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"Teamwork is essential; it gives the enemy someone else to shoot at." - Anon

Last Build Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2017 11:17:41 PDT


June 23 in U.S. military history

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 11:17:41 PDT

[Originally published at] 1812: Immediately after war is declared, a squadron of American ships led by Commodore John Rodgers sails to intercept a British convoy sailing from Jamaica. When the frigate HMS Belvidera is spotted, Rodgers personally aims and fires the first shot of the War of 1812 - the cannonball striking the British ship's rudder and penetrating the gun room. 1865: Confederate Brig. Gen. - and Cherokee chief - Stand Watie surrenders his First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi to Union forces in Oklahoma Territory, becoming the last general to surrender in the Civil War. 1923: Over the skies of San Diego, an Army Air Service DH-4 biplane flown by Capt. Lowell Smith tops off its fuel tanks from a hose attached to another DH-4, marking the world's first mid-air refueling operation. 1944: During one of the largest bombing missions of the war, 761 bombers of the 15th Air Force attack the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania. When one of the B-17s on the raid is damaged by flak and has to drop out of formation, bombardier 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley drops his bombs and goes to the back of the aircraft to administer first aid to the wounded tail gunner. When another gunner is wounded by enemy aircraft, Kingsley attends to him as well. When the pilot orders the crew to abandon the plane before it explodes, Kingsley gives one of the wounded gunners his own parachute, sacrificing his life. His body is later discovered in the burned wreckage of the plane, and Kingsley is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. 1945: As the Sixth Army drives north to encircle the remaining Japanese forces on northern Luzon Island in the Philippines, paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division perform their last combat jump of the war and cut off Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita's Shobu Group's retreat. 1969: The Special Forces Camp at Ben Het in Vietnam's Central Highlands, eight miles east of the border with Laos and Cambodia, is cut off and besieged by North Vietnamese Army. Over the next several days B-52s fly 100 strikes while fighter-bombers, artillery, and helicopter gunships hammer the NVA until the Americans are relieved on July 2nd.

Book Review: MatchUP

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 14:13:33 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. MatchUp edited by Lee Child is the sequel to the first anthology, FaceOff, published three years ago. In both cases twenty-two bestselling authors collaborated to write eleven riveting tales. All are members of the International Thriller Writers who donated their stories and time with all the proceeds from the books going to support the dues of the ITW membership. In this latest edition, the stories flowed and the characters worked seamlessly together to solve the case, in part because each author read at least one of the other’s novels. Below is an interview with the authors, and the order is the same as presented in MatchUp. For fans and new readers alike there is also a shout out about the authors’ most recent books. Steve Berry is the managing editor, but he also worked with Diana Gabladon to write the short story chapter, Past Prologue. He explained, “Lee Child, the editor, and myself looked for unique pairs, either people who would not naturally write together, or characters that would not naturally be in the same setting. Basically characters that live in different worlds but come together for the short story. Because FaceOff was so successful, a bestseller, Lee and I wanted to stay with the same formula. We took that idea and adjusted it to have a male/female team. Each writer picked the character they wanted to include, an iconic one, not a supporting one. The setting could range from a neutral place to a world of one of the characters.” Sandra Brown and C. J. Box are two top western writers paired together. In Honor & … Lee Coburn and Joe Pickett joined forces to defeat a white supremacist group. What worked best for these authors was to have C. J. write the first draft because Sandra had not previously written a short story. Since Brown’s book Lethal ends with Coburn touching down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming the setting was a no-brainer. Kathy Reichs and Lee Child wrote Faking a Murder, bringing together the famous characters Jack Reacher and Temperance Brennan. She was a consultant on the cause of death of an Air Force colonel; did he commit suicide or was murdered. Fast forward to today where a journalist supposedly uncovered evidence that questions her findings. After he is found dead she is a person of interest in his murder, accused of planning it to save her reputation. In enters Reacher who knows the facts and uses his street smart to help clear her name. Gayle Lynds and David Morrell write stand-alones whose realistic characters make readers yearn for more, but alas these featured characters very rarely reappear. Rambo On Their Minds brings back Liz Sansborough, Simon Childs, and the spirit of Rambo. These original co-founders of the International Thriller Writers put their minds together to come up with a story mixing in Lynds espionage and Morrell’s action when Liz, a former CIA operative is captured by the Russian Mafia and Simon, an MI6 agent, temporarily assigned to the FBI, must rescue her. Because Rambo was killed in the novel First Blood, Rambo’s essence had to be used without having him physically appear. Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta paired together to write Short Story. It takes place in the 1990s since Karin’s character Jeffrey Tolliver was killed in a one of her previous novels. Someone steals a 1968 Mustang and ends up getting murdered, with Tolliver a person of interest. Eventually he teams up with DEA agents Joe Pritchard and Lincoln Perry to find the real killer. Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross both told of how hard it was to find a story that could involve their main characters Harper Connelly and Ty Hauck. Being different as day and night, Harper locates dead bodies, while Ty is a gritty detective. Together they have to find Stephanie Winters who disappeared. Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille, two legendary thriller authors, combi[...]


