"Daring Young Men" has reached #29 on The New York Times Bestseller List. The Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Norton Schwartz, announced this month that it is one of the ten books on his personal reading list for the year and recommends it to all officers interested in augmenting leadership skills. The Christian Science Monitor has named Daring Young Men as the best nonfiction book of the year.
From the bestselling presidential biographer, a stirring tale of young men in old planes who achieved the "impossible.": with planes landing and taking off 90 seconds apart supplying the food and fuel and medicines to supply a city of more than two million people by air for almost a year.
In the early hours of June 26, 1948, phones began ringing across America, waking up the airmen of World War II — pilots, navigators and mechanics — who were finally beginning normal lives with new houses, new jobs, new wives and new babies. Some were given just 48 hours to report to local military bases. The President, Harry S. Truman, was recalling them to active duty to try to save the desperate people of the western sectors of Berlin, the enemy capital many of them had bombed to rubble only three years before.
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had ordered a blockade of the city, isolating the people of West Berlin, using hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers to close off all land and water access to the city. He was gambling that he could drive out the small detachments of American, British and French occupation troops because their only option was to stay and watch Berliners starve — or retaliate by starting World War III. The situation was impossible, Truman was told by his national security advisers including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His answer: "We stay in Berlin. Period." That was when the phones started ringing and local police began banging on doors to deliver telegrams to the vets.
Drawing on service records and hundreds of interviews in the United States, Germany, and Great Britain, Reeves tells the stories of these civilian airmen, the successors to Stephen Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers," ordinary Americans called to extraordinary tasks — again.
They did the impossible, living in barns and muddy tents, flying over Soviet-occupied territory day and night, trying to stay awake, making it up as they went along and ignoring Russian fighters and occasional anti-aircraft fire trying to drive them to hostile ground.The Berrlin Airlift changed the world. It ended when Stalin backed down and lifted the blockade, but only after the bravery and sense of duty of those young heroes had bought the Allies enough time to create a new West Germany and sign the mutual defense agreement called NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And then they went home again. Some of them forgot where they had parked their cars after they got the call.
"Re-evaluating what has been called the first battle of the cold war, noted presidential biographer and syndicated columnist Reeves (President Kennedy) takes a closer look at the courageous young American and British pilots who, in order to bring food, fuel, and medicine to a Berlin blockaded by Russia, flew aging cargo planes into Soviet airspace in the fragile post-WWII years. Vying with the West for control of Berlin and Germany , Stalin choked off the defeated German capital with 400,000 Red Army soldiers, and the Washington hawks called for war with Moscow. But Truman, whom Reeves calls a hero for persevering against skeptics, pursued the airlift instead. Using diaries, letters, and government documents, Reeves shows the suffering of the vanquished German people, the calculated coldness of Soviet officials, and the individual pilots who risked their lives to save their former enemies. This probing book reveals the intricate talks that led to the unraveling of Stalin's demands, the partitioning of Germany, and the creation of NATO. Reeves gives us a mesmerizing portrait of America at its best when challenged by Russia's tyranny." 16 pages of b&w photos. Publishers Weekly (Starred review)
"As the book's title suggests, Richard Reeves's main emphasis is on the human side. At centre-stage are General Lucius Clay, the iron-willed military governor of the American sector of Berlin, and the workaholic logistics chief William Tunner, who during the war had supervised a trans-Himalayan military airlift. Behind them stands the figure of Harry Truman, the American president who overruled his entire military, diplomatic and security staff to insist that Berlin be saved." The Economist
"...wonderfully told by Richard Reeves in "Daring Young Men," his account of the Berlin Blockade and the heroic efforts to defeat it. Could Berlin be supplied by air? "Absolutely impossible," said the American military governor, Gen. Lucius Clay. The British were optimistic, though; they would not only feed their own garrison but have a go at supplying the Berliners as well." The Wall Street Journal
"Richard Reeves, a bestselling author of three presidential biographies and several other books, has delved into declassified archives and provided fresh insights into the power clashes between Truman, Stalin and other leading figures... But the real value of Reeves's book lies in the remarkable human sagas he collected through hundreds of interviews with uncelebrated pilots, mechanics, weathermen and ground controllers who sustained the airlift for almost a year." The Washington Post
"...Reeves has helped to ensure that this enormous accomplishment will not fade from view. ... The individual stories Reeves tells are illuminating and often very moving. " The Christian Science Monitor
NEW YORK — Twenty-five years ago, I asked Charles Bartlett, a syndicated columnist, about his old and close friend John F. Kennedy. I have seen his answer published and broadcast dozens of times these past weeks as the nation marks the anniversary of the assassination of our 35th president.
NEW YORK — It was the usual suspects taping the Charlie Rose show last Monday: a quartet of writers who had written books about the life or the presidency of John F. Kennedy — Robert Dallek, Michael Beschloss, Jeff Greenfield and me, along with Jill Abramson, the editor of The New York Times.
LOS ANGELES — The president knew. Presidents always know, but are supposed to be protected from what they saw, heard and did when the best-laid plans hit the fan.
LOS ANGELES — Perhaps those tea party guys are smarter than they look. After all, these men and women in Congress came to Washington determined to cripple big government — or even destroy it. They, 30 or 40 bent Republicans, were mad as hell at where the country is going and how it is governed. Now, with a minimum of sabotage, millions and millions of Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, share their hatred of Washington.
