both officers' ranks was not included in the 2000 Defense Authorization Bill.



The Daring Exploits of Navy Legend John D. Bulkeley
By William B. Breuer

Presidio, San Francisco. 1998, 340 pages soft cover

Reviewed by Byron D. Varner, CDR, U.S. Navy (Ret.).

Click to buy book. []
This book was so engrossing I could hardly put it down — not only because of its excitement, intrigue, adventure and great historical value. Through it, I relived some of my own WWII and later Navy career days. Readers of all age groups should enjoy the sometimes incredible exploits of a truly unique American patriot.

One experience I relived was serving as Public Affairs Officer on Adm. Bulkeley's staff at the U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay Cuba. My close day-to-day working and social relationship with him, his staff members and his family provided a front-row seat to witness his dedication to duty and expectations for the rest of us to follow suit.

He was tough-minded, demanding, unpredictable and fair, and we got along well. There were few dull moments, especially during the continuing crises with the USSR and Cuba — which easily could have ignited a full-scale war.

That portion of the book was well documented and presented, so I feel sure the rest of the story was equally accurate. The author included a number of things about Bulkeley I didn't know, but which didn't surprise me. The Admiral wasn't prone to talk about past heroics even when asked. This man of few words let his actions speak for him.

His only seeming concession to past glory was the epic WWII movie, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, that he would show to house guests at his quarters. He did this, I believe, to emphasize how tough things were early in that war, the tragedies of unpreparedness, and the importance of perseverance against all odds.

This movie, an adaptation of W. L. White's 1942 book of the same title, chronicled those bleak times in the Philippines leading up to the fall of Corregidor and the Bataan Death March. Critics agreed it was one of the most realistic and accurate war pictures Hollywood had filmed up to that time. I saw that movie several times (including TV reruns), and read the book more than once, but never imagined I would be someday be privileged to serve with their real-life PT Boat hero. SEA WOLF tells of these exploits including the famed delivery of General Douglas MacArthur and his chosen few through stormy seas, at impossible odds, to a rendezvous with destiny.

As great as that particular feat was, Bulkeley's daring accomplishments, innovations and patriotic efforts never waned throughout one of the longest careers in U.S. naval history.

Those who experienced the Great Depression years of the1930s can vividly recall the devastating financial effects it had on our military preparedness (or lack of it) prior to WWII. Nor can they forget the gloomy days during the first year of that war and the lack of anything positive to buoy spirits of the American people or give much hope that victory might someday be ours.

Reading SEA WOLF should give anyone unfamiliar with WWII, Korea, Vietnam and other thin slice of the overall effort given by others in those wars, it is truly an important link in the military chain of events.

All facets of this extraordinary Navy man's career are covered, from his fresh-out-of-high-school onslaught of Washington to get an improbable appointment to the Naval Academy, to his China service, various war battles, assault of Normandy beaches on D-Day, and beyond. The main emphasis is on Bulkeley's WWII exploits, his critical Cold War assignment as Guantanamo's base commander, and his record-breaking tour as head of the Naval Board of Inspection and Survey.

In that extended and final tour of naval duty, during which he was accountable only to the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bulkeley practically reinvented the system. He changed it from a “dead-end career-ender” lacking discipline and morale into the most effective (and feared) organization in the Navy. In so doing, he may have made his most substantial contribution to this nation, both in security and the war-readiness of naval ships and aircraft.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's personal presentation of the Medal of Honor to Bulkeley headed a long list of famous people bestowing this and other nations' highest military decorations upon him. It included Navy Secretary Frank Knox, General Douglas MacArthur, French General (later President) Charles de Gaulle, Philippines President Manuel Quezon and a host of others. He was honored with a New York City ticker-tape parade, and recruited a young Ensign by the name of John F. Kennedy to become a PT-boat commander.

Along the way he managed a controversial (to everyone but him) career, ruffling the feathers of more than a few senior officials - simply by doing what he considered to be the right thing and refusing to compromise principles that would risk the safety and security of the Navy.

Everyone should read SEA WOLF, particularly those on active duty in the military and their children. It is a classic example of what leadership, duty, honor and country is all about. Perhaps it would be well if those In Congress who have had no military experience would read it, too.


STATE OF EMERGENCY: The Third World Invasion And Conquest Of America

By Patrick Buchanan

Civilizations die by suicide, not murder, says Patrick Buchanan, and
liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide. Its ideas, pursued to their logical end, will prove fatal.

And none of those ideas is as certain to bring our civilization to an unhappy end as the proposition that America's borders must be open to any and all comers, legal and illegal.

In State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, Buchanan explains why the very life of our nation is at stake in the immigration debate. If immigration and border controls aren't reintroduced, it will be the end of America as we know it — and soon.

Buchanan explains why the massive influx of illegal immigrants into America is nothing less than an invasion — and yet the Bush White House and GOP-controlled Congress appear disinclined to do anything about it.

He details how our current policy of “open borders” and nearly unrestricted immigration have brought a stream of criminals and thugs into our nation — for the benefit only of an entrenched political establishment that couldn't care less about the good of the American people.

Read the complete article here. [ ]


Japanese POWs of World War II
By Ulrich A. Strauss
E-Mail [ ]
From Kim Hornyak, Publicity & Publishing Consultant Independent Publisher Online.

Traverse City, MI (May 2005) - The first Japanese prisoner of World War II was taken on December 8, 1941, and by the end of the war some 35,000 were in Allied prison camps. With a thorough understanding of the Japanese, their language and their culture, American linguists were able to extract valuable intelligence from the prisoners, in spite of the fact that the Japanese soldiers had been indoctrinated to choose between victory and a heroic death – being taken prisoner was not to be an option.

