Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Paul Allen RIP

Paul Allen RIP

Paul Allen died yesterday at age 65 of complications from Hodgkin's lymphoma.  Tributes have been paid to him by Bill Gates and many others in the technology world.  Allen was a co-founder of Microsoft which revolutionized the computer world.  He made a vast fortune and was, by all accounts, enormously generous.

I regret that I never met Allen so I do not have any personal recollections to share about the man.  But he touched my life and lives of millions around the world and particularly those in the Northwest.

Superbowl 2013

Allen was a son of the Northwest who had a profound beneficial influence on his local community.  He owned the Portland Trailblazers and the Seattle Seahawks.  He seemed to derive real joy from his personal wealth -- he would have the Trailblazers practice at his home in Seattle.  A lover of music, he liked performing at Seahawks Christmas parties.  As owner of the Seahawks he guided them to three Superbowls, winning their first (and only thus far) in 2013 over the Denver Broncos (americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2014/02/super-bowl-xlviii.html).  Like so many Seahawk fans, I appreciate his wise stewardship of the Seahawks organization.

Allen's father was a World War II US Army veteran who served in the Normandy campaign.  Allen believed that it is important to preserve history for future generations.  He built the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum in Everett, Washington which has an amazing collection of flyable World War II aircraft.  In the summer months these incredible warbirds take to the air to recreate historic chapters such as the Battle of Britain.

I salute Paul Allen, not merely for his undoubted entrepreneurial skill, but for his generous devotion to History.

Here are my past blogs on Allen's FHCAM...




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Friday, October 12, 2018

Centennial of the End of WWI

Where will you be on November 11, 2018?  This day will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I.  In America it will be a very special Veteran's Day.  In Britain it will be a very special Remembrance Day.  The occasion will be observed around the world to remember a war that tore asunder the peace of the world beginning in August of 1914.

In 2016 I edited and published An Adventure in 1914 a memoir about my great-grandfather's eyewitness account of the start of World War I.  He was a New York lawyer who was traveling with his family in Europe in the summer of 1914.  They had been crossing the Atlantic on June 28, 1911 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo.  This horrific event proved to be the catalyst for the start of World War I.

In An Adventure in 1914's Epilogue I wrote, "It was the original catastrophe of the twentieth century that sowed the seeds for future tragedies. The war shattered the stability of much of the world and destroyed four empires: Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia would have bloody consequences for the remainder of the twentieth century. The bitter peace of Versailles would lay the groundwork for World War II. France’s Marshal Ferdinand Foch proved to be a modern Cassandra when he declared, “This is not peace. It is an armistice for twenty years."

After over four years of war on the Western Front and in battlefields around the world the guns finally fell silent on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  All was finally quiet on the Western Front.

Cenotaph, London

On November 11, 2018 people will gather around the world to commemorate the end of this momentous conflict that shaped our world.  They will gather at the Cenotaph in London which notes  The Glorious Dead" who perished in that fearsome war.  They will gather at Arlington cemetery, St. Mihiel in France and many other American cemeteries overseas to mark the solemn occasion.  They will gather in Yekaterinburg, Russia to remember the execution of the Romanov family one hundred years ago.

SS Canopic

I am honored and excited to announce that I will be on board the Azamara Pursuit crossing the Atlantic on November 11, 2018.  We will be following in the footsteps of Thomas Wells, my great-grandfather, who took his family from Naples, Italy to Boston on board the SS Canopic which was a ship in the White Star line.  On November 6, 2018 we will journey from Barcelona, Spain arriving in  Miami, Florida on November 20, 2018. The SS Canopic made a port call at Gibraltar in 1914 and we will do the same in 2018.  Unlike Wells and his fellow passengers in 1914, we will not fear that any ship on the horizon could prove to be an Imperial German Cruiser determined to sink us!

The Azamara Pursuit is a luxury liner that has been newly refurbished earlier this year.

I am excited to be giving a series of lectures on historical topics throughout the cruise...

