Chronology of the 20th Century

Title:                      Chronology of the 20th Century

Author:                  Philip Waller

Waller, Philip (1995) and John Rowett eds. Chronology of the 20th Century. Oxford, Great Britain: Helicon Publishing

LCCN:    96131168

D421 .C525 1995 Alc


Date Updated:  June 26, 2015

This chronology presents a detailed year-by-year, month-by-month list of important events around the globe in the 20th century, and on the facing page, there is information on major areas of human achievement and concern.

The French Connection

Title:                      The French Connection

Author:                  Robin Moore

Moore, Robin (1969). The French Connection: The World’s Most Crucial Narcotics Investigation. Boston, MA: Little, Brown

LCCN:    69015067

HV5831.N7 M63 1969


Date Updated:  June 26, 2015

The French Connection is a non-fiction book by Robin Moore first published in 1969 about the notorious “French Connection” drug trafficking scheme.

The story follows the exhausting investigation of New York City detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso as they attempt to uncover the participants of a major drug ring. Acting on a hunch, the detectives begin surveillance on Pasquale “Patsy” Fuca, who was observed in a nightclub consorting with known criminals. It soon becomes apparent that Fuca is involved in a large drug trafficking operation, including two Frenchmen: Jean Jehan, the main person responsible for importing the heroin shipment to the United States, and Jacques Angelvin, a television personality.


If the text is to be believed, as well as the subtitle, then the author has probably told the world far more than the P.R. departments of the N.Y.C. Police or the F.B.I. would care to have known. In detailing the 1962 case and all the hard and patient work that went into pulling in the people responsible for the biggest (@ 112 lbs.) shipment of pure heroin to the U.S. and recovering the heroin too, some of the sloppiest inter-agency coordination (or lack thereof) is also revealed. Of course, in a fictionalized recreation, you can’t be too sure of what’s true and what’s exaggerated for never have readers been given less credit for intelligence (i.e.,. . . the thoughty-thought attributed to one of the French heroin shippers is: “How I want to take a pipi he thought to himself disconsolately”). N.Y.C. detectives Eagan and Gross, chiefly responsible for latching on to the Mafioso receiver, are given locker room dialogue also—all in the interests of realism which is badly served thereby.


The Glory and the Dream

Title:                      The Glory and the Dream

Author:                 William Manchester

Manchester, William. The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972. Boston: Little, Brown and Company

LCCN:    74010617

E806 .M34


Date Updated:  June 26, 2015

William Manchester bookends this sprawling, epic US history with two protests in the heart of Washington. He opens in 1930 at the rise of the Great Depression, with veterans across from the White House coldly shunned by President Herbert Hoover when asking for advance relief from the Great Depression, then brutally attacked by troops and national guardsmen led by Douglas MacArthur. He concludes with President Richard Nixon’s second inaugural in 1973 at Watergate’s rising, Vietnam demonstrators audible blocks away amidst calls for national unity and self-reliance.

In between, across 1300 pages, (excluding index and exhaustive bibliography) The Glory and the Dream chronicles the American Century’s meatiest, most eventful years (1932-72). Manchester details a diary for and about what he called the “swing generation” but whom ex-NBC-TV anchorman Tom Brokaw (who cited Manchester as an influence) christened “the Greatest Generation.”

These men and women endured and thrived through what, against Manchester’s narrative, seemed (except for the relatively tranquil late 1950s) a non-stop whirlwind of hardship. Painting in broad strokes by economic numbers Manchester reveals compelling pictures of the Depression, bank and crop failures, Franklin Roosevelt’s election and the New Deal, World War II, and the Korean and Cold Wars. He also includes near month by month chronicles and analysis on America’s roots and involvement in the Vietnam War and Watergate, which takes up most of the book’s final third. And of course, he addresses the still-shocking days of rage, murder, and decaying social fabric in the late 1960s.