Mon, 19 Jun 2017 05:39:42 PDT

Over at Laughing Wolf, I remember my Dad. I also share my thoughts on the political violence in the USA and make a plea. I also remember and share the latest on the murder of Libby and Abby. Someone, somewhere, knows who this sack of something is, and needs to turn him in. Take a moment, look at the photo, and listen to the voice. If you recoginze either, turn it in. For the latest in the investigation, go here.

Arthur J. Jackson - someone you should know

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 13:06:49 PDT

Today we honor the memory of recently departed Medal of Honor recipient Arthur J. Jackson. On Sept. 18, 1944 on Pelelieu, Private First Class Jackson charged towards a large enemy pillbox containing 35 Japanese soldiers. Facing an intensive barrage, he suppressed the enemy with automatic weapons fire and then destroyed the fortification with grenades and explosives, killing all of the occupants. Despite incoming fire from all sides, Jackson single-handedly moved on another 11 positions, killing 15 more of the enemy. For his incredible one-man assault, Jackson is awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation can be viewed here. Jackson was wounded on Pelelieu and again at Okinawa, where he served as a platoon sergeant. He received a commission from the Marine Corps in August, 1945 and would serve in the Army during the Korean War. He returned to the Marines in 1952 and while serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jackson killed an alleged Cuban spy that attacked him. Fearing an international incident, the military silently discharged Jackson after the event. He entered the Army Reserves and ultimately reached the rank of Captain in 1954. Jackson, one of the few surviving recipients of the Medal of Honor from World War II, passed away on June 14, 2017.

Book Review: The Switch

Sun, 11 Jun 2017 12:29:22 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Joseph Finder is the king of the conspirator authors. In The Switch he explores the issues of national security and privacy, where they overlap, and how they affect each other. This plot comes straight out of the headlines, but unlike real life it comes to conclusions and solutions. One bad decision has a consequence on future events, as in a domino effect. Finder noted, “While I was writing this book, all this information was being discussed about Hillary Clinton. I made my senator reminiscent of her, and decided to have a stash of top-secret documents downloaded on the computer, a mishandling of classified information. It always seems that the cover-up is worse than the crime. But beyond that I wanted the story to be about a regular businessman. I am fascinated by entrepreneurship because as a writer I consider myself one. Authors’ income is generated exclusively from their writing. In a sense every writer is running a small business.” The story begins with Michael Tanner picking up a wrong laptop at the airport. Unfortunately for both parties involved neither notices it till they get home. Having curiosity get the better of him Tanner opens the computer and finagles with the password until he finds the correct one. It is then that he realizes the computer belongs to Senator Susan Robbins, which has classified information on it. If this sounds familiar it should, reminding readers of what Hillary Clinton did while Secretary of State. Knowing she broke the law and not wanting it to ruin her future political career she enlists her Chief of Staff, Will Abbott, to recover the computer. But unfortunately, Tanner decides he will not give it up and believes the American public has a right to know what is in the classified files. This is when the action ratchets up with the NSA, the unscrupulous thugs hired by Will, and the FBI all going after Tanner. The only ones he is able to solicit help from are a few friends and his wife who has separated from him. Readers will waffle in their feelings for Will and Michael, sometimes feeling sorry, while other times feeling they are not someone to befriend. Both have only themselves to blame, because of their own actions. How many people would search through someone else’s computer as Michael had done? Yet, when he becomes the object of an intensive manhunt he becomes a sympathetic character. He is viewed as an ordinary person who became involved in extraordinary events, all because he made an unknowing mistake of picking up the wrong laptop. He starts out as a mild-mannered businessman, but as the story progresses becomes more aggressive in his actions both in business and with those chasing after him. Will also begins the book as a likeable character with his backstory as a devoted father and husband. But he too becomes more aggressive as his loyalty to his boss turns him ruthless. A quote in the book hammers the point home about privacy, “No such thing anymore. Fitbit knows how much you exercise and how long you sleep, and Netflix knows when you stopped watching.” Finder commented, “There are so many examples I could have drawn from. How many times have you bought something on Amazon and then you see ads for that item? I wanted to show how there is very little privacy today. If only government officials would be honest, Americans might accept policy more. They should just come clean then we might understand their motivations. As a reader I just don’t want cotton candy and fluff. I want to be entertained, but also be made to think along the way, which is what I hope my books are about.” This plot is extremely suspenseful with many twists and turns. Finder engages readers with issues that are relevant today. This book feeds right into people’s views of governm[...]

