Saturday, April 30, 2011

Retired Marine Lt Colonel Oliver North On The Fall Of Saigon And The War In Afghanistan

As today is the 36th anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam to the North Vietnamese Communists, I'd like to offer retired Marine Lt Colonel Oliver North's column from last year on Vietnam and the current war in Afghanistan.

You can read North's column via the link below:

I played only a minor role in the Vietnam War - I was a teenage sailor aboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam - but since then I've been a keen student of the Vietnam War and I've written numerous articles about the conflict. I've interviewed both senior officers and enlisted men who served in the war, as well as CIA officers who operated there.

You can read my previous post on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War via the below link:

Lastly, I interviewed Colonel North for Counterterrorism magazine a short time ago and you can read the piece via the below link:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Vietnam Legacy Shapes Today's U.S. Military Leaders

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2011 - Tomorrow marks the 36th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War –- a conflict that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans and continues to affect the United States, including its military leaders and current wartime operations.

The fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, marked the dramatic and painful culmination of the Vietnam War. The last of the dominos were laid when then-President Richard M. Nixon announced the end of offensive operations against North Vietnam after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on Jan. 27, 1973. The accords called for a ceasefire in South Vietnam, but allowed North Vietnamese forces to retain the territory they had captured.

With nearly all U.S. forces gone, and Congress' passage of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 that cut off military aid to South Vietnam, North Vietnam became emboldened. Its forces began a steady march southward toward Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital.

As the North Vietnamese closed in on Saigon, Operation Frequent Wind, the largest helicopter evacuation operation in history, commenced, moving tens of thousands of American military and civilian personnel from the city, along with thousands of South Vietnamese civilians.

On April 29, 1975, the North Vietnamese launched a heavy artillery bombardment that would become their final attack on Saigon. The city fell the following afternoon when a North Vietnamese tank crashed the gates of the presidential palace, accepting South Vietnam's unconditional surrender.

Ho Chi Minh's dream of a unified, communist Vietnam was fulfilled, and the city once known as Saigon today bears his name. Vietnam now celebrates April 30 as Reunification Day.

The Vietnam War cost millions of lives, including 58,267 Americans, with more than 300,000 U.S. servicemembers wounded in action and 1,711 missing in action.

The Vietnam War had a profound impact on today's American military leaders, including Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. And in many ways, the lessons learned during the Vietnam conflict have shaped the way U.S. forces operate today, particularly in conducting counterinsurgency operations like those under way in Afghanistan.

Mullen, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, is among the few people still on active duty who experienced Vietnam firsthand. Fresh from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968, he reported aboard the destroyer USS Collett for duty as an anti-submarine officer and participated in combat operations off the Vietnam coast.

Mullen speaks frequently about how the Vietnam War affected the nation and shaped him both personally and professionally.

"The Vietnam conflict was a life-defining experience for every American who lived during that era, and it continues to impact us all: the pain, the conflict, the healing," he said during last year's Memorial Day observance at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. "The lessons we learned in Vietnam were bought at a very great price. Acting on them is the best tribute we can pay to honor those who died" -- among them, some of Mullen's own friends and Annapolis classmates.

While he was struck during that first assignment at the intensity of the conflict, Mullen said, he soon began to process just how divisive the war had become.

"What I take away from Vietnam is the detachment of the American people from the U.S. military -- the disconnect and the unpopularity of the war," he told U.S. News and World Report in April 2008.

Mullen frequently tells audiences he addresses that he had concerns during the early days of the war in Afghanistan that it would have the same polarizing effect. To his relief, he said at the Vietnam Memorial, Americans "are so incredibly supportive of our military men and women now."

The chairman said he attributes the changed attitudes to the lessons learned from Vietnam about supporting troops unconditionally.

"During that time, as a country, we were unable to separate the politics from the people," he said. "We must never allow America to become disconnected from her military. Never."

Lke most other current military leaders, Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, entered a military still healing from the Vietnam experience. Petraeus graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1974, a year before the fall of Saigon.

But Petraeus has studied the Vietnam experience thoroughly, even writing his doctoral dissertation at Princeton University on "The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam."

That dissertation, published in 1987, recognized the lasting impact the Vietnam experience would have.

