Killing Patton is a Must Read (or listen)

I had not read or listened to any of Bill O’Reilly’s very popular history books, but perhaps I have made an error — so, although I am an Atheist I will listen ( to Killing JESUS. (Bill actually reds the book — well — on Audible.)

To say that I was impressed by Killing PATTON would be an understatement. Having read much of the WWII history, I was surprised with how much I should have known, and didn’t. Learning the new material was very enjoyable and easy.

First, Bill can afford to cooperate with a first class researcher. Next Bill is both a high school history teacher and a Journalist before becoming a television personality. His prior professions mean a love of history and good writing skills, both of which combine to make Killing PATTON a “must read.”

As Bill has described in a TV interview, the war in Europe rotated around the “most audacious” General in the European Theater. Patton demanded the Tip of the Spear assignments for his Third Army Tank Corps. Patton, who rubbed just about everyone wrong, except his men, was denied the honor of having his men be the first into Germany by crossing the Rhine, he replied to the second denial by answering “We have already done it.” And he had, complete with a photo of Patton peeing into the Rhine on its East bank!

Patton correctly predicted the threat of Russia, and that may have cost him his life — but that is a mystery Bill explores, and I’ll leave that to your reading or listening.

I suggest you do.

One Of the Greatest Spies Ever Recorded

I am deep into a newly released book on the Soviet Spy Kim Philby, called “A Spy Among Friends ” and, although I am a student of Soviet Spying and have written a précis on the subject (, I have been more interested in the activities of the subjects, rather than how their personal relationships furthered their activities.

For that detail study of individuals, I have limited myself to studying the British Double Agents like ZigZag and Garbo, so I am enthralled with the details of a dedicated college Communist who easily penetrated the British spy agency, M6, because he was a member of the Old Boys Club, a jolly fellow, well-bred.

Over time, I’ll drop little nuggets of the book, but I commend the book to you. If you happen to use the, which is a part of, you can enjoy a great British voice reading the book.

I am impressed with the ease with which the so-called Cambridge (Communist) Spy Ring moved within the British spy services (including Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean), one of whom was posted to Istanbul, a neutral Turkish city absolutely filled with spies of all nations. Like most spies, they gathered to eat and drink at a common bar, and they all knew each other and their spy job. It was so familiar that when the head of the American spy service arrived, the band struck up with:

I’m involved in a dangerous game,
Every other day I change my name,
The face is different but the body’s the same, Boo, boo, baby, I’m a spy!
You have heard of Mata Hari,
We did business cash and carry,
Poppa caught us and we had to marry,
Boo, boo, baby, I’m a spy!
Now, as a lad, I’m not so bad,
In fact, I’m a darn good lover,
But look my sweet, let’s be discreet,
And do this under cover.
I’m so cocky I could swagger,
The things I know would make you stagger,
I’m ten percent cloak and ninety percent dagger, Boo, boo, baby, I’m a spy!
–popular song in Istanbul during World War II

Click to access 00-Poem-2.pdf

The Soviets first didn’t believe that any spy could so easily infiltrate M6, and even when he passed tests they set to check if he was real, they thought him a potential double agent. But his Eaton, Cambridge upper-class education insulated him — “one just didn’t spy for a potential enemy, you know” and he would not even be suspected when all of the clues were there. It was one of history’s greatest spy success stories!

One thing that impressed me was the fervor for Communism that the spies held. When the Stalin purges decided to kill many of the spy controllers, they would recall them, torture them in the infamous Lubyanca Prison, and execute them, many of the Controllers duly returned anyway, to their deaths! One such Control, said, “They would kill me here, or there, so better there.”

When I was in Moscow, there was a joke that the Lubyanca Prison was called the “Roach Hotel, because people went in, but never came out.”

The spy business was running fully in WWII.

We Need a Truce!

The Fox News Channel is losing me — I hate being proselytized by Christians, and I am starting to dread Fox the way I fear the Bible-Thumpers who ring my doorbell.

Clue, Fox: Not all Conservative/Libertarians are devout Christians who want a new incarnation of Jimmy Swaggart!

Stick with the news. There are plenty of religious channels!

On that subject I have un friended my second Facebook friend — one I have known for 35 years — over her constant religious postings of devotional posters. When it was one or two a day, that was acceptable, but when it constantly was upward of 10 — I gave up.

There is a constant cry from some Christians that they are being persecuted by Atheists who demand an unreasonable separation of Church and state, and in this the Christians are absolutely correct. While this is not a Christian nation, it was certainly founded by devout Christians, and if not Christianity per se that our laws are based upon, certainly it was religious morals.

To understand at least Thomas Jefferson’s beliefs, one need only order the “Jefferson Bible” from (as I have). Jefferson personally cut and pasted the moral lessons of Jesus — but without the miracles and other superstitions. He pasted the parables, side by side in English, Greek, and Latin.

Those “Christian” morals were universal before Christ. They were part and parcel of the ancient Jews, and are the moral basis of all religions — they are universal rules to live side-by-side.