Book Review: Point Of Contact

Sun, 11 Jun 2017 12:25:26 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Tom Clancy’s Point of Contact by Mike Maden brings back the return of Jack Ryan Jr. He has taken over the writings for the Clancy estate, replacing Grant Blackwood. Maden has put his own imprint on Jack Ryan Jr. by making him a solo main character instead of one of many secondary characters. Maden noted, “I received a call from my editor, Tom Colgan, of my paperback Drone series who is also the Tom Clancy editor. Although it was a thrilling day it was also the most terrifying day. I was asked to write the summer book and Marc Cameron will write the fall series. Tom is the one conducting the symphony story making sure there are no conflicts between the plots and that the whole series is on a certain guide path.” He also wants Tom Clancy fans to understand, “I would never think of imitating Clancy who I consider a complete original. I consider him the one who practically invented the genre. I hope to honor his spirit, memory, and imagination by keeping alive the characters and universe. I feel it is a great responsibility to be a part of the tradition in which Clancy emphasizes America is good and the people who serve this country deserve both honor and respect.” This plot has US Senator Weston Rhodes hiring Hendley Associates to view the books of Dalfan Technologies. It is a Singapore company that will be taken over by a large conglomerate. Hendley Associates is one of the best financial analysis firms in the country and the cover for The Campus, a top-secret American intelligence agency. Rhodes asks for two specific analysts, Jack Ryan Jr., and Paul Brown, a mild-mannered forensic accountant. The Senator wants someone to crunch the numbers to make sure there are no surprises that will turn up down the road. What starts out as a routine audit soon turns into something far more dangerous when Ryan uncovers a potential sinister motive behind the merger, with the help of Brown. Ryan and Brown race to escape a team of trained assassins to prevent a global catastrophe, even at the cost of their own lives. Because the rest of the Campus team was basically missing in action, Jack Jr. was completely on his own, needing to use resources and grit. He needs to prove that although there is admiration for his dad, President Jack Ryan Sr., he is his own man. This story shows how Junior goes on a journey, a test to prove he can be self-reliant. Those who have read Maden in the past know he is immune to political correctness. In this book it is no different. He has a few scenes that involve knife fighting, describing how it “will slice through skin, muscle, tendons, cartilage, and even bone…. Second, the knife extends your reach.” When asked, Maden noted, “I wanted the knife to be the weapon of choice in this book. I put in the quote how it is not the knife or gun that kills, but the person having the weapon. If someone does not have access to a gun they find a knife. If they don’t have access to those they get a van to kill people. So are we going to ban vans next?” Throughout the book readers realize the clear distinction between the good guys and bad guys. The antagonists are described as “cold-blooded fanatics who butchered innocent civilians. They lost the right to be treated with respect, either in life or in death.” Maden hoped to show “you cannot negotiate with evil. We are in an era where we are waking up to the fact it must be destroyed.” No stranger to thrillers Maden has previous experience as the writer of the Drone series featuring Troy Pearce. He uses new technology, incorporated it into a plot, which emphasizes how the global economic situation could threaten world peace [...]