Azamara Pursuit
Barcelona to Miami
11/6 /18– 11/20/18

I) Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World.  Why did the Romans call the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum – Our Sea?  How did Italian soldiers fight in Spain the 20th century?  Explore the Italian impact on our world.

II) An Adventure in 1914: In the summer of 1914 my great grandfather (Thomas Wells) journeyed from America to Europe (by ship of course!) with his family.    What ought to have been a dream vacation turned into a nightmare as he witnessed the start of World War I.  We in the Azamara Pursuit are traveling along some of the route taken by him 104 years ago (e.g. stopping in Gibraltar)!  Based on my most personal book…An Adventure in 1914.

III) The Peninsular War:  In 1808 Napoleon invaded his own Ally – the kingdom of Spain.  Over the next six years a war would erupt for control of Iberia.  The “Spanish Ulcer” weakened Napoleon and saw the rise of the Duke of Wellington.

IV) America Invades: In World War II the USA established bases in the Azores to combat the Nazi U-boat menace – they are still there today.  Today we will examine America’s surprising military role in throughout her history.

V) Christopher Columbus: Hero or Villain?  In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  Today some think that he brought genocide to the New World while others regard him as a hero.  What is the truth about Columbus?  What do cigars, hammocks and chocolate owe to Columbus?

VI) Real Pirates of the Caribbean!  The waters of the Caribbean have been visited by pirates such as Henry Morgan and Anne Bonny.  In the 20th century underwater pirates preyed on merchant shipping in two World War.

VII) Invading Florida: Has Florida ever been Invaded?  Many times.  By the Spanish who built St. Augustine – the oldest European citadel on the North American continent.  By the English.  By the Americans led by Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville).   German U-boats terrorized the Florida coast and even landed spies on Florida beaches in WW2.

You are hereby invited to join me as a cross the Atlantic in the footsteps of my ancestor to commemorate the end of the Great War.  For much more information click on this link...

You can find signed copies of our books at 
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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Turn: Washington's Spies

George Washington Statue
Boston Common
George Washington said, "The necessity of procuring good intelligence is apparent and need not be further argued."  No serious student of military history would argue the proposition.  Accurate intelligence is critical to the business of waging war.  George Washington did try to create an effective intelligence service on the patriot side to counter the enormous advantages (financial, historical, etc. ) that were enjoyed by the British during the American Revolution.  Major Benjamin Tallmadge, who was Washington's chief of intelligence after 1778, did create a codebook to enable secret correspondence with agents in the Culper ring.

The TV mini-series Turn: Washington's Spies dramatically represents the activities of the Culper ring during the American Revolution.  Turn is, of course. not a documentary but rather a dramatization of historical events.  The Colonial period, while tremendously important, has been sadly neglected by popular culture.  The Founding Fathers are routinely represented in superhuman terms.  The huge success of Hamilton the musical has gone some way towards redressing the imbalance.  Turn shines the light onto the espionage activity which helped to win the war of the 13 colonies against the greatest empire in the world at the time.  The series is based upon a book by Alexander Rose and was developed by Craig Silverstein.

History often gets a bad wrap for being dry and tedious.  This drama amply demonstrates the power of History to entertain.  Over the course of four seasons (40 episodes) there are many twists and turns.  There is romance.  There is plenty of action.  An American family is forced to navigate through the treacherous times of the American Revolution.  We Americans often tend to view the American Revolution through rosy-hued spectacles and miss the conflict's brutality.   In many respects the American Revolution was a Civil War with all of the brutality that this implies.  This is depicted quite well in Turn where the British and those with Tory sympathies are not simply demonized but are given a more balanced portrayal.

Turn is very well done but is should not be confused with documentary film-making.  Many liberties are taken with historic veracity in order the enhance entertainment value.  The character of Robert Rogers, who founded the American Rangers, is portrayed very effectively by the Scottish actor Angus Macfadyen though Rogers was, in fact, of Irish descent.  There is no evidence to suggest that the real Anna Strong ever had an affair with the real Caleb Brewster who was ten years her junior.  And so on.