All Moral people abide by those Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule — people with no religion at all use those same concepts — because they work, and not because some Middle Eastern Sky God commands it!

But, there is now as much pushing Christianity among Conservative groups as there is bashing Christianity among so-called “Secular Humanist liberals.”

I wish everyone would simply stand back and take a deep breath. I don’t want crosses removed fro their historic sites, and I do not want Christianity pushed by Fox News in general and Bill O’Reilly in particular.

We need a truce.

How Close Our Revolution Came to Failure!


 Lovers of history know that George Washington used spies, and that US spy Nathan Hale was just 21 when, after saying that he regretted that he had but one life to give to his country, he was hanged by the British. 

But there is a great new book, “George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution” (by Kilmeade, Brian and Yaeger, Don (Nov 5, 2013) and its title is no exaggeration. Just as one thing (among many) I didn’t know: George Washington was just an hour away from West Point where the Commander of that fort, Major General Benedict Arnold had lured the Commander-in-Chief to both surrender the fort and George Washington himself to the British, when the spies alerted Washington!

The “Secret Six” were not all known to Historians — the final one still isn’t. Four were fairly well known a few decades after the Revolution, and only a chance recognition of a researcher’s look at a famous family’s handwriting told him a fifth member in 1929. The only female member of the group was apparently captured and may have died in the squalid hold of a British prison ship in New York harbor.

Many of Washington’s spies were known and trusted Loyalists to the King, who were seriously in danger to the Patriots when the British troops left New York. Loyalists had to leave the newly formed country to Britain or Canada, but General Washington took pains to provide protection for those spies he knew of the Secret Six, but he didn’t know but a couple of them. Ever.

Compartmentalizations worked well then, then and now.

The spies used many of the well-known means, invisible ink, codes, blind drops…

The saving of the very life of George Washington was just one spy victory. The exposure of the treachery of Benedict Arnold caused him to flee to the arms of the British just in time to save his neck.

The Cornwallis defeat at Yorktown was secured when the printer for the British in New York, who was one of Washington’s Secret Six, turned Cornwallis’s battle plan and the code signals for the British Fleet over to Washington.

This was a good read. I commend it to readers of American history.

The human spirit is indeed indomitable.

It only seems that I read a lot of stories of individual survival, but then I read a lot of WWII history, and that war was amazingly replete with such stories.

My latest was “As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me,” by Josef Martin Bauer, the amazing story of a German Prisoner of War who escaped from a Russian lead mine in Siberia, and made his way home. We are talking more than a thousand miles, over more than three years, without “papers” — but amazingly with the fortuitous help of some who were anti-Soviet, or just anti-authority.

Escaping from Siberian forced-labor mines was nearly impossible because the prisoners were just so weak, and kept near starvation. More than half the prisoners died during the train, truck, horse-sled and dog-sled transit to the mines, and for those who served in the lead mines the advancing slow death of lead poisoning made a journey in Winter across Siberia impossible.

Few made it, perhaps only one: Clemens Forell.

No mortal man would have made it, but other books of enormous personal bravery and survival that I have read include “Unbroken” which will soon be a movie directed by Angelina Jolie, and “We Die Alone, by David Howarth.”

The human spirit is indeed indomitable.



One of my time-passing endeavors is to read – magazines, books, books on Kindle app on iPad, and Audio Books. I love having so many different media from which to learn.

My current reading (actually, listening) is “Before 1776, Life in the American Colonies,” and it reinforces my contention that modern Americans are Sheeple, Wusses, or whatever term you might chose.

In the 1760s, England tried to establish a Sugar Tax – actually they had one before but had not enforces a tax on a major commodity, and sugar and molasses were huge commodities.

The Crown sent a Tax Man to Newport to collect taxes on sugar (a tax that proceeded a Stamp Tax, and a Tea Tax), and first the merchants tried to bribe the Tax Man to look the other way.

Unfortunately, the Tax Man was honest. However, where there is a will there is a way…

Now Newport was a small town in the mid-1760s and most people were related to one another – so when a ship came in and declared no molasses (although the cargo was obvious), and the TaxMan had the Ship Captain arrested by the local Sheriff. When the arraignment came, the Judge did not appear, and when he was found and returned to the Court, the Sheriff was nowhere to be found.

When a ship came into Newport, and fearing the Tax Man continued up the river to a smaller port, the Tax Man followed. He boarded the ship and, as usual, the Captain said there was no sugar aboard although, once again, it was visible. The Tax Man went to the dock and found a group of obvious Sailors, whom he importuned to board the ship and sail it back to Newport – but the Sailors contended that they were Farmers and sailing a ship to Newport would surely destroy the ship.

So the Tax Man returned to Newport, found Sailors who did not know what they would be asked to do and returned to the ship – whose cargo had been removed to storage in a warehouse. The Tax Man boarded the ship only to find it settling into the mud, because the “Farmers” had bored holes in the hull after removing the sugar.

