Posts Tagged With: Cold War

When Fiction Becomes Fact

In Among the Shadows, many of the characters have learned to use the energy that burns inside them — for good and evil. There are those that can see into the minds of others, cross the barriers raised by time or manipulate matter. Fiction right?

Or is it?

Annie Jacobsen‘s latest book in her fascinating series on Cold War black projects, Phenomena, will make all but the most hardened skeptics think twice.

For decades, the U.S. Government spent millions in researching the practicality of using people who could remote view distant places or influence people with their mind. Note that I didn’t write that they were just determining if these things could be done — they employed people who proved they had unique abilities.

This isn’t a new revelation, but Jacobsen has interviewed dozens of those involved and uncovered newly declassified documentation. Thousands of papers still remain off-limits, so she’s probably only scratched the surface here. However, as with her previous books — Area 51, Operation Paperclip, and The Pentagon’s Brain — Jacobsen has weaved together another masterful narrative history of black box projects. These topics are often the favorite target of conspiratorial and fringe researchers, but this is the real deal.

Or, as a skeptic might ask, is this some elaborate psyop perpetuated by the government against its enemies? If it is, this is the most convincing one ever and the skeptics haven’t shown they are correct.

It’s easy to wave one’s hands and say, “It’s all a fraud!” Annie Jacobsen has laid out the detailed case of why this is all something very different from fakery. She isn’t taking sides, but is surprised at what she finds, and writes, “There is no question that man is extraordinary, each of us a phenomenon.”

Indeed, fact may very well trump fiction.

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Categories: Books, History | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pandemics, Elementals and Nuclear Missiles

Receive a few gift cards to your favorite book store for Christmas? Well, here are a few suggestions on spending that money:

In one sense, I hesitated to pick up Steven Konkoly‘s The Jakarata Pandemic. Haven’t pandemics and apocalyptic collapse been overdone? Probably, but apocalyptic books have always been a favorite. That, along with the current Ebola threat, encouraged me to give this book a chance. It didn’t disappoint and ripped a story from headlines that had yet to be written. If you want a realistic look at what happens after a major crisis (no zombies, aliens or Godzilla) and what a pandemic could do, The Jakarta Pandemic will keep you on the edge of your seat. Definitely will be reading more from Konkoly. [Similar: One Second After]

While fantasy has been dominated by reluctant male heroes, that has been changing. In Mary Weber‘s Storm Siren, Nymeria is a slave haunted by her past and her ability. An elemental, her influence of the weather is uncontrollable and deadly. Or can her curse be a gift? Written in the first person, very quickly the reader is drawn in wanting to know what happens to Nym as she is drawn into a war of men and within herself. Listed as a “young adult” fantasy — and it is accessible to that group — but so sophisticated and immersive is the world Weber has created that all fantasy fans will be taken in. [Similar: Daughter of Light]

Want some non-fiction that reads like a Tom Clancy novel? Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control will give you and inside look at the Cold War and the tenuous relationship of man with nuclear weapons. If you grew up in the Cold War, and thought the Cuban Missile Crisis was as close as we got, think again. The rush into nuclear armament was peppered with many close calls. Those who did know are still surprised that no nukes have been used, or gone off, outside of test ranges since 1945. Scholosser recounts the history while threading in the account of an armed Titan II that exploded in its silo in 1980. It is also a tale of the many who served quietly in a supposedly “cold” war. A great book on history that we would be amiss to forget and a telling that honors those who died defending our nation. [Similar: 15 Minutes]

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Categories: Books, Fiction, History, Modern History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deal With the Devil: Operation Paperclip

Long a student of the history of space exploration, I knew of the Operation Paperclip (often called Project Paperclip) to bring rocket scientists to the U.S. after WWII from Germany. Never thought much about it until more studies on WWII and the Cold War started to reveal more about these scientists. Not all were innocents caught up in their nation’s war.

Some were part of the Nazi Machine.

Indeed, even when it was exposed in the ’40s that hundreds of these scientists, doctors and engineers were coming to America, protest was raised. It was largely too late. Records were scrubbed and classified. The people themselves remained quiet and evasive on the subject of their past until their death. While some Nazis to this day are hunted down in their old age, some were allowed to be free, in the open. Perhaps the most bizarre example of cognitive dissonance ever known, and widely at that. But most don’t know the whole story.

Annie Jacobsen remedies this in her new book, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America. She isn’t the first to write on Paperclip, but perhaps the most thorough. She has brought new materials to light as more has become unclassified and through interviews with Paperclip family members and others with first hand knowledge.

I thought I knew a lot about the program, I didn’t. The twisted policy of chasing down prison guards in their 90s while other individuals were in effect acquitted. Some became American heroes. I have read of Von Braun and other rocket scientists who oversaw the V-2 production sites were thousands of prisoner-slaves died, but many know little of this. Jacobsen’s account will force you to look at our space heroes quite differently.

It wasn’t just the builders of rockets, however. Doctors involved in the Reich’s human experiments, experts in chemical and biological warfare and others were also spirited away by Paperclip. Most of these men lead productive lives contributing to our country. Others, though, were part of questionable state-sponsored activities here. In either case, Jacobsen writes this for us to ponder:

The question remains, despite a man’s contribution to a nation or people, how do we interpret fundamental wrong? Is the American government at fault equally for fostering myths about its Paperclip scientists — for encouraging them to whitewash their past…When, for a nation, should the end justify the means?

Categories: History, Modern History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

History Unshackled

Some people are under the impression that studying history is dull or of no interest. Maybe we can blame the way it’s presented in education: Quick, little bites that don’t get into the personalities, the drama and the earth-changing events. Don’t get me wrong, I had some history teachers that knew their stuff and were great at teaching, but they were always limited by time.

Education shouldn’t end at graduation. That’s a mistake most people make. It’s a mistake that can be overcome. Many authors are gifted with research and telling history that is every bit has exciting as a novel or film.

If Pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower and having the first Thanksgiving is about the extent of your backgrounder on the subject, Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower will unveil a far more exciting and nation-shaping series of events. Similarly, after reading his The Last Stand, the Indian Wars and Custer will never be quite the same. Some parts of history don’t always end well, but we must learn from them just like any other.

If you ever wondered why so much focus has been put on a single battle like Gettysburg, Noah Andre Trudeau’s Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, told largely through the eyes of those who fought, will show how war reveals the best, and worst, of men.

Everyone thinks of the Cuban Missile Crisis as the close call of the Cold War, but we were at the brink far more times than that. Books like 15 Minutes and The Dead Hand detail the frightening world that few knew existed.

So start stockpiling some books before winter sets in and prepare to fascinated, amazed and shocked. You’ll wonder why you ever stopped learning or thought it dull or unnecessary.

You are in charge of your education. That education didn’t stop years ago. It only barely had begun.

Categories: Books, History, Modern History, Native Americans | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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