"The legacy of Vietnam is unlikely to soon recede as an important influence on America's senior military," Petraeus wrote. "The frustrations of Vietnam are too deeply etched in the minds of those who now lead the services and the combatant commanders.

"Vietnam cost the military dearly," he continued. "It left America's military leaders confounded, dismayed and discouraged. Even worse, it devastated the armed forces, robbing them of dignity, money and qualified people for a decade."

This experience, Petraeus wrote, left many military leaders overly cautious. Specifically, he said, many felt "they should advise against involvement in counterinsurgencies unless specific, perhaps unlikely circumstances" ensure domestic public support, the promise of a quick campaign and the freedom to use whatever force is needed to achieve rapid victory.

Later in his career, as he oversaw the revision of the military's counterinsurgency field manual, Petraeus applied some of the lessons learned through the Vietnam experience.

That manual has become the guide for counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It emphasizes that military power alone can't succeed against an insurgency, and the importance of public diplomacy as part of a "comprehensive strategy employing all instruments of national power."

Informed by the Vietnam experience, the strategy also recognizes that clearing and keeping the enemy from an area alone does not spell success. A critical third tenet, it notes, is the establishment of a legitimate government supported by the people and infrastructure development that empowers them.

After applying those principles -- first while commanding U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and now as the top commander in Afghanistan -- Petraeus said he is seeing this strategy bear fruit.

Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month the coalition in Afghanistan continues to face tough days against insurgents, but is making steady progress in improving security and helping the Afghan government improve governance, economic development and the provision of basic services.

"These are essential elements of the effort to shift delivery of basic services from provincial reconstruction teams and international organizations to Afghan government elements," he told the panel.

As the transition approaches for Afghan forces to begin taking security responsibility for their country, Petraeus emphasized that actions being taken now in Afghanistan will have consequences for years to come –- just as those in Vietnam more than three decades ago.

"We'll get one shot at transition, and we need to get it right," he said. 

Admiral Mullen and General Petraeus are shown together on the bridge of the arircraft carrier USS Lincoln in the above U.S. Navy photo.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jay Leno On Obama and Teleprompters

"The man who invented the teleprompter has died at the age of 91," Jay Leno said on the Tonight Show. "When President Obama heard the news, he was speechless."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Escape From Death Row For Convicted Cop Killer Mumia Abu-Jamal?

Nathan Gorenstein at The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the Philadelphia District Attorney's reaction to the federal appeals court ruling that a jury be impaneled to reconsider whether Mumia Abu-Jamal receives a death sentence or life in prison for murdering Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.

You can read the newspaper story via the below link:

You can also go to my earlier post, where you can read Michael Smerconish's interview with the jury forman from Abu-Jamal's original trial, as well as my review of Officer Faulkner's widow's book, Murdered by Mumia, and my 2003 Crime Beat column on the case, via the below link:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hal Holbrook On Mark Twain: No Updating Necessary

Kara Patterson at The Post-Crescent in Wisconsin offers a Q & A with actor Hal Holbrook, who is performing his one-man Mark Twain Tonight show.

I saw Holbrook's Mark Twain show in Philadelphia a few years back and I truly enjoyed it. Mark Twain is one of my favorite writers and Holbrook made the great writer and humorist come alive.

You can read the Q & A with Holbrook via the below link:

You can watch the 1st of 10 video clips of Holbrook's Mark Twain Tonight on via the below link:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jesus Vs Che Guevara: A Man Who Laid Down His Life For Us - Or A Murderous "Rock Star" Rebel

Peter Hitchens, the conservative brother of Christopher Hitchens, wrote an interesting column on this Easter Sunday in the British newspaper The Daily Mail.

Hitchens (seen in the above Daily Mail photo) in his column comments on the story of a British electrician who was fired for placing a small cross in his company van.

As if that were not enough of an outrage, it later came out that the boss who sacked the driver had a poster of Communist guerrilla Che Guevara in his company office.

Hitchens goes on to compare Jesus and Che Guevara in our age.

You can read this insightful and interesting column via the below link:

You can also read The Daily Mail's account of the cross and the Che Guevara poster via the below link:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Len Deighton On Writers Facing The Hard Questions Before Chapter One

Len Deighton, author of 40 books, wrote an interesting piece for The Wall Street Journal on how writers should prepare to write a book.