Another quibble is the inconsistency of the series.  With the execution of Major John AndrĂ© (the British spy is played brilliantly by JJ Feild) at the end of season three much of the air seems to go out of the balloon on the show which limps along until Yorktown.  Ian Kahn is superb as George Washington.  Ksenia Solo adds spice as a gorgeous and luminous Peggy Shippen.  Samuel Roukin plays an over the top psychotic version of John Graves Simcoe which is dramatically effective though not not historically persuasive -- Simcoe was later a founding father of Canada.

As with most espionage dramas, Turn tends to overemphasize the importance of spying in the conflict.  Washington was right that good intelligence is a necessity in war, but it forms only a part of military success that requires willing soldiers, finance, allies, sound strategy etc.  Benedict Arnold's actions at the Battles of Saratoga, for example, did more to win the Revolution for the Patriot side than all the activities of the Culper Ring.

These are, however, minor objections to a program that is stylishly produced, historically overlooked and vastly entertaining.

You can find signed copies of our books at 
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Monday, July 9, 2018

Operation Husky + 75

Smaug the Dragon

Seventy-five years ago on this day in 1943 (written July 10, 2018) Allied troops began the invasion of Sicily.  Churchill sought to attack the "soft underbelly of Europe" in much the same way that Bard the Bowman kills Smaug with an arrow to the belly in The Hobbit.  The invasion of Sicily would, however, prove to be infinitely more complicated than Tolkein's novel.  It was the largest amphibious invasion ever attempted at that point in history.  Mussolini's Fascist regime was a house of cards that needed to be toppled with a violent push.  But Nazi Germany would not give up on Italy so easily and a grinding campaign fought up the spine of the Italian peninsula that would result in more Allied deaths than the more famous northern campaign that began on June 6, 1944.

George S Patton

Paton and Montgomery would compete in the "Race to Messina" to liberate the island of Sicily.  Alec Guinness of the Royal Navy would pilot amphibious vehicles that stormed ashore on July 10, 1944.  Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of WW2, would also fight in Sicily.  All of these were of Celtic ancestry and many will be discussed in our forthcoming 100 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur (out in 2019).

Bernard Law Montgomery

We wrote about the American involvement in the invasion of Italy in our book America Invades (www.americainvades.com)...

"It all started on July 10, 1943, with Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. The first day of the campaign was also one of the worst when the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of Matthew Ridgway’s 82nd Airborne was decimated by friendly fire. About fourteen hundred Americans were tragically killed by  re from anti-aircraft batteries on allied naval vessels. From this painful experience, the Allies learned a valuable lesson. All Allied aircraft participating in the D-Day invasion were painted with black and white stripes prior to the Normandy invasion.
Once ashore, General Patton and British General Montgomery competed in the famous “Race to Messina” on the other side of the island. To Montgomery’s irritation, the indefatigable Patton won, but he didn’t have it all his way ending up being very nearly court-martialled for slapping a soldier suffering from battle fatigue.

With Sicily under Allied control, it was on to mainland Italy. The Second World War in Italy was a long grueling affair in which Americans fought with great tenacity and bravery. For instance, The 442nd Regimental Combat Unit, composed mainly of Japanese-Americans, became the most decorated American military unit in our history winning a staggering 9,486 Purple Hearts. There were times when the possibility of a rapid advance north towards the heart of Europe seemed possible, for instance, after the Germans were initially surprised by the Allied landings at Anzio, but somehow the enemy collapse never came, at least not until right at the end of the war itself.

In spite of the surrender of the Italian government and their switching sides to the Allies, the German defense of Italy under the able “Smiling Albert” Kesselring was stubborn and tenacious. After Southern Italy was cleared, the Americans used airbases in Italy to bomb Axis targets, such as the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. George McGovern, the future presidential candidate, piloted his B-24 Liberator bomber on thirty-five missions from San Giovanni Air Base in Apulia.

Rome, Mussolini’s former capital, was liberated by American forces on June 4, 1944, an extremely newsworthy event but preempted by what came two days later far to the north—D-Day. As Allied armies swept across northern Europe towards the Reich, American and other Allied armies continued their slow, tough advance north through Italy. In fact, fighting was to continue in Italy all the way until May 8, 1945—V-E Day.

