John P. Meehan, MD: Scientist and Diplomat to the USSR

President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the USSR not only had their red telephones so they could communicate on a moment’s notice, but also were “pen pals” of a sort.  They scribbled notes to each other that were probably taken to their offices through diplomatic pouches.  This was most likely the means by which Kennedy convinced Khrushchev to share information about space medicine, although people in both nations were assured that no such agreement was ever reached.

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It was in 1962 that Dr. John P. Meehan was asked to fly to the USSR to meet with Soviet scientists who were working on the USSR race to the moon.  Dr. Meehan, known as Pat to his friends, endured many uncomfortable flights through the black night skies from Southern California to Moscow or Baikonur (Siberia) during the next nine years.  It was his job to share his knowledge of space medicine with the Soviets in order to keep cosmonauts alive in space.  Soviets got ahead of the US in rocketry engineering but lagged far behind in medicine.  When Pat was in the US he worked with NASA to do the same thing.  When he was not doing either, Pat was a professor of physiology at the University of Southern California.  He retired as chairman of that department.

And, when Pat returned from each flight to “the other side,” he was interrogated separately by two US intelligence agencies.  NSA admitted that Pat was a contractor to them for the years 1962 to 1971.  He was able to add large amounts of information to what the US already knew about the Soviet space program.  The Soviets did not know that Pat was well versed on rockets as well as space medicine.

Pat was not allowed to be seen on public air liners, so special arrangements had to be made to get him inside the USSR without being seen.  These flights were sometimes dangerous, but his most fearful experience came when Premier Khrushchev was removed from office and Premier Brezhnev took over.  Pat did not know for certain whether he would be arrested or welcomed on his next flight to Moscow.  This all took place during the Cold War.  As it turned out, he was welcomed and Brezhnev, who was said to never talk with the West, did.  Historians might wish to reconsider their positions on this point.

Over the years Pat made many friends with Soviet scientists and also with Soviet  cosmonauts.  He was fairly close to Yuriy Gagarin (possibly the first man in space) and Alexei Leonov who made the first space walk.

Pat’s clandestine trips to the USSR ended in 1972.  But in 1975 he went back to the Baikonur space program station to receive a “hero’s welcome” for his contributions.  Now that the US and Russia are cooperating on many more space projects it is easy to credit the groundbreaking work that Pat did to ease tensions between the two super powers.

My book The Insider told Pat’s story as part of a novel.  However, it is now possible to reveal the name of the real man who was so very brave and patriotic when his country needed him.  While he did not get to fly the rockets as some did (and get much deserved glory), he was a hero in every sense of the word.

The Book I Did Not Write (but wish I had)

It must have been four years ago when I got an email from a guy named Vic.  He was researching a story about the lumber industry in the Midwest to the Far West.  In doing so he came across one of my family lines and then my name as a submitter of the information.

Vic introduced himself and then began asking questions.  It was then that I had to ask myself a question:  was I going to write a book about these cousins or not?  If not, would I object to letting someone else write their story?

So I didn’t respond to Vic right away.  I thought it over for several weeks (while I worked on another book) and then decided to let Vic use my information.

At first, I sent Vic what only he asked for.  Then I asked if he knew some strange stories of the deaths of several of my people.  He didn’t, so I sent the details and photographs.  This led to other questions and materials flying back and forth across the Internet and soon I was learning things about my family.  Then I began to look forward to Vic’s emails.  I dug deeper into my own piles of papers for him.  And then came the announcement:  the book was finished.  I would be getting a copy in a week or so.

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For me, it all began with the murder of my great-grandfather in 1874. I wrote about him and the cowardly backshooting by the KKK in those ugly days after the Civil War.  I followed the family afterwards because witnesses against the Klan did not live long and I wanted to see what had happened to them.   Three brothers disappeared completely.  One had been killed and the other two may have fled to what is now Panama.

A fourth brother, Tom Walker, testified and then fled out west.  He had been a shopkeeper at home but out west he started stores and banks to serve settlers in Kansas and Missouri.  He died in 1931 as a very wealthy man.  His family line ran out in 1967 when his only grandson, a gay man, died young of cancer.  It was Tom’s family’s epic tale that I wanted to write about.

It seems Tom Walker had a daughter who married a wealthy young man named Bill Carlisle.  The Carlisle family was very big nationally in the lumber industry.  The new family soon produced two sons.  Tommy was killed by a drunk driver in 1937.  The driver died in a mysterious fire soon after.  Money from both sides of the family ended up in the hands of Tom Walker’s other grandson, Bill Carlisle.