Some of the best interrogation results in the war against Japan came from skilled Japanese-American intelligence personnel who “looked like” their prisoners and eased their anxieties to spur conversation. Before attempting to gain intelligence it was essential to understand the enemy’s mind and to establish a personal relationship. By contrast, there is no indication that large numbers of Arab-Americans deal with prisoners in Iraq. Indeed, some of those guarding and interrogating prisoners have been mercenaries from American corporations, motivated primarily by profit and poorly prepared for the difficult task of conducting interrogations according to the rules of international law.

“Beatings, humiliation or intimidation rarely produce results,” says Straus. “If sufficiently scared, a prisoner may talk, but under duress he is more likely to invent information than to tell the truth.” Straus further stresses that the humane treatment of Japanese prisoners induced some of them to provide American interrogators with vital intelligence.

While The Anguish of Surrender recounts stories that are 40-years old, the book holds relevance today with its important lessons. As noted by Straus, “The Japanese POWs were treated decently and the results speak for themselves. The occupation of Japan was entirely peaceful, and there was not a single armed confrontation like the daily human tragedies wrought by the continuing resistance in today’s Iraq.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ulrich “Rick” Straus was born in Germany, grew up in Japan, and became a U.S. citizen in 1945. As a Japanese Language Officer he served on General MacArthur’s GHQ in the Occupation of Japan, including service at the Tokyo Trial. A career Foreign Service Officer, Straus served at Embassy Tokyo, on the State Department’s Japan Desk and as Consul General on Okinawa. His last State Department assignment was as faculty member at the National War College. Following retirement in 1987, Straus has taught adult education courses on Japan and the U.S.-Japan relationship. He now lives in northwestern Michigan where he makes commentaries on foreign policy on PBS radio and selects speakers for the World Affairs Council of Traverse City.



The Army Historical Foundation

Published by Henry Holt & Company, Hugh Lauter Levin Associates Inc. ISBN 0-88363-101-6. BGEN Harold W. Nelson USA (Ret) – Editor-in-Chief; MGEN Bruce Jacobs AUS (Ret) – Editor; COL Raymond K. Bluhm, Jr. USA (Ret) – Graphics Editor

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by CDR Byron D. Varner, USN (Ret).

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Its strikingly beautiful dark green padded cover, gold embossed lettering and shining gold Army Seal stopped me in my tracks and made me want to look inside. This large (10.25”x14.5”x1.5”) six-pound volume is equally impressive on the inside, with a wealth of wonderful color graphics and history that tells the story of the Army in a way it has never been told.

This is one of several “big books” for the coffee or library table I saw at a well-known bookstore that featured the military service during pre-Christmas shopping days- including one about the Navy and another about Naval Aviation. I am sure there must have been one for the Air Force and Marine Corps either in the out-of-stock category, or in the planning stages, but not on display during my visit.

My library is full of Navy books, but I have little first-hand experience with the Army — other than vicariously through Army friends and visits to a few bases. I once visited West Point to write an in-depth story about it and was greatly impressed by its beauty, history, geographic setting, and the people I met there (see INDEX, ARMY, U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY). This book was so beautiful and well done that I could not resist buying it for my collection. It will provide some excellent research for future articles in KEEPING APACE.

One thing that intrigued me was the use of military postage stamps to illustrate Army history. As a collector of first day covers, that is something I have done each issue of KEEPING APACE since converting it from print medium to the world wide web. Stamp collectors appreciate the art, beauty, history, and education they derive from their hobby and I am no exception.

The book is a hefty one, and so is the price, but it probably is or will be available at discounts now, along with the same publisher's books on the other services.



Plattsburg, the War of 1812's Most Decisive Battle
By Col. David E. Fitz-Enz, USA (Ret.)

Published by Cooper Square Press, ISBN 0-8154-1139-1

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by CDR Byron D. Varner, USN (Ret)

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The United States was a young country, still struggling to overcome many problems of its brief existence when it became embroiled in a second war with Great Britain – the War of 1812.

This time, the Brits were an even more formidable opponent, having just beaten the great French Army and Navy under Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Additionally, they were still smarting from their own unlikely defeat by the rag-tag American forces of the Revolutionary War some 36-years prior.

With its battle-tested Army deploying from Canada, Britain's world-class Navy attack ports along the largely undefended U.S. coastline, burning, pillaging, and harassing American shipping as a diversion for the action of its Army along the Great Lakes. It was the enemy's plan to capture New York and the Northeastern states, whose people they thought were ripe for revolt. The victors would then form these states into a new Colony they would name Columbia.

Of major consequence was a widespread anti-war stance by many citizens and businesses with a desire to continue lucrative trade with Canada, and with loyalties more to their own states than to the federal government. A small, poorly trained and outfitted Army and Navy that, once again, would rely heavily upon an unpredictable and sometimes- undependable state militia, compounded this situation. Some states would not even allow their militia to participate.

This was the war, you may recall, in which the British occupied New York and, among other historical events, attack Washington D.C., burned most of the government buildings including the White House, and fired rockets onto Ft. McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem.

It was a David and Goliath scenario in most every theater of the war. If there was ever proof that divine intervention was on our side, the War of 1812 was the greatest example of that phenomenon. And the Battle of Plattsburg and Lake Champlain was its defining character. It ended the war

Author Fitz-enz's long and intricate research uncovered many previously unknown facts that, together with his excellent presentation, make this book well worth your time to read and appreciate.

In doing so, you will have the feeling of an eyewitness to the battle, the human failures, heroic deeds, and the true meaning of “blood and guts” in those days of wooden sailing ships and iron men. You will find out why the Navy reveres Thomas Macdonough as one of its greatest heroes.