You can read the piece via the below link:

I've been reading Deighton since the 1960s. I've enjoyed his spy thrillers, which include The Ipcress File, and Funeral In Berlin, as well as his historical fiction, such as Bomber and Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain. Deighton's spy thrillers were made into a successful film series starring Michael Caine as the working class spy hero.

Deighton has also written cookbooks and a very clever alternative history-thriller called SS-GB. I've reread the novel several times over the years.

SS-GB is set in a Great Britain defeated by Nazi Germany. In this alternative history, America did not become involved in the war.

Deighton's novel was published in 1978, years before Robert Harris wrote a similar novel called Fatherland in 1992.

You can read a good piece about Deighton in the British newspaper The Guardian via the below link:

Friday, April 22, 2011

My On Crime & Security Column: Security Cameras Can Deter And Solve Business Crimes

The business web site published my On Crime & Security column today.

The post covers security cameras and how they deter and solve crime.

"Video surveillance cameras deter crimes like burglary, armed robbery, employee theft, vandalism, and murder," a Philadelphia homicide detective told me a while back. "But when a criminal is bold enough or dumb enough to commit a crime while a security camera is recording him in the act, the images help us apprehend and convict him."

The detective also told me that when police arrive at a crime scene, the first thing they do is look for video cameras. He also noted that when suspects are confronted with the images of them from the security cameras, they very often plead guilty on the spot.

I also interviewed Richard Stellacci, my old shipmate who served with me on the aircraft carrier the USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War. After serving in the Navy he went on to serve 25 years on the Putnum County, New York Sheriff's Department, rising from a Deputy Sheriff to Captain.

You can read the post via the below link:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vote For Favorite Mugshot Of the Day

Joe Arpaio, called America's Toughest Sheriff, has a new feature on the Maricopa County, Arizona web site.

Sheriff Arpaio invites visitors to the web site to view the day's arrests and then vote on their favorite mugshot.

You can read more at via the below link:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Suspected WikiLeaks Leaker To Be Transferred To Fort Leavenworth

Looking at the above old photo of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, the suspected WikiLeak leaker, I thought of the old Esquire magazine gag, "Why is this man smiling?"

I spent the better part of 37 years in the U.S. Navy and the Defense Department protecting classified military information, as well as protecting military and Defense Department civilian personnel. By leaking classified military information, Manning, if he is guilty of the crime, put his fellow soldiers and others in harm's way. This is a despicable act.

The Defense Department announced yesterday that Manning is to be transferred to Fort Leavenworth. I imagine he's not smiling now.

You can read about Manning via the below American Forces Press Service piece:

Army to Transfer Manning to Leavenworth

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 - The Army plans to transfer Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, charged with leaking classified military information in the WikiLeaks incident, to a new Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel, announced today.

Johnson explained the rationale noting that it is the right time to transfer Manning to a more appropriate facility for long-term pre-trial confinement.

"At the request of Private Manning's defense counsel, an assessment is under way to determine whether Private Manning is mentally competent in this case in the event it goes to trial," he said. "On Saturday, April 9, the inquiry phase of that process, known in military justice terms as a 706 board, was completed, and Private Manning's presence in the Washington, D.C., area is no longer necessary for that purpose.

"At this juncture of the case, we have decided that the new joint regional correctional facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is the most appropriate facility for Private Manning for continued pretrial detention," he said.

Manning's transfer from the pretrial confinement facility at Marine Base Quantico in Virginia is "imminent," Johnson said, but citing standard policy, he declined to provide precise details.

"This is the right decision at the right time," Army Undersecretary Joseph W. Westphal said, reinforcing Johnson's explanation.

"This [facility] became available in January for pretrial [confinees]," Westphal said. "We were looking at the situation where he would need an environment that was more conducive to a longer-term period, and this is why we made the decision to move him at this time. We needed to wait until the 706, and his participation in the 706 review process was over."

With the medical review of Manning's competence to stand trial expected to take additional time, and a pretrial phase that "may continue for months beyond that," Johnson said, the decision was made to transfer him to Fort Leavenworth.