Bill was very interested in the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and not the lumber industry.  He and his partner would go to New York and would throw parties for the artsy folks.  I have a letter at the time of his death that said, “Bill has died.  I notified the Roosevelts, Andre Kostelanitz, Rosa Ponselle . . . (and other luminaries of the social set in the 1960’s).”  Bill’s partner lives within thirty miles of me at Laguna Beach as I write this, but is very reclusive and will not talk to me.

So Vic wrote a very interesting book about the lumber industry and the people who founded it using most of his own enormous research, but he flavored his interesting work  with materials I had sent him.  After reading the book, I found I was glad that I had done my family history, glad that it had been useful to someone else, and glad that I had placed their names on the Internet.

Vic is a good, interesting writer.  He has the knack of making a well-documented history seem like a novel.  Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan and others whose historical works  appeared on PBS have that same ability.  They are inventing a new genre which fits genealogists needs very nicely.

The name of the book is Onalaska and the author’s full name is Victor J. Kucera.  I recommend it as an interesting book by itself, but also as an example of how you can organize and present that genealogy you have in the back of your head.   The book has 340 pages plus an appendix, end notes, time line and an index.

Onalaska is a book I did not write.  But I wish I had.  I would say more about it but I just discovered a letter my grandmother wrote to Tommy’s mother after the car crash in 1937.  Maybe I can get it to Vic so he can include it in the final edition.

All sales will benefit only the museum in the Lewis County Historical Museum in Chehalis, Washington.

One more thing:  you just don’t know when the material you collected is going to be useful to you or to someone else.  That is why it is worth the effort to be the “expert” on your family and to have the information handy.  And it is useful to let someone on the Internet know that you have it.

Pres. Kennedy’s Joke on the American People

After at least four years of research and writing, I completed a book about President Kennedy’s joke on the US people.  He truly did send a space medicine scientist, one of the few the US had, to the USSR to help keep their cosmonauts alive.  JFK did not live long afterwards, but Presidents Johnson and Nixon carried on the program.  Apparently, they did not tell Congress.

Premier Khrushchev of the USSR had to be in agreement, of course.  He was ousted in 1964, so Premier Brezhnev had a choice to make.  He chose to keep the program intact.  The scientist secretly flew back and forth to the USSR for about nine years, while the US was competing with the USSR to be first to send a man to the moon.

I knew the space medicine scientist, who died a few years ago.  After I wrote the book, I sent a letter to one of his children, also a scientist, saying that the book was on the market but that I had altered the scientist’s name and home city.

A few weeks ago I got a letter from a child of the scientist.  It was very informative.  He did not know I had written the book and he did not know what his father had been up to.  Here is what he said, in part:

Dear Mr. Fiske,

On the advice of my sibling, I have read your book The Insider.   Needless to say, the content left me floored.  I had no idea that my father led a double life as our country strove to put a man on the moon.  My next reaction is to thank you for helping to fill in some of the blanks of my father’s life.  He was remarkably careful in what he would tell us about his work and it was clear that he had a lot more to say.  Without your patient and persistent interviews the story would have died with him. I am very grateful that you were willing to take the time and personal risk and write your book.  A couple years prior to his death I had arranged for a physiologist working on the history of space flight to interview Dad.  His health was already failing and his Parkinson’s (disease) made communication difficult.  Dad refused to meet with the physiologist and I always regretted the opportunity missed.  I should have known that Dad would have arranged for an interview on his terms.

The interview was with me.  I am not a physiologist, however.  Nor did I intend to write about the scientist.  While I got a crash course in physiology from the scientist, little of it “took.”  I am an MBA and more of a student of management and an economist that a medicine man.  I never liked biology and its off-shoots.  Once the scientist had told someone about his adventure, he said nothing to anyone else.  I was working under the theory that his children knew what their father had accomplished, but the letter tells me I was wrong.

It appears that his wife knew and I knew.  She was also my friend.  But in this country, we three knew alone knew of the very brave things the scientist accomplished.  Of course, two Intel agencies knew, but it all took place over forty years ago, and most of them are dead or retired by now.  Newer staff doesn’t care and is busy working on other problems.  Still, no one in our Government is giving up any information, willingly.  The Russians know and have long memories.   They would rather not let the world know that they had important assistance from the US when they were setting all kinds of records in space.  It is not a time of ease at my house.