Victory in Italy came at a heavy price. There were about 114,000 US casualties in the Italian campaign. Today you will find two American Battle Commission cemeteries in Italy, one in Florence and another near Anzio (Nettuno) where visitors can sit and think about the huge sacrifice made by many young troops." Source: www.americainvades.com

Remember ALL those brave Allied troops, American, British, Canadian, etc. that fought to slay the dragon of fascism in Europe from July of 1943 until the end of the war.  Never forget their sacrifice!

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Invading Norway: Occupied

The second season of Occupied is now out.  This is an amazing television mini-series.  If you can get past subtitles it is well worth your time.

If you think that NATO is irrelevant in 2018, you really need to watch Occupied.

If you believe in America First and think that America should mind its own business and stay out of Europe and the outside world, then you really need to watch Occupied.

If you think that Putin's Russia is dreamy, then you really need to watch Occupied.

If you don't think that Americans ever Invaded Norway too then you need to read my blog...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/american-troops-in-norway.htm

This is one of the most expensive series ever filmed for Norwegian television.  It is well written and well acted by a cast that is largely unknown to American audiences.  The actors, being mainly Scandinavian, are very attractive.  Their characters, being Scandinavian, hop in and out of bed with each other with regularity.  Occupied is a postcard for Norway -- a land of spectacular natural beauty and charm.  Norway is a wealthy country that has benefited from North Sea oil over many decades.  There is a gorgeous new opera house in Oslo.  The woman running Norway's pension scheme bet shrewdly on a market recovery near the bottom of the financial crisis in 2008 enriching her countrymen.

This is a Scandinavian production so don't expect a fairy tale ending here.

Check out Occupied!

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ethiopia 1936 / Syria 2018

Mussolini gassed Ehiopia

In 1935-36 Mussolini launched a brutal invasion of a sovereign African nation -- Ethiopia.  His troops used poison gas to slaughter thousands of Ethiopian civilians.  We had this to say in the Ethiopia chapter of Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World...

"In October 1935, a vast Italian Army with extensive armored and air support advanced into Ethiopia in the second Italo-Ethiopian war. They reached Adwa and captured Aksum. The Ethiopians retaliated with a Christmas offensive. But in 1936, the Italians continued to press forward. The Italian forces had vast superiority in armaments and won a series of encounters, including the Battle of Enderta, the Battle of Shire, and the decisive Battle of Lake Ashenge. On May 5, 1936, Italian forces entered the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. However, Ethiopian resistance had not ended in substantial parts of the country, and a bitter guerrilla war followed before Italy took full control. Mussolini ordered the use of poison gas, delivered via artillery and by air, against Ethiopian forces. General Graziani declared brutally, 'The Duce will have Ethiopia, with or without the Ethiopians.'"
(Source: www.italyinvades.com)

Italians have much to be proud of.  But it must be admitted that Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia and his use of poison gas was a disgrace.  Moreover, the West's complete lack of any coordinated response to the fascist aggression in Africa was hopelessly irresponsible.  Aggression went unchecked.  Just three year's after Il Duce's conquest of Ethiopia, World War II would begin with Hitler's September 1939 invasion of Poland.  The entire world would be plunged into the bloodiest war in human history.

The parallels of Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia are not exact (Assad has attacked his own people with chemical weapons rather than a foreign nation, for example) but they are instructive.  History does not always repeat itself but it often rhymes.

The world did not really care much about the fate of the Ethiopians in 1936.  It does not seem to care much about the fate the Syrians caught up in a brutal civil war today.  But it should have cared back then and it must today.

Assad seems to be desirous today of having Syria today "with or without the Syrians".

One may or may not agree with the various domestic and foreign policies of Trump, May and Macron.  And they are open to fair criticism for having telegraphed their intentions before the fact.  But one must concede that something needed to be done with regard to Assad's blatant disregard for all international norms with his use of Chlorine and, perhaps, Sarin gas on Syrian civilians.  Aggression must be checked in the 21st century to prevent the outbreak of catastrophic conflicts by appeasement-emboldened tyrants.