Best of all, you will gain a better understanding of the people of that time and a greater admiration for what our nation has gone through in this fateful step of its gradual transition to what it has become today.



by Tom Brokaw

Random House, 1998. 390 pages. $24.95

Reviewed by Byron D. Varner, U.S. Navy (Retired).

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NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw's inspiring book, The Greatest Generation, is one which Americans of all ages should read. He has traveled around the nation to interview and tell the stories of individual citizen heroes and heroines who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II, and went on to build modern America. They were a generation united by a common purpose, as well as the common values of duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and above all, responsibility for oneself.

The impetus for this superb work had its roots in France, during the author's NBC coverage of the 40th Anniversary D-Day. He writes:

“There, I underwent a life-changing experience. As I walked the beaches with American veterans who had returned for this anniversary, men in their sixties and seventies, and listened to their stories, I was deeply moved and profoundly grateful for all they had done.

“Ten years later, I returned to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of the invasion, and by then I had come to understand what this generation of Americans meant to history. It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.

“They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. They succeeded on every front. They won the war, they saved the world. They came home to joyous and short-lived celebrations and immediately began the task of rebuilding their lives and the world they wanted.

“They married in record numbers and gave birth to another distinct generation, the Baby Boomers. A grateful nation made it possible for more of them to attend college than any society had ever educated, anywhere. They gave the world new science, literature, art, industry, and economic strength unparalleled in the long curve of history.

“As they now reach the twilight of their adventuresome and productive lives, they remain, for the most part, exceptionally modest. They have so many stories to tell, stories that in many cases they have never told before, because in a deep sense they didn't think what they were doing was that special, because everyone else was doing it, too.

“This book, I hope, will in some small way pay tribute to those men and women who have given us the lives we have today — an American family portrait album of the greatest generation.”

The Greatest Generation is a wonderful tribute in a very large way!

You will become absorbed by these compelling accounts of men and women of all color, race and creed, in various branches of military and civilian life. Some have become famous, but most are ordinary people with extraordinary accomplishments. It is funny, tragic, dramatic and poignant. Some are success stories, overcoming great odds and accomplishing things beyond the wildest dreams. And you will be better, having shared the experience.

I first learned of the book when my son gave me a copy to read during the long flights of a recent trip. Inside the cover he had written this inscription: “To Dad — with gratitude for your part in the greatest generation and what it means to me.”

That statement alone is reason enough for Baby Boomers and their own children to read and discover what it was like living in those vastly different times, what role their parents and grandparents played, and why they think the way they do. This understanding could be a positive step toward erasing any “generation gap” that may exist in the family.

The book, of course, is a “must read” for members of that “greatest generation” who cherish the memories of those times of their lives!



By Stephanie Gutmann

Scribner. $25 USA. Reprinted from the CMR Notes Newsletter.

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During a May 14 appearance on C-SPAN's Book Notes and earlier presentation before the Independent Women's Forum, author Stephanie Gutmann drew well-deserved attention to her new book, The Kinder, Gentler Military – Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win?

The book, which has received many laudatory reviews, shines a bright light on the sorry consequences of cultural change in the military. It is a welcome addition to the ongoing debate.

Gutmann writes with a blunt, “no bull” approach that takes many people by surprise. The independent-minded former flower child, whose parents marched in Vietnam-era anti-war demonstrations, provides unsettling (and sometimes hilarious) accounts of social dysfunction in the military.

The nervy Ms Gutmann shows up most military writers, who rarely question the sanitized spin that is routinely handed out by Pentagon spokesmen. She frequently found it necessary to confront or evade public Affairs “PC Police,” who tried to restrict her every move on military installations, including the carrier USS Stennis.

The result is a fresh, eyewitness perspective reflecting respect for men and women in uniform, but disdain for clueless civilians who are putting soldiers through a risky social experiment that could undermine national security. She also faults uniformed leaders who are quick to deny obvious evidence of demoralizing problems.

Recommendations in the last chapter deserve serious consideration by any presidential candidate or member of congress who claims intent to restore the strength of the armed forces. By illuminating the problem, Stephanie Gutmann has become part of the solution.

Editor's Note: If you are not familiar with CMR Notes, a newsletter of the Center for Military Readiness, click here [] to learn about CMR's leadership role in promoting sound military personnel policies in the armed forces.



By Robert Timberg

A Touchstone Book (Paperback), Simon & Schuster, 1996, 475 Pages, ISBN 0-684-80301-1

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by Byron D. Varner

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It is hard to imagine a more thoroughly researched and annotated book — nor a more engaging one for those who enjoy this type of story — than The Nightingale's Song. It is extremely well written by an author who has “been there” and uses the descriptive language that military readers understand.

No reader worth his salt excludes the prologue, forward, and epilogue, and this book is no exception. If you are wondering about the unusual title that fits like a glove only after it has been explained, see page 16.

In all, I found the story fascinating and generally believable, although I sometimes disagreed with some of the political conclusions. But then, none of us is totally without prejudice — political or otherwise.

The author and his five subjects are all products of the U.S. Naval Academy, four of whom took commissions in the Marine Corps upon graduation. The five include John McCain, Robert McFarland, Oliver North, John Poindexter, and James Webb, whose lives Timberg chronicles in a masterful and powerful story about Vietnam, the Iran-Contra affair, the White House, the Congress, and the American culture. These five public figures affected our history and culture. past, present, and probably future.

This is an insider's account of people, situations, and events experienced first hand by comparatively few other Americans.

It explains war to those who have never braved it; politics to those never a part of it; and, the Iran-Contra affair to those who never understood it or its political ramifications.

