Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Debate Question

US Eagle vs Russian Bear

The question that should come up at tonight's Presidential debate in Las Vegas but almost certainly will not is this: "How would you as Commander in Chief respond to a Russian invasion of the three Baltic Republics (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) who are all NATO members and with whom we have treaty obligations under Article 5 of the NATO charter?"  Instead we will be entertained by questions about Hillary's E-mail and the Donald's open mike recordings.  What a pity!

The right answer to this question could win either candidate the White House.  The wrong answer could, quite literally, end our world.

The NATO charter stipulates that an attack on one member is an attack on all members.  Article 5 has only been invoked on one occasion.  This was after the 9/11 attacks on the USA in 2001.  NATO forces were deployed to Afghanistan along with US troops and some remain there now 15 years on.

T-14 Armata Tank

Putin's Russia seems eager to test the will of the West.  In 2008 as the world was about to celebrate the Olympic games in Beijing when Russian forces invaded and crushed Georgia.  In 2014 Russian troops invaded the Crimea and subsequently annexed territory that had belonged to the Ukraine.  In spite of weak oil prices and economic weakness, Russia has dramatically stepped up its defense spending in recent years.  In 2015, for example, Russia introduced the T-14 Armata tank.  The Russian Army plans to add 2,500 of these vehicles to their arsenal.  Russian military spending now stands at $69 billion per year more than any other European nation and more than anytime in the history of the Russian Federation.  Note the steady increase in spending since 1999.

How has the West responded to this threat?    The short answer is not very well.  First, NATO has been pre-occupied with addressing the threat of  Islamic terrorism rather than the menace that Russia represents.  This may be understandable due to the attention grabbing casualties incurred in the US and around the world from 9/11 to the present.  Russia is, however, a far greater threat to the peace security of the West than the threat of ISIS, Al Qaeda or any terrorist organizations.  Put simply, Russia has nuclear weapons while the terrorists do not.  ISIS can sever the heads of its opponents and journalists but they cannot deliver a nuclear bomb.

Second,  NATO members have slashed spending on defense.  Only three of the 27 NATO members outside of the US spent more than 2% of GDP on defense in 2013 (UK, Greece and Estonia).  NATO members need to step up and shoulder more of the burden for our common defense.

Third, NATO's diversity (many languages, many different politics, etc.) make it intrinsically weaker when it comes to coordinating and executing strategy.  Russia, on the other hand, is united by one language and one wildly popular leader.

Fourth, NATO's weakness in conventional forces makes the use of nuclear weapons even more likely.  This is where things really get scary.  As General Sir Richard Shirreff's 2016 book, War With Russia (, points out it would take time for American forces to deploy from the United States while a Russian occupation of the Baltic Republics (on Russia's doorstep) could be achieved militarily within days.  An American president would then face the grim prospect of trying to dislodge the Russians from NATO territory with either American ground troops or nuclear weapons.  Shirreff served as the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe before his recent retirement.  The Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, which Shirreff headed up, is not really all that rapid.

In my new book, An Adventure in 1914, I point out that World War I was history's greatest train wreck (  The alliance system of 1914 was a powder keg waiting to be ignited by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary on June 28, 1914.

Meanwhile, President Obama is considering the launch of a cyber attack on Russia in retaliation for interference in the American election (

2017 could be another train wreck and America is about to choose its engineer. 

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Saturday, October 15, 2016


We Americans are familiar with 11/22/63 -- the date on which JFK was assassinated.  How many of us, however, recognize the significance of 6/28/14?

The spot where WWI began
Courtesy Mehul Randery

On 6/28/14 the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo.  This double homicide was far more historically consequential than the Kennedy assassination.  It was the catalyst for the start of World War I which claimed the lives of over 17 million people.  The so-called "Great War" would shatter four empires and lead directly to Communism, Fascism and World War II.  It was history's greatest train wreck and it all began on 6/28/14.

In my new book, An Adventure in 1914, I wrote this about the assassin Gavril Princip...