Army Corrections Command reviewed the new facility and determined it has the expertise and capability to provide continued, long-term pretrial confinement for Manning, Johnson said.

"The facility, which opened in October and opened a pretrial confinement capability in January, is a state-of-the-art complex with the best and widest range of support services available to pretrial prisoners within the Department of Defense corrections system," he said.

The facility has resident medical and mental-health care staff appropriate to meet Private Manning's health and welfare needs for the remainder of the 706 Board process into the pretrial phase, Johnson said.

"When he is transferred to the Joint Regional Correction Facility, he will receive support from experienced, trained professional staff that has been doing this for well over 20 years," said Army Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, the facility commander. "And he will receive the mental health, physical health and emotional health [support] that he needs to go through this judicial process."

"The Quantico brig is a Level 1 facility that is not intended for long-term incarceration either pre- or post-trial," she said. Typically, pretrial prisoners are not incarcerated at a Level 1 facility for more than a couple months."

The Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Kansas is a state-of-the-art, Level 2 facility, Hilton said. "So what that means is that I have the capacity to hold not only the pretrial prisoners, but post-trial prisoners with sentences up to five years. And with that comes all the support staff that Pfc. Manning may need," she said.

"I have the experienced staff who not only work at the Joint Regional Correctional Facility, but also at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth," she continued. "So it's more than just the facility. It's the staff that comes with the facility. My facility is different than the [Quantico] brig. I am developed, designed and staffed with the experienced staff to provide those services for long-term incarceration."

Johnson emphasized that the decision to transfer Manning should not be interpreted as any criticism of the pretrial facility at Quantico.

"We remain satisfied that Private Manning's pretrial confinement at Quantico was in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects," he said. "And we salute the military personnel there for the job they did in difficult circumstances."

As at Quantico, Manning will be allowed to receive a limited number of outside visitors at Fort Leavenworth, subject to his and the command's agreement, Johnson said. In addition, he said, the Army will allow a limited number of media representatives to tour the Leavenworth pretrial facility.

Manning will return to Washington as necessary, for legal proceedings, with his case remaining under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

Johnson emphasized that as the case progresses, Manning will be assumed innocent until proven guilty.

"It is important to remember that while Private Manning is charged with very serious offenses involving classified information and national security, in our system of military justice, as in our system of civilian justice in this country, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.

Pretrial confinement, common to both systems, "has been determined to be appropriate in this case," he said.

Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, is suspected of being involved in one of the largest leaks of classified material in U.S. history, Johnson said. The leak involved hundreds of thousands of diplomatic and military documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The WikiLeaks organization published many of these documents online, drawing criticism by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other defense officials, who charge they put deployed U.S. service members at increased risk.

Following a seven-month investigation, the Army added 22 charges against Manning in March, charging him with loading unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information that was unlawfully downloaded, improperly stored, and transmitted for public release and use by the enemy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sixteen Years After The Oklahoma City Bombing - How The Attacks Led To The FBI's Counterterrorism Focus

On the sixteenth anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, offers an excerpt from an interesting book that I happen to be reading, Garrett M.Graff's The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror. 

April 19th is a date few in the FBI will soon forget: The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, an attack that killed 168 people, forever changed the trajectory of the U.S. counterterrorism mission. Even though it was at the time the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil—eclipsed internationally only by the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1998—the incident is often now seen as an outlier in a decade of the rising threat of Islamic extremists, sandwiched between the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and the 1998 attack on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. However, Oklahoma City is actually much more central to American counterterrorism efforts than many realize.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

A Look Back At Screen Legend John Wayne's Best Known Films

I watched John Ford's great Civil War film The Horse Soldiers again last night.

Ford got a powerful performance from John Wayne, as usual, and he also got a fine performance from co-star William Holden and the many wonderful character actors in the film.

The Horse Soldiers, based on true events in the Civil War, has drama, action, humor and pathos. I've seen The Horse Soldiers more than a dozen times since I was a kid and I still love the film.
The photo above shows Holden on the left, Ford in the middle and John Wayne on the right during the shooting of The Horse Soliders in 1959.

Although they don't mention The Horse Soldiers, offers a list of John Wayne's best known films.