It is an inside look at the Naval Academy, its foibles, traditions, plebe year practical application of discipline through humiliation, and its elongated effect on those who were part of it. And of course, the Marine Corps along with it.

It explains much of the anguish and pain of the Vietnam era. It examines its warriors who were treated so badly by an American public brainwashed by a hostile mainstream media solidly against the war, and its abuse of the power of the pen (and sound bites) to become mightier than the sword.

As Mark Shields wrote in his Washington Post review: “If you want to read a terrific book about courage and cowardice, honor and betrayal, suffering and death, and the indomitability of the human spirit, get The Nightingale's Song.”



A True Story of Men Against The Sea
By Sebastian Junger

236 pages. Paperback. $14 USA. $20.95 Canada. HarperPerennial, A Division of Harper Collins Publishers

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by Roy D. Varner.

“Ferociously dramatic and vividly written”
“An indelible experience”
“One powerful piece of journalism”
“Harrowing, relentless”
“Terrifyingly, awesomely real”
“Frightened by nature's remorseless power.”

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Those are just a few excerpts from overwhelmingly positive reviews of this docudrama adventure — an emotional ride through “meteorological hell” on a 72-foot swordfish boat dragging 40 miles of fishing line through 100-foot waves in the “perfect” storm (a nor'easter that “could not possibly have been worse”).

This true story delivers the powerful synergy of a combination of elements in perfect balance: high-seas drama that slams your emotions like the rogue wave that explodes windows in the wheelhouse…fresh imagery that draws you in and puts you helplessly amid the crashing waves and hurricane winds on the boat…and fascinating facts about storms, wave dynamics, fishing techniques, and much more.

Author Sebastian Junger, a journalist by trade, combines these various elements in a well-crafted story of lives affected forever by a series of decisions by six fishermen in the town of Gloucester, Maine.

The Perfect Storm, in a nutshell, is the story of a freak conjunction of weather systems that produced the most powerful storm of the 20th century off the coast of northern New England in October 1991. Caught in this maelstrom is a swordfishing fleet, in particular the Andrea Gail and its six-man crew. Building up to the frightening climax is the story of a fishing town, its people and culture, and the perils of daily life on board commercial fishing boats (generally acknowledged as the most dangerous profession). Yet it is also a story of how personal assumptions and decisions determine who will live to fish another day.

Unlike the trite, cardboard characters of many a fiction adventure, the real men and women who experienced this almost inconceivable storm come alive through Junger's careful and respectful representation of the facts. We get to know the tightly bonded folks at the Crow's Nest bar, where fishermen sometimes spend thousands of dollars of hard-earned wages in one night buying drinks for their friends. We get inside the lives of fishermen and their families, lives that would soon be forced to change in ways they always dreaded but never thought would happen to them. And we discover the misgivings and premonitions of crew members when the time came to load the Andrea Gail and head for one last run, ominously late in the season — warnings to which some listened, but others didn't.

As the story unfolds, we learn more than we ever thought we wanted to know about meteorology…dynamics of waves traveling across thousands of miles of ocean (“forty-five-foot breaking waves are much more destructive than rolling swells twice that size”)…the rare monster rogue wave (“avalanches over the decks and buries the Andrea Gail under tons of water”)…hard-learned techniques for finding and catching swordfish (a hook “can whiplash over the rail and snag people in all kinds of horrible ways” and “if it catches some part of the baiter's body or clothing, he goes over the side with it”)…the economics of a competitive fishing industry that could force them to dump a month's worth of catch over the side…and open sea rescue procedures even more dangerous to the rescuers than the stranded crew. Perhaps the most fascinating discussion explores the physiological and psychological reactions of a human drowning at sea — when the body's natural reflexes kick in and panic is “mixed with an odd incredulity that this is actually happening…'So this is how my life finally ends.'”

Junger did a fine job of research and intelligent writing, skills gained from years of writing articles for such publications as Outside Magazine, American Heritage, and Men's Journal. His prose style is clean, highly readable, fresh, and full of vivid imagery:

“There's a certain amount of denial in swordfishing. The boats claw through a lot of bad weather, and the crews generally just batten down the hatches, turn on the VCR, and put their faith in the tensile strength of steel. Still, every man on a sword boat knows there are waves out there that can crack them open like a coconut.”

Junger is faithful to the facts and avoids the usual writer's conceit of embellishing a story with assumptions about what characters said and did. Instead, he wanted to “step back and let the story speak for itself.” As a result, we learn the facts Junger was able to gather through interviews and research, as well as how other fishermen described their similar near-death experiences, and our imagination takes over.

Even with so much detail — or perhaps because of it — we discover our emotions and fears swelling in proportion to the worsening storm, ever more gigantic waves, and gale-force winds. By the end, we have made and lost friends, vicariously gained a heightened fear and respect for the immense power of the ocean, and retained the indelible imprint on our psyche of this amazing drama. Readers of The Perfect Storm will discover a personal impact that establishes a new watermark for high seas drama and adventure.

Read the book. Experience the movie on a big screen when it comes out at the end of June. Then listen to your own premonitions to avoid being on any boat…in any storm…far out in the ocean…with nothing to do but wait helplessly for the next rogue wave to overtake you.

Roy D. Varner, of Tampa, FL, is a professional writer and author of A Matter of Risk, the true story of the CIA's Hughes Glomar Explorer covert mission to raise a sunken Russian nuclear submarine.