It is comforting to see a restoration of the Special relationship between America and its oldest allies -- Britain and France.  Churchill, FDR and DeGaulle would be smiling down on today's political leaders for the actions they have taken in calling a halt to the use of brutal and inhumane weapons.  It is always better to act in concert with allies rather than for America to act alone.  Based on the early morning timing for these attacks, it is evident that the Allies worked hard to minimize civilian and collateral casualties.

Thoughts and prayers go out today to the brave men and women serving in the American, British and French militaries that have conducted these much-needed and overdue strikes against the Assad regime.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

General Patton Memorial Museum

At the Patton Museum in
Chiriaco Summit, CA

The General George Patton Museum (http://generalpattonmuseum.com/), located in Chiriaco Summit, CA, was the site of the Desert Training Camp in World War II.   From 1942 until 1944 about a million men and some women trained here for desert warfare.  They lived in tents in the Mojave desert about 150 miles from Los Angeles.  They trained for armored warfare over a desert that stretched over 18,000 square miles from Claremont CA to the Arizona border.  Joshua Tree National Park, visited today by thousands of tourists, was once a tank proving ground.

General Patton, who grew up in Pasadena, CA, trained US armored forces here for desert combat prior to Operation Torch which targeted North Africa.  The hard training in the California desert paid off when American forces arrived in North Africa in the fall of 1942.  We wrote this in the Morocco chapter of America Invades (www.americainvades.com)...

Commander Kelly w Sherman Tank
Patton Memorial Museum

"On November 8, 1942, US troops, under the command of General George “Blood and Guts” Patton, who studied the Koran on the voyage across the Atlantic, landed on three sites on the coast.
The United States, in invading Morocco, was attacking a nation with which it was not at war at the time—Vichy France was technically neutral. The point of Operation Torch invasions across North Africa was to strategically outflank Rommel’s Africa Corps and the Italians in Libya who faced the British driving west from Egypt.

Despite hopes the Vichy troops would not put up much resistance, there were some fierce clashes. Nevertheless, compared to many later WWII operations in the Mediterranean, casualties were light, the fighting was brief, and the port city of Casablanca, a major target of Torch, eventually fell. About seventy-two hours’ worth of  fighting was sufficient to satisfy the demands of French honor.

Armored Vehicle
Patton Memorial Museum

The classic movie Casablanca was actually filmed in 1942 before the US capture of the city but had its world premiere in New York City on November 26, after it. If the timing of Torch had been different, so might movie history have been.

After the battle of Casablanca, the red carpet was rolled out for the surrendering French officers who had ruled Morocco. After negotiating the terms of surrender with the French, Patton, who was fluent in French, 'held up his hand and told them there was one last formality to be completed. 'Worried looks were quickly replaced by smiles as champagne bottles were opened and Patton offered a toast to the renewal of France and America’s age-old friendship."  (Source: www.americainvades.com)

General Patton
USMA West Point, NY

In the Tunisia chapter of America Invades we noted...

"But by late 1942, it was we and the British who were about to invade it (Tunisia). Operation Torch was launched on November 8 with US and British landings in Vichy-French–controlled Morocco and Algeria in an attempt to attack Rommel’s Afrika Korps from behind. In response to these landings, however, the Germans rushed men and tanks into Tunisia to try to hold it against US and British forces advancing from the west, and our boys were in for something of shock.

In February of 1943, two veteran panzer divisions attacked the inexperienced American forces at Sdi-Bou-Zid and Kasserine Pass pushing rapidly forward against them. After the humiliation of Kasserine, British soldiers even brie y dismissed their American allies as being the Allied version of Italians, a reference to the commonly held belief among British troops that the Italians fighting against them were generally lower quality troops than the Germans also facing them.

However, this was soon to change. Eisenhower dismissed Lloyd Fredendall and put General George “Blood and Guts” Patton in command of II Corps in Tunisia. With fresh leadership, there was an almost immediate improvement in morale. On March 16, Patton told his staff, “Gentlemen, tomorrow we attack. If we are not victorious, let no one come back alive.”

