Generalship of the Martyr


It doesn’t take that much military science savvy to look back at Vietnam and decide LBJ was either an incompetent buffoon, or acting on behalf of someone who wanted to give a sterroid shot to the military-industrial complex without actually “halting the spread of Communism” (but simultaneously using that as the excuse).

What a lot of people assume is that, had JFK not been assassinated, Vietnam would have turned out much differently—maybe he would have never even sent combat troops. I used to go along with this assumption.

Now I believe differently.

When you look at the Bay of Pigs debacle honestly and in detail, it’s easy to identify the same kind of decision making that guided our involvement in Vietnam.

Originally the plan to oust Castro from Cuba involved a quiet infiltration in an area where, should the infiltration be discovered, the anti-Castro forces could easily slip into the mountains, from which they could conduct guerrilla operations. This site was also in close proximity to an area with a large population of anti-Castro Cubans who would likely join the guerrillas as they became aware of a resistance movement. In fact, guerrillas were already hiding in the mountains, but without the arms and supplies needed to pose much of a threat to the new dictator.

This plan had a high probability of success, and with little chance of exposure of US involvement. But for some unspecified reason, the plan was radically altered to a WWII-style amphibious assault. And the location chosen for the landing was a beach closer to Castro’s center of power, where the dictator could quickly deploy enough units from his army–including heavy armor–to smash the 1500-man invasion force.  The landing area was wedged between the ocean and an unnavigable swamp.

In other words, it was a near-perfect trap. And probability of success had been reduced to less than ten percent.

With this shift to a conventional amphibious invasion by unconventional forces (a recipe for disaster perhaps all by itself), success for the initial stage of the operation would be impossible without complete air superiority. All of Castro’s combat aircraft had to be destroyed on the ground prior to the invasion for there to be any chance for “Brigade 2506” to fight its way out of the Bay of Pigs. Not only that, but they would need their own air cover when Castro’s tanks blocked the only causeways from the landing area through the swamps.


The CIA had trained pilots to fly a squadron of old WWII surplus B-26 bombers to provide the air support needed for the invasion. The entire operation now hinged on the preemptive bombing. So Kennedy reduced the number of bombers to four and limited the targets that could be engaged. Why? Because applying the necessary force for success would be “too noisy” (high profile).

It’s plain to see that, going in, Kennedy was more concerned with the image of his administration than with achieving victory. He also forbid US commanders to support Brigado 2506 with any of the considerable air or naval assets the US had in-theater.

Kennedy’s ludicrous rationale was nothing short of Johnsonesque: The ships transporting the free Cubans were escorted by a flotilla of American destroyers, cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers. Yet by forbidding those warships to fire a shot Kennedy believed the ships would magically turn invisible and therefore not implicate US involvement?

The only feasible way to keep the operation low-profile with plausible deniability, yet with any hope of success, would have been to stick with the original plan of quiet infiltration.

The Bay of Pigs plan was  not one to approve if you truly wanted to stay low-profile. But it was the plan—especially once Kennedy began tampering with it—to sabotage a Cuban-led liberation and ensure there would never again be a serious American effort to oust the Communists on our back door.

There was just too much insanity in too many aspects on too many levels to address in a blog post, but the intelligence failure is noteworthy. About 17 years before this, the greatest amphibious invasion ever attempted, by the greatest armada the world had ever seen, was planned, staged, and executed. Multiple armies from three nations were landed, achieving the element of surprise. Despite the months of planning and the number of people in on the secret, and highly motivated German spies working tirelessly to discover its timing and location, Operation Overlord maintained OPSEC (operational security).

But this little podunk covert op involving not even a full strength brigade–much less a division–was compromised before ever being greenlighted. No less than the New York Times warned the Cubans, Soviets, and the rest of the world about the mission while Brigada 2506 was still training in Guatemala. Other Communist assets filled in the details of the operation for Castro so completely that just prior to the invasion he knew exactly where to find his would-be assassin. (This would be the first of many alleged CIA-backed assassination attempts on Castro so inept as to be suspect.)