The Point Of My Pencil, From Shoofly's War Bag
ISBN: 0-99722870-0-0
Text and Drawings copyright 2002 Robert Shufelt
Published in 2002 by Western Images Ltd.
P.O. Box 410, Aubrey, Texas 76227
12” x 9.5”, 144 pages, and 96 images indexed []

Reviewed for Keeping Apace by Byron D. Varner

Art snobs would have you believe that fine art does not include the American cowboy - but like most snobs, they are wrong about a lot of things. I am here to tell you I have discovered a Western artist whose medium is the graphite pencil and a huge, incomparable talent to create works that equal or surpass the so-called masters.

What he does to capture realism by shading, dimension and other nuances make color take a back seat to his perfect black and white presentations. Unique is the word for this great artist.

So who is this artistic wonder, you ask?

Don't be surprised if you have not heard of Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt. No doubt you will hear a lot more about him in the future. He labored long and hard in the field of art before gaining the stature he deserves.

Because our grandson and his wife know how much we appreciate realism in art, they sent Shoofly's recent book, THE POINT OF MY PENCIL, as a thank-you gift. Both the gift and the givers are truly a treasure in the highest sense of the word. How nice to know there are such thoughtful and generous people in their generation. It gives one hope for our nation's future.

After glancing through the book, I could hardly wait for that rare occasion to sit quietly in my favorite chair and contemplate its beauty, slowly turning the pages of this wonderful book and reading every word. Each of Shoofly's many admirable and intricate illustrations put the perfect exclamation mark on the honest simplicity of its text - and vice versa.

As somewhat of an amateur art critic-collector, I consider Shoofly's creative renditions absolutely the finest Western art that I have ever seen. His intricate detail in this difficult medium is so rare that it seems impossible at first glance that it is not a finely focused photograph with ambient light. But his work is infinitely better than any photograph you will see.

The book's foreword by Russell Chatham sums up perfectly my own concept of what art should be - and this book exemplifies it in every way. It also exemplifies a way of American life that some may think extinct, but nevertheless still flourishes in the vast cowboy West of today through people like Shoofly, his wife, their families and friends. Would that the rest of our citizens give as much emphasis to honesty, good neighborliness, and other old fashioned American ideals as do these “hopefully not the last of the breed” in today's West.



Former German POW Finds Peace in Texas
By Heino R. Erichsen, as told to Jean Nelson-Erichsen

Eakin Press, Austin, Texas. ISBN 1-57168-514-6

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by Byron D. Varner.

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This book is an enlightening view of an Axis “enemy” in WW 2. But not at all like the fearsome German soldier propagandized by Adolph Hitler, U.S. movies and documentaries, nor by our own Armed Services during that war. It is also a classic view of what the German people experienced through that long war.

As for the soldier, you see the human side of a German boy, raised in a middle class family, whose parents secretly opposed the war and Hitler's grand schemes. Frail as a lad, required to participate as a member of the Hitler Youth Program, and schooled for office work, Heino was inept as a soldier before he became a member of the Afrikan Korps under Field Marshall Rommel in February 1943. His story could easily have been the life of a similar American youth, except for location, culture, and circumstance of war.

For Heino Erichsen, that circumstance included being captured and shipped to the United States as a Prisoner of War. On reflection, it was perhaps a more fortunate fate for him than for some of his American counterparts interned as POWs in Germany - but not a good thing at best.

What he made of his life, despite the war, the onus of being a POW, and many other obstacles in his path, is a tribute to Erichsen's self discipline, work ethic, faith in his God, and a good wife - a combination manifest in his many good works worldwide since immigrating and becoming an American citizen.

I met Heino and Jean here in The Woodlands, TX, after reading a story about him in the local paper. The national headquarters for their world adoption agency is here. In an interview with him for a different purpose, I learned more about this book, and was so impressed with him, his wife, and his organization that I purchased The Reluctant Warrior for my own library. After reading it, I was even more impressed, and recommend it to you for the same reason. You will find it interesting, educational, and revealing.


By Jack MacKercher, Captain, USN (Ret)
Former Navy PAO Specialist for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Back in the '70s, I accompanied Admiral Thomas Moorer on an extensive round of the Middle East. One of the first stops was Iran. The Shah was still in power. As planned, we took the Shah out to the USS Kitty Hawk for a day at sea and observation of air operations. It occurred near the end of our visit.

Our next stop was Saudi Arabia. We got word the day before our scheduled departure that the visit to the Kingdom was delayed — not postponed. The vague word was King Faisal was disappointed that the Shah had been selected to be first to visit the same ship. Sensing our delay as an embarrassment, the Shah made Ishfahan's Shah Abbas Hotel - a magnificent replication of what our imaginations pictured as Persian splendor - available to our party of five. We were its sole occupants as had been the case at the Park Hotel in Teheran. After a few days, we got word our visit to Saudi Arabia was cancelled.

I knew little of the Arab or Islam culture and mores, but having several years behind me in Asia I was not surprised at what all this suggested… a loss of face to a king .. if not a Shah.

The tragedy of 9/11 and the fanatics who carried it out made me conscious of how little I knew about people who globally exceed more than a billion souls. In my search for some information, I happened on The Sword And The Prophet, By Serge Trifkovic. Its author hadn't made my favorite writers' list, but I was attracted by the title.

I urge the book's importance. It's one of those “put me down if you dare” stand-outs. We sentimental, easily duped, must-be-loved-and-understood Americans better prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. Iraq is only prelude to the ongoing centuries' seasoned jihad.

When I viewed the recent savage footage of Nick Berg’s beheading, it was grisly and unprecedentedly brutal. Yet - I wasn't shocked. Trifkovic's Sword had prepared me for the unmatched grotesqueness I was watching.