The film web site offers the below:

This John Wayne movies list represents the actor’s most well-known films. “The Duke” embodied rugged masculinity and became a true American icon. His height, his walk, and his distinctive voice made John Wayne famous, as did his vocal conservative, anti-communist views. Of the dozens of John Wayne movies produced through the years, these are his best-known films.

You can see the list via the below link:

Fighting The Growing Threat Of Transnational Criminal Organizations, The Defense Department Opens Countertrafficking Command Center

By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla., April 19, 2011 - A new, high-tech command center here will move the fight against illicit traffickers to a new level, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said yesterday.

Just before cutting a ribbon to the Joint Operations Command Center alongside William Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, Lynn said the threat that plagues the region has evolved beyond drugs alone.

"Transnational criminal organizations are posing a not-very-well-understood, but growing, threat to the United States," he told the task force staff. "It's something I know you are on the front lines of addressing and, ultimately, preventing."

The new command center serves Joint Interagency Task Force South, a subordinate command to the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command that integrates military, interagency and international capabilities to combat illicit trafficking.

Lynn traveled to Miami a day earlier to meet with Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, Southcom commander, and his leadership team. In testimony last month before the House Armed Services Committee, Fraser called the task force "the center of U.S. maritime interdiction efforts in the Caribbean basin and eastern Pacific."

Using information from law enforcement agencies, the general added, the task force detects and monitors suspect aircraft and maritime vessels and then provides this information to international and interagency partners who have the authority to interdict illicit shipments and arrest members of transnational criminal organizations.

Task force members represent each U.S. military service and most federal law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Other members from the U.S. intelligence community represent the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency.

The task force staff includes liaison officers from 13 nations: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain and the United Kingdom.

"We made the decision in April 2008 to apply our collective wisdom and knowledge across the interagency, our international partners and the joint team here," Coast Guard Rear Adm. Daniel Lloyd, commander of Joint Interagency Task Force South, said during the ceremony opening the new operations center.

The aim, he said, was "to come up with a better way to be even more effective in countering the illicit traffickers."

The new command center, Lloyd added, "is the first of its kind anywhere, and represents the very best way we know how to conduct the fight against illicit traffickers."

(Lynn is seen in the above photo at the U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Fla., April 18, 2011. DOD photo by Cherie Cullen).

In the center, intelligence and operations functions come together in a state-of-the-art command, control, communications and intelligence facility, officials said, where the task force coordinates the use of Navy and Coast Guard ships and aircraft, Air Force and U.S. Customs Service aircraft, and aircraft and ships from allied nations and law enforcement agencies.

"I think it's important at this moment to recognize how far we've come," Wechsler said. "Back in the 1980s, the mission set against which [the task force] was deployed was considered to be an unsolvable problem. There was a never-ending stream of air and maritime vessels headed right for our coast. It was a direct threat to U.S. sovereignty."

Today, he added, the problem has evolved, and so has the task force. "[It] is really, in my mind, a model -- perhaps one of the best models of coordination that exists in the U.S. government," he said.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Age Of Heroes: Sean Bean Bonds With Ian Fleming In WWII Commando Film

The British newspaper The Sun reports on the release of Age of Heroes, the new World War II film about the 30 Assault Unit (30 AU) commandos, staring Sean Bean as one of the commando leaders.

Royal Navy Commander Ian Fleming, who would of course go on to write the James Bond thrillers after the war, was a naval intelligence officer during World War II and he created the elite intelligence-gathering commando group.

I look forward to seeing this film. Sean Bean was very good as a Bond villain in GoldenEye and he was also very good as Bernard Cornwell's Napoleonic-era British soldier Richard Sharpe in the fine TV series.

I also look forward to seeing James D'Arcy's portrayal of Ian Fleming in the film.

You can read the newspaper piece and watch a film trailer via the below link:

You can also read my interview with British journalist Craig Cabell, who wrote a book about Fleming and 30 AU called Ian Fleming's Secret War (Pen & Sword Books), via the below links:       

The HMSS Interview With Jeffrey Deaver, Author Of The New James Bond Continuation Novel, Carte Blanche

The HMSS weblog offers a good interview with Jeffrey Deaver, the crime writer selected by the late Ian Fleming's family to write the new James Bond continuation novel.