Manchester’s storytelling is expertly paced, foreshadowing careers of 20th century icons like Nixon, JFK, Marilyn Monroe and even the Edsel. He traces their steps to the national stage and devotes personal “Portrait of An American” sections to many (including Dr. Benjamin Spock, Edward R Murrow, and Ralph Nader). He does this deftly balancing international, social, and economic views of day to day life, worked, and socialized, even addressing political and social extremists (50s beatniks, 60s hippies, John Birchers). Isolationist vs. internationalist foreign policy views, themes as recent as Iraq election, pops up throughout the book; virulent opposition to FDR’s war mobilization leads to the opposition to the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan. Vietnam’s civil war slowly creeps across several administrations beginning with Dwight Eisenhower’s, reaching the heart of American experience as the decade and book close.

Anyone knowing or having lived through part of the last half-century can reference America’s seismic events at a high level. To Manchester’s credit he reached deeper into the causes behind pop culture and historical touchstones like Nixon’s “Checkers” speech, 1968’s Vietnam My Lai massacre, the oft-overlooked 1936 hurricane crushing New England (and ineffective warnings against it), and Japan’s 1937 sinking of the USS Panay which foreshadowed Pearl Harbor. He draws dimensional character studies amidst the era’s scandals (the fall of Eisenhower right hand man Sherman Adams as one example). He allows you to understand personalities and issues behind history’s strongest feuds: President Harry Truman against union leader John Lewis (or MacArthur, or Joseph McCarthy…), between Southern governors and other leadership against Dr. Martin Luther King, the Freedom Riders, the Kennedy administration, and finally against the Black Panthers’ vicious 1960s anarchy. Finally, he chronicles the “silent majority” generation gap between Nixon/Agnew’s divisive, reactionary leadership team and a generation’s angry youth.

Before his death, Manchester wrote whole volumes on major figures included here (Winston Churchill, MacArthur, JFK). But given the relatively short time each is presented (except for FDR, who dominates the book’s first half ), Manchester masterfully retells individual personal style, social time, major accomplishments, blunders, and closure to their lives and histories. The Glory and the Dream is filled with protests after violent counter protests (which Manchester respects even when he does not agree), well-drawn, memorable characters more remarkable for being real life characters, and insightful side comments on issues like the role of the vice-presidency and American tolerance of dissent.

At its publication, Manchester himself called The Glory and the Dream the culmination of his career, and for once it was not hyperbole. Anyone wishing to understand American character must start here; The Glory and the Dream is the finest history-based book I’ve ever read, and one of the finest in any genre.

Don’t Know Much About History

Title:                      Don’t Know Much About History

Author:                 Kenneth C. Davis

Davis, Kenneth C. (1990, 2011). Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know about American History but Never Learned. New York: Harper

LCCN:    2011500698

E178.25 .D37 2011


Date Updated:  June 26, 2015

Davis writes a good overview of American history, summarizing some of the key and decisive events of the past. While no substitute for a text book, Davis makes interesting subject areas which have put generations of high school history students to sleep. As augmentation to a prescribed course of study, or as a refresher for a HS/college graduate, this book is worth reading.

A word of caution. This is not a “bare facts’ history.” Davis’ writing style is heavily laced with very liberal editorialism. Davis also tends to insert his own opinions as fact. Overall he seems to view American history through liberal hindsight, rarely hesitating to impose his own value judgments on historical events and decisions made by political, military and business leaders.

The Spymasters

Title:                      The Spymasters

Author:                  W. E. B. Griffin

Griffin, W. E. B. (2012) and William E. Butterworth IV. The Spymasters. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:       2012015713

PS3557.R489137 S68 2012

Date Updated:  November 17, 2014

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad[1] on November 2, 2012

Taking place during the latter years of World War II, The Spymasters, W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV’s latest Men at War novel, follows the sometimes unorthodox OSS officer Dick Canidy in a mission to rescue two of his missing operatives. Readers have followed him behind enemy lines to Sicily, where he was successful in destroying canisters of a lethal toxic chemical that Germany tried to produce for use in its weaponry. In retaliation, the SS had strung up two Sicilian fishermen, chosen at random in a message to locals that helping the Americans will have deadly consequences. A radio operator and assistant remain behind, to intercept communications between the Germans and Italian allies. When intelligence from Canidy’s men seems odd, the OSS fears the mission has been compromised and the men captured.