I called the book The Insider: NASA’s Man at Baikonur. It is available at the usual dot com book stores such as Amazon.

Unintended Consequences

Congress often passes laws that have unintended consequences.  The sociologist Robert K. Merton wrote a paper about the subject as early as 1936.  Some of unintended consequences are serendipitous, but others are negative or perverse.  It seems that Congress has a way of introducing negative or perverse consequences.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 was designed to increase revenues for America and protect American jobs, but it almost single-handedly destroyed the world’s economy.  And was it President Clinton’s administration that caused taxes to be raised on luxury boats?  The result was that the poor guys who made boats were suddenly out of work.

Individuals can cause unintended consequences as well.  When I began to write my book, The Insider I had no ill will against anyone.  Yet, as the book is about to appear on the market, I found I have caused damage to a great American astronaut.  I had no such intention.

It was in 2002 that General and astronaut Thomas Stafford produced his book, We Have Capture.  It is a good book and I recommend it.  The General is an American hero.  Unfortunately, Stafford thought he was the first American to reach the secret Soviet launch station called Baikonur in April of 1975.  He said so in his book.

General Stafford was not at all the first American to reach that space launch station.  If it were not central to my book, I would have said nothing, but my book is about the guy who did get there first, and why he went there.

The Insider is about Tad Benson, MD, a space medicine scientist.   President Kennedy got him to agree (through Hugh Dryden) to go to both Moscow and Baikonur to share ideas on space medicine.  Oh, I know there are lots of people who said Khrushchev and Kennedy never reached an agreement on this subject, but they are wrong.  Benson spent almost nine years traveling back and forth to the USSR, doing what he could to keep both cosmonauts and astronauts alive in space.

I knew Benson.  He was a serious man a good friend who died too early.  I checked with various agencies of the federal government to find out what he was doing during the years 1962-1971, and found that Benson had been a contractor to the NSA, CIA, NASA and other groups.  I found that he also got an award from the USSR for his work.

There was a stranger on Gen Stafford’s plane to Siberia.  He was on the bus when it arrived at the launch station.  Stafford did not mention that Soviet scientists hugged and otherwise ganged up around the stranger, slapping him on the back and ignoring the other Americans.  Tad told me about it, and the story appeared elsewhere in the Internet.  Tad said that the other scientists wondered, “How did the Soviets know this guy?” but they were never told.

So I told the story in my book The Insider, with as much detail as I could.  Tad was dying as he told me and we did not have a whole lot of time.   I did not set out to take any of the glory that General Stafford richly deserves.  But I did want to tell Tad’s story because I am one of the few in the world who knows it.  And my health isn’t all that great.

The really sad part of the story about Tad and his heroic adventures is that I am not allowed to use his real name.

Agony of a New Book

Anybody can write a book.  Producing a book is very hard.  It is right up there with producing a new product for a large company such as General Electric.  I have done both and I am not sure which is more difficult.

A new appliance starts with the drawings and specifications.  From these you have tools made and you buy equipment that holds the tools.  You design the tests and find space for the rest of the production facilities including assembly lines.  You make sure pilot models work as they are made on equipment you will use in actual production.  And you assure that the boxes they are sold in are made correctly, fit the product and look good.

Authors would be well-served if they had a mental image of the finished product sitting on their shelves.   They need a rough idea of the plot, but must be flexible.  Characters do not always do what you want them to do.  So plot changes will probably occur.  A new book requires front and back covers, well-edited text, pictures of acceptable quality, readable type size with the correct font.  Covers do sell books, you know.  Chapters must be appropriately ended.  A book is in fact a list of details that must be accomplished before it can be completed.  Tables of contents and indexes must be prepared.  There seem to be no end of concerns for you to handle personally before the book is ready for production.

Finally, each author of a new book is an entrepreneur, trying to sell copies in the face of stiff competition from many other authors with the same idea.  But if he has a good story, he will never be at rest until he has written it and has seen the book on people’s shelves.

In spite of all this, I have completed my last book.  I named it The Insider.  It is a novel about an American doctor who spent nine years flying into and out of the USSR during the Space Race when the US and USSR were competing with each other to be the first to land a man on the moon.   President John F. Kennedy got Premier Khrushchev of the USSR to allow a NASA doctor to visit the USSR’s secret space launch site about 1963 in spite of problems in Cuba and other US-USSR conflicts.   These two world leaders were looking far ahead in the space business.

All the experts say it did not happen.  But it did and the man they sent was a friend.  The few Government records that still exist support the NASA scientist’s story, even though most were hidden from me and any other writer.  It seems that most writer-experts relied on the CIA to tell them the truth, or they relied on people in the USSR to tell them the full story.  You may have noticed that books by and about Khrushchev just did not talk about the space program.   It seems that the US Congress did not know about the doctor, either.  If they did, they would have blabbed about him to everyone they knew.  But they thought there was a serious competition and had no idea we were helping the Soviets.

But that was over forty years ago, almost fifty years now.  Do you think anybody is willing to release the files on this simple doctor who helped keep Soviet cosmonauts alive?  Not in this country.  Perhaps one Soviet cosmonaut is still alive who might be interested in telling what he knows.

Anyway, the pain of producing The Insider is almost over.  The anticipation of the joy of upsetting self-proclaimed “experts” has kept me to the task.  I don’t have any more book ideas now, and this will be my tenth book, so I think I will quit.

Hamburgers and Spies

Often, I write posts for another blog.  It belongs to the well-known genealogist Leland Meitzler, and its url is http://www.genealogyblog.com/ Here is one of my favorites that I wrote in January.

Cold Case Ancestors and Spies

It’s not that I have given up on Genealogy.  It’s just that all the easy stuff has come to light.  Now I am down to searching through Bavarian files from the 1800’s and early American files from the 1800’s.  Not as much fun as it used to be.  And the “oh, ho” remarks are sounding more and more like “oy,vey.” After all, I have been at it since I broke 100% of my legs about 1990.  That’s about 20 years.

Yes, I know many of you readers have been at it much longer than twenty years, and I have taken advantage of the Internet during my twenty years.   But you know what I mean: the easy data come first and then you run out of easy data unless you hail from a series of large families (another of Fiske’s maxims is that large families produce more genealogists than small families, making research come much more easily).

As I sat back to write this year’s Christmas letter to friends (Evie insists on doing a letter for family members) I gave a thought to bragging points.  It wasn’t long before I realized I was at an age when the length of a surgery scar was more important than the length of a holiday trip.  But I could talk about my new book, Ploughshares into Swords, which was selling a few copies;  I could mention my wild run-in with the CIA having to do with my tenth book; and there were two huge breakthroughs in my genealogy studies.

Nobody much cares about somebody else’s genealogy, though.  Unless it involves historical figures.  And part of mine was historical, in a way.  I had put away my folder on one of the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  This “cold case” was Sgt. Nathaniel Hale Pryor, who supposedly had a son, also named Nathaniel, born in Louisville, KY about 1806.  (My mother was a Pryor, who was born near Louisville in 1902, so I always had an interest in this family.)  Senior was definitely historical and Junior Pryor was instrumental in making sure California went to the United States when Mexico lost its hold, so I think he was also an historical figure.

This is the year (2009) in which I found that Junior was a son of Senior and that both Junior and Senior have descendants who are alive and kicking as this is being written.  Some of Junior’s descendants are actually grateful for my work in proving their relation to Senior, but it doesn’t do much good.  Actual proof of Senior’s ancestry goes back a generation or two in early Virginia.  Then it seems to fade away, although I think I know where it goes after that.

The important thing to me is that those Pryors were Americans– not original settlers perhaps, but very early, anyway.  Weren’t there already English people in Virginia when the Mayflower landed in Plymouth, MA, in 1620?  I personally have seen Plymouth Rock and I am no more proud of it than I am those kinder shores in Virginia upstream from where George Washington’s family arrived years later.

Being American is what counts, regardless of the year of entry to our country.

I said there were two big breakthroughs this year.  The Pryors were the first. What was the second?  Well, my Bavarian great-grandfather Adam had two families.  His wife died in the 1860’s in Louisville, leaving him with four small children.  One of them died and he farmed out the rest.  But I didn’t know that.  All I knew was that the first set of kids  disappeared from all records before 1870.  I spent many years looking for those youngsters.  Finding all of Adam’s second family had been a chore (and that’s my group), so I closed and put away the folder on his first family several years ago.  They became another cold case.