Gavril Princip 1894-1918

"Gavril Princip (1894 – 1918) was nineteen years of age when he assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.  Princip, born in Obljaj in Bosnia - Herzegovena, was a Bosnian Serb nationalist who received training and weapons from a secret society called the Black Hand.  He was a slight man, the son of a farmer, who complained that “people took me for a weakling”.

Sarajevo 2016
Photo courtesy of Mehul Randery
He was equipped with a revolver and a cyanide packet on Franz Joseph street when the Archduke’s vehicle slowed to a stop.  Princip clambered onto the limousine’s running board.  The Archduke, dressed in a distinctive helmet with bright green ostrich feathers, was impossible to miss.  Princip was armed with a Browning NM1910 revolver that was capable of firing six .380 ACP rounds.  He only fired two shots at Ferdinand and Sophie and each was fatal.

Princip raised the revolver to his temple to take his own life but the gun was knocked away.  He was unable to swallow his cyanide packet.  Princip was immediately identified as the shooter and beaten by a mob.  Police officers rescued him from lynching and he was quickly arrested.  Under interrogation he declared, “I am a Yugoslav nationalist and I believe in the unification of all South Slavs in whatever form of state and that it be free of Austria.”

Sarajevo street corner of 1914 Assassination, Bosnia, 2016
Courtesy Mehul Randery
Wells tell us that “the Archduke and his wife were murdered by an Austrian subject, in Austrian territory”.  Technically this is true as Princip had been born in Bosnia, Sarajevo was in Bosnia and Austria had annexed Bosnia in 1908.  Wells also claims that Serbia had warned Austria of the plot to kill the Archduke in advance of June 28.  This remains debatable.  After the assassination Serbian ambassadors did claim to have warned Austria; they later denied these claims.  A vaguely worded telegram sent on June 18 did direct the Serbian ambassador to Vienna to warn his Austrian counterparts of a plot to kill the Archduke on Bosnian territory.

Princip was tried and convicted but was not executed due to his youth at the time of the assassination.  He died in an Austrian prison of tuberculosis on April 28, 1918 nearly four years after the assassination."

Special thanks to my good friend Mehul Randery who visited Sarjevo this summer and took photographs. 

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Monday, October 3, 2016

First Reviews for An Adventure in 1914

I am very pleased to see the reviews starting to come in for An Adventure in 1914 -- my most personal work to date.

Here is what Kirkus has to say...

"A memoir, written sometime between September 1914 and May 1915, recollects the chaotic beginning of World War I.

In June 1914, T. Tileston Wells, an attorney from New York, set out by sea for Europe with his wife, Georgina; his 18-year-old son; and his 11-year-old daughter. Later that same month, while Wells was in Paris, a Serbian national assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, the spark that ultimately led to the Great War. Initially, Wells was reluctant to leave Paris, but his wife was confident no war would come, so they embarked for Austria by train. However, in July, Austria issued an ultimatum to Serbia, and while the family was vacationing in Cortina, Austria-Hungary officially declared war. The following month, while Wells was touring Riva, Germany and Russia began their conflict, and he was briefly arrested on suspicion of being a Russian spy. He was traveling without a passport—common at the time—but thankfully, he had an introductory letter from William Jennings Bryan, then the U.S. secretary of state. The U.S. Congress appropriated considerable funds to help rescue Americans stuck in Europe at the time, but efforts at rescue were woefully incompetent; meanwhile, banks in Venice, where Wells applied for a passport, weren’t disbursing funds. Wells was eventually able to make to it to Rome in September, right before Benedict XV was selected as the new pope. Soon after, he and his family left Naples on the SS Canopic, which ultimately transported them to Boston. Wells later became a fierce advocate for Serbian relief and the Romanian consul general to America. Kelly (Italy Invades, 2015), Wells’ great-grandson, writes a thoughtful introduction to this remembrance, and provides a running editorial commentary that consistently furnishes edifying information about Wells and the war. Wells’ interpretations of the grand history unfolding around him are consistently insightful and prescient, and sometimes historically controversial; for example, he contends that Serbia warned Austria of the plan to murder the archduke. It’s fascinating to see a firsthand witness’s account of the war’s start, as well as his interpretation of its causes. It’s also thrilling to follow Wells’ attempt to steward his family back to the relative safety of the United States. This is historical scholarship at its best: rigorous, testimonial, and dramatic.

