About French MacLean

Dare to Dream

Luis Ángel Colón World Record Cuatro

Sometimes you run across a person with a special talent, and even if you don’t know that individual well, you want success for them.  Such is the case of Luis Ángel Colón, whom I met while researching for maybe a new novel on Puerto Rico.  He lives in a modern, wooden house high on a hill outside Barranquitas.  He built the house because that is what Luis does – build incredible things with wood.  Not only houses, he may be the best craftsman currently constructing the Cuatro Puertorriqueño.  Known as a Cuatro for short, it is Puerto Rico’s most popular melodic instrument, and is played in both secular and religious music.  It sort of looks like a violin, or more accurately a violin-shaped guitar.  The Cuatro originally had four double-strings (hence cuatro for four) but at the end of the nineteenth century a fifth was added as its popularity rose on the island.

Cuatro by Luis Ángel Colón

Luis’ Cuatros are wonderful instruments, but don’t take my word for it.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City [Accession Number: 2003.216.1] has one of Luis’ creations.  An artist himself, Luis is proud when Cuatro-players around the island tell him what a great instrument he has made for them.

But like almost all artists, Luis dreams big and at first that meant creating the world’s largest-playable Cuatros, which he did several years ago.  The result was a 30 foot-long, Puerto Rican cuatro that weighs 1.4 tons.  Up to 15 people can fit inside Luis’ giant instrument, which you can actually tune, and play its chords with a giant guitar pick.  However, Luis is not finished.  In addition to building a second house, crafting exquisite  regular-size Cuatros, and also producing the Guiro Clásico Puertorriqueño, Guiro, a hollowed out gourd, about sixteen inches long, that has been dried and treated so that it can be used as an instrument.  Notches are carved on one side of the gourd, and the musician uses a stick or tines to create various raspy tones.  Johnny Pacheco was a famous Guiro player.  Janis Joplin was a famous singer who tried to play the Guiro, they key word being tried.

Guiro by Luis Ángel Colón

“Do It Again,” by Steely Dan, has prominent Guiro tones, as does “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” by Stevie Wonder.  If you are a Santana fan, you know all about this instrument; “I Ain’t Got Nobody That I Can Depend On” is a great one, as is “Guajira.”

Luis’ Dream — A Cuatro Museum and Restaurant

However, Luis has his sights set higher…much higher.  He has begun to organize architectural drawings of an entire building shaped as a Cuatro, possibly solar powered, here in Puerto Rico, that might be able to serve as a combination Cuatro museum and restaurant (with dishes named after parts of the Cuatro) in a unique fusion of music and food.  Luis Colón just might have an idea for you.

Create your own dream by checking out Luis’s dreams.  If you are a guitar player, broaden your horizons with your own Cuatro, maybe even one built by him.  Play along with Stevie, or Carlos and Jorge Santana with your own Guiro – you can get a good one for a very reasonable price.

Or just maybe you want to spend some quality time down in the Caribbean and want to open a one-of-a-kind restaurant.

Dare to Dream2021-09-04T16:54:41-06:00

West Point, Class of 1974

1974

Admitted

1967 – 1

1968 – 1

1969 – 12

1970 – 819

Graduated – 833

Time at West Point:

Upon arriving at West Point in the summer of 1970, the question every new cadet tacitly pondered was whether they would serve in Vietnam at some point during their time in service.  The country was deeply divided over the war, and nationwide anti-war demonstrations came to a tragic climax with the killing of four and wounding of nine other unarmed Kent State University students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970.  Despite division over the war, 1377 new cadets entered the Academy out of over 6,000 applicants.  On his way to perform for the troops in Vietnam, Bob Hope and his entourage, stopped at West Point on December 15, 1970, for a special Christmas show.  And on May 29, 1971, President Nixon visited the academy with a message of assurance that no graduates from the Class of 1974 would be deployed to Vietnam, although this news was a little late for our future First Captain Jack Pattison, who had fought on Hamburger Hill in that conflict before attending the Prep School and subsequently West Point.