The politically incorrect guide to Islam

By Serge Trifkovic
Boston: Regina Orthodox Press, 2002
Reviewed by Paul Eidelberg

In her extraordinary work, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, Bat Ye'or avoids discussing Islam per se. She lets Islam's thirteen-century record of plunder, rape, and genocide discredit that religion. One would hardly know of such barbarism reading the doyan of Islamic scholars, Bernard Lewis. Judging from his book What Went Wrong? (2002), nothing is intrinsically wrong with the religion that enthralls 1.2 billion people. And Lewis, unlike John Esposito, is not known as an apologist of Islam.

Enter Serge Trifkovic, a man of extraordinary intellectual courage. His The Sword of the Prophet departs from the moral “neutrality” of academia and, in six lucid and well-documented chapters, provides a “Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam.” Citing the Kuran and the voluminous Hadiths - the Traditions of what Muhammad said and did - Dr. Trifkovic exposes Islam's prophet as cruel, ignorant, and lascivious. He examines Islam's fatalistic theology; reviews this religion's devastation of other civilizations; warns of the Muslims' insidious penetration of America and Europe; criticizes U.S. appeasement of Saudi Arabia and other Islamic regimes; and goes to the heart of what must be done to prevent Islam's global ascendancy.

Chapter 1, “Muhammad,” portrays a simple preacher who became a fanatical warlord in the process of conquering Mecca and Medina. After slaughtering Arab tribesmen and looting their camels, the prophet and his followers kidnapped their women and staged an orgy of rape. One Hadith explains:
We desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, but at the same time we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing 'azl [coitus interruptus]. But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah's Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah's Messenger … and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.

To the men of one Jewish tribe, Muhammad offered the choice of conversion to Islam or death. Upon their refusal, up to 900 were decapitated in front of their women and children. “Truly the judgment of Allah was pronounced on high,” was Muhammad's comment. The women were subsequently raped. Trifkovic comments: “That Muhammad's actions and words, as immortalized in the Kuran and recorded in the Traditions, are frankly shocking by the standards of our time—and punishable by it laws, that range from war crimes and murder to rape and child molestation—almost goes without saying.” Trifkovik is aware of the cultural and historical relativism that would prompt Western intellectuals to say, “we must not extend the judgmental yardstick of our own culture to the members of other cultures who have lived in other eras.” He counters this relativism by pointing out that “even in the context of seventh century Arabia, Muhammad had to resort to divine revelations as a means of suppressing the prevalent moral code of his own milieu.”

Muhammad repeatedly invoked Allah as a deus ex machina, professing revelations to justify the prophet's political and personal needs. “Nowhere was this more obvious than when it came to his exaggerated sensuality.” Trifkovic cites Ibn Warraq, author of Why I am Not a Muslim (1995), who asks whether Muhammad was a “known fraud, or did he sincerely believe that all his 'revelations' that constitute the Kuran were direct communications from God?” Warraq does not see how this can possibly matter to our moral judgment of Muhammad's character. “Certain racists sincerely believe that Jews should be exterminated. How does their sincerity affect our moral judgment of their beliefs?”

Trifkovic adds: “On the Prophet's own admission, Islam stands or falls with the person of Muhammad, a deeply flawed man by the standards of his own society, as well as those of the Old and New Testaments … and even by the law of which he claimed to be the divinely appointed medium and custodian. The problem of Islam, and the problem of the rest of the world with Islam, … is the religion's claim that the words and acts of its prophet provide the universally valid standard of morality as such, for all time and all men.”

Our author sums up his assessment of Muhammad with the words of Sir William Muir (1819-1905), one of the world's greatest orientalists: “the sword of Muhammad and the Qur'an are the most fatal enemies of civilization, liberty, and truth which the world has yet known.” No academician today would dare such a judgment. Even the outspoken Daniel Pipes feels compelled to distinguish Islam from “Islamism” and say Islam is compatible with democracy!

Chapter 2, “The Teaching,” portrays Allah as very different from the God of the Bible. Allah is absolutely transcendent. He is pure will without personality. Islam offers an “empty and barren concept of deity.” (Avraham Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine, regarded Islam's monotheism as barren and devoid of joy and life.) “One consequence of Allah's absolute transcendence and lordship,” says Trifkovic, “is the impossibility of free will.” Sinners are as predestined as virtuous believers. Whereas sinners will “fill up the burning regions of Hell,” the virtuous believers will dwell in Paradise where, according to one Muslim commentator, “The men … have sexual relations not only with the women … but also with serving boys… In Paradise a believer's penis is eternally erect.”

Given its fatalism, Islam is theologically incompatible with democracy, whose cardinal principle is freedom. The root of freedom is man's creation in the image of God - the God of Abraham. Abraham can argue and plead with God, as did Moses, because the God of the Jews is a personal God, immanent as well as transcendent. In contrast, the Muslim prostrates himself before Allah as a slave before a master. Trivkovic rightly states that it is more pertinent to compare Islam with totalitarian communism—despite its atheism - than with Judaism or Christianity. He could have pointed out that human dignity is not a normative principle of Islam if only because Islamic theology cannot abide the Jewish conception of man's creation in the image of God.

Turning to the Kuran, Trifkovic, like other critics, reveals Muhammad's distorted account of the various narratives of the Five Books of Moses. (Muhammad was ignorant of the books of the prophets). Noting that the Kuran underwent revision during Muhammad's tribulations and triumphs in Mecca and Medina, Trifkovic states that Islam's holy book “looks, feels, and sounds like a construct entirely human in origin and intent, clear in its earthly sources of inspiration and the fulfillment of the daily needs, personal and political, of its author.”