Despite the mission being compromised in the preparation stage, JFK said go. The four B-26s attempted the preemptive strike on Castro’s air force. At least three of Castro’s warplanes were relocated to other airfields just prior to the raid, and survived.

Instead of landing on an invasion beach, the landing craft carried Brigado 2506 into a rocky deathtrap where coral reefs ripped open their hulls. Those not injured or killed had to swim, then wade, ashore, losing most of their equipment and ammunition before their feet even touched land. Only a lucky few were on boats that made it to shore intact.

Kennedy cancelled B-26 airstrikes after only two. He was told some of the Cuban warplanes were still operational, but he refused to budge. The logic being, one must assume, that the first two bombings must have gone unnoticed (explosions being so quiet and stealthy, you see), but a third airstrike might tip off the world that something was happening in Cuba.

Incredibly, the bulk of the Brigade’s supplies and ammunition were loaded on a freighter that also carried the troops. One of those Cuban planes, saved from the air strikes, bombed the ship and sank it.

Castro’s forces were ready for Brigado 2506. Mortars and heavy Soviet artillery moved up to cover the only avenues out of the swamp, and tanks were on the way.

Outnumbered 20-to-1, with no food or water, no air cover, and trapped on a pathetic excuse of a beachhead by an enemy with artillery, armor, and fighter-bombers, who knew as much about the invasion as the invaders did, Brigado 2506 managed to fight on for three days before running out of ammo.

American commanders pleaded desperately for permission to lend support from the moment the crap hit the fan, but the fix was in. Kennedy did finally approve one sortie to intercept a Cuban T-33, but at a time when Castro’s planes were refueling/rearming inland, and not present to engage.

In trying to “keep a low profile” for the operation, JFK guaranteed the exposure and national embarrassment he supposedly wanted to avoid. And of course he doomed the people of Cuba to Communist rule, and the Cuban freedom fighters to death or capture. JFK’s reputation was only tarnished briefly, as the news media had built his public image back up within a year.

Obviously he still managed to piss somebody off, and theories abound as to how, who, and why. I have problems with all of them. Most of all with the official story casting Lee Harvey Oswald as the deranged culprit acting alone.

Castro’s finest celebrating the anniversary of their heroic triumph over enemies of the state.


Linked below are a couple books I’ve not yet read, but are rare in that they don’t appear to come from the typical anti-American/JFK apologist cookie cutter. Might be worth a look.

Operation Perfida–Len Levinson’s Take on the JFK Plot



Since I began blogging, I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the authors of my favorite books, including Jim Morris and the late Jerry Ahern. It should be no surprise  that high on that list is Len Levinson, one of the best action adventure authors from the 1970s and ’80s. I’m very familiar with his work in the war genre, but hadn’t delved into his other dabblings until recently.

Since I’ve long been fascinated with the JFK assassination, and Piccadilly Publishing has released a Levinson novel with a connection to that historic turning point, I just had to get this book on my Kindle.

A strong main character makes this one too engaging to put down.


True to Levinson form, Operation Perfidia is a really fast read and hard to put down. He is a master storyteller and the first two thirds of the novel just crackles along. Last year I read two novels of cold war intrigue–Ken Follett’s Code to Zero and Ian Fleming’s Moonraker. There are many similarities between this story and Follett’s, but to me this was the most enjoyable of the three books and I attribute this to the main character, David Brockman. The CIA field agent is tough, smart, and good at his job. His Achilles’ heel is the mile-wide blind spot he has for the woman he loves.

This book supports the most popular spin on the facts and rumors surrounding the mystery of the JFK snuff–the “vast right-wing conspiracy” theory. It is fairly obvious just from reading the blurb that the culprits will turn out to be anti-Castro Cubans. Of course anti-Kennedy CIA good ol’ boys collaborate. Nothing new here, but then this book was originally published in 1975, 16 years before the Oliver Stone film would make this hypothesis a household assumption.