Book Review: Defectors

Sat, 03 Jun 2017 21:03:32 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. One of the greatest crimes against a country is treason, spying for the enemy. A recent brilliantly written espionage book, Defectors, by Joseph Kanon, is both fast paced and realistic. This Cold War thriller shows the moves and plays as if the characters are in a chess game. Beyond that it emphasizes the human side, what it is like for family members of a traitor, as well as the motivations of someone who is willing to betray and lie to everyone. He noted, “I read about Kim Philby, a high-ranking member of British intelligence who was a Soviet agent. He defected in 1963 after working for the KGB. I had the book take place before his defection because later he became disillusioned and I did not want him to be a factor. Although I made the main character Frank’s apartment right around the corner from where Philby lived. I wanted the defectors I wrote to be ideological, those that converted to Communism in the 1930s as an act of faith. They thought they were changing the world for the better, now in the frontal lobe, Moscow. This was the high summer for the Soviet experiment, before the admittance that it was a big mistake. Soviet prestige was at an all time high with Sputnik and the consumer level improving along with the US embarrassments of Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot captured, and the Bay of Pigs fiasco.” Taking place in 1961 Moscow, during the height of the Cold War, readers learn about the history within a fascinating plot. It becomes obvious very early on that within Russian society is a community of western defectors. While having privileges they are never trusted, living a life sentence in protective custody. Scenes are very authentic, giving a glimpse of Russian society, showing how the KGB has a city within a city including its own apartment complex and hospital. It is also the story of two brothers, Frank and Simon Weeks. In the late 1940s Frank was exposed as a Soviet Union spy while working for the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA. This notorious high-profile American defector escaped to Russia, now working for the KGB. Fast-forward twelve years where he has decided to write a memoir approved by the Soviet Spy agency. He has sold the rights to M. Keating & Sons, a prominent publishing company currently run by his brother Simon. In order to edit the manuscript he decides to visit Frank and his sister-in-law, Joanna, a former flame. After an awkward reunion the three settle into reliving old times until Frank delivers a bombshell, he wants to defect back to the US, using his wife as bait. The suspense ratchets up and never stops as both brothers play a cat and mouse game. Nothing is, as it appears to be on the surface. Kanon does a great job of having the tension come through in the thoughts, motives, and minds of Frank and Simon, leaving the reader to wonder who can and cannot be trusted. Frank is still the charmer who makes those around him relaxed and comfortable. He appears to be the protective older brother Simon had lost twelve years earlier after the defection. But he is also seen as the leopard who has not changed his spots and still capable of treachery. Simon begins to wonder if Frank is betraying him again, only this time the stakes could be higher. Kanon did not “want to make Frank a sympathetic character. He was someone perfectly willing to betray his country and family. He is a narcissist. I wrote him as someone having a loyalty to Communism and the KGB. He totally has bought into the myth that they are efficient, knowledgeable, successful, and a superior elite group. Yet, he loves his brother Simon and vice versa. Simon adored his older brother Frank even though he always seemed to involve him in schemes and persuaded him to d[...]

Book Review: Target Omega

Sat, 03 Jun 2017 20:53:28 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Target Omega by Peter Kirsanow fills in the gap left behind by the late Vince Flynn regarding stories of political correctness. As with Mitch Rapp, this latest character, Mike Garin leaves no prisoners behind. This action packed tale will be enjoyable for those who want America to win and not succumb to caring about the bad guys feelings. The author wrote the book out of frustration, wanting to return to the days when leaders put America first, “which will also favor the world. Many American politicians believe today that they were elected by the world. We need to be more concerned about keeping our children safe than for concern about radical elements. I wrote the quote in the book to reflect this, ‘How many terrorists he’s killed, captured, or defeated. Legal subpoenas could be deadly, but not to the terrorists.’ I wish our politicians had the sensibilities of the Israelis. Israel has actually kept the world safe when it destroyed the Iraq and Syria reactors. In the past America has its hands over its ears and hopes things work out.” This first in a series opens in Pakistan where a quick reaction force is sent in to destroy a weapon of mass destruction. The sole purpose of Omega, an elite force, is to interdict, recover, or eliminate rogue weapons that can abolish mankind. But, after they return home someone is methodically finding and executing team members, including an attempt on Garin. He seeks to find out who is murdering his team and why, enlisting the help of his former business partner, a retired SEAL, Dan Dwyer, and an assistant to the National Security Advisor, Olivia Perry. This plot might remind readers of Nelson DeMille’s The Lion’s Game where a Libyan terrorist also killed members of a team that bombed Muammar Gaddafis’ palace. Readers learn that Garin was a sickly child, born with a heart defect that he eventually overcame to become a Special Forces living legend for his heroic missions. He can best be described as a 1950s western cowboy who believes in right over wrong, and will stop at nothing to win on behalf of justice. His determination and skills are put to the test when he finds that two of America’s adversaries, Russia and Iran, are part of a horrific plot. Realizing he must destroy these conspirators before they murder him and millions of Americans, Garin leaves a path of bodies in his wake, landing him on the FBI’s radar and pursued by multiple countries, local law enforcement, and one of the world’s most elite snipers, Congo Knox. Kirsanow noted, “I wanted this book to be a warning of sorts, for Americans to understand we never left the Cold War. Putin thinks it was a catastrophe that the Soviet Union collapsed and he now wants a greater Russia with most of the Soviet satellites. The Russian President in the book and Putin’s outlooks are identical. This is why I put in the quote, ‘Not everything wrong in the world is America’s fault. There are some real bad guys out there and we can’t pretend they don’t exist.’” Although this plot is foiled the wide-open ending will be the beginning of the next book where Garin must match wits with his Russian counterpart, Taras Bor. For a debut thriller, Kirsanow delivers a very suspenseful story with hard-hitting action and larger-than-life characters. The ending and twist will leave readers wishing the next book would come out sooner than later. [...]

