Books

six-starsThe General Who Wore Six Stars

Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee was one of the most controversial U.S. officers of World War II. He wore six stars on his helmet, three in front and three in back—an unusual affectation. He was a stickler for discipline and a legendary military figure whom servicemen and historians loved to hate. Yet Lee was an intensely religious person and an advocate of opportunity for African Americans in the era of Jim Crow, setting him apart from the conservative officer corps at this time.

Lee, called a “pompous little son-of-a-bitch” by a colleague, and worse by several military historians, was notorious for demanding his own private train in England and requisitioning hundreds of the best hotels in Paris for his command. But he had a big job to do. He was responsible for supplying the Allied armies in Europe during World War II from D-Day through Germany’s surrender. He had to get everything over the English Channel on D-Day and supply Patton’s juggernaut as it roared across the French countryside. When the Germans launched their famous Battle of the Bulge assault, it was Lee who kept the precious fuel away from their grasp, leaving them to abandon their tanks and walk back to Germany.

This is a long-overdue biography of the brilliant and eccentric commander who deserves much of the credit for the Allied victory in Europe.

 

conversationsConversations with the Devil

This is a thoroughly engaging tale of a colorful character named Jake who encounters the devil and spars with him in a battle of wits. It is a modern reinterpretation of Faust or The Devil and Daniel Webster. Jake is an older man who has grown weary of the world, has no time for either God or the Devil, and is indifferent to the inducements Old Nick offers. The banter between the devil and Jake is both profound and amusing. It is easy to imagine as the basis for a screenplay with its natural flow of dialogue and unexpected ending.

 

 

 

American DriveAmerican Drive

In 2002, I was working as a press officer for the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C., when we selected a new chairman – Richard E. Dauch, CEO and Co-Founder of American Axle & Manufacturing in Detroit. I was to discover that Dick was one of the preeminent men of Detroit. He had been the youngest plant manager in the history of Chevrolet, built the first Volkswagen plant in the U.S., and played a key role helping Lee Iacocca save Chrysler (the first time). He was as forceful a personality as I have ever encountered, one of those take no prisoners leaders who demands performance from everyone under his command. We got to know each other pretty well during that year and became fast friends. In 2010 when I retired from the NAM, Dick retained me to write a book for him. He had done an earlier book, “Passion for Manufacturing,” after leaving Chrysler, but this time he wanted to focus on the story of creating American Axle. I was more than happy to oblige, and spent the next two years traveling back and forth to Detroit, interviewing dozens of people and reviewing vast caches of newspapers and magazines. St. Martin’s Press was only to happy to publish this work which came out in September 2012. Unfortunately, about the same time Dick discovered he had pancreatic cancer. He was unable to promote the book and passed away the following summer. He was a great man, and this is a highly readable book about his adventures and misadventures trying to make a unionized Detroit auto plant profitable. He was successful for a while until the United Auto Workers finally blew the whole thing up, demanding an inflated wage and benefit scale that the company could not sustain and still survive. This is a true corporate adventure story. You can get it cheap on Amazon.

From Pigeons to TweetsFrom Pigeons To Tweets

My friend Lt. Gen. Clarence E. McKnight, Jr., former head of the Signal Corps, enlisted me to help him write his autobiography, “From Pigeons To Tweets: A General Who Led Dramatic Changes in Military Communications.” When he first went to war in Korea he actually had carrier pigeons as a backup communications system when all else failed. He never actually had to use them in battle, but he did conduct practice sessions with them, and most of the pigeons got through. By the time he stepped down the digital revolution was in full force and he played a pivotal role in making certain our military was on the cutting edge. This is a personal story of one man’s military career that embraced an extraordinary transition into the modern age. Mac is a spry octogenarian still very much engaged in the continuing debates about military matters, and also is an outspoken advocate of educational reform. This is a good read.

Lincoln and the Sioux UprisingLincoln and the Sioux Uprising of 1862

Sometime in the late 1990s read David Herbert Donald’s one volume biography of Abraham Lincoln and was struck by a short section about the great Sioux uprising in southwest Minnesota in 1862, and the way Lincoln handled it. It was the bloodiest Indian uprising in the history of North America and led to the biggest public execution in our history. I wrote a book about it, focusing on all the other things there were pressing down on our 16th President when this unhappy event took place. I thought then, and still believe, his action reflected his strength of character and determination to do the right thing even when it was not politically expedient. This book has been cited as a source for other books on the topic.  Two recent works in particular, “Rise to Greatness” by David Von Drehle and “38 Nooses” by Scott Berg cite me as a source for their work. I have chatted online with both authors who told me my work influenced theirs.