French & Dad at Graduation; it had been a LONG way from Summer School for Chemistry

While most of the class members were on summer leave, a few to summer school, army orientation training, or airborne school, a federal appeals court ruled on June 30, 1972, that mandatory chapel was unconstitutional, thus ending a years-long tradition at West Point.  On July 1, 1973, President Nixon fulfilled a re-election promise by ending the draft and ushering in the era of an all-volunteer army.  Distinguished scholars among the 833 graduates included Andrew Green and Thomas Downar recognized with the Hertz Foundation Award; Dwight Helton and Willis Marti awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; Kerry Pierce awarded the Rhodes Scholarship; and Michael Reopel awarded a White House Fellowship.

Dave Petraeus and fiancée at graduation

Environment upon Graduation:

The Class of 1974 entered a peacetime Army divided between draftees and enlistees who served in Vietnam, and volunteers who had no combat experience.  Graduates were immediately challenged to address post-war issues such as low morale, racial tensions, and unit readiness as the Army transitioned from the Vietnam war to more defensive missions in Western Europe and South Korea.  The class also provided exemplary leadership regarding the integration and development of women into combat support units.  Missions and training broadened to include desert warfare in anticipation of conflicts in the Middle East.

Receiving Diploma from Superintendent, Lieutenant General William Knowlton. The “Supe” was probably more surprised than I was!

Career Highlights:

Members of the Class of 1974 served in assignments around the globe and played a key role in providing frontline combat leadership in the Gulf War (1990-1991), the Iraq War (2003-2011), and the Global War on Terror.  No members of the Class were killed in action or died while in captivity.  Twenty-five members of the Class became General Officers, including four 4-star generals, three 3-star, eleven 2-star, and seven 1-star.  Completing over forty years of active service, GEN Martin “Marty” Dempsey served as the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1, 2011, until September 25, 2015.  GEN Keith Alexander, serving in the United States Army for nearly forty years, served as director of the National Security Agency, chief of the Central Security Service, and commander of the United States Cyber Command.  GEN David “Dave” Petraeus served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency after serving 37 years in the United States Army.  Highlighting nearly thirty-seven years of service in the United States Army, GEN Walter “Skip” Sharp last served as the Commander, United Nations Command, Commander, ROK-US Combined Forces Command and Commander, U.S. Forces Korea.  After retiring as a Colonel, Matthew S. “Matt” Klimow (who was Keith Alexander’s roommate at West Point) went into the U. S. State Department; his career there culminated as the U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan.  Keith Alexander, Marty Dempsey, and Skip Sharp were each awarded the USMA Distinguished Graduate Award in 2016, 2017, and 2019, respectively.

West Point, Class of 19742021-06-28T19:22:58-06:00

The Po Po Report Now Podcast

Paul Ciolino

Sometimes I have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but once I found how easy it is to watch Podcasts, I was glad I did.  First, you can listen whenever you want; second, you can listen more than once; and third, for the ones I have found, all the commercials are cut out of regular broadcasts.

Take the Po Po Report broadcast that used to be every Saturday night from 7:00-9:00 p.m. on WLS Radio, 890 AM.  Led by Paul Ciolino, a former policeman and now a private investigator, the show delves into police, crime and punishment in Chicago, so you know that they are never at a loss for material.  They talk about street crime, transgressions by political bosses — giving kudos to special police officers and slamming crooks.  Po Po is just one of the nicknames for the police in Chicago, hence the name.

WLS was OK, but when the pandemic came, the radio station cut back and started making demands that Paul was not prepared to live with.  So Po Po became a big time podcast, that is far more real than following rules from a radio station.  In fact, the only rule is that the subject has to be interesting!  And it is every week.

Paul is my age; in fact we were in the same infantry company in Germany in the mid-1970s.  Being the only two guys from Illinois, I would swing by the company arms room, which he ran, and checked what the latest was in Chi-town.  A few years later, Paul got out of the Army and went into law enforcement, finally becoming a private investigator.

Let me sum him up: if I ever was arrested for a major crime I did not commit, Paul Ciolino is the private detective I would want on my side.  He has been involved in the OJ Simpson Case, the Oklahoma City Bombing Case, the Amanda Knox Case in Italy, and several capital murder cases in Illinois that proved that the wrong people were sitting on death row, which led to a policy change on the death penalty in Illinois.