Patton Memorial Museum

On April 3, Patton held a meeting in Gafsa with Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder to demand that his soldiers receive better air cover; they were interrupted by three Focke-Wulf fighters that strafed the streets and headquarters. Tedder, dusting himself off, inquired how the Germans had managed to achieve this, to which Patton famously replied, “I’ll be damned if I know, but if I could find the sonsabitches who flew those planes, I’d mail each one a medal.”

Patton Bust
Patton Memorial Museum

With new leadership and growing experience, American performance rapidly improved. With vastly superior Allied numbers being brought to bear on the Axis forces, trapped and short of supplies in Tunisia, the battle there was going to end only one way. Von Arnim surrendered on May 12, 1943, and over 250,000 prisoners surrendered, about the same surrendered by Paulus’s Sixth Army at Stalingrad, though the victory at Stalingrad seems to have gotten better press over the decades and remains much better known today.

The Allies now had a secure platform from which they could invade Italy and drive Mussolini out of the war. Churchill commented in his memoirs that one continent had, at that point, been redeemed."  (Source: www.americainvades.com)

Visit the General Patton Memorial Museum (http://generalpattonmuseum.com/) in the California desert and learn all about it!

For more on Patton see...

You can find signed copies of our books at 
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Palm Springs Air Museum

Palm Springs Air Museum
Palm Springs, CA
The Palm Springs Air Museum (www.palmspringsairmuseum.org) is an awesome place to explore American military aviation history.  A visit to this excellent institution is a reminder of America's proud military tradition in the air and of our superpower status.

Curtis P-40 Warhawk
Palm Springs Air Museum, CA 

The collection is particularly strong in terms of its selection of World War II aircraft.  You will find
P-40s with Flying Tiger markings.
"Angela" B-17
Palm Springs Air Museum

You will find a beautiful B-17 bomber which, for a small donation, can be explored inside and out.  The B-17 was the iconic American bomber of the war.  It saw extensive use in the European and Pacific theaters.  In our book America Invades (www.americainvades.com) we (authors Kelly / Laycock) noted the crucial role that these planes played over Nazi-occupied Norway in World War II...

"We conducted assorted air operations over occupied Norway. For example, we were part of the campaign to prevent a Nazi atomic bomb. The Germans were attempting to make heavy water for their nascent nuclear program and using a hydroelectric plant in Vermork, Norway, to do so. In 1943, this plant was hit by a 143-plane raid of USAAF B-17s that did extensive damage." 

The thought of Hitler, armed with atomic weapons, is truly terrifying.  But this nightmare could have been a reality had it not been for the work of the US Army Air Corps.

"Mitch the Witch II" (B-25 Mitchell)
Palm Springs Air Museum

Air crews were at liberty to decorate their aircraft with some amazing nose art.  Here are few examples you can find at the Palm Spring Air Museum.
Pretty Polly
Palm Springs Air Museum, CA
King of the Cats
Palm Springs Air Museum

In the Solomon Islands chapter of America Invades (www.americainvades.comwe touched on Lieutenant John F. Kennedy's experience with PT-109.  We wrote...
Lieutenant John F. Kennedy
Palm Springs Air Museum

"In August 1943, JFK’s motor torpedo boat, PT-109, was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer, and members of the crew had to hide on assorted islands in the Solomons until they could be saved in an epic rescue with the help of brave Solomon Islanders. Part of PT-109 was finally located in the waters of the Solomon Islands in 2002." (Source: www.americainvades.com)

In the Alabama chapter of America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil we noted this in the Alabama chapter...

Tuskegee Airmen Mural
Palm Springs Air Museum, CA
"The training of African-American airmen at Tuskegee is also a noteworthy feature of Alabama’s war effort during World War II. In March of 1941, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a passenger in a plane  own by an African-American pilot over Alabama." (Source: www.americainvaded.com)

Visitors to the Palm Springs Air Museum (www.palmspringsairmuseum.org) will discover or be reminded that we Americans have so much to be proud of.

You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...