But it does leave room for improvement…


The most disappointing aspect of the book was in the climax and ending. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but I read the last words wishing there was more to it. Not that the reader needs more concrete plans for the hero’s future–best to leave it uncertain as-is. I guess I wanted a little bit more expose` on Brockman’s wife Mirallia. Flesh out that angle a bit more. After all, Brockman only stumbles upon the JFK plot as a side-effect of chasing his wife, anyway. She’s his primary motivation through the bulk of the novel; then when he finally tracks her down, it unfolds a touch on the anti-climactic side.

All in all, this is a nice espionage thriller to cuddle up with. You can get it for your Kindle here or by clicking the cover image at the top of this post.

Alone and Unafraid

Peter Nealen arrived home from the Sandbox not too long ago and immediately set to work as a novelist. I’ve reviewed his other two Praetorian Security novels. I asked Pete if this was the capper to a trilogy and he said that he envisions this as an ongoing series.

One thing that set his first two efforts apart from the other new military fiction by young veterans (some of which is bloody good stuff) is his commitment to verisimilitude. Told in first person by the paramilitary protagonist Jeff Stone, these books make an admirable effort to immerse you into a grunt’s eye view of the chaos in the near-future Near East.

Jeff’s Private Military Company is like a man trying to navigate a forest fire barefoot. Alliances are constantly shifting. Friends become enemies overnight and vice-versa. Praetorian seems to be only a half-step in front of the Grim Reaper most of the time, in a world with a violent power vacuum in the absence of American interventionism after the collapse of the dollar.

In Alone and Unafraid, Nealen really ramps up the action. Some of the complex regional politics might be challenging to follow early on, but don’t let that deter you, because it takes off soon thereafter. Once it gets going, it just about never stops.

This is my favorite novel in the series so far. Pete has found a nice balance between plausibility and entertainment, and I expect his audience to expand after this.

If you like paramilitary adventure, you need to read this book.

The Arroyo

Critics are people who get paid to spout off their opinions. Often they have college degrees. So you can’t really call me a critic since I don’t get paid to blog here. That distinction might help make sense of my next statement.

If critics hate a movie, I’m often tempted to watch it on the hunch that Hollywood sometimes hides the good ones under a pile of horrible reviews. Looks like critics hate this movie, so you might not have even learned it exists yet.

Let’s start with the “tangible” aspects:

Yes, it is low-budget, and indie. No multi-million-dollar special effects or big name actors. But no cheesey effects, either. The cinematography, sound work and editing were all competent.

The acting is a mixed bag. The major players were good…which is not to say photogenic. None of them will likely ever appear in People Magazine by virtue of their aesthetic appeal. Furthermore, the actor in the starring role has an unfortunate facial disposition which keeps his mouth in the shape of a smile even when he is clearly not smiling; yet his performance was solid.

The supporting actors performed at a level you would expect from friends, relatives and neighbors of an indie filmmaker. The screenwriter compensated for their inadequacies by not asking much of them. So they came off wooden, which is not as bad as grandiose. Underacting is preferable to overacting, I believe. So the supporting players weren’t good, but neither was it painful to watch them.

I saw real potential in the writing and directing. This was a movie with a message, and frankly, more was accomplished in the dialog than what many establishment directors can manage with an elite cast. I found a few clips on Youtube that, for all I know, report the story this film is based on.

The main character is a rancher in a border state. Every day illegal aliens swarm across the border through his property, leaving piles of garbage, vandalizing his fences, stealing from him and, far too often, leaving dead bodies.

The federal government refuses to do its job, and the local government (in the form of the sheriff) turns a blind eye as well. Gunmen for the drug cartels routinely trespass on the rancher’s property and occupy his deer stand. They are using illegals as “mules” to haul controlled substances into the country, and are also raping (or at least coercing sex from) the female illegals, then tying their panties to a “trophy tree.”