Right now, Paul is working on the mysterious death of boxer Arturo Gotti, who died on July 11, 2009.  Brazil and Canada have weighed in over the years on the cause of death, with a lot of so-called experts settling on Suicide.  Once again, Paul is the voice of reason in an increasingly irrational world, and is working on a special network presentation that Arturo was murdered.  If you are out in Las Vegas anytime soon, take Murder and give the points.

Now Paul is the savvy old-timer; his partner on the show is Lupe Aguirre, a younger lawyer and police officer; my guess is early 40s, so he knows the current state of play in the police department (like how a police lieutenant can take a nap on duty), as well as the Millennial scene, not that too many listeners care about the latter.  You want Chicago accents, often politically incorrect language, and stuff on crime you won’t find anywhere else.  This is it.  You hear about murders every weekend in Chicago.  You’ll hear about them here too, but you will also hear that there is probably a serial killer loose in the city that may have murdered 51 women in Chicago.  That’s right, 51 women and a whole lot of the media hasn’t bothered to really cover it.

They talk about the abysmal arrest rate on murder cases and why that is so.  They hand out the “Jagoff of the Week” which is derogatory street slang meaning a person who is stupid or inept.

The guys also give you tips about using Uber drivers and other things to keep you safer in Chicago.  Supposedly the show even has a following in Statesville, the replacement prison in the state for the infamous Joliet Prison.  It is worth your time, so go to the podcast.  In a perfect world, you could have a couple of beers every week with Paul at a Chicago watering hole; this is the next best thing.

The Po Po Report Now Podcast2021-06-15T14:52:05-06:00

Denial

Denial Cover Kindle

The great novel of Puerto Rico is finally here!  After writing all these books on history, Olga and I decided to try and write a novel and the result is now on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing under the title:

Denial

A Crime Mystery Novel of Puerto Rico

The mysterious disappearance of a valuable animal in the mountains of Puerto Rico leads Detective Sergeant Antonio Ponce from the murder investigation of Hector “Macho” Camacho to a dangerous journey into the world of animal trafficking in the Caribbean.  The search to solve the crime is complicated by professional hit-men and a Puerto Rican bureaucracy that is in a perpetual state of denial that any crime of this magnitude could ever occur on “The Isle of Enchantment.”  In addition to a page-turning build-up to the book’s conclusion, the work presents an in-depth look at the history, people, geography and culture of the “Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.”

Researching and writing it was fun and stretched our imaginations trying to craft a believable work of fiction.  I think it is a page-turner, but in addition to the storyline, you will find a wealth of information about the island’s people, geography, food and travel — a great book to take with you on your Kindle or Ipad when you go on vacation down there (the restaurants and coffee houses named in the book are all there in real life!)

So have a great time…and do be careful the next time you take a bath!

Denial2016-05-13T19:21:13-06:00

The Wisdom of Crowds

Hunting Hitler Web

Read this carefully, because I really need your help in proving or disproving a historical mystery, and after you think about what you have read I would ask you to email me with your opinions.

My interest in World War II probably began at age five and since then, especially concerning the war in Europe, I have tried to read book after book on this subject that has been printed in English or German.  After five decades and at least 1,000 books read, I was pretty comfortable that I understood how the war unfolded and the general ground truth of what happened.

Within the last two years, however, something has changed with the publication of the book Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler, and last fall the appearance on the History Channel of the series Hunting Hitler.  Until these two events, I would have mortgaged the house, sold the dog, taken a second job and wagered every dollar I had, or would ever make in the future, on the premise that Adolf Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on or about April 30, 1945.  That event was a given in World War II history and was supported by a mountain of indicators.

Now, while I still freely admit that the mountain of indicators is still there, this little, itty-bitty voice of doubt has crept into some historical recess of my mind that is now saying, “Not so fast.”