The HMSS editors write:

We were intrigued to learn, in May of last year, that the next official James Bond novelist would be American (and Chicago’s own!) crime writer Jeffrey Deaver. Best known for his Lincoln Rhyme detective series (its first entry, The Bone Collector , was filmed in 1999 with Denzel Washington as the quadriplegic detective), and his Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award-winning World War II thriller Garden of Beasts, he may have been viewed as a surprise choice for the assignment. But the author of these brainy mysteries also has a personal fondness for scuba diving, skiing, fast cars, and guns, as well as having started his career as a journalist. Sound like anybody we know?

 “The novel [now titled Carte Blanche - ed.] will maintain the persona of James Bond as Fleming created him and the unique tone the author brought to his books, while incorporating my own literary trademarks: detailed research, fast pacing and surprise twists,” Deaver tells us, and we’re looking forward to see how he does it.

 You can read the interview via the below link:

I'm not fond of continuation novels, as writers like Ian Fleming have an individual and unique voice, but I'm pleased that a thriller writer was selected to write the new Bond continuation novel, rather than a literary novelist-gun-for-hire.

I reviewed the last Bond continuation novel, Devil May Care, for The Philadelphia Inquirer. I noted that author Sebastian Faulks did not write, or even read, thrillers. And when I interviewed Fergus Fleming, Ian Fleming's nephew and a director of Ian Fleming Publications, a while ago, I suggested that Frederick Forsyth would be the ideal writer.

You can read my review of  Devil May Care via the below links:

You can also read my interview with Fergus Fleming via the below link:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bay of Pigs At 50: Ex-CIA Agent Who Helped Capture Che Guevara Talks About His Experience In The Bay Of Pigs Invasion

Luisa Yanez in The Miami Herald spoke to Felix Rodriquez, the current President of The Bay of Pigs Brigade 2506, on the 50 anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Fidel Castro's Communist Cuba.

Rodriquez, seen in the above photo, is a former CIA agent who was in Cuba 50 years ago. He later helped hunt down Castro's Communist guerrilla ambassador, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, in Boliva.

You can read the newspaper piece via the below link:

You can read about how Brigade veterans are honoring the day in Miami via the below link:

You can also read Cuban-American Humberto Fontova's column on the Bay of Pigs, and my interview with Fontova, via the below link:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

An Anniversary Of Heroism And Shame - The Bay Of Pigs At Fifty

This weekend is the 50th anniversary of a dark page in America history - the Bay of Pigs invasion of Fidel Castro's Communist Cuba and the Kennedy administration's failure to fully support the brave Bay of Pigs Brigade.

The above photo is of the Bay of Pigs Memorial in Miami, Florida.

Humberto Fontova, an anti-Castro Cuban-American, wrote an interesting piece about the Bay of Pigs fiasco for

You can read the piece via the below link:

Humberto Fontova also wrote an interesting book called Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize him.

I interviewed Fontova for Counterterrorism magazine. You can read the piece via the below links:

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Crime Beat Column: Riding Shotgun Through The Philadelphia Badlands

“Saddle up,” Detective Mark Tartaglia said as he walked towards his unmarked car and motioned for me to sit in the front passenger seat.

His choice of a Wild West expression made me laugh to myself as, unbeknown to him, I thought of this outing as my riding shotgun through the "Badlands." Not the American Wild West Badlands, but rather the thoroughly modern Philadelphia Badlands.

In the Wild West, the front passenger seat of a stagecoach was called the shotgun seat, as the rider usually held one across his lap as they drove through hostile outlaw territory. I took the shotgun seat next to the veteran detective, who said he was counting down the days until his retirement.

In modern-day Philadelphia, “The Badlands” is the nickname the cops gave a 4-square mile section of North Philly. The Badlands are some of the worst neighborhoods in the city. The Philadelphia Badlands can be as hostile as the old frontier and modern-day outlaws rule the open-air drug markets.

I toured the badlands some years ago when I was covering  “Operation Sunrise,” for Counterterrorism magazine. At the time, a massive force of Philadelphia police, state troopers and federal agents rolled into to the Badlands to reclaim the neighborhood from the drug dealers who then dominated it and perpetuated violence on its decent, law-abiding citizens.