When the rancher and a friend decide to chase the cartel off his property, that’s when “shit gets real” in modern hood parlance. The cartel brings in a hit man  before long, and he’s about as slimy as they come. Yet he has the best lines in the film.

There is some action, some drama, and plenty of thought provocation Hollywood would never allow. I suspect that last item is the true reason critics hate the movie.

Loose Lips: Pink Slips

70 years ago this June…



Just kidding. Even FDR couldn’t have gotten away with this kind of crap. Not in 1944 and not even by 1991.

Some soldiers who served in the unit Bergdahl deserted from have spoken up, and the regime in Washington doesn’t like it. Doubleplus-ungood is the fact that they’re trying to sell a book about it.

savingprivatebergdahlIt is hardly news that the media and entertainment industry carefully craft their propaganda to reflect positively on the current administration, nor that they conspire to censor what doesn’t. What is surprising is that the cultural thought cops are so impudent about their chokehold on the flow of information that some of them hang their true colors right out on the clothesline for all to see:

“I thought about this all weekend, and basically, I’m not sure we can publish this book without the Right using it to their ends,” Sarah Durand, a senior editor at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, wrote in an email to one of the soldiers’ agents.

“[T]he Conservatives are all over Bergdahl and using it against Obama,” Durand wrote, “and my concern is that this book will have to become a kind of ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’” — a reference to the group behind a controversial book that raised questions about John Kerry’s Vietnam War record in the midst of his 2004 presidential campaign. (Durand did not respond to requests for comment. “We do not comment about our editorial process,” said Paul Olsewski, vice president and director of publicity at Atria.)

Evidently, Durand’s masters don’t believe she should be so transparent about their agenda-enforcement-by-censorship. She was let go quickly after word got out.

Castigo Cay by Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken is a former SEAL with what seems to me an obsession about sailing. You’d think, when someone like this becomes a novelist, he’d try his hand at writing high seas thrillers after the manner of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt.

That’s not quite what he does.

Like a lot of us, Bracken is bothered by a government that views as it’s primary enemy the very citizens whose rights it was established to protect. Up until Castigo Cay the backdrop of his stories was almost entirely comprised of the efforts of renegade public servants hell-bent on violating a specific article of the Bill of Rights they swore to uphold. I’ve read and reviewed the first novel in his Enemies series.

Castigo Cay is a bit of an adjustment from his previous work–more of a straight-up adventure–with a point of view decidedly unorthodox, as you might imagine.

Dan Kilmer is a USMC veteran of the Iraq deployment who escaped the near-future dystopia in a 60-foot schooner, making a living as a sort of modern day privateer. His gorgeous, sexy girlfriend leaves him in the first act to chase her ambitions inside the economically ruined USA; specifically in the de facto fiefdom of Miami. Dan is sorry to see her go, but prepared to move on with his life, when another expatriate sailor brings him news about the shady billionaire who enticed Cori (the ex-girlfriend) away.

The billionaire is one of the amoral corporatists who has profited from the dismantling of the republic. He’s a real sicko, and has hired a crew of fellow sickos. On his private island in the Carribbean (ostensibly a “game preserve”) he brings young attractive women to be raped, tortured, then hunted and killed as if big game.

Dan spends a lot of his private savings (in the form of gold krugerands–the universal barter currency in the wake of the US Dollar’s obliterated facade of worth) and spends most of the novel on a sort of goose chase, but meets some helpful friends along the way.

Bracken really hooked me at the beginning with the strong characterizations. The story did bog down a bit, however, during the second act in the Miami area. The third act poured on the juice, though, with a return to the eponymous locale and a showdown between Dan and the sickos.

As apparently is SOP with Bracken’s novels, this one is packed with a lot of information, most of it about sailing. I didn’t always know what the names of different equipment referred to, but it was never so thick that I got lost, either. It reminded me a bit of The Sand Pebbles in that regard. I got the gist of it enough to follow the flow of the story weaved through this maritime universe.