Let’s do a quick review of established history.  The Soviet Army advanced through Poland and was in an operational pause along the Oder River, just east of Berlin.  On April 16, 1945, they launched their attack to take the German capital, concentrating their forces to break through in the Seelow Heights area.  After two days of bitter fighting, the Soviets broke through the German defenses and advanced toward Berlin, while at the same time sending attack wings north and south of the city so as to encircle it.   By April 23 April, Berlin was fully encircled and the Battle for Berlin entered its final stage.  Hitler decided to die in Berlin, while many or his subordinates attempted to escape over the next eight days.  During the last 49 hours of his life, Adolf Hitler married his long-time mistress Eva Braun, dictated his final will and testament and made preparations for his death.  The two committed suicide about 3:30 pm on April 30, 1945.  SS personnel took the bodies of both people outside the bunker, where they attempted to burn them beyond recognition.  A general breakout from the bunker occurred the next day, with some personnel escaping the Red Army, but with most killed or captured.

Grey Wolf, and since I first read it I have discovered that several investigative reporters and historians in South America have come to the same conclusion – one even stating that some of the work in the book was his own – presents a detailed account of how the Nazis amassed a fortune in Argentina and paid off several highly-placed Argentinian leaders to not only look the other way, but to actively assist those Nazis that escaped to their country after the war.  The non-fiction work then goes into detail on how Hitler – and Eva Braun – escaped.  It gives names of those assisting in the effort, presents the most-likely path of escape, tells of the exact U-boat that ferried the Führer across the Atlantic, describes Hitler’s life in the South American country and presents a descript of the Nazi leader’s last days.  More incredibly – if that is possible – the work tells how Eva soured on her husband and how she and their two children left the unstable dictator.  In short, Grey Wolf tried to answer the question: Did Hitler, code name “Grey Wolf”, really die in Berlin in 1945?

That all sounded incredible – to the point that I have read the book three times and began a search to verify or disprove the details as they were presented (i.e., what was the history of the U-boat in question; what was the history of the area in Argentina to which the couple fled, etc.)

Then last fall, History Channel introduced their series Hunting Hitler, which not only had one of the authors of Grey Wolf on its investigation team, but was also staffed by several other accomplished experts and led by former CIA case officer and author Robert “Bob” Baer.  Here was a “heavy-hitter”, a graduate of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, an intelligence columnist for Time Magazine and a consultant on intelligence issues and subjects for CNN.  Mr. Baer simply is not the type of professional who would support a fraudulent effort to answer a legitimate question, because his reputation is his stock in trade.  After watching every episode of the series, my conclusion was that Hitler and Braun could have escaped from Berlin; the short series simply did not have the time or focus to get me to a conclusion that they did escape.

There are now rumblings that there may be a second year for the series, and it may be wise to turn to a new method of analysis to try and prove or disprove this potentially history-shaking subject – the wisdom of the crowd.  This information-gathering and decision-making tool rests on the conclusion that the collective opinion of a group of individuals is more accurate and prescient than that of a single expert.  Behavioral scientists have found time after time that a large group’s aggregated answers to questions involving quantity estimation, general knowledge and many types of reasoning is as good as – and often better than – the conclusion arrived at by any single individual within the group, no matter their education or specialty.  This is also the basis of our jury system and how 12 jurors can come up with the correct verdict.

The readers on this website are real thinkers, as their emails to me indicate all the time.  So if you are reading this post, I would like you to think about your answer to the following question:

What would History Channel in the second year of their series Hunting Hitler have to show you for you to conclude that Adolf Hitler probably did not die in Berlin in 1945 and instead escaped to South America?

To help you organize your thoughts let me offer some “baskets” of proof that you could consider – but if you have something else, please develop that.  The goal of this post is to have you send me an email (go to contact the author) and let me hear the wisdom of the reading group and I will try and get that to the creators of the series.

Basket 1 – Witness Statements.  This might include Argentinians who believe they saw Hitler in Argentina after the war.  How many different witnesses would cause you to believe their conclusions?  What if one or more of the U-boat crewmen that reportedly took Hitler to South America was still alive and made a statement on camera to that effect?  Would it take more than one of these sailors to convince you?

Basket 2 – Photographs.  If any photographs of Hitler were shown, and were verified by photo experts to have been taken in the 1940s or 1950s, and a forensic expert was able to superimpose them on known photographs to get a percentage of match, how would that affect your opinion?

Basket 3 – Remains or DNA.  I am not sure if anyone has DNA that is known to be Hitler’s or someone in his family, as DNA was not a known tool back then for identification.  What are your observations concerning the use of DNA.  Additionally, if the investigators found what they believe are the remains of Hitler, how would you want that presentation to be handled: a dental records comparison, etc.?

