Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty


This is a much-hyped book, and I'm afraid I contributed to the hype with my Wall Street Journal review the other day. Temper your expectations! It's a good read, but it's hardly the earth-shaking event promised by the blurbs. (A blurb, as perhaps you know, is praise from a well-known colleague who probably hasn't read your book, and who expects you to return the favor with equally fulsome praise for one of his.) The Escape Artists is a good read, though the story is slow to begin and can be confusing at times. In brief, thirteen British officers (no enlisted men need apply, of course) tunneled out of the Holzminden prison camp in 1918. Altogether, twenty-nine officers got out before the tunnel collapsed. Nine of them covered the 120 miles to the Dutch border, on foot, while the tenth -- a fluent German speaker -- brazenly boarded trains that took him on a scenic tour of western Germany, dining meanwhile in cafeterias and even stopping for a shave and haircut before he walked across the border to freedom. For more, see my WSJ review.

Now, this is a good book, and worthy of its blurbs. It is however a very difficult read, not because Rampage is badly written but because the events are so unrelievedly awful. We all know about the Rape of Nanjing, but Manila got a very similar treatment in February 1945. As is usually the case, General MacArthur gets much of the blame -- MacArthur gets the blame even when he does everything right! But the monster in the case is Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi of the Japanese navy, charged with the defense of the city. He decided to make it a suicide mission for his men, consisting of 12,500 navy personnel plus 4,500 soldiers who to their misfortune fell under his command. Rather than defend the city, they destroyed it, raping and mutilating its women, bayoneting men, women, and children, and burning them alive. Perhaps 100,000 civilians died, along with a thousand US troops and virtually every Japanese sailor, marine, and soldier.

Amazon has become a movie studio! This is a very good mini-series, in which Tom Clancy's famous hero is at once brought up to date and taken back to his youth. He's a young CIA financial analyst and Iraq War veteran who is exceptionally good at hand-to-hand combat. Sent to debrief two terrorists in a "black" prison (always the evil CIA!), his life becomes entangled with the cold-blooded but sympathetic Sulieman brothers. And we're off! to Paris, to Yemen, to southern France, to Turkey, to Syria, and God only knows where else. (It was filmed in Washington DC, Quebec, and Morocco, which may explain some of my bafflement at where we were at any given time.) Altogether, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan is a hoot, and I'm delighted to see that Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salandar in the good (which is to say, the Swedish) version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, will appear in season two as a German secret agent. I can't wait!

Finally, the second issue of editor Steven Sherman's Vietnam magazine is now available for download. For more, see the Annals of Vietnam on this website. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

A Vision So Noble

Daniel Ford's books:

Cowboy: Interpreter, Soldier, Warlord, and One More Casualty of Our War in Vietnam
The Only War We've Got: Early Days in South Vietnam
Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault & His American Volunteers, 1941-1942
Tales of the Flying Tigers (think of it as a lengthy appendix to the history)
The Lady and the Tigers (Olga Greenlaw)
Poland's Daughter: How I Learned About Love, War, and Exile
Glen Edwards: Diary of a Bomber Pilot
A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and America's War on Terror
The Country Northward: A Hiker's Journal
The Greater America: An Epic Journey Through a Vibrant New Country (Ralph Paine)
~ ~ ~ ~
Michael's War: A Story of the Irish Republican Army
Remains: A Story of the Flying Tigers
Incident at Muc Wa: A Story of the Vietnam War
The High Country Illuminator: A Tale of Light and Darkness and the Ski Bums of Avalon

And a close-out sale

Over the years, I've accumulated a pile of books now out-of-print or just bought in too-large quantities. I'm selling them off for $5 each. Add $5 for Media Mail postage in the United States (only), no matter how many books your order. They include three novels: Now Comes Theodora: A Story of the 1960s, The High Country Illuminator: The Ski Bums of Avalon, and Remains: A Story of the Flying Tigers. For non-fiction, there's the 2007 HarperCollins edition of Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers, A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and the War on Terror, the Smithsonian hardcover of Glen Edwards: Diary of a Bomber Pilot, and The Country Northward: A Hiker's Journal.

They'll be autographed and mailed straightaway, as long as they last. Media Mail takes about a week in the Lower Forty-Eight. Get the order blank here. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford

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Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

Dan Ford's books

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Posted October 2018. Websites © 1997-2018 Daniel Ford. All rights reserved.