“Of all major religions known to man,” writes Trifkovic, “the teaching of Islam makes it the least amenable to dialogue with other faiths.” Nevertheless, he informs us that President George W. Bush has internalized the ecumenical views of his adviser on Islam, Professor David Forte, a conservative Catholic who believes that Christianity and Islam can together foster family values. Forte, who is not an Islamic scholar, contends that Islamic terrorists are heretics or not authentic Muslims. He seems to have reinforced Mr. Bush's naïve belief that all religions are peace-loving, and that a religious person cannot possibly be a terrorist, i.e., evil. Trivkovic comments: “Their faulty understanding of Islamic theology leads them to imagine that 'Allah' is more or less interchangeable with the 'God' of the monotheists.” Their ecumenism is intended to counter the globalization of secularism.

Chapter 3,”Jihad Without End,” demonstrates that the goal of Islamic jihad is world conquest, and that willingness of Muslims to sacrifice their lives to this end “is neither extreme nor even remarkable from the standpoint of traditional Islam.” The notion of “inner” jihad - of one's personal fight against his ego and sinful desires - came into being only after the Islamic Empire had been established. Of its countless jihads against unbelievers, Trifkovic emphasizes Islam's massacres in India, which “are unparalleled in history, bigger in sheer numbers than the Holocaust, or the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks.” Regarding the Turks, “being a Greek, Armenian, Serb, or indeed any other Christian in the Ottoman Empire meant living in daily fear of murder, rape, torture, kidnap of one's children, slavery, and genocide.”

Trifkovic, a Christian who acknowledges the crimes committed against the Jews during the Crusades, nonetheless emphasizes Islam's crimes against Christian communities throughout the Middle East and North Africa. He deplores “politically correct” academics: “Thirteen centuries of religious discrimination, causing suffering and death of countless millions, have been covered by the myth of Islamic 'tolerance,' that is hurtful to the few descendants of the victims as it is useless as a means of appeasing latter-day jihadists.”

This leads to Chapter 4, “The Fruits,” which explodes the myth of Islam's “Golden Age.” Our author correctly notes that the medieval philosophers al-Farabi and Avicenna, both Persian, “belong to 'Islam' just as much as Voltaire belongs to 'Christianity.'” (Muhsin Mahdi has shown that Farabi, to avoid being executed, crafted his work on Plato and Aristotle in an esoteric style. On the surface he appears as a devout Muslim; but a close reading reveals him as a disciple of Greek philosophy.) Contrary to its apologists, the Muslim Empire inherited the knowledge and skills of Greece, Persia, and India (including what are still mistakenly known as “Arabic” numbers.) “Whatever flourished,” writes Trifkovic, “it was not by reason of Islam, it was in spite of Islam.” Thus, in 1993, the supreme religious authority of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, issued an edict, declaring that the world is flat: anyone of the round persuasion does not believe in God and should be punished.”

The chapter concludes with these words of Alexis de Tocqueville: “I studied the Kuran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. So far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion more to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.”

Islamic decadence is rooted in its impersonal and empty monotheism. In contrast, Hebraic monotheism, as may be seen in the Biblical account of creation, seeks to probe the unity underlying the totality of existence - of man and the universe. Moreover, the creativity for which Jews are famous, especially in the sciences, is rooted in the Genesis conception of man's creation in God's image - the divine source of human creativity as well as the intellectual basis of Jewish faith. (In this latter respect, Judaism also differs from Christianity,)

Returning to Trivkovic, Chapter 5, “Western Appeasement,” focuses on Washington's appeasement of Muslims in Bosnia, which has become a safe haven and transit for Arab terrorists. Israeli intelligence conveyed to the American State Department that “about 6,000 fighters in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia are ready to do Bin Laden's bidding, and that a nucleus of Bin Laden followers in the Balkans could balloon into an army of about 40,000 men.” Also, some 2,000 to 10,000 Muslim migrants are arriving in Bosnia every month.

Trivkovic reveals how the State Department, while accusing Russian forces in Muslim Chechnya of “human rights” violations, exempts from human rights requirements such predominantly Muslim countries as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. (This hypocrisy is even more obscene in Washington's appeasement of the Arab Palestinians.) But our author's most dire warnings concern Washington's appeasement of Saudi Arabia. This totalitarian regime, linked to American corporations willing to sacrifice their country's interests to Mammon¸ is the financier of global terrorism.

Chapter 6, “Jihad's Fifth Column,” surveys the incredibly rapid growth of the Muslim population in the West. Thanks to Saudi Arabia, thousands of mosques have sprung up throughout the U.S. and Europe. Their predominant message? Islam is the wave of the future. Despite Islam's openly declared objectives, the West refrains from restricting Muslim immigration and from enforcing the laws against Muslims who exploit democratic values to advance Islam's totalitarian ends.

Allied with these Muslims are postmodern liberals. These liberals are motivated by a hatred of Western civilization, primarily its biblical roots. Their pro-Muslim attitude—most pronounced in their support of the Palestinians—evinces an anti-Jewish animus. Academia is the seedbed of this unholy alliance of believers and atheists.

“Islam,” Trivkovic concludes, “is a collective psychosis seeking to become global, and any attempt to compromise with such madness is to become part of the madness oneself.” But what most threatens the West, says our author, is not Islam so much as the West's own “loss of Faith, and … the arrogant doctrine—rampant in 'the West' for three centuries now—that man can solve the dilemma of his existence by his unaided intellect alone. If that loss is not reversed, the game is over anyway—proving that where God retreats, Allah advances.”

“The Sword of the Prophet” is indispensable reading.