LOS ANGELES — Several years ago, Mike Pence, then a Republican congressman from Indiana, told Andrea Mitchell that Medicare was a failure because its costs had exceeded 1965 actuarial estimates. So they have, because Americans are living longer, largely because of Medicare and Medicaid.
WASHINGTON — If the Republicans in Congress are unable to prevent the United States from paying its bills later in this month of shutdowns and deficit limits, I assume their next move will be an attempt to impeach President Obama.
LOS ANGELES — Dana Milbank of The Washington Post reported on a meeting recently at the Heritage Foundation, the very conservative "think tank" in Washington, to discuss the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
LOS ANGELES — "It might be called the age of the genius machines, and it will be the people who work with them that will rise. One day soon we will look back and see that we have produced two nations — a fantastically successful nation, working in the technologically dynamic sectors, and everyone else. Average is over."
WASHINGTON — Syria: We're damned if we do, damned if we don't.
WASHINGTON — The power of historians and of the press is that they get to choose which events will be remembered and which fade into obscurity. Our choice concerning the events of Aug. 28, 1963, made with the help of news film, is the elevation of the performance and words of Martin Luther King Jr. and the obscuring of the fear that gripped the nation that hot and sunny day.
NEW YORK — Five years after Richard Nixon resigned as president, I did a long interview with him in his hideaway office in a downtown federal building. We were talking about the travels and writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, the French author of "Democracy in America." I was then seeking out the current counterparts of the Americans who talked with Tocqueville during his nine-month journey through the new and democratic United States in the 1830s.
LOS ANGELES — Fair warning: This column is about gigabytes of data collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, focusing mainly on Gini coefficients for the 34 member nations of the OECD. The purpose of this exercise, is to try to use OECD data and analysis to determine whether life in the United States is getting better or worse by studying statistics on inequality in our nation.
LOS ANGELES — A Republican pollster named Jon Lerner, who usually works for the most conservative of his party's candidates, did a poll this month for Fwd.us, the pro-immigration lobby financed by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
LOS ANGELES — In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, the young Frenchman traveling in the United States to research what many think is still the best book on America and Americans, was seated next to former President John Quincy Adams at a dinner in Boston. They talked:
LOS ANGELES — In the days following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began arresting, without charges, Japanese immigrants in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii who were on government lists as possible threats to national security.
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — "Give us also the right to our existence!" was a prayer that ends "The Well of Loneliness," an English lesbian novel by Radclyffe Hall, published in 1928. Tame by today's standard, the semi-autobiographical book was banned in Great Britain and had great trouble finding an American publisher.
LOS ANGELES — If you walk into a Barnes & Noble store — yes, there are actual bookstores here — you are more or less surrounded by tables and shelves marked "Beach Reading." But if you're not going to the beach anytime soon, there are three very good books farther in the back. The titles are enough to make your head hurt:
SAG HARBOR, N.Y. — In a place of honor on my office wall is a photograph of me relieving myself in the bushes alongside the field where some of us here play softball on summer Saturdays. It is, happily, taken from the back.
PARIS — An estimated (by police) 150,000 people took to the streets of the French capital last Sunday to protest "le marriage pour tous." That is "marriage for everyone," the same-sex legislation signed into law last week by President Francois Hollande. Meanwhile, in the south of the country, the Palme d'Or, the highest honor of the Cannes Film Festival, was awarded to a film called "Blue Is the Warmest Color," a long and very explicit film about a teenager's wakening lesbianism.
SIENA, Italy — Here's a modest idea to break the gridlock, the stupidity, the meanness, the partisan lying and irresponsible ineffectiveness of modern Washington. We should consider returning to the Middle Ages.
LOS ANGELES — Just about 30 years ago, I wrote a "Reporter at Large" article for The New Yorker magazine about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living, illegally and legally, in Southern California. The Mexican and Chicano population of Los Angeles was the second-largest Mexican city in the world, behind only Mexico City itself.
LOS ANGELES — Times are tough. Do the numbers: Chief executive officers (CEOs) of the country's biggest companies experienced pay increases of a minuscule 15 percent in 2012, compared with the 28 percent their pay rose in 2011.
LOS ANGELES — A very wise man, Harvard philosopher George Santayana, said more than a hundred years ago: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
LOS ANGELES — When ATMs, the cash machines, began to appear on the outside walls of banks in the 1970s, I refused to go near them. My mother was a teller at the Trust Company of New Jersey on Journal Square in Jersey City, and I knew the machines were designed to eliminate her job.
LOS ANGELES — I thought I had said all I had to say last week about the accelerated change in American attitudes toward gay marriage and "illegal" immigration. But there are a lot of other folks out there examining the accelerated politics of the day and generally coming to the conclusion that, after years of moving right, Americans are moving left again.
LOS ANGELES — As the Supreme Court debated last week over the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 17-year-old law barring same-sex marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia noted the number of states that are permitting gays and lesbians to marry. "There has been a sea change," he said, "between now and 1996."
LOS ANGELES — If you Google "Afghanistan," you get your choice of occupiers. There's "Occupation of Afghanistan by British," "Occupation of Afghanistan by Russians" and "Occupation of Afghanistan by United States."