According to the DEA, Philadelphia has the dubious honor of having the purist heroin in the country. Philadelphia was a major distribution center, part of a triangle, with New York being one point, San Juan being a second point, with Philadelphia as the third point. Drugs are coming in at every level of sophistication, a DEA special agent told me. Drugs are coming in commercial cargo shipments in the thousands of pounds and people are bringing in pounds in suitcases. The DEA agent told me of an incident where one smuggler swallowed 99 condoms tied with dental floss and filled with 10 grams of heroin each.

The trafficking of drugs within the U.S. was for many decades principally controlled by traditional organized crime groups that lived and operated inside the country. According to The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement (1986), La Cosa Nostra controlled an estimated 95 percent of the heroin entering New York City, as well as most of the heroin distributed throughout the United States from the 1950s to the 1970s.

New York City’s organized crime families brought in heroin from Corsican sources that had French sailors ship the drugs directly to the U.S. The drugs were then distributed throughout the country by regional organized crime families to street level dealers.

The emergence of criminal syndicates based in Columbia and the shutting down of The French Connection, which was dramatized in Robin Moore’s true crime book and the 1971 Academy award-winning film, changed the face of the drug trade. The Colombian traffickers introduced cocaine into America on a massive scale, which set off a record rise in crime and violence.

The DEA reports that today the traffic in illegal drugs, from the manufacture to street-level sale, is controlled by international organized crime syndicates from Colombia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other countries. Many of the dealers on Philadelphia streets are illegal aliens.

I’ve interviewed the Philadelphia police commissioner, the deputy commissioner, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern PA and the Philadelphia area special agents-in-charge of the FBI and the DEA concerning this problem. But on this day I was touring the area at street level with a veteran Philadelphia detective.

Detective Tartaglia is an Italian-American in his early 50s. Both the detective and I grew up in South Philadelphia. We were raised and continue to live in what we regard as a tough neighborhood, but South Philly is Disneyland compared to the badlands.

Tartaglia is armed with his ever-ready 9-mm standard police issue Glock, which he called “Betsy,” reminding me of the name of Davy Crockett’s rifle “Old Betsy." Tartaglia said he was issued his firearm and a radio and then you were on your own.

“You have to take care of yourself - and your partners.”

Like most police officers, the detective endures long periods of boredom, which can be punctuated with moments of terror. While performing his daily tasks – investigating, interviewing, arresting people – he knows that at any time he could be the target of any insane person or criminal.

“Parts of North Philly up here remind me of war-torn Berlin,” he said. “Look at the blocks and blocks of abandoned and boarded-up homes, empty lots – unbelievable.”

We drove past wall after wall of graffiti, burned-out cars and homes and vacant lots loaded with trash and junk. The detective pointed out the drug dealers, who were so blatant, they needed no introduction. Of course, they are smart enough not to be holding drugs as the police roll by. They rely on an elaborate hide & hand off system to thwart the police.

Driving up a main thoroughfare, I took note that all of the stores on one entire block were closed and boarded up, while the main commerce was of the open-market variety. Heroin packets are sold here with colorful brand names such as “Scarface,” Pure Hell” and “I’ll Be Back.”

One brand of heroin was so pure that it recently killed several addicts. Public service announcements were issued, hoping that the addicts would play it safe and abstain, but the deaths merely acted as an advertisement that the heroin was the good stuff.

Operation Safe Streets, a police plan that followed Operation Sunrise, moved many of the drug dealers indoors or to new areas of operation. Safe Streets, and the new and improved Safer Streets program, were meant to improve the quality of life by creating a partnership with the police, the city’s network of social services, the clergy and community groups.

Operation Safe Streets was supposed to return control of the streets by preventing any open-air drug markets. The police identified more than 200 “drug corners” and the plan was to “disrupt, dissuade, and deter” the drug trade by committing an unrelenting presence of police officers on the corners – which some have derisively call “scarecrow policing.” There have been inroads, but, as the detective noted, the drug trade is a deeply entrenched criminal enterprise. Drugs bring on other crimes as well, such as burglary, prostitution, theft and shoplifting. Drug wars and violent drug-induced altercations greatly contribute to the city’s high homicide rate.

I asked Detective Tartaