S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Ronald Reagan”

BOOK REVIEW: Killing Reagan: A Violent Assault that Changed a Presidency by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

killing reaganAn outstanding book.  Exceptionally well written—no nonsense, no extraneous jabberwocky, no political twists—just the facts presented in a sterile, compelling narrative.

O’Reilly strips the Holy Grail sheen off Ronald Reagan and renders him an ordinary human being—much as the rest of us with all our frailties. At times, Reagan was petty, angry, vindictive, chapfallen, humdrum, and in his younger days a voluptuary. Nonetheless, his unswerving conservative principles engendered an accomplished presidency.

“Tear down this wall, Mister Gorbachev” (the Berlin Wall), and the fall of the Soviet Union best highlights his presidency.  Some of his stellar achievements were: his close association with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, his firing of all the US air-traffic controllers (who went on strike and refused to return to work on Reagan’s orders), his “deal” with Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release the fifty-two American diplomats they illegally held for 444 days, and his orders to invade the Caribbean Island of Grenada and overthrow the pro-Cuban regime and capture the 9,000 foot airstrip capable of accommodating the largest Soviet aircraft.

Perhaps it was the Iran-Contra scandal the besmirched his presidency the most and seriously eroded his credibility.  That kerfuffle is far too complicated to detail here.  However, the Tower Commission concluded that President Ronald Reagan was culpable.

John Hinckley, Junior, a schizophrenic, fired a twenty-two Devastator bullet into President Raegan. The bullet pierced Reagan’s left lung and settled one inch from his heart. Close to death, medical professionals conducted a difficult surgery and found and removed the bullet. I recall this incident and it was much more serious than we were told initially.

Kept from us was the fact that Alzheimer’s disease had invaded President Reagan’s brain sometime during his first term.  It was so severe during his second term that his team was near to encouraging him to resign. He had “good” days and “bad” days.  It was Nancy Regan who was the de facto president.

BOOK REVIEW: I Could Never Be So Lucky Again by Lieutenant General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, US Army Air Corps, (ret.)

Lucky AgainI Could Never Be So Lucky Again is the autobiography of one of the United States’ great heroes: Lieutenant General James (Jimmy) H. Doolittle—aviation pioneer, and Doctor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts of Technology. After the First World War, he became one of America’s top racing aviators. He won the Schneider Marine Cup, 1925; Mackay Trophy, 1925; Bendix Trophy, 1931; Thompson Trophy, 1932; and many other aviation awards and honors. In 1932, he set the world’s speed record at 296 miles/hour.

Perhaps Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle is best know for his audacious scheme, precision planning, sterling leadership of the B25 aircraft squadron raid on the Japanese homeland during the grim, early months of World War II. He earned the Medal of Honor—America’s highest military award. President Franklin Roosevelt presented the medal to Doolittle. At end of the War, Lieutenant General Doolittle (a reserve officer) was the Commander of the Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force strategic bomber command—stationed in England. Following the conclusion of the War, he served on numerous Government and civilian aviation type committees and boards. In 1989, President George Herbert Walker Bush awarded Doolittle the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ronald Reagan promoted Doolittle to a full four-star general. Jimmy Doolittle died on September 27, 1993, at age 96.

Should you have more interest in the famous and important Doolittle Raid on Japan, may I suggest that you read my blog comments posted on 18 April 2015—the 73rd anniversary of this daring and critically important event in World War II. The address is “smartinshelton@wordpress.com/”

I am much impressed with Doolittle’s autobiography—perhaps awed is the more accurate term of this great American aviator. I remember clearly, as a young nipper, the newspaper headlines, radio broadcast, and newsreels announcing the raid—a much needed boost to our flagging morale as the Japanese overran Southeast Asia including the Philippine Islands and threatened Australia.