Book Review: MacArthur's Spies

Sun, 21 May 2017 16:19:23 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. MacArthur’s Spies by Peter Eisner recounts how three individuals played a significant role in the resistance against the Japanese occupation in the Philippines during World War II. The book shows how heroes come from many backgrounds: A singer, soldier, and spymaster. As the greatest generation is dying off written accounts such as this is a reminder of how ordinary people can become extraordinary by putting themselves in danger to help others survive and achieve victory. The emphasis of the book is on the American singer, Claire Phillips, who opened a nightclub in Manila catering to Japanese officials and officers. She and those who worked for her gathered information that was passed on to the allies. In addition she provided food, supplies, and medicine to many of the allied POWs and citizens interned in the camps. Given the code name “High Pockets,” she met with guerrilla fighters to inform them of Japanese military plans, and by all accounts gave credible intelligence reports. Another contributor was US Army Corporal, John Boone, one of the first to start a guerrilla organization against the Japanese. He not only had to evade the Japanese who would kill him on the spot, but also homegrown Communist Filipinos, and turncoats. After the Japanese overran the forces in Bataan, they demanded the Americans surrender. Although the majority did, Boone was one of the few who disobeyed orders by refusing to surrender, and fled into the jungles where he aided in foiling the Japanese. Through sabotage and disruption he and his men helped to pave the way for General MacArthur’s return. Readers will enjoy how Eisner intertwines the resistance with the battles fought in and around the Philippines. Charles “Chick” Parsons was called MacArthur’s spymaster. An American businessman who was in Manila during the Japanese advance, he convinced them he was a Panamanian diplomat. They never found out he actually was a US Navy intelligence officer, and allowed him to depart the Philippines. Having convinced MacArthur to have him return, in March 1943, he arrived back via submarine. He eluded detection by operating off the grid and became the chief aid in organizing and supplying the guerrillas including making sure the intelligence network was successful. The book also discusses the faceless American heroes, those captured by the Japanese. Although much is known about the Nazi atrocities, the Japanese also had their share of brutality. Citizens in Manila would have to bow and show their subservience to the Japanese or risk being slapped, kicked, and beaten. One of the worst was the Bataan Death March where starving and thirsty American prisoners were forced to trek for miles in the wilting sun. Eisner noted, “This march was a horror show of inhumanity. The Americans and Filipinos who fought with them were brutalized and slaughtered. When some stopped because of exhaustion they were bayoneted on the spot. Another example occurred just after the surrender where the Japanese mowed down the allied forces with rifle and machine gun fire. This continued throughout the war and came to a head when in August 1944 the Tokyo High Command issued a secret kill order. At the Palawan POW camp prisoners became slave laborers and were forced to build an airfield. In December under the guise of a supposed air raid the POWs were told to go into the trenches for shelter. Suddenly the Japanese guards dumped gallons of gasoline into the trenches and torched them. Statistics show how brutal the Japanese were: the death rate for American POWs was 33%, non-American 27.1%. Compare that to the allied prisoner death rate in German and Itali[...]