An enthralling introduction to one of the defining events of the 20th century."

An here is the review from Foreword...

"This eyewitness account of the beginning of WWI is engrossing and detailed.

In his brief, engrossing eyewitness-to-history-style memoir, An Adventure in 1914, American lawyer T. Tileston Wells recounts his experience in Europe at the outbreak of World War I. His recollections are fleshed out and amplified for contemporary readers by way of an introduction and numerous historical notes by his great-grandson, Christopher Kelly.

The duet begins with an introduction by Kelly, who ably captures life in the last golden days of the belle epoque and the interplay of tensions that led to war. Kelly also offers biographical details about his great-grandfather, including the enlivening fact that he was flirt, rumored to have had an affair with Queen Marie of Romania.

Despite the gathering clouds of war, Europe in 1914 still drew Americans who had the time and the means to enjoy extended travel, Wells and his family among them. His memoir begins in mid-July, with the family preparing to depart for Austria and Switzerland after a two-week stay in Paris. This section of the book is uneventful, a recitation of destinations and scenery. The narrative becomes more interesting as the political tensions mount.

Wells carefully notes the signs of impending war: massing troops in countries and cities that will oppose each other; crowded trains as travelers hurry back to their home countries; military bands playing long into the night. When hostilities break out, the narrative shifts to Wells’s difficulties getting his family back to the states.

The tone throughout the book is impersonal, devoid of speculations or feelings about the unfolding events. For example, the family sets sail in a world at peace, but the war’s triggering event—the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife—occurs just before they land in Europe. The memoir begins two weeks later, without comment on how this event affected the family or their plans. Characterization is similarly absent. Wells refers to members of his family simply as his wife, daughter, or son, rather than by their names.

Interspersed with the memoir are numerous sidebars from Kelly. These range from moderately interesting to downright fascinating, especially a piece tracing the techniques of modern surveillance and spying to their WWI origins. Though set off within boxes, the sidebars can be distracting; they interrupt the text, and at times are themselves interrupted by additional information.

The text includes a helpful time line, maps, and a suggested reading list. The book’s many color photographs are a high point. Pictures of the Tyrol region of Austria, grand old hotels and cafés, and trains and ocean liners build a detailed image of time and place.

An Adventure in 1914 is a concise and vivid snapshot of an era and of events that have too often been overshadowed by more recent wars."

Thanks Kirkus and Foreword!

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hanford, the Bomb and...Madagascar

B Reactor National Historic Landmark, Hanford, WA
In 1944 construction began on Hanford Engineer Works (  This portion of the Manhattan Project was designed to build large quantities of plutonium along the Columbia River in Washington State.  What had once been a desert quickly became the home to around 51,000 workers -- the fourth largest city in the state was built in matter of months.
Hanford Control Room
Most of these workers had no idea what it was they were laboring on.  Some thought that they were building parachutes for the war effort.  They knew that it was highly secret.  Hanford supplied the plutonium that was used for the Trinity test in Los Alamos, New Mexico in July of 1945.  Hanford also supplied the material that was used for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 (see,,,  Six days after the second bomb was dropped Emperor Hirihito announced the surrender of Japan via radio.
PEACE breaks out!
After the bomb was dropped the local paper in Richland / Hanford summed it up: "PEACE!  OUR BOMB CLINCHED IT!  Plant Will Not close!  Japs Surrender"
B Reactor Core, Hanford, WA
Many people know about the atomic bomb and Hanford's role in creating it.  Very few, however, know that the Hanford facility was ironically itself the victim of a Japanese balloon bomb attack in March of 1945.  The Hanford Engineer Works was briefly shutdown after a Fu-Go bomb launched from Japan struck the high tension wires of the Bonneville Power Administration that supplied the plant.  It marked the only time in history that an American nuclear power plant was shutdown due to enemy action.

Even fewer are aware of the surprising connection between Hanford and Madagascar.  No, it has nothing to do with escaped lemurs!

