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Search tags: history-of-the-us-20th-century
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review 2017-03-20 02:29
The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War - Richard Rubin

A few minutes ago (it's now 9:29 PM EST as I write this), I finished reading this book. I felt both grateful for the considerable work the author put into travelling across the country (starting in the summer of 2003) to interview personally as many of the surviving U.S. veterans (men and women alike) of the First World War as could be found --- and thankful to hear these veterans speak of their experiences. This has a special resonance to me because my maternal grandfather (who was born in 1895) had served in France as a corporal in the U.S. Army in 1918. He passed away in the early 1970s (when I was a 3rd grader) as I was beginning to come into an awareness of what war was, courtesy of Vietnam. So, it wasn't until many years later, that I came to have a special appreciation for those Americans who served in the First World War and for the changes that war wrought on this country.

Many of the persons Richard Rubin interviewed represented a broad cross-section of those Americans (both native born and immigrant) who served in uniform between 1917 and 1918. While most of the veterans he interviewed (Army, Navy, and Marine Corps) served overseas, there were at least a couple of them who remained in the United States. Indeed, one of them enlisted toward the end of the war and before he could become more fully integrated in "the Army way", the armistice was signed and he was told he could go home. He hadn't been issued a uniform and aside from receiving transit home, the Army gave him a certificate of service and a dollar.

The author also managed to interview a couple of African American veterans of the war. One of them, was George Johnson, a 111 year old living in Richmond, California in 2005. His Army experience was largely reflective of the disdain and indignities with which many African Americans who served in the U.S military during the First World War had to deal with from their white compatriots, and the general society. Mr. Johnson's case was somewhat unique in that, as a very light-skinned African American, he could have easily passed as white, had he so chose. When he speaks with the author about the experiences his brother had with the U.S. Navy (where he was thought to be white and treated as such, until in answer to a query one of his shipmates put to him, he admitted that he was 'Negro'), it was a very sad and tragic story. One that impacted on Mr. Johnson for the rest of his life and perhaps was the contributing factor that made Mr. Johnson later see himself as white and not black. The other African American veteran the author interviewed in 2006 was Moses Hardy at age 113 in Aberdeen, Mississippi. Mr. Hardy served in one of the U.S. Army "pioneer infantry" regiments in France which saw combat during the final stages of the war.
He was in one of the few African American combat units, for most African American soldiers, upon arrival in France, were placed into labor units. (According to the book: "...only 20 percent of all African American troops sent to France in World War I were used as fighting men.") This was reflective of the then widespread belief that African American soldiers were unfit for combat duties. (Never mind the distinguished service African Americans had provided the country as soldiers and sailors since the American Revolution.)

The book concludes with a series of interviews the author had with Frank Woodruff Beckles, who ended up as the last surviving U.S. First World War veteran. His story was richly fascinating, encompassing so much of the world in which he spent so much time between the wars, working on a variety of jobs.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the U.S. declaration of war against Germany (April 6, 1917), I would strongly urge any one reading this review to pick up a copy "THE LAST OF THE DOUGHBOYS" and treat yourself to one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have.

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review 2017-02-08 05:55
All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy - Edward Klein

This book offers some interesting observations and insights into the 10 year marriage of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy (1953-1963) via what the author was able to assemble of the historical record, as well as from personal interviews with people who had close relationships with both Kennedys

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text 2017-01-13 00:14
All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy - Edward Klein

This book offers some interesting observations and insights into the 10 year marriage of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy (1953-1963) via what the author was able to assemble of the historical record, as well as from personal interviews from people who had close relationships with both Kennedys.

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review 2016-10-30 20:20
Mrs. Kennedy and Me - Clint Hill,Lisa McCubbin

I first became aware of Secret Service Agent Clint Hill from an interview he gave Mike Wallace on '60 Minutes' many, many years ago. He had been part of the security detail that had accompanied President and Mrs. Kennedy to Texas in November 1963. What's more: Hill was one of the Secret Service agents who had been directly behind the presidential limousine in the accompanying vehicle the moment the first shot rang out in Dallas. He then ran toward the presidential limousine in what proved to be a vain attempt to protect President Kennedy. He had reached for the handhold of the limousine as the third, fatal shot struck the President, and his suit was sprayed with the President's blood, brain matter, and shattered bone fragments. None of these details I knew at the time of the '60 Minutes' interview. But the agony I saw in Mr. Hill's face as he related to Mike Wallace what he saw and experienced that horrible day, made me feel so, so terrible for him. It was clear that this tragic event had tormented him for the rest of his life.


So, when I learned that he had written a book, "MRS. KENNEDY AND ME", about his Secret Service experiences during the Kennedy Administration, I was keen to read it. And I'm so glad that I did. I learned that shortly after time of JFK's election as President in November 1960, Agent Hill had been assigned to the security detail for Mrs. Kennedy. He wasn't eager at first to take on the assignment, for he had hoped he would be named to the President's Detail (which he had been a part of under President Eisenhower). But he quickly adjusted to being assigned to protecting Mrs. Kennedy with whom he developed a close, cordial, and respectful relationship over the 3 years he protected and accompanied her on trips to places as diverse as Paris, Greece, Pakistan, India, Italy, Mexico, Venezuela, and Morocco (as well as to Hyannis Port, where the Kennedys spent their summers, and to the Kennedy residence in Palm Beach in the wintertime).


It's rare to read a book that sets out to recapture a spirit and ethos of an earlier time and succeeds. And that was what I experienced in reading "MRS. KENNEDY AND ME." I felt like I was there, a part of the "Kennedy mystique" in which these 2 incredible people -- President and Mrs. Kennedy -- inspired a nation to look deep within itself and embrace the better angels of its character and live out the true meaning of the words as enshrined in the Constitution: "to form a more perfect Union."

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review 2016-08-31 04:37
The Pleasure of His Company - Paul B. Fay Jr.

"THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY" is a fine tribute to a martyred, well-loved President of the U.S. by one of his closest friends, recounting many of their shared experiences.


Paul B. "Red" Fay, Jr. first crossed paths with John F. Kennedy in the autumn of 1942 when both men were junior naval officers at a PT boat training school in Rhode Island. They met at a touch football game in which both participated. It was at first an inauspicious meeting that later grew into a strong bond forged between both men, subsequently strengthened during their combat service together (albeit on different PT boats) in the South Pacific the following year.


Fay shares with the reader a wealth of fascinating vignettes and anecdotes attesting to the uniqueness of the man and President that was John F. Kennedy. Fay helped his friend throughout his political career from his first run for Congress in 1946, to his race for the Senate in 1952 against a powerful incumbent (whom most pundits felt would handily defeat Kennedy), to his successful quest for the Presidency in 1960.


At 220 pages (with a generous scattering of photos), this book was a joy to read. It made real to me in a way few other books have that I've read about President Kennedy the singular uniqueness of a man who valued his family, friends, acquaintances, and the country that he so faithfully served.

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