Book Review: The Operator

Sun, 21 May 2017 16:14:56 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. One of the biggest crimes perpetrated on Americans was the horrific terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. It is said, “real heroes are born in the face of danger.” This is no more evident than when Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill took the three shots that killed Osama Bin Laden. In the just published book The Operator, O’Neill recounts his years as a SEAL Team Warrior. Joining the SEALs on a whim, after growing up in Butte, Montana, he participated in many high profile missions. These include being a part of the team that rescued the “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell, Captain Richard Phillips from the Somali pirates, and searching for the deserter Bowe Bergdahl. The book is a story of his adventures and missions that captured the human side of those in the Special Forces. The Bin Laden mission was extremely dangerous, because of the different variables: not knowing the defense systems inside the compound, if there would be suicide bombers or improvised explosive devices inside the house, and the fear of being stuck inside Pakistan. Yet, on the helicopter ride he thought of “the single mom who jumped to her death, the realization of the last time I saw my family, and President Bush’s quote, ‘Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.’” It is obvious when a SEAL unit is deployed that individual heroes arise within the team effort. O’Neill explained that Americans should think of the player who made the last shot to win an important game. Although he received much of the acclaim it was very much a team effort where each player made some impact. In the Bin Laden kill it was his teammate who shot the son Khalid that allowed O’Neill to make the ascent up the stairs to the room where Bin Laden was found. The book describes how “The point man lunged at the two women, assuming they had suicide vests...If they blew up, his body would absorb most of the blast, and I’d have a better chance of surviving...In less than a second, I aimed and pulled the trigger twice. Bin Laden’s head split open, and he dropped. I put another bullet in his head. Insurance.” Similarly the book describes how a teammate, Johnny, rescued Captain Phillips by shooting a “pepper popper,” a target that pops up randomly and briefly requiring an immediate reaction with a perfect shot. But unfortunately, afterward, some of the team displayed envy and distrust. These emotions would also come into play after O’Neill shot Bin Laden. He stated, “Johnny took this incredible heroic shot, and those people who did not shoot, got upset with him. I did tell him he was a hero and he should ignore them. I understand that these are Tier 1, alpha personalities and were jealous. I am also assuming there will be more ill will now that the book has come out. Guys were talking about me, saying ‘with all the extra attention, why is he bragging about it?’ I know that anyone on the team could have done what I did just as effectively. Even though I intended to stay in the Navy for thirty years, I now decided to retire after fifteen because people were bashing me for ‘trying to cash in.’ I should not have to prove myself to anyone, but had the feeling that I needed to. I did stay in a year and a half more after those died in the helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The crash was the worst loss in Naval Special Warfare history, thirty-one Americans killed. I think the terrorists were given too much credit. It came down to a mission that should not have happened and just a lucky shot.” Does he feel he broke the SEAL code of silence? What he first wants to m[...]

Book Review: Beneath A Scarlett Sky

Mon, 15 May 2017 08:00:08 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. A recent novel is based on the factual story of one hero who did change the course of history, fighting against the tyranny of the Nazis. In Beneath A Scarlett Sky, Mark Sullivan chronicles the life of Pino Lella, a seventeen-year-old boy who grew into a man during the last years of World War II. Although all the facts could not be verified, the story is still extraordinary, and Sullivan stated that the following details are all true. He stated, “I contacted the daughter of the Nazi General who brutally used slave labors as well as his spiritual advisor. Regarding Pino, he is still living today and I was able to verify that he did indeed work as a spy and save Jewish refuges. I did the research and verification over the course of ten years and lived in Italy spending three weeks with Pino and finding other witnesses to what he told me. His name was given to a researcher by the Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Center, Yad Vashem.” This inspiring story is a lesson on courage. Those in America today should read it to realize that their current life is nothing compared to what those who suffered through the Nazi regime had to endure. Sullivan tells Lella’s story, showing man’s inhumanity to man in Italy, the forgotten front, where the Nazi war machine made the citizenship suffer and struggle. The book begins in the summer of 1943, as the allies started bombing Milan. As in England, Italian families sent their children to the countryside to save them from possible death. But Pino was not content to lead a normal teenage life; instead, deciding to join the underground railroad of the Catholic Church and the Italian resistance to save Jewish lives. Unfortunately, despite heroic efforts nearly 20% of the Italian Jewish population was killed in the Holocaust. Readers will learn how the German SS found a list of Jews, rounded them up, put them on trains, and transported them to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Many others were machine gunned down or thrown into the lake, forced to freeze to death. Yet, throughout the last years of World War II Pino risked his own life to save Jews. A very compelling scene tells how he led Jewish refugees across the dangerously snowy Alps to the Swiss border, having endured an avalanche that almost buried him and his rescues alive. Many of those trying to escape the grips of the Nazis did not have the physical strength; yet some how found the perseverance. They made the demanding climb up the mountain near Casa Alpina, many times with the refugees on his back, as he skied them to safety in icy weather. The author noted, “I read accounts of what the Nazis actually did and confirmed a lot of what Pino told me. We cannot forget they had a long-range vision of genocide and atrocities, including hanging young boys’ head on barbed wire posts. I actually did the climb he did and made a video. After getting to the top, you cannot believe what these people went through to escape. It was a very dangerous and unforgiving setting.” In addition to helping Jews escape, he also became a spy while the driver for General Hans Leyers, a commander in the Nazi engineering and construction group, Organization Todt. Pino’s parents, who insisted he sign up with Todt to avoid being conscripted by the Germans to fight on the Russian front, put him in this situation. Unfortunately, very little is known about the General, until Pino came forward, because Leyers destroyed many of the documents. When reading about Leyers, people might compare him to Wernher von Braun, dubbed “the father of the space age.” During World War II he was the techn[...]