In the Madagascar chapter of America Invades we detailed the astonishing link between Madagascar and the A-bomb...

"It was the French who ultimately became the Western power dominating the island, which meant that in 1942, with Vichy France in control of Madagascar, strategically located near vital Allied supply routes, the Allies had a problem. The result was the British invasion of Madagascar in that year, Operation Ironclad. Now we didn’t play much of a role in that, at least not openly, but it is interesting to note that almost as soon as the invasion was complete and successful, we sent in people to start shipping graphite from Madagascar to America as a crucial component of the project to create eventually an atomic bomb. The first nuclear chain reacting pile was built towards the end of 1942 and used four hundred tons of graphite. The second was built in the spring of 1943 with the first graphite shipment from Madagascar. Some have even suggested the acquisition of this graphite was at least one of the motives for the invasion in the first place."  (Source: America Invades,
America Invades with a bomber escort of Bombshell Red
Airfield Winery, Sunnyside WA
The graphite that was used to construct the plutonium inside Fat Man (the bomb used on Nagasaki) came from Madagascar.  Without Madagascar's graphite, the Allies might not have been able to  "move it, move it" in WW2!
Go Richland Bombers!
Richland, the largest city near Hanford, remains basically proud of the role they played in world history.  Richland's High School Football team is called the "Bombers" (  In a world run amok with political correctness, the Bombers have refused to buckle and deny what is part of their core historical identity.
Look Ma, No water and no Plutonium since 1968!
The Hanford plant stopped producing plutonium in 1968 and has never re-opened except for tourists.  According to the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty re-affirmed by the Russians in 1995, we have a right to inspect Russian nuclear facilities and the Russians have the right to inspect ours.  Every summer a group of Russian officials descend upon Hanford's B Reactor to verify that it is not producing any plutonium.  They soon adjourn to some of Washington's wineries to sample the delicious local product.

America Invades Hanford
Travel Notes: The National Park Service now operates free tours of the Hanford site  Registration is required and photography is permitted.  The tours leave from a location in Richland and take about four hours including two 45 minute bus rides to the plant.  Some amazing wineries can be found near Richland. Here are three I enjoyed... and  But very few three-eyed glowing fish!

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Evergreen Air and Space Museum

"Invading" the Evergreen Air and Space Museum
McMinnville, OR

There are extraordinary aviation museums available all over the world.  Notable among these are the Air Force Museum in Dayton (, The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, the National Naval Air Museum in Pensacola (, Florida the Museum of Flight in Seattle (, the IWM Duxford in the UK ( and the Caproni Museum in Italy (  All these are outstanding places to learn more about aviation history.

Hughes' Monster Plane

She actually flew!

"Spruce Goose", Evergreen Air Museum, McMinnville, OR

But the Evergreen Air and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon ( truly stands apart.   Only one museum in the world can boast possession of Howard Hughes's famous Spruce Goose.  The eccentric aviator and businessman built the wooden plane in order to safely transport American troops across the oceans that were menaced during World War II by Axis submarines. This giant machine is the largest airplane ever constructed and it was built almost entirely out of birch.  Its only flight, with Hughes himself at the controls took place on November 2, 1947 and was for just over one mile at a height of seventy feet.  The Evergreen Air Museum in McMinnville was essentially built around the Spruce Goose.
Spirit of St. Louis (Replica), Evergreen Air Museum, OR
The Spruce Goose is one of the many treasures to be found at the Evergreen Museum.  You will also encounter a replica of the Lucky Lindberg's Spirit of St. Louis that flew the first ever successful transatlantic flight in 1927.
Commander K with B-17
Many military aircraft adorn the museum in McMinnville.  You will find copies of the B-17 that was the workhorse bomber for the US Army Air Corps in WW2.
USAF F-5, Evergreen Air Museum, McMinnville, OR
The Museum has an enormous IMAX theater and a ticket for one film is included in the admission price.