Regardless of how right or wrong the worldview behind an adventure story is, or the technical details, what makes it sink or swim are the characters. Bracken batted it out of the park in that regard. Dan Kilmer is flawed to be sure, but he kind of knows it, can admit when he’s wrong, and when given the chance to redeem himself he charges straight for it at flank speed.

The Blue Max


About a gazillion books have been written, and movies made, about the Second World War. Only a fraction of that have dealt with the FIrst. Of them, this is one of the best.

The protagonist is the antihero Bruno Stachel, who leaves the living hell of the infantry to join the burgeoning German Air Service and make a name for himself. This isn’t just a chance to escape the misery of the trenches, but also the lower caste he was born into (remember Napoleon Bonaparte was a Corsican peasant who managed to get a commission in the artillery because that was a young branch at the time, too).

But Stachel is a little too eager to distinguish himself. He sets his sights on winning the Blue Max, which requires 20 confirmed kills. His cold, dogged pursuit of this goal is, frankly, similar to that of a hardcorps gamer trying to get the high score/next level on a videogame–only dealing out death to real live human beings, of course, instead of A.I. generated digital targets.

I have both watched the movie and read the book, and both are well-crafted.

In the movie, the cinematography is pretty and the aerial combat scenes are kick-ass, especially considering they were filmed WAAAAAAAAAAAY before CGI, and most of the Hollywood magic that preceded it.

In the book, Stachel is even more ruthless. Translate that “less sympathetic.” He commits murder at one point to eliminate competition in the form of a fellow pilot who considered him a friend. And he’s an alcoholic on top of everything else.

The ending is strikingly different between the film and the novel, but I’m not going to give either one away. I at least recommend watching the movie. Solid performances are put in by George Peppard (playing well under his age) and Ursula Andress. Personally I appreciated the visual comparisons of trench warfare to air combat. I found all the visuals striking, even before I became attentive to such things in film.

Remembering the Great War

This month is the 100 year anniversary of the “war to end all wars,” retroactively labeled World War One. Nine million died before it was over, and its conclusion almost guaranteed there would be a sequel.

Many, many factors led to the crisis that was sparked by the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, A major catalyst was Tsarist Russia’s desire for Constantinople (and warm water ports), owned by their traditional enemy, the Ottoman Empire. Bismark’s intricate cobweb of fragile alliances began to break down once he was no longer around to maintain it. And when the Second Reich’s navy grew close to 2/3rds the size of the Royal Navy, Great Britain became hostile toward Germany and formed an alliance with her traditional enemies, France and Russia. The polyglot empire of Austria-Hungary had very pigheaded, hamfisted leadership in handling the aftermath of the assassination, and unfortunately Kaiser Wilhelm gave them carte blanch to resolve the crisis.

When the Great War began, Field Marshal Helmuth Von Moltke (the Younger–nowhere near the caliber of commander his uncle had been) tampered with the Von Schlieffen Plan at the last minute, weakening the German right wing. Spirited resistance from the Belgians slowed that weakened right wing down, buying the British and French valuable time to deploy their forces. Then tactical Blunders by German commanders, and decisive action by their French counterparts, stalled the German advance short of Paris.

Both sides raced to the sea in an effort to outflank each other, and soon a stalemate ensued that would last for most of the war. Trenches were dug and, though outnumbered, the Germans proved a match for their combined enemies on the Western Front.

Gas warfare was introduced in the trench war, by the Germans…as well as flamethrowers for breaching bunkers. Tanks were introduced by the British. Their invention was mothered by the need for an “armor plated trench-crosser” and the name for the armored monstrosities (“tanks”) came from a disinformation ploy in order to keep the weapon secret.

During the Great War, battle spread even into the sky. Aircraft transitioned from infancy to toddler-hood. What were flimsy, unreliable contraptions in 1914, used primarily for observation, by war’s end had evolved into fighters and bombers.

