Monday, August 20, 2012

Take A Look At John S. Craig's First Book...

Peculiar Liaisons in War,

Espionage, and Terrorism 

of the Twentieth Century

By John S. Craig

During a time when "war on terrorism" is a household word, many of us reflect on events that have touched our lives. The old questions of "who, what, when, and where" somehow have become more real as we ponder what would lead individuals to force the crash of planes into buildings. Why would young people become suicide bombers? To many of us, it's "not quite real." Many times, there are no answers. 
The assassination of John F. Kennedy is one of those mysteries. He was murdered the year I started my career. We were all called into the boss' office and we stood, stunned, confused, and somehow, afraid. John S. Craig in Peculiar Liaisons: In War, Espionage, and Terrorism in the Twentieth Century brings back memories of that time. He provides no answers; however, he provides a consolidation of names beyond the one we all know-Lee Harvey Oswald. Many of us have been unsatisfied that one man was behind the assassination of Kennedy. Books have been written examining what happened and proposing alternatives to solve the mystery. Mr. Craig, however, has provided a major chapter bringing together facts-clues of those individuals who may have had ties to Oswald, highlighting, especially, David Ferrie, who may have been an accomplice. He's made a major effort to compile what factual information is available and present it for the reader's use-to consider or to research further.

Peculiar Liaisons reads almost like a novel. Indeed for those who buy this book to gain a deeper understanding of what may have brought about today's events, it captures our interest and provides sufficient narrative to satisfy our needs. However, historians will want to add this book to their personal library. By selecting personalities who have played major roles in the century's history, Craig has provided a significant research effort that pulls together important individuals who played roles, sometimes behind the scenes and with less notoriety.

Captain Dragutin Dimitrijevic, was the first highlighted in Peculiar Liaisons. Known as "The Bull" or "Apis," Dimitrijevic slaughtered the Serbian king and queen, and later formed The Black Hand (with the aim of uniting all Serbs). He recruited young men infected with tuberculosis and promised these men with terminal disease a way to "make a mark" for Serbia through assassinations of enemies. One of his liaisons, a teenager named Gavrilo Princip, assassinated Austria-Hungary's heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This act helped trigger the nightmare of World War I.

Chapter Two provides an excellent overview of two historical legends, the "Queen and Ace of Spies." Mata Hari is one of the most famous spies, having been featured in several movies and books. About herself, she said, "she was a much better harlot than traitor." Her supposed liaisons included the Ace of Spies, Britain's Sidney Reilly, Admiral Wilmelm Canaris, as well as many other high-level officials during World War I. Interestingly, their legends may have become so complicated that their allegiance is still in question--for which countries did they spy and to which countries were they loyal? Even today, their lives remain mysteries.
Tactical Deception, a skill much used throughout history, dates back to times surrounding familiar stories such as the Trojan Horse and the Japanese Ninja who used their stealth techniques in the twelfth century to gather intelligence for warlords. Participants in both world wars used deception as a major weapon. Thomas Lawrence-also known as John Hume and T. E. Shaw-used even the minor deception of different names to further his exploits. Most of us automatically picture this man with his Arabian robes and headdress flying behind, as he races across the desert as Lawrence of Arabia. Indeed the chapter covering his exploits and other operations at this time provide an exciting read.

Discussions and actions surrounding the development of bombs began in the late 30's.

Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt, which helped impel the creation of the Manhattan Project. The race for the atomic bomb was on! In 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The role of Colonel James Doolittle and others highlight this dramatic time in Chapter Four.
It turned out for me that I became intrigued with Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who served as head of the German military intelligence bureau. We all remember Adolf Hitler and may also know about Reinhard Heydrich who carried out orders from Hitler and, on his own initiative, to cause the death of millions. Two excellent chapters report on involved individuals. It was a welcome note to me, of German descent, to learn that Admiral Canaris (and others) was anti-Hitler and worked to sabotage Hitler's plans as much as possible and was even willing to refuse direct orders to assassinate individuals.

Peculiar Liaisons, in focusing on involved individuals and their relationships, has provided a solid base of information beyond headlines and the average history text.

In addition to covering significant historical actions since the beginning of the century, including World Wars I and II, Craig includes small tidbits from his research that often bring a smile or cause one to ponder:

Zoroaster, a man born in the sixth century BC, in what is now Iran, claimed to be the spokesman of the one true God. Zoroastrianism was the principal religion in Persia for approximately one thousand years. Three major religions followed. Many wars have been fought, presumably based on religion.

The German government published an official statement that no proof of the guilt of Mata Hari, known as the Queen of Spies, could be found.
Officials considered bringing Major T. E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, to provide a positive force to assist Hitler-that Lawrence was the kind of man who could have gotten Hitler on the right track. Lawrence was killed before this could occur.

Major R. Meinertzhagen, known as the Deception Master, once shared that when he met Hitler, Hitler came forward, threw up his arm and exclaimed "Heil Hitler." Thinking it odd to "heil" himself, he responded "Heil Meinertzhagen."

General Jimmy Doolittle led a volunteer group that was essentially a suicide mission, to exact retribution for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Wernher von Braun, a captured Nazi, later became the chief designer of the rocket that sent Americans to the moon.

Fuchida, flight commander of the assault on Pearl Harbor, later was inspired by an American missionary, Jacob DeShazer, one of Doolittle's Raiders, and became a devout Christian and traveled the world teaching the message of forgiveness.
J.R.R. Tolkien, British author, used what he experienced and witnessed in the trenches and battlefields for material that went into The Book of Lost Worlds, the foundation of The Lord of the Rings, one of the most read pieces of fiction of the twentieth century.

Henry Ford financially backed Adolf Hitler. Hitler told a reporter that he regarded Ford as his inspiration.

Ustasha administrator Vjekoslav Luboric moved hundreds of typhus-infected inmates to war camps that had been disease free in order to spread the disease.

General Heydrich was dishonorably discharged from the German Navy.

Madame Kitty, head of "Salon Kitty," a bordello, used her women to spy on fellow Nazi officers for 
General Heydrich. Please note the videos were added by BRH NOT the author and used purely to illustrate films based upon history and covered in this text. Be advised, R-Rated Trailer... Thankfully, the second trailer for a later movie is more G Rated, so somewhere along the way, people began to realize that trailers needed to be G rated because everybody could potentially see them... I must say, though, that the first trailer portrayed the story line much more effectively...Let me know what you think since I'm a fan of trailers almost as much as reading the book or seeing the movie!

Kerry Thornley, a fellow Marine of Lee Harvey Oswald, said Oswald made such an impression on him that he wrote the novel, The Idle Warriors, months before Oswald's involvement in the assassination was known.

And so it continues...

Peculiar Liaisons is a significant research effort. Are today's actions molded from history? Perhaps, more specifically, are individuals, who may be viewed as heroes or enemies, depending upon your perspective or background, actually who influences us? John Craig has pulled together facts. Interesting facts. Horrible facts. His book can stand alone from which to learn. But, his references and selected bibliography provide a solid basis for further study. In the midst of the "War on Terror," Peculiar Liaisons should be on your bookshelf.


John S. Craig was born and lives in Colorado. He has published and researched in the fields of history, communication, technology, crime, and travel. He is an instructor at the University of Colorado where he has taught writing and communication for twenty years. He is the author of Peculiar Liaisons in War, Espionage, and Terrorism in the Twentieth Century (Algora) and Heroes Rogues, and Spies. A collection of short stories, Blanket of Crickets and Other Stories, will be published in early 2013.

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