Book Review: The Red Line

Mon, 15 May 2017 06:28:43 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Red Line by Walt Gragg is an action packed political military thriller with a “what if” war story scenario. In this novel, peace is shattered as World War III has a resurgent Communist Soviet Union pitted against the US in the heart of Germany. The best way to describe the plot, “war is hell.” Gragg uses his experiences to create this story. A former Vietnam veteran he is able to write very realistic battle scenes. He also played war games while serving at the United States European Headquarters in Germany at the height of the Cold War, which adds authenticity to the novel. He noted, “Much of the story came from my personal knowledge while serving in Europe for three years. I knew what we expected the Soviet Union to do in such a war and what our greatest fears were. I had significant experience with American command and control systems and some of the weapons in the book. In my 38 months there, I was able to gain a great deal of insight into how such a ground war in Europe would look and what the American military feared most about a Russian attack. What I saw was a potential nightmare of unspeakable proportions, our strengths and weaknesses versus theirs.” The plot begins in the not too distant future where Fascists once again come to power. The new Fuhrer, Manfred Fromisch, a leader that promises unity and protection from the Communists, is able to quash the uprisings with his ruthless SS paramilitary forces. The fanatical Russian leader, a la Vladimir Putin, orders the Soviet military to invade Germany and reclaim the Eastern sector. They use the strategy of deception, sabotage, and excess manpower to potentially win this war in five days. In a bold move they catch the Americans off guard, because the US political leaders refused to accept the warning given by the military leaders. The US President is definitely a political animal that “was written by me to be more concerned about getting re-elected than doing what is right for the country. He fails the American people and fails as Commander-In-Chief because his self-interest is more important than doing his job. He refused to allow the military to do what it needs to do, having a full alert. This led to a domino effect where Americans were caught flat-footed. The President is not cautious, but reckless because he did not follow the advice of his cabinet.” Gragg shows how individuals play an important role with their decisions and choices. The US President appears to be part of the Vietnam Syndrome, not interested in going to war at all costs. Because of this the Americans are complacent and the losses become extraordinary. A warning, this is not a sunshine and roses book. Almost all the heroes, brave men and women, face death and destruction so readers should not get too attached to any character. Almost all of the heroes were killed off because the author hoped to show how video games are unrealistic. “I wanted to show how good people die and never come back to life, a reality that is not prevalent in video games. There are no happy endings in the realistic theatre of war. No one should ever become immune to killing, and war should never be taken lightly.” This is no more evident in the scenes involving Russian atrocities. They are truly evil as they use chemical weapons, and tactical nuclear weapons. The quote hammers the point home, “They arrived at Ramstein as ruthless bullies,” mowing down civilians and US forces. Their strategy was using sabotage, murder, and terror. They did everything to go against humanity in the crowded setting of Ger[...]

May 5 in U.S. military history

Fri, 05 May 2017 10:53:30 PDT

1862: Disappointed in the lack of progress of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, President Abraham Lincoln departs for Hampton Roads, Va. on the Treasury Department revenue cutter Miami to personally oversee operations. Over five days, the president - a former militia rifle company commander - directs the bombardment of Confederate positions and lands to conduct reconnaissance of the area with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. 1864: The bloody albeit inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness (Virginia) opens between Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Fighting is grim: Casualties will be heavy on both sides. Union and Confederate generals will be killed. Wounded and trapped soldiers will be burned alive by a battle-sparked woods fire. Within two days, Grant will disengage and advance toward Spotsylvania Courthouse. 1916: Two companies of Marines from the transport USS Prairie (AD-5) land at Santo Domingo, beginning the United States' eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic. The leathernecks provide protection for the U.S. Legation and Consulate, and occupy the nearby Fort San Geronimo. 1917: Eugene J. Bullard becomes the first black combat aviator, earning his wings with the French Air Service. The Columbus, Ga. native's father came to America from the Caribbean island of Martinique and his mother was a Creek indian. Bullard fled to Europe to escape racism in the United States and joined the French Foreign Legion as a machine gunner, seeing action in the Somme, Champagne, and Verdun campaigns before being wounded. After recovering, he joined the air service and earned his pilot's license. The "Black Swallow of Death" would fly 20 combat missions for the French - claiming two aerial kills - before war's end. He volunteered for the infantry when Germany invaded France again in 1940 and was wounded. Excerpt - the rest of the post can be found at Unto the Breach.