The reason German strategists violated Belgium’s neutrality had to do with timing, and concern over the alleged heavy hitter in the Triple Entente: Russia. Then, as later, Russia’s manpower gave her a tremendous numerical advantage over any other army in Europe. The German High Command decided they had to deliver a quick, decisive knockout blow in the West so they could turn to meet the “Great Steamroller From the East.” So they banked on the same Von Schlieffen Plan the Prussians used to capture Paris and force France’s surrender in 1871, which meant sweeping through Belgium. As noted above, however, reshuffling of divisions weakened the most crucial component of the Plan in 1914.

Ironically, the knockout blow came in the East. With comparatively small German forces, Hindenburg and Ludendorff humiliated the Russian juggernaut.  Austria-Hungary, which touched off this epic powderkeg to begin with, proved worthless militarily.  They were barely competent enough to handle Serbia and turncoat Italy (originally part of the Triple Alliance), much less Russia. So the Germans were stuck fighting on both fronts.

Enter globalist puppet Woodrow Wilson, who saw this epic crisis as an opportunity to bring about a League of Nations–the first overt attempt in modern history to establish world government. After campaigning in 1916 on the slogan “He kept us out of war!” (as if there were any reason to entangle the USA in that European conflict) he stepped up his efforts to get us into war.

Armchair historians will be quick to cite the sinking of the Lusitania. The Wilson administration was giving weapons and war material to the British, who were at war with Germany. One shipment was being smuggled over the Atlantic on the famous passenger liner (this has been confirmed repeatedly during the following century, though coincidence theorists still deny it). The Germans posted a warning in American newspapers that nobody should book passage on a ship flying the flag of a warring nation sailing into a war zone.


Were the powers-that-were incredibly foolish, or were they much like the Hamas cowards in Gaza, hiding behind women and children as they fire rockets at Israeli civilians, knowing that any meaningful reprisal will make their enemy look villainous to the world?

Question: would the US Navy have hesitated to sink any vessel from a “neutral” country shipping war material to the Japanese from 1942-45? Absolutely not–that’s back when we fought wars to win.

The Germans did suspend submarine attacks against Wilson’s “neutral” arms trafficking precisely because of the public relations trap. They resumed unrestricted submarine warfare out of national desperation, partly because their population was starving due to the British Navy’s blockade, and they clutched at any straw which might cause the Anglo-French to sue for peace.

After mass desertions in the Russian army and the subsequent Bolshevik Revolution, Russia (the primary instigator of 1914, next to Austria-Hungary) bowed out of the war. This freed up German divisions from the Eastern Front, which shipped West and began to push the French and British back.

But it was too late. By now the USA was overtly involved and fresh American troops were moving up to the lines. Doughboys forced the pendulum to swing the other way.

The Second Reich now realized victory was no longer possible and agreed to an armistice.

The United States Congress was gullible enough to get suckered into World War I, but they weren’t gullible enough to get suckered into the League of Nations.

Wilson, the globalist stooge,  had failed.

But the failure was only temporary. The terms of the Versailles Treaty ensured there would be another world war, even worse than the first.

In the aftermath of that war the renewed effort at world government would result in the United Nations. This time Congress would not only entangle America, but arrange so that most of its funding came from the wallets of American taxpayers; most of the cannon fodder for its “police actions” would come from American families; yet the leadership of the world body would always be Communist or Socialist.

Since the formation of the UN–ostensibly created to usher in world peace–there have been more wars around the globe than ever before.

A common fallacy concerning the world wars purports that American “isolationism” made the planet a more dangerous place. Quite the opposite is true. Interventionism paved the way for a sevenfold increase of the horror unleashed on the planet from 1914-18. Had our politicians done what they are hired to do, and genuinely kept us out of that insanity, the Great Powers would have had to sort it out from a more equitable standpoint and it is highly unlikely there would have been a travesty like the Versailles system to turn Germany into a breeding ground for Hitler, or someone like him.