Basket 4 – Eva Braun and the supposed children.  Even if Hitler did escape, he would be long dead by now and Eva Braun would most likely be dead unless she was over 100 years old.  But if the couple indeed had children, those individuals could still be alive.  What evidence concerning them would you like to see?  If the investigators find a gravestone in a secluded cemetery for Eva Braun and the burial records show the person was born in Munich on the same day that the famous Eva was, what does that do to the little voice in your head?

Basket 5 – Something else.  No matter how crazy it may sound, let me hear it!

Basket 6 – This is the “I ain’t buying anything they find or show.”  That is important to know as well as it shows a would-be writer or producer the magnitude of the challenge he or she must overcome to change a historical opinion that has been sort of set in concrete for over 70 years.

So please think about the essential question, Did Hitler really die in Berlin in 1945?  Think about what level of evidence or proof you need to answer this in the negative, if that can be done at all.

And then please write me with your thoughts!

 

 

 

The Wisdom of Crowds2016-03-27T11:01:32-06:00

VII Corps Desert Storm Reunion, 26-28 February 2016

3rd Armored Division, 5-18 Infantry

VII Corps Desert Storm Veterans Association, Desert Storm Reunion, 26-28 February 2016

Let me start this with something I hope that you will take to heart.  My father, who died last summer at age 91, had been an infantry private first class in the Ninth Infantry Division in the Hürtgen Forest and Battle of the Bulge in World War II.  He had always wanted to see his old buddies again, but for one reason or another, he never made it to a reunion and regretted that till the day he died.

So, if you have ever wanted to get back together with your buddies from Desert Storm, this is it!

The twenty-fifth anniversary is here upon us; where has the time gone?  At age 63, I’m not waiting for the 50th reunion, although if I’m around for it, I’ll go to that one also.

Every veteran of VII Corps from Desert Storm, and especially in my case every veteran of the Third Armored Division “Spearhead,” is warmly welcomed to gather outside our nation’s capital (primarily Crystal City, VA) at the end of February to meet with old comrades and friends, catch up on what everyone has been doing since we were “young” and most importantly pay our respects to the true heroes of that war, our comrades in arms who made the ultimate sacrifice and died before they could grow old and do all the things that we sometimes take for granted.

First, this is not just a gathering of “old,” retired generals, although many will certainly be there.  But those folks did not win the war; you did…the “skeeter-wings,” the specialists, the buck sergeants, the first sergeants and the CSMs, so please attend if you can make it, and be sure to tell the folks you have stayed in contact with to go as well.

Registration

Online registration for the 25th Reunion is available at this link: http://25.desertstormvets.org/

You can purchase your banquet tickets, register for your hotel room at the special rate of $99 per night and also see updated schedule of events.  The special rate of $99 per night for hotel rooms will be available until 5 February 2016.

Here are some of the events planned, as I know them in late January; please check often: http://25.desertstormvets.org/

This will be updated on a regular basis with latest information as related to the reunion.

All units

Friday, 26 February, beginning 3:00 pm, out of town guests check in at Crystal Gateway Hotel at leisure.  After that, check in across from registration at the VII Corps Reunion Ops Center to get your name badges for all attendees and guests as well as memorabilia items for distribution to all attendees.

Third Armored Division (Spearhead)

Friday, 26 February, gathering beginning at 6:00 pm at the Crystal City Sports Pub, 529 South 23rd Street, Arlington VA 22202 (the only charge is what you consume food and beverages.)

VII Corps Artillery

Friday, 26 February, reception in the Jackson Room (Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel) from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.  There will be a cash bar and “heavy” hors d’oeuvres. (I guess “heavy” is to make sure all the tankers attend.)

Saturday, 27 February, buffet breakfast from 7:30 to 9:00 am in the Jackson Room (Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel.)

All units

Saturday, 27 February, 10:00-11:00 am, General Membership Meeting, VII Corps Desert Storm Reunion Association across from check-in desk, Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel.