By Sgt Michael C. Volkin
ISBN: 1-932714-11-1
Format: Paperback and e-book
Pages: 192
Publication Date: May 30 2005
Available at: CLICK HERE [ ]

Reviewed for Keeping Apace by Byron D. Varner, CDR, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

Initially, wannabe soldiers who read this book may be awestruck by the depth of material presented and the fact may dawn upon them that basic training is a lot tougher and more challenging than any of them may have contemplated. Anyone who has ever undergone this initial transitional training from civilian life to military service never forgets the experience nor the results - nor the exhilarating feeling they had the day they successfully completed it.

In this particular case, however, Sgt Volkin gives ample warning and many practical guidelines for that ultimate “success” - for those who take it seriously enough to spend a minimum of eight weeks on their own time in preparation for what in essence may be their official rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.

This book is so comprehensive, practical, and easy to understand that those contemplating joining the Army (or any of the services, for that matter) would do themselves a great favor by buying it well in advance of their intended enlistment date, and learning its every detail - particularly the physical fitness exercises - before arrival at basic training.

While there is no magic to the process of turning an overweight, undisciplined teenager into the nucleus of a military fighting machine, it may seem like magic to the parents who attend a son’s or daughter’s “graduation” from this nine-weeks that changed the new soldiers’ lives, or when the parents saw them for the first time when they came home on leave.

As if by magic, the looks, demeanor, and habits of their “child” had morphed into a fit and trim disciplined adult, fluent in a new and different language known as “military speak.” Not surprisingly, some parents could hardly recognize this former child at first glance. But it was not magic… just a hell of a lot of work by dedicated drill sergeants.

A month following the tragedy of 9-11, author Michael Volkin’s vow to “serve my country” led him to basic training for the transition to this “different world full of unknown exercises and acronyms, where you can’t eat or talk without permission.” He began taking notes on “everything and anything, with the hope that no one else would have to go through basic training like I did - completely unarmed with knowledge.” He immediately began taking notes.

Later, during his deployment to fight in Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom, he organized his notes during off hours and augmented them with statements from hundreds of other soldiers’ comments on their basic training experiences. Following 13 months deployment he compiled this incredible, easy-to-read The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook. “Its more than just a book,” Volkin said, “its my way of helping soldiers succeed, which in turn will help the Army succeed.”

I salute you, Sgt Volkin, for a great book and your continuing service to your country! I hope it becomes a best seller. Even though it is designed for the new recruit, no doubt many of those who have gone through this unique military experience will enjoy reading it… in retrospect of the “good old days.”


By Bill Wynne

Smokey, a four-pound Yorkshire Terrier, lived under adverse conditions, in the New Guinea jungles, and coral rock Islands, weathered typhoons, kamikaze attacks on board ship, and suffered the primitive living conditions of tents in equatorial heat and humidity.

Not merely a morale booster, Smoky survived 18 months straight in combat with her buddies, completed vital missions, and is considered not only a war dog but also a hero.

Read more about this book at []


By Byron D. Varner

Everyone has remembrance of memorable milestones in their lives. Some are about family and home, school days of yore, first loves, marriage, careers, birth of children, their growing, maturing, marrying, presenting you with grandkids, vacations, travels, life accomplishments, ad infinitum.

As the saying goes, “I could write a book about it.“ Some have, many could, but most people never will. I have written one autobiography, and have just completed a 20 year supplement to update it. These two books are not for sale to the public, but strictly for the benefit of my heirs and a few close friends.

Whether you are a “writer” is not important. It doesn’t have to be a polished, professional effort. Even mere notes about those times of your life, written in whatever form, edited or not, but compiled in a loose leaf notebook or open file format, is a wonderful thing to do for your family… and for yourself. One of your heirs may put it into book form someday, if you don’t.

You say, “Yes, I agree, but I wouldn’t know how to start.”

Memory is a tricky thing, but the more you think about the past, the more you begin to remember. For that reason, I found that the best way to start was to first compile an ongoing “chronology file” that started as of my date of birth and work forward by each year. These were a series of brief notes (memory joggers) I added to the list in proper sequence as various memories of things to write about came to mind. Some were only a brief sentence or two; others a bit longer. Each would be expanded in the actual research and writing process.

You will be surprised how much you will remember after you create this blank outline, then begin filling it with simple statements about the who, what, when, where, why, and how, of your life. After several weeks, the file was thicker than I imagined it would be, but I wasn’t ready to start the writing process.

Most people do not become interested in genealogy and/or family history until their mid-life years, when the facts of mortality begin creeping into thought and you finally realize you‘re not going to live forever.

Regrettably, I didn’t start this project until after both my mother and father were deceased, so I didn’t have the benefit of their input regarding their own lives. I had to rely on my memory of various times I experienced with them or remembered from other family members talking about it. My father’s only brother had written some memories of their early days and I found that very useful. Those planning to keep notes on their family history should start the process while parents are still alive, if possible.

My brother and three sisters (who were from 2 to 10 years older) were still living at the time, so I mailed a copy of the chronology file to each of them, requesting their review, editing of facts, and addition of anything they remembered that I hadn’t included. When these were returned to me, I was ready to start writing.

Even as I wrote, new remembrances came. Soon it was no longer a matter of what to include, but what to omit! In retrospect, I should have included more

The chronology was also its subject presentation form, i.e., genealogy background, family sequence in story line: ancestors, grandfather, father, mother, sisters and brothers, my growing up, taking a wife, her family, our lives together, our children, their children, etc.

When writing for posterity, one should consider quality - non-acidic paper, stitched binding and hard cover for posterity. If each 20 years is considered a family generation, this book could last well into the 22nd century, or beyond - provided that maniacs with super weapons of mass destruction haven’t obliterated life as we know it on planet Earth.