Book Review: Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies

Sun, 30 Apr 2017 07:39:25 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies by Ace Atkins is another winner. Having taken over writing the Spenser novels nothing has been lost with this smart aleck character. Using his past experience as a journalist Atkins created an engaging story. Spenser’s long time girlfriend psychologist Susan Silverman has referred one of her clients, Connie Kelly, to him. Thinking she found the perfect man on an on-line dating site Connie eagerly wrote him a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars for a real estate investment. The problem is he vanished with all of the money. Enter Spenser to try to make things right. He finds out that this cad, M. Brooks Welles, is actually a con man, owing plenty of money to others as well. In fact, everything about him is phony including his resume. A self-proclaimed military hotshot and former CIA, Welles had been a frequent guest on national news shows speaking with authority about politics and world events. The rest of the book has Spenser trying to track him down and get back the money of those Welles swindled. Atkins noted, “When I worked as a journalist I covered stories of con men and was fascinated with their personalities and motivations. I made Welles a compilation of those I covered as well as Wayne Simmons. He was a Fox news analyst, claiming to be a CIA spy who also swindled a woman out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I wanted to point out how the backgrounds of these TV talking heads are never vetted. Money is only part of the con. They also enjoy the respect and the feeling of importance. The reason many use the CIA as a profession is because the Agency will not confirm or deny employment.” One of Parker’s best characters is Dr. Susan. In this novel she is front and center, which makes the story even more enjoyable. It is fun to have her work with Spenser, where her toughness and intelligence are highlighted. But a newer character that is also getting more airtime is Boston PD Captain Glass. Atkins wrote Glass “to bring to the Spenser world more women characters. Also, I wanted to have someone in the police more skeptical of his involvement with them. Instead of being a friend, I wanted someone to question him more, where there will be friction between him and the police.” The relevance of the plot should not be lost on the readers. Within an entertaining story this book has fake news, spinning lies, and how facts can be spun. [...]

Book Review: The Thing About Love

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 07:58:15 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Thing About Love by Julie James is a believable mystery whose strengths is the character interaction. Presenting both the male and the female differing points of view of certain events will remind readers of the classic book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray. Beyond that, this novel combines a mysterious plot, some romance, and a realistic look at the undercover world of FBI Agents. During their training rookie FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd are constantly butting heads. Following misinterpreted motives and misunderstandings they became fierce competitors. After graduating they both go their separate ways, until six years later when they are picked to work together as partners on an undercover assignment. Being paired with a former rival comes at the worst time since Jessica is finalizing a divorce and John has just broken up with his long time girlfriend. Their assignment is to nail a Florida politician for taking bribes. Throughout the story readers learn some very interesting facts about the life of an FBI undercover agent. The details about their job and career surprisingly have many comparisons to those serving in the military, besides the obvious, defending their country. There is a unit called the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) that has a two-week selective process that appears to be as grilling as hell week for the SEALs. They have to scale a narrow ladder 75 feet above the ground, walking blindfolded underwater for seventy-five feet while caring a thirty-pound weight, running with a large raft to a lake, and being sleep deprived, getting no more than two hours each night. Realizing there is a similar analogy, James “wrote how those trying out for the HRT are recruited from the military, for me, the civilian equivalent to the Special Forces. An FBI undercover agent interviewed told me how in his class there were only two females, which I put in the story. I researched the army and FBI on their websites as well as public forums. I knew that John, who was an Army Ranger, would whiz through the physical stuff and the firearm challenges. Also, I wanted to show how undercover work is hard on relationships. Jessica and John had a failed relationship because the other person could not handle the mental toll or the lifestyle. Both were gone a significant amount of time, while their main focus was on the case. Since they could not talk about it the other person feels blocked out to a whole part of their life.” Although learning about and understanding the profession was intricate to the story, a Julie James novel will always have competitive, elegant, and witty-smart characters. This book is no different, having the characters initially appearing to be as different as night and day. Jessica is from Stanford law school. John, a former Army Ranger, is handsome and athletic with a commanding, masculine impression. The banter between the FBI training recruits enhances the story, as they give each other quips, sarcasm, and dirty looks. Their personality clash has a lot to do with the competitive nature of each. But through the course of the novel the realization takes place that there is mutual respect and their quips become talk, the sarcasm becomes laughter and joking, and the dirty looks become desire. They also begin to realize they are similar in many ways determined, committed to their work, confident, and honorable. James commented, “I made the lead male, John, young and attractive. He tries to interact with[...]