All units

Saturday, 27 February; Memorial Service Arlington Cemetery: 1:15 pm, depart Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel for Memorial Service (Transportation buses will be provided free of charge); 2:00 pm, VII Corps DSVA Annual Memorial Service at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel to honor the 111 Soldiers who served in VII Corps during Operations Desert Shield & Desert Storm who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Lieutenant General Karen Dyson – Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management & Comptroller) – will be the guest speaker.  LTG Dyson was a company commander in VII Corps (7th Finance Group) during Desert Shield & Desert Storm; 3:25 pm, depart Memorial Service for Arlington National Cemetery for wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier; 4:00 to 4:30 pm, Changing of the Guard and VII Corps DSVA Wreath Laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; 4:45 pm, depart Arlington National Cemetery for Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel.

All units

Saturday, 27 February; 7:30 to 10:00 pm, VII Corps DSVA 25th Annual Banquet – Grand Ballroom (Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel).  This is for all attendees.  Guest Speaker will be GEN Martin Dempsey USA-Ret) – 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who got his “start” as XO of the Third Brigade, Third Armored Division during Desert Storm.  I am pretty sure that LTG (USA-Ret) Paul Funk, our Third Armored Division commander will be there.

Addresses:

E-Mail Address: viicorpsvets@gmail.com

Regular mailing address:

VII Corps Desert Storm Veterans Association

2425 Wilson Boulevard

Arlington, Virginia 22201

Points of contact:

Email these folks to get more information on specific topics:

VII Corps Artillery

Stan Lenox at 512-897-7751 or by e-mail at slenox@austin.rr.com.

Third Armored Division (Spearhead)

Rob Goff at 540-422-9588 or by e-mail at lrgoff3@gmail.com OR Bob Reeves at 254-231-8970 or by e-mail at robert.reeves54@gmail.com.

First Cavalry Division

Jim Bob Rollins by email at acpac@consolidated.net.john.

First Infantry Division

Doug Morrison at 703-772-7614 or by e-mail at Dm371482@gmail.com.

Second Armored Cavalry Regiment

David Boyce at 623-451-5637 or by e-mail at dboyce1@cox.net.

First UK Armoured Division

John Geis by e-mail at 1UKXX-G5-SO1-US@mod.uk

VII Corps DSVA Ops Center

There will be an Ops Center set up in BIN 1700 which is located across from the check in desk at Crystal Gateway Marriott.  All attendees can pick up their name badge as well as memorabilia items we are distributing and also receive information on all events that will take place during the weekend.  Please do not hesitate to contact viicorpsdsva@gmail.com for any questions you may have.

Every single one of you did something quite special and remarkable back then; please come back to the reunion so that we can all meet again.

 

VII Corps Desert Storm Reunion, 26-28 February 20162016-03-27T11:02:41-06:00

The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter

The Third Bullet CoverThe Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter

A Bob Lee Swagger Novel

Simon & Schuster, 2013

(January 25, 2015)  I just re-read, for probably the fifth time because it is so well-written and a real pager-turner, The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter.  Part of the Bob Lee Swagger series, this fiction book transcends that genre, which I’ll address in a moment, and is clearly on my all-time top ten fiction book list.

It would probably not spoil the book, which I have carefully stored in our hide-away in Puerto Rico so that I may read it every year when we are down there, if I mentioned that it is about the John F. Kennedy assassination in Dallas in 1963.  Kennedy’s picture is on the front dust jacket of the hard cover edition of the Simon & Schuster book (while Lee Harvey Oswald’s picture is on the back dust cover.)  On the front title page is a photograph of the murder weapon, the infamous Mannlicher-Carcano Model 38 carbine with its cheap and poorly attached Japanese-made scope, and on both the front and rear inside of the hard cover are detailed sketches of Dealey Plaza – which probably has no significance for 99% of all Americans except for being the site of JFK’s murder.

The book begins with the hit-and-run death of an author (a “gun-guy” that wrote about snipers and weapons,) which being a writer myself obviously caught my undivided attention.  The man’s widow does not believe it was an accident, so she contacts Bob Lee Swagger, who had been a sniper in Vietnam, who has had additional gun-related escapades in his later years, and whose body has so many old bullet wounds that it makes Swiss cheese look solid.

I will leave the story there and apologize to Mr. Hunter if I have said too much already.