Then, about September, a descendant of a kid in the first family sent me an email.  Despite all I could do to discourage him, this young man proved he was indeed my cousin.  We shared Adam as an ancestor, but not Adam’s wife.  Cheerfully and gratefully, I shared what I knew about Adam.  He came from Bavaria, he said, and that is I all I know about the guy.  Oh, a good guess is that he lived in the Pfalz area , but that really is all I know.

So I have learned three things in 2009.  Two are specific items about my family members and the third is that there are no such things as truly cold cases.

One more thing—when I meet certain people in a restaurant to get background material for my next book, I am taking a camera.  I hate being spied on.

DNA Tests and Reality

(This is an edited post of May 31, as corrected by Kent Pryor, to whom I am very grateful.)

I just call it the Fiske curve because I don’t have any other name for it. Others may have found it and named it something else. In any case the curve sets out principles worth remembering about DNA findings in Genealogy. I got the data from conversations of several people on the Internet this week.

Several people on a Rootsweb List were discussing their strange findings from DNA tests and seemed to be laying down information we could all use.

One person wrote, “the 12 marker test is of almost no value, as many unrelated individuals can match at the 12 marker level.” I suspect that many people on many Lists are finding the same result, once they have obtained information from the 12 marker studies and then, encouraged, have gone on to the next step or two. This particular subject went on to the 67 marker test and found no one related who should be related, and then found four with the same DNA on all 67 markers who were not related at all. It is information like this that led me to think about some kind of a curve that would fit these data. Admittedly the evidence is anecdotal, but the facts real and have to be dealt with.

Another person wrote, “I have 180 names on my 12 marker (tests) on Ydna on my mother’s side all different names. I have the same thing you have on the 25 and 37 marker names that are unrelated and three different ones. . . I thought DNA had gone Crazy.”

With Ydna, you are following men’s DNA which would involve few name changes. But why is it that the more markers one uses, the less useful has become the data? Why is it that more detail seems to lead to more uncertainty? That is, adding markers tends to exclude relatives. This is counter-intuitive.

It appears that the curve is saying that if you have 0 marker tests that you could be related to everybody.  If you have the minimum number of markers tested, you could be related to not all, but many people.  And if you have many markers tested you are related to very few people,  even in your own family.

This could mean several things:

1) DNA tests are not testing what we think they are testing.

Very simply put, DNA testing may not be valid in a scientific sense. It would be interesting to combine results of thousands of tests to see how much uncertainty is introduced to established, documented lines. Perhaps DNA tests are reflecting epigenetics, a condition that is not yet proven, but which is considered possible by some experts.

2) Family names and records are not a good indicator of genuine relationships.

This is the opposite of 1 (above). Essentially, it says there is little true paternity in family lines.

3) DNA closeness can be more due to ancient cultural habits than anything else.

Before the industrial revolution, there seem to have been few travelers. That is, one seldom traveled more than seven or more miles from his home in a lifetime. The result had to be inter-marriage of cousins, and DNA tests today are simply reflecting those intermarriages. However, in America, where Swedish immigrants married Italian immigrants, the gene pool swelled and would have made an abrupt change from, say, 1800 on. This change should be apparent in some DNA studies. (I am a six foot tall, blond and blue-eyed American who is in small part American Indian).

Maybe all the above is a result of poor labeling. But I think it is telling us something that we didn’t especially want to know. And that is that our precious DNA marker tests are not doing what we wanted.

Maybe O. J. didn’t kill his wife, after all.

Khrushchev Lied and an American Spied

As I was writing yesterday’s post to this blog, I wondered who would be upset when my book, The Insider comes out. This is the actual story of NASA’s man who spent nine years flying into and out of the USSR during the Space Race and the Cold War. He was a space medicine scientist who was successful at keeping Soviet cosmonauts alive. He was a physician, a scientist, an inventor, and a serious man. That is why I believed my friend Tad when he told me about his adventures.

Seriousness aside, I checked his story. He had told me that on his return trips he had to be debriefed by two US Intel agencies. I found that he was attached to the NSA and the CIA for those nine years, according to their own records. The Department of State had absolutely no information on Tad except for one small document it had forgotten to purge. NASA had piles of information on Tad about his medical work in micro-gravity conditions, but it had no information about his travels to the USSR.

Tad had been a guest of the USSR at the invitation of Premier Krushchev. I wrote to authors of various books and articles about the Space Race and about “inside” information on the NSA and CIA, and I also wrote to one descendant of Premier Krushchev who knew a great deal about the USSR in those days. To date no one has told me that I am nuts. Most have said, “I didn’t know. Give me more details.” A copy of a letter from the NSA usually convinced them.