In addition to aircraft, you will also find an enormous building dedicated to space travel.  There is a universe to explore out there and Evergreen is a great institution documenting America's amazing history of space exploration.
Left Coast Cellars: Pinot for wine lovers across the spectrum
Beyond Evergreen's extraordinary collection of aircraft and spacecraft, it also offers the perfect launch pad for an exploration of Willamette valley wine country.  The late David Lett launched a wine revolution in Oregon when he launched the Eyrie Vineyards (  "Papa Pinot" grew the first pinot noir in the Willamette valley.  Eyrie is now led by David's son Jason.  Today Oregon pinots rival their European cousins in Burgundy.  One of my personal favorites is Cali's Cuvée Pinot Noir produced by Left Coast Cellars ( near Salem.   This affordable wine won a Critics Gold award in 2007 and will appeal to drinkers of ANY political persuasion.

Wine Trails of Oregon, written by my friend Steve Roberts, is the perfect guide to exploring the fantastic wines that can be found today in Oregon (

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

General Schuyler & his Mansion

Schuyler Mansion, Albany, NY

The Schuyler Mansion ( is a gem from our American Colonial and Revolutionary past. Fans of the hit musical Hamilton have been flocking there to see where Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler in 1810.  Elizabeth Schuyler was the daughter of Philip Schuyler.  The three Schuyler sisters grew up here.
General Philip Schuyler
General Schuyler is one of the great unsung heroes of the American Revolution.  In 1777 Schuyler was in charge of the Northern Department for the Patriot forces.
Wallpaper Schuyler Mansion, Albany, NY
Historian Richard Ketchum wrote, "Schuyler resembled General George Washington, with whom he had struck up a warm friendship after they met in 1775 and to whom he was indebted for his present command (Northern Department).  Like Washington, he was wealthy, with large landholdings.  He was a member of one of the oldest and most prominent families in the Hudson Valley and related to many of the others -- the Van Schaicks, Livingstons, and Van Rensselaers, one of whom was his wife, Catherine."  (Source: Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War, 1997,

In 1777 General Burgoyne invaded New York from Canada with about 8,000 troops.  He hoped to rendezvous with Lord Howe in Albany cutting the rebel colonies in two.  Burgoyne seized Fort Ticonderoga (the "Gibraltar of the North") after its American Commander, St. Clair withdrew his forces that were outnumbered about 3 to 1.
Hudson View, Schuyler Mansion, NY
The Continental Congress, disappointed with the loss of Ticonderoga, replaced Schuyler with Horatio Gates (see...  Even before "Granny" Gates could assume command, however, Burgoyne's offensive was in trouble.  On August 16 Burgoyne's "Hessians" (many were in fact from Brunswick, and other parts of Germany) were defeated at the Battle of Bennington.  After the battles fought around Saratoga in upstate New York Burgoyne ended up surrendering his entire army of nearly 6,000 men.  The Battle of Saratoga led directly to French intervention in the American Revolution culminating with victory at Yorktown in 1781.
Benedict Arnold Window
St Mary's Bayswater, London
Schuyler's selection of Benedict Arnold was a key ingredient for American success in the Saratoga campaign.  Gates famously argued with Arnold and even dismissed him from command.  Arnold, disregarding his dismissal and fueled by rum, provided the inspirational leadership in the battle of the Wheat Field on October 7, 1777.
Interior Schuyler Mansion
After Burgoyne's surrender he was briefly held as prisoner of war at General Schuyler's home in Albany.  It was at the Schuyler Mansion that Burgoyne wrote letters back to England blaming his defeat on the failure of Lord Howe to cooperate in his offensive.  Howe had captured Philadelphia rather than supporting Burgoyne's southern thrust.  Burgoyne wrote, "I have been with my Army within the Jaws of Famine, shot (through) my hat and waistcoat, my nearest friends killed around me."

Another Schuyler estate in New York worth some 10,000 pounds was burned by Burgoyne's forces during the Saratoga campaign.  When Burgoyne expressed regret at its destruction Schuyler, the consummate gentleman, shrugged it off as being "the fate of war".
Alexander Hamilton, Schuyler's son in law
Schuyler Mansion, Albany, NY
Burgoyne's surrender was the ultimate vindication for General Schuyler.  Fort Ticonderoga proved to be a trap for the British Army.

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