Reviewer Lee Child (Jim Grant, Jack Reacher series) said of the book, “it might even be true,” while noted author Vince Flynn – who died shortly after The Third Bullet was published – opined that the book “answers the question ‘What if?’ in astonishingly plausible detail,” so if my modest writing skills remain unimpressive, at least you know that those two literary heavyweights liked Hunter’s book as well.

From Mark Lane (Rush to Judgment,) almost immediately after the assassination, to tomes published to this day fifty years later, authors have attempted to show that this group or that – with or without Lee Harvey Oswald’s participation – brought off the crime of the century, and some would say the most significant crime in the entire history of the United States.  Most of these books, while they add bits and pieces to the general body of knowledge surrounding the assassination, often fall short in two areas: the technical capabilities of the firearm (maybe more than one, you’ll have to read the book) and bullets in question, and that the route of the presidential motorcade did not become known until a short few days before the event.  Large, complex organizations do many things well, but doing them quickly is usually not a characteristic of the ponderous, as the author shows.

In short, after reading and re-reading Hunter’s work, one quickly concludes that the author truly understands firearms in all their complexity – and sometimes simplicity, such as a tour-de-force description of what the Mannlicher-Carcano was originally designed to do when developed in 1891 – as well as a consummate ability to leave no loose ends in the theory at the heart of the story.

However, there is another level to the novel that I mentioned earlier.  Later in the work, the main character, Bob Lee Swagger, is informed by several literary experts that people who loved to read great literature often develop a sense of how they could insert puzzles and clues in their work (be that writing or espionage, etc.) that some people might find, while others miss them; some of these puzzles – which were key to understanding “who done it” – were in plain sight, while others had multiple layers of detail and nuance; some of them followed a clichéd formula, while others are undramatic and small.

Why is this dialogue important?  Because the discussion is really not a focal point of finding “who done it.”  That revelation is already known in the first third of the book.

No, I believe that Stephen Hunter slid this conversation of literary puzzles into the book intentionally for someone to find much later in reading The Third Bullet – maybe decades from now after Hunter and I and those of us who were living in 1963 are long gone – and conclude:

“This story is not total fiction.  In fact, it is probably 70% true, maybe even more, and the author stumbled across it and promised his source that he would portray the book (‘Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination…’, humma, humma, etc.), as PURE fiction, when it is anything but a work of fiction at its heart.”

Read The Third Bullet yourself and see what you think.  Is it simply a work of fiction that is so well-conceived and adroitly written that Stephen Hunter hit it out of the park, or is it something more?

The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter2016-01-28T15:26:45-06:00

An American Hero

Mac MacLean

The best soldier I ever knew, my father, died on July 28, 2015 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur, Illinois.  He was 91 and oddly enough, he passed away on the exact seventh anniversary of my mother’s death.

Thank you to everyone who knew him and was nice to him.  I may have been a colonel, but he was the general of the family.  The following is his obituary that appeared in the Decatur Herald & Review:

 

Myron D. MacLean.  I lost my hero on Tuesday, July 28, 2015, when he passed away at St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur, Illinois.  He happened to be my father.  Born on September 4, 1923 in Peoria, “Mac” graduated from Peoria High School before attending Bradley University for two years prior to serving as an Infantryman in Company B, 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment in the Hürtgen Forest and Battle of the Bulge in World War II.  Mac always claimed he made corporal; my mother insisted that he topped out at private first class.  At any rate, he was wounded several times, received a Silver Star and Combat Infantryman’s Badge and – after his last wound – he came to looking down the business end of a German paratrooper’s assault rifle.  Years later, my brother David and I would watch “Hogan’s Heroes” on television and the young lad made the mistake of asking Dad if that was what a prisoner of war camp was like; he received a scowl as an answer.

To paraphrase the movie “Rudy,” Dad was “5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’,” and yet I saw him smash drive after drive each one straight as an arrow and close to 300 yards on the golf course, while I caddied for him.  I remember one memorable round when he carded a 69 – no mulligans, no winter rules, no TV tap-ins, no kicking the ball out of the rough when nobody’s looking, because Dad said it was more important to do the right thing when no one was looking than it was when they were – just a pure 69.  I think he won two bucks that morning and I know he paid me four.  He liked Jack and Tiger, but he loved Arnie – living and dying with his hero during charge after charge on the final day of a major.

