By John Davis
Columnist 

More recent reading

I’m still reading a lot of books, some of which are very good. I checked out two books from our library which impressed me. “Eyewitness to Power” was written by David Gergen and it’s a first-rate memoir by a man who worked directly for presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. You still see Gergen commenting on TV periodically and his observations are always fair and full of insight. In his book, Gergen invariably provides new information and his opinions are enhanced by his objectivity.

 

November 28, 2017



I’m still reading a lot of books, some of which are very good. I checked out two books from our library which impressed me. “Eyewitness to Power” was written by David Gergen and it’s a first-rate memoir by a man who worked directly for presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. You still see Gergen commenting on TV periodically and his observations are always fair and full of insight. In his book, Gergen invariably provides new information and his opinions are enhanced by his objectivity.

Gergen’s comments about Ronald Reagan surprised me. I wasn’t surprised that he rated Reagan as the best of the presidents with whom he worked. I thought, however, that Gergen would be most impressed by Reagan’s skills as a communicator and his dealings with the Soviet Union, but he gave Reagan the highest marks for his administrative skills.

Another book I found at the library was “The Last Great Victory: The End of World War II, July/August 1945,” by Stanley Weintraub. As you can tell from the title this book is about the end of the second world war, a remarkably tumultuous time, involving the collapse of two evil empires, the development and use of the atomic bomb, and all the maneuvering by countries for advantage upon the completion of the war. So much interesting stuff was happening that the book couldn’t help but be exciting. Sometimes, however, this author almost manages to turn his reader off by his excessive recitation of detail, and a tendency to “write his notes,” rather than just tell the story. But the story is too compelling not to quickly re-engage the reader’s interest.


A second source of books arose when a friend recommended three he had just read. I ordered them all from Amazon and read them all. The best is “Last Hope Island” by Lynne Olson. The book is about all the European nations that had been conquered by Germany but who fought on in exile in the British Isles. Britain was thus the island of their “last hope.” The book is quite well researched and well written, the best of all the recent books I’ve read.

I learned some remarkable things from this book. For example, the Poles were the stars of the Battle of Britain, with amazing combat success in the air battles over England. The Poles also provided crucial intelligence, including the keys to the breaking of Nazi Germany’s enigma code. For their efforts Poland was knifed in the back by Stalin, abetted by Winston Churchill, in what had to be Churchill’s lowest moment as Britain’s wartime prime minister.


A second book was “Project Azorian” about the March 1968 sinking of a Russian submarine. The submarine, a diesel-powered ship that carried three missiles with nuclear warheads, sailed south from the Kamchatka Peninsula headed for a patrol about a thousand miles north of the Hawaiian Islands. The ship never arrived at its patrol station, apparently sinking because of catastrophic mechanical failure. The Russians weren’t able to locate it, however, and the Americans were. Over the next several years, the American Navy worked to raise this submarine from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean (over 16,000 feet down) and do so without the Soviet Union’s knowledge. The Americans were seeking information within the shipwreck about Soviet capabilities, tactics, and intentions. They secretly raised part of the submarine by concocting the elaborate rouse of a supposed mineral expedition by Howard Hughes.

It was a fascinating situation, but the two authors don’t fully do it justice. They’re worse than Stanley Weintraub in providing mind-numbing and unnecessary detail. Still, as with the Weintraub book, the topic is so interesting that with a little skimming, a reader can’t help but be drawn in.

“Escape From Camp 14,” by Blaine Harden, also has a fascinating premise, and is much better written, closer to the kind of excellent treatment found in “Last Hope Island.” “Escape From Camp 14” is about the only prisoner to escape from a huge North Korean prison camp, one erected to incarcerate the descendants of people who had offended the North Korean regime. The blood of these descendants was supposedly “tainted” by the crimes of their ancestors. The book is hard to read sometimes, so gruesome are the details. Suffice to say, if you believe that the North Koreans are not deeply brutal and corrupt, this book will disabuse you of that notion.

John Davis was raised in Worland, graduating from W. H. S. in 1961. John began practicing law here in 1973 and is retired. He is the author of several books.

 
 

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