"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
Richard Reeves stopped writing his syndicated column at the end of 2014 after 35 years in more than 160 newspapers and websites.
LOS ANGELES — In the final months of any presidency, the men and women serving in the administration are ready to leave and move on with their lives. That was true of Harold Tyler, a New York lawyer who was the deputy attorney general for civil rights as the Eisenhower administration was winding down in 1960. But he had to find his own replacement, not an easy job because few lawyers were eager to leave their practices and lives to serve a few months in Washington.
LOS ANGELES — "Democrats Worry Obama Is Helping Their Rivals" was the headline over an article last Friday in the Los Angeles Times. I think that was the one thousandth piece I have read in the last couple of months saying that the president has low approval ratings and will hurt Democratic candidates in November's Senate and House elections.
LOS ANGELES — "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these are, 'It might have been.'" So said John Greenleaf Whittier more than a hundred years ago.
LOS ANGELES — I could be mad at Vice President Joe Biden, who has been here for two days and tied up traffic for miles at a time. But it's hard. He's just too nice a guy, even if he talks too much — and worse, these days, tells the truth.
It is something of a cliche to quote George Santayana one more time, saying, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But for folks of my age, ignorant repetition has been a constant in our lives. And, of course, it is happening again right now.
WASHINGTON — I woke up last Thursday morning to learn that my FedEx man does not work for FedEx. Voices on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" informed me that although FedEx controls just about every minute of its drivers' days, the corporation regards them as "independent contractors." Thus, no benefits — they even have to pay for their own uniforms — and the workers can be kicked out anytime FedEx feels like it.
LOS ANGELES — Welcome to Presidency 101. What would you do if you were "the most powerful person in the world" and:
WASHINGTON — Hooray! Hooray! The wicked Congress has gone home. So to speak, since most of the members actually live right here in the capital city and environs.
LOS ANGELES — We have lived for decades, even centuries, with the economic faith that a rising tide lifts all boats. But what if it doesn't? What happens then, economically and politically?
LOS ANGELES — Last Monday, a chartered flight took 38 mothers and children, who had been held in a detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, to San Pedro Sula in Honduras. That's a tough town of drug dealers, violence and children soldiers, sometimes called "The Murder Capital of the World."
LOS ANGELES — This is a column about "Big Data" and a new way to predict the results of presidential elections for the next 20 years.
CHICAGO — I have never been much of a fan of the journalistic self-examination practiced by folks identified as "ombudsman" or "public editor." I changed my mind last Sunday, and I'll get to that in a minute.
LOS ANGELES — The most fascinating of the many theories about the fall of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary earlier this month has to do with the redistricting after the 2010 Census. He was supposed to be helped by having very politically conservative New Kent County added to the 7th Congressional District in place of more liberal precincts in the Richmond area. But the voters of New Kent, a 75 percent Republican stronghold, voted against Cantor by almost 2-to-1.
LOS ANGELES — Taking a couple of shots at President Obama over the latest round of war in Iraq, House Speaker John Boehner said last week: "This has been building for weeks."
LOS ANGELES — If today's Republican Party had been around during the Civil War, it would have tried to stop its own president, a fellow named Lincoln, from appointing Gen. Ulysses S. Grant commander of the Union Army because he drank on duty — quite a lot, apparently. And if the president was a Democrat, say Thomas Jefferson, the Republicans would be calling for hearings to find out the "real" reason he was sending Lewis and Clark into the wilderness to learn what was out there between the Mississippi and the Pacific.
LOS ANGELES — "This is the beginning of taking America back," said Shawna Cox, who had come from Kanab, Utah, one of hundreds of "patriots" supporting Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who has refused to pay a million dollars in grazing fees to the Federal Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 85 percent of the dusty land of that state. That makes him a hero to folks like Cox, who have traveled hundreds and thousands of miles, toting their guns, to drive off U.S. Park Rangers trying to drive his cattle off federal land.
LOS ANGELES — Last Thursday was an interesting news day around here — and one that highlighted the importance of local reporting as newspapers fade away across the country.
NEW YORK — When the Constitution of the first modern democracy, the United States of America, was written, only about 10 percent of the population of the 13 states was granted the right to vote: white men who owned property.
LOS ANGELES — Sad to say, the most telling commentary on world affairs these days seems to come from comedians. The latest is Jimmy Fallon, the new "Tonight Show" host, who responded to Secretary of State John Kerry's reaction to the news that Russian soldiers were moving into Crimea:
DALLAS — Greg Abbott, a former judge and three-term attorney general of the great state of Texas, is expected to be the state's next governor. His official biography puts him on the side of God, the American way and children of all ages:
DALLAS — A few months ago, I agreed to talk at a program at the Sixth Floor Museum here, the building once called the Texas School Book Depository, the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald waited, on the sixth floor, with a rifle for the motorcade that carried President John F. Kennedy to Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963.
LOS ANGELES — Immigration is something like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but not many people really want to do anything about it.
LOS ANGELES — I took my J448 students — that's "Government and Public Affairs Reporting" at the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism at the University of Southern California — to a local Democratic club last Sunday. I wanted them to see and meet the new mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, and one of the most effective elected officials of his generation, Congressman Henry Waxman.
LOS ANGELES — I was surprised to see two long stories in last Thursday's New York Times about the same subject: cheating.
LOS ANGELES — I grew up in Jersey — Jersey City. I don't remember being west of the Delaware River until I was in college. I thought the United States was an Italian country governed by the Irish.
LOS ANGELES — It is refreshing for me to find myself in agreement with "mainstream" Republicans, beginning with House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan. I think.
LOS ANGELES — There was a cigarette commercial in the early 1960s that went, "I'm smoking more and enjoying it less." The president at the time, John F. Kennedy, going through a rough patch, was asked how he felt about one negative story after another in the nation's press. "Well," he said, "I'm reading more and enjoying it less."
LOS ANGELES — The news of the day Friday included a dispatch from Saudi Arabia reporting that 11 people were killed by drone-fired missiles in a remote corner of Yemen. The story added that five days before, three men were killed in a drone attack in another part of the country.
The International Herald Tribune is gone after more than 125 years as the American paper in France and then all over the world. Two months ago, it was renamed The International New York Times. That's a bit sad for someone like me who began at the New York Herald Tribune before it folded in 1966. Luckily, I was picked up by The Times, so my loyalties are split.
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.