Dad also loved Caterpillar, his granddaughters Heather and Megan, and most of all he loved my Mom, Julie Lane MacLean.  They had been married 60 years when she passed away in 2008; also on July 28.  For the last several years of her life, the saints at Decatur Memorial Hospital provided her with a restful life, while Dad went over for every meal to help her eat – knowing that she would never again be able to say the words, “Thank You.”  And over the last few days, the wonderful people at St. Mary’s did the same for Dad, making his last hours peaceful.

Knowing that I would never be able to swing a golf club like Dad, I went to West Point – as did David, who is now in London – in part to see if I could catch the old man as a soldier.  After thirty years in the Army, I realized I was chasing an apparition that I could never catch, let alone surpass.  And I am happy in that knowledge; because that’s the way it is supposed to be with your hero.

An American Hero2015-08-16T16:27:08-06:00

The Fifth Field Wins the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award

2013 Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award

LTG Richard G. Trefry, Inspector General of the United States Army

(June 18, 2014)  The Army Historical Foundation has recognized two authors for 2013 with the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award for their contributions to the literature on the history of the U.S. Army.  Colonel French L. MacLean was honored for his book, The Fifth Field:  The Story of 96 American Soldiers Sentenced to Death and Executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II (Atglen, PA:  Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.).  Rick Atkinson was recognized for his highly praised Liberation Trilogy, consisting of the books An Army at Dawn:  The War in North Africa, 1942-1943; The Day of Battle:  The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944; and The Guns at Last Light:  The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (New York:  Henry Holt), on the U.S. Army in North Africa and Europe in World War II.

Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry, who had served as an enlisted man in World War II, retired from the U.S. Army after 33 years of active duty.  He served as the Inspector General of the U.S. Army for six years under three Chiefs of Staff and Secretaries of the Army, revolutionizing the Army’s approach to the Annual Inspector General Inspection by transforming it from a compliance event into an inspection that identified and corrected systemic failings that inevitably led to recurring deficiencies and interfered with the ability of unit commanders to accomplish their missions.  After retirement, General Trefry served in the White House as the Military Assistant to the President of the United States, directing the White House Military Office during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, as a military advisor to President George H. W. Bush.

In 1995, General Trefry served on the Board of Directors of American Military University and today, continues to serve on the Board of Trustees of the American Public University System as a member and committee chair.  In addition, he has served as a Senior Fellow for the Institute for Land Warfare in the Association of the U.S. Army and is Program Manager of the Army Force Management School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  General Trefry teaches and speaks frequently at service schools, public and private organizations, and at public and private schools and colleges.  In 2009, the Secretary of the Army established the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Lifetime of Service Award, honoring Lieutenant General Trefry’s extraordinary achievement and service to the Army, the Department of Defense, the Federal Government, and our Nation.

General Trefry holds a B.S. degree in Military Science from the United States Military Academy, West Point, and is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College.  In 2006, he received the Distinguished Graduate Award from the United States Military Academy Association of Graduates.

His presentation on “How the Army Runs” has become legendary in military circles in explaining the Constitutional and legal underpinnings of what the Army has and what the Army does.

 

He had this to say about The Fifth Field:

“I couldn’t put it down… a hell of a good book…the subject is fascinating… you have done yeoman’s work and produced a great book.”
“I had been an enlisted man in World War II and knew that soldiers had been executed, but I did not know how many.  Later, when I was the Inspector General of the United States Army, I was visiting the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg about 1980.  As I looked at the crosses, I wondered where the soldiers who were executed were buried.  Now, I finally know.”
The Fifth Field Wins the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award2015-08-31T14:02:17-06:00

1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Officers

The Battle of Bourbon Street

We went on four Officer Professional Development trips while I was in the battalion.  Here, we visited the Battle of New Orleans from 1814.  That night we all went down to Bourbon Street for some fine cuisine and from what it shows, a few local drinks.  I headed back to the hotel at a decent hour, but the lieutenants reportedly took Bourbon Street block by block until they came in about 4:00 a.m.

Wherever you guys are now, I wish you well!

1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Officers2015-08-31T14:04:04-06:00
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