So now, as I finish my book on Tad, I wonder about the people I am going to offend. At least two countries are involved, of course: the US and Russia. Let’s look at Russia first.

Apparently, the Russian people know almost nothing about any assistance from the West. It appears from what I have read that the Russian people do not know about America’s Lend Lease program of the early 1940’s. In that program America supplied the Russians with aircraft, guns, ammunition, food and other supplies with which to fight the Germans. The Russian people do not know they were assisted in “The Great Patriotic War,” even sixty or more years afterward. The Russian people were not told the name of their space program manager until about 1985, when he died. His face was never shown on any Soviet TV, his name was never mentioned. Certainly, the Russian people do not know they were assisted in their space program by their chief competitor, the United States. Once the Russian people find out we helped them, they might be angry at their own leaders.

What about America’s allies? They might be offended when they find out we helped the USSR and didn’t tell them. More than that—we lied to our allies about what we knew. I doubt that we have come clean because no one seems to know about Tad. Of course authors of books and magazines and news articles in other countries will feel duped.

And in America, itself, there may be problems. President John F. Kennedy began this program a few months before he was killed. President Johnson and President Nixon continued the program and did not tell Congress. Those presidents lied to the US press and to the Congress in order to keep funds flowing for the space program. It may not have been a space race after all. Congress consists of the biggest bunch of blabbermouths in the US. If Congress people had known about Tad the world would have known about Tad, right after the Congress people were sworn to secrecy. There is no reason to think that NASA ever knew that Tad, formerly one of their own, had been in the USSR.

Several, if not all US Intel agencies knew about Tad. People in those agencies are all retired now and many have died. Newer members of the agencies don’t care about something that happened forty years ago. They have enough trouble with today’s problems.

Well, US Intel agencies might care to this extent: Tad’s trips to the USSR during the Cold War era were an intelligence coup. When my story is printed and people realize what the Intel people have done while claiming they didn’t even know where the Soviet secret launch was, they should have more confidence in these shadowy agencies.

Of course, there are American authors and former Soviet people in this country who write articles and books—they are sure to be embarrassed when the truth comes out. They have already commented on President Kennedy’s offer to share information on space medicine and have said that the offer was refused. Too bad for them.

But the people who really care the most about this story probably are those who make up the US president’s office. I suspect (but do not know) that President Kennedy promised Premier Khrushchev that the US Government would never tell the Soviet people that we helped them in the Space Race. There is, according to the CIA, a file on TAD that has a presidential seal on it. That means the file is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act laws.

Also, it may be that the US President does not want the US Congress to know that a previous president failed to report to Congress that we had a man in the USSR during the Space Race.

I sure would like to see that file. I have written to two presidents and asked to have a look. I even asked my congressman to ask the President. The President has not honored my request.

When Tad told me his story, he was dying. He has been gone for almost seven years. To my way of thinking he was a great American hero, a brave man who ventured into the Soviet Union without protection. He did it not once but many times during the Cold War, even when there was a sudden change in Soviet leadership in 1964 and he did not know whether he would be arrested. But by then he had many friends among the Soviet scientists and cosmonauts, and maybe they had enough pressure to protect him. We will never be certain about that, only that Tad went when he was called.

Beating Ploughshares into Swords

It’s over. My ninth book is on the market and I can turn to more important things, such as my tenth book. And Ham radio. And maybe, politics.

My ninth book, Ploughshares into Swords, is about WWII—how civilians and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) helped win the war. A friend of mine was also a friend of several Caltech physicists during and after the war. She supplied part of the information I used. One of her special friends was physicist Carl Anderson, who discovered anti-matter.

My friend and I were talking about scientific achievements that she knew about almost first hand. She observed that I understood what had been accomplished and that perhaps I could have kept up with these Nobel scientists had I been in their fields. I knew this wasn’t true, but I certainly wasn’t going to say so. Anyway, as I was writing about the physicists and discovered what they did as kids, I realized I had done many of the same things. But I also had become a licensed Amateur Radio (Ham) operator at an early age.

So as I wrote, I thought about being a Ham again and wondered if it were too late. I had not been licensed since 1954. In January of 2008 I took all the tests and passed them. Now Ham radio is cutting into my writing time.