Against orders from General Eisenhower, Canidy pushes his immediate boss, Captain Fine, to allow him and one man to enter Sicily, to determine what has happened to his radio operator, and either rescue him or shut down the Mercury Station. Ike’s emphasis is on the forthcoming Allied landing in France. He will not fund intelligence activity whose complications may compromise the greater mission, the Normandy invasion.

However, Canidy’s group, through information from Allen Dulles, brings to light an even greater threat. Dulles keeps in close contact with a former college friend, German industrialist Wolfgang Kappler, and they meet in Switzerland, safe territory for both. Kappler’s steel factories have been nationalized by the Hitler regime and re-tooled for weapons manufacture. He owns seven plants, five of which have been taken. Intelligence relays that massive dams in the Ruhr Valley have been bombed, the river flooding the entire countryside, meaning that Kappler’s investment will be destroyed. It is believed that his factories will produce warheads that will carry a new form of nerve gas, more potent than those canisters that Canidy destroyed. The new warhead will be capable of reaching the British coast, information that Dulles convinces Kappler to verify.

OSS will extract Kappler’s family to safety in South America, though Kappler’s son, a German army officer, may be unwilling to turn traitor to his country. A complicated series of covert activities get underway to locate Oscar and determine his loyalty.

Canidy forces himself to team up with the Sicilian Mafia , in the person of Jimmy Palasota (or Skinny Jimmy in Mafia ranks). Palosota’s ties link around the globe to New York City and include American mobsters, jailed and otherwise. His present locale is the Hotel Michangelo in Sicily, where he operates a lucrative prostitution business. Now, with the town swarming with arrogant German SS officers, his girls keep the coffers full. But Jimmy and friends hold no love for the German occupiers; he will take his profit from them without a second thought.

Canidy’s mission soon becomes two-fold: to locate and extract his own men, and to either kill or rescue Oscar.

Griffin and Butterworth fill their series with numerous characters, use block wording for passing intelligence messages, and draw heavily on the “rogue” attitude of their protagonist. The Men at War series exposes a side of U.S. intelligence used in World War II, actions that are probable but not heretofore glorified. A glimpse of the generals associated with the bigger picture of combat is informative. Although the conclusion seems a bit rushed, The Spymasters satisfies.

[1] Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on November 2, 2012

Time to Hunt

Title:                      Time to Hunt

Author:                   Stephen Hunter

Hunter, Stephen (1998).Time to Hunt. New York: Doubleday

LCCN:    97046985

PS3558.U494 T56 1998


Date Updated:  June 26, 2015


Bob Lee Swagger, master sniper, returns (Black Light, 1996; Point of Impact, 1993), which means testosterone at the boil, gore galore, and filled-up body bags row on row. A super-sniper (not the illustrious Swagger but his nemesis Solaratov) shakes off the Arizona morning chill, hunkers over (for those who care) a “Remington 700, with H-S Precision fiberglass stock and Leupold 10X scope,” and seconds later a “man’s chest explodes” (snipers in this novel miss maybe once a decade). Flash back, then, to 1965. The war in Vietnam is winding down and, tragically, a young marine, Swagger’s partner, is blown away the day before he would have finished his tour. Are the two super-sniper incidents connected? Though for years Swagger has believed that the bullet that killed his friend was meant for him, events in the present prove him wrong. Unwillingly, then, he has to face the terrible fact that the death of his friend in 1965 was just the first act in a violent melodrama that now threatens his wife who was once married to his long-dead comrade. The answer behind the decades-old conspiracy is as convoluted as it is nefarious, involving chicanery in the corridors of power. Swagger, however, has little time to fritter away on inductive reasoning, since it’s time to hunt for that enemy sniper and take him out before harm can come to the innocent and helpless. “You’re a sacred killer,” an admirer tells Swagger. “Every society needs one.” Whether that’s true or not, the stage is set for a grim denouement, and Swagger drops from a helicopter—demigod ex machina—to frustrate evil. Hunter’s prose doesn’t get much above pedestrian, and the dialogue is particularly weak. But Swagger in battle—brandishing his wondrous rifle, Excalibur with a trigger—will hold most and enthrall some.

This book in the Op-Center series created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik is a power profile of America’s defense, intelligence, and crisis management technology.