I see modern Americans sitting in long highway traffic jams, suffering pot hole damaged tires and wheels, and meekly honoring retired CongressCritters at cocktail parties when they should be ashamed to show their faces. I suspect that I future days even disgraced former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner will be addressed as “Mayor Filner.”

A Boston once so revolutionary that they would throw tea in their harbor, subsequently would see their progeny re-elect a Mayor (Mayor James Michael Curley, four-time Mayor of Boston) who was languishing in jail while re-elected!

Surely any self-respecting American would never claim to be friendly with a politician or a tax collector!

First Public Bookless Library Arrives

Having been raised in San Antonio, which is in Bexar (pronounced “Bear”) County, I was most interested that the NY Daily News carried an AP story about the Bexar County BiblioTech — a bookless library. It is the nations ONLY operational, public bookless library.

(As I have mentioned before, my Great Grandson attends the Del Lago Academy of Applied Science, a public school in Escondido, California, and that campus, which opened last September, was designed and built without physical textbooks, or any physical books in the library. Textbooks are loaded on each student’s school-issued iPad, and the school library is just a comfortable space with LOTS of power plugs.

The San Antonio BiblioTech is located in a primarily Latino part of town, so iPads and Kindle readers can be checked out with five downloaded books.

The BiblioTech Librarian reports that in several months of operation, the library has not lost an electronic device, and that the in-library devices, rows of glowing iMacs are usually occupied. The best favorable description in the article says that the library looks like an Apple Store (including the Geek-Chic dress of the Librarians) — or of the blogger  (who decries the very idea although he has not been there, calls it a “computer lab with the personality of a morgue.”

Having written about the eventual demise of books in libraries for literally decades — to the ANGER of the Rancho Bernardo Friends of the Library, who initially considered heating tar and plucking feathers — my prediction will eventually be justified. In the meanwhile, there is the usual  resistance to change.

One of the things I had not considered in my initial analysis is the difficulties of multi-story book libraries — they must be architecturally designed for weight-bearing because racks of books are REALLY heavy.

Of course, technology doesn’t care whether it is accepted, or not.

It is inexorable.


Several days ago, the San Diego U-T carried a story of the new Jack Cheevers book, Act of War and the story in the newspaper carries comments by a real hero of that event, Bob Chicca.

Bob was awarded the Bronze Star, but in a rational world it would have been the Navy Cross. Only the internal politics of the Navy denied him his just award.

Jack Cheevers did relentless research for many years to produce this definitive history, and he had access to many originally classified but subsequently declassified documents.

The capture is still controversial among many who were not there, but Bucher’s crew adored him. Bucher was isolated from his crew immediately upon arrival at Balboa Hospital to allow him some sleep, but on Christmas Day as Bucher entered the dining hall among the families and crew, I saw a crew member reaching through the throng with tears in his eyes,trying to touch Bucher’s trousers.

THAT is leadership!

During the Court of Inquiry, Bucher, his attorney (E. Miles Harvey) and I were going up the ladder to the second deck auditorium on the Amphib Base where the Court was being held. Several members of the Crew were being escorted by MPs (because they were witnesses) were coming down the ladder.

I saw a Crew Member flash a white note in his hand and as we passed on the ladder he palmed the note into my hand.

It read: “Skipper, we started this together, and we will end it together.”


Preview of New Book on the USS Pueblo

The new book on the seizure of the USS Pueblo by the North Koreans will be available at on December 3.
Meanwhile, entire chapters are on-line at the Author’s website, including a chapter on Rose Bucher, my wife, and I.
This is the Author’s website for his new book on the seizure of the USS Pueblo: The book will be available Dec. 3 on Amazon.
This is one chapter in the book, or at least one part of one chapter..
Additionally, Cheevers wrote more about Rose, and our (Jean and mine) involvement, but space didn’t let it hit the published book, so he added it to his website at:
The story of my life – always left on the cutting room floor Smile

I am always surprised with how little I really know

A quick comment on I use audio books because with audio, books are always with me, downloaded automatically on my PC, iPhone and iPad. With a system called WhisperSync, wherever I leave off on one device I automatically pick up on the next device (at least often)– at least when I am inside my Wi-Fi signal, which I usually am.

This is really important, because some books are short and some, like my current project, are more than 24 hours long

My current project is actually a Great Course series through Audible: “The Other Side of History. Daily Life in the Ancient World.” It is a series of short lectures by a Cornell University Professor, Robert Garland.

I am always surprised with how little I really know.

(A LOT!)

There is always more to learn, because history changes. As Professor Garland notes: in his home country of Britain, in just one month (June, 2010), stone shards from tool production found along the British coast put ancient inhabitants back to 840,000 B.C. a cool 250,000 years earlier than previously known.

Additionally 54,000 bronze and silver Roman coins were found in a place that marked that spot as a mercantile center that had not been known, and to the Professors dismay, bones from a British cave 14,000 years old demonstrated that his forefathers were cannibals.