Writing Ploughshares was work, but it was also fun, remembering the past and the hardships and comparing people’s attitudes then with attitudes today. I concluded that we are among a lot of dainty whiners in America.

Choosing the title from the Bible, where it talked about beating swords into ploughshares because it was a time for peace, I found of course WWII was a time for doing the opposite—taking scrap metal and forging it into guns, tanks and ammunition.

Writing Ploughshares was a trail of discovery as I learned new things about the atomic bomb, about the way that Caltech became a rocket factory and how Caltech built the China lake facility. No, I am not talking about Jet Propulsion Laboratory, either. I am talking about dry powder rockets fired from airplanes. There was enough fuel for those rockets stored around the area to blow Pasadena, CA off the map.

It is not my practice to write about the commonplace. I have no capacity or patience for it. So I wrote about secret or little-known facts that only friends of physicists at the time could know. In the process, I came to admire Caltech and its growth from rags to riches. I came to admire the practical physicists and administrators who shared a common vision and caused that growth. Now Caltech is synonymous with rocket science, cosmology and many other exotic fields. In a way I saw it happen.

While writing about world politics leading up to WWII, I had the opportunity to revisit the foreign and domestic policies of President Franklin Roosevelt. As writer with a background in economics, I found myself critiquing the seven lean years of the Roosevelt administration when he compounded the economic misery of the United States. In these days, I am seeing a new edition of the Roosevelt plan unfolding, so when I get back to writing on this web site I am very likely to comment on repeating mistakes of the past. But right now, I have to sell a few books and finish my tenth book.

“What is my tenth book about?” you ask. Well, during the Space Race with the USSR, the US had a space medicine scientist in Russia at its secret Baikonur launch site, courtesy of Premier Khrushchev (& Brezhnev). It is a deep, dark secret in both countries, but with reluctant help from NSA, CIA, NASA, and the Department of State, I am slowly putting the story together. Many “experts” have written that this did not happen, so my tenth book will be controversial. But I knew the NASA scientist who spent almost ten years going back and forth from the US to the USSR, making friends with Soviet cosmonauts and Soviet scientists, and helping them stay alive in micro-gravity conditions.

There is a great deal to write about, and the Agony of Writing continues despite adventures in a very vibrant hobby called Ham Radio.

Before I forget, Ploughshares is a paperback, 6 X 9 inches, with about 324 pages including an index.  Amazon and most dot com book stores sell it eagerly.

Tom, AA6Tf

Barack’s Chickens Coming Home to Roost

In my forthcoming book, Ploughshares into Swords, I tell how a Colonel in the US Army visited Belgium at the end of WWII. At an inn an old Belgian man wanted permission to kiss the colonel because the American Army had save Belgium not once but twice from the German horde. “American chickens had come home to roost.”

Before it was all over and the Cold War was over, Belgium had been saved from the Soviets. American chickens had indeed “come home to roost,” as far as Belgians were concerned. We had saved the Belgians three times.

It is an old homeletical trick to move from the particular to the general. That is, an invasion of Iraq suddenly becomes symbolic of all American actions. A girl baby sitter shakes a baby to death and “American Women are Killing our Youngsters.” This is the gimmick employed by the Right Reverend Jeremiah Wright (RJW) at his Chicago church. For twenty years Barack Obama never heard this hateful message. RJW preached hatred and did it ignorantly. Yet Barack said Wright was the best the black church had to offer. Many black ministers would disagree.

According the RJW, Iraq, an action Wright did not agree with, became symbolic for all America’s actions. Obama somehow did not get the connection. Or he lied about it.

A minister I knew once preached that the American dollar was declining and that was God’s curse on America. I caught him after the sermon and respectfully said, “Frank, it is good for the American dollar to lose its value, because that makes our goods cheaper allowing more Americans go to work.” He was suddenly aware that he had misspoken. His face turned red but he never corrected his statement. He was too much in love with his own argument.

Did America save Europe three times? Of course. Is Japan better off than it was in the 1940’s? Yes, the people are richer and they seem to have grown five inches in stature as well (according to military records).

Barack Obama is dense or dishonest. His defenders will say, in effect, “Everybody does it.” And the matter will be settled. Few defend RJW, though. He appears to be a hating, “America last” minister, preaching to the worst in people. Not the worst of people, but the worst in people, who are easily led. One can easily extend Wright’s thinking to citizens who are going to vote to support a man, Wright’s nominee.