No need to summarize the contents—read it. Suffice to note that the writing is empathetic as he leads us through the key elements of his life. We garner insight in the real man—a man of honor, daring, and patriotism. My negatives are:

  1. He (or the publisher) failed to post photographs of the cadre of aircraft he flew, important locations, and of many of the persons with which he interacted.
  2. There are no maps. Accordingly, it’s difficult to follow his adventures and we loose perspective. The surfeit of maps is a major failing in this otherwise superior tome.

The Doolittle Raid

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo and five other Japanese cities—one of the most audacious, brilliant, and important actions of World War II.

Background. In a surprise maneuver, aircraft from the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday, 7 December 1941 that destroyed the our Navy’s battle fleet. Fortunately, our aircraft carriers were at sea conducting exercises and were unharmed.

Following the Pear Harbor attack, allied forces were reeling backwards as Japanese forces advanced deep into China; they conquered Hong Kong, Wake, and Guam. In the Philippines, American forces had retreated to the island stronghold of Corridor in Manila Bay and it was soon to fall. In southeast Asia, they occupied Vichy French Indo-China without opposition. Their aircraft sunk the British battleships, Prince of Wales, and Repulse in the South China Sea. Shortly Malaysia and Singapore fell. Burma and Thailand fell next, and the Japanese were poised to invade India (“The Crown of the Empire”). In the naval engagement of the Java Sea, the Japanese sank our heavy cruiser USS Houston, and our auxiliary aircraft carrier USS Langley. Eastward, they captured the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), Timor, New Guinea, and vast areas of the central and southern Pacific: the Marshall, Caroline, and Gilbert Islands. The Japanese’s next scheduled conquest was Australia. (Most of its army was in Egypt fighting Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Africa Corps.)

American armed forces were in retreat throughout the western Pacific. The British and Commonwealth forces fell back to India. A Japanese submarine shelled the Elwood oil refinery near Santa Barbara. American moral was at the nadir as the war news became more and more negative. President Roosevelt demanded that we strike the Japanese homeland to boost American morale and put the Japanese Imperial Staff on notice that their day of reckoning was coming. The president’s charge was an impossible task. That is until Lieutenant Colonel James (Jimmy), Doolittle of the US Army Air Corp, devised a daring plan.

In the morning of 18 April 1942, in very heavy weather and pitching seas, sixteen Army Air Corps, North American “Mitchell” B25 medium bombers launched from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. Colonel Billy Mitchell was first off with only 400 feet of flight deck ahead of his aircraft. Flying at low-level to avoid detection, the B25s hit targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe, and Osaka. One B25 was forced down in Japan and the crew taken prisoners-of-war (and three executed), one landed in neutral Soviet Union and the crew interned, and the remaining fourteen aircraft crash-landed in China. President Roosevelt awarded James Doolittle the Medal of Honor.

In Doolittle’s autobiography, I Could Never be so Lucky Again, he said, “… as a result of our raid, the Japanese were withdrawing fighter (airplane) units from the front lines to defend their homeland.” They feared more attacks on their homeland and wanted to push their front lines to Midway for a follow on invasion of the Territory of Hawaii. The Japanese Navy suffered a stunning defeat in the ensuing Battle of Midway. We sank four of their aircraft carriers and several other warships; and the core of their veteran aviators was lost. Historians now agree that the Doolittle raid …”induced the Japanese to extend their forces beyond their capability. (p. 293) The Battle of Midway was the turning point in the war.”

In 1959, James Doolittle retired as a Major General and returned to an executive position at Shell Oil Company. In 1985, Ronald Reagan promoted Doolittle to a full four-star general. Doolittle died on September 27, 1993, at age 96.

Short Biography. Doolittle enlisted in the Army in 1917 when World War I was in full force. He earned his wings, and despite his repeated request for overseas duty, he was assigned to training aviation cadets. He earned his Doctor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts of Technology in1925. After the first world war, he became on of America’s top racing aviators. He won the Schneider Marine Cup, 1925; Mackay Trophy, 1925; Bendix Trophy, 1931; Thompson Trophy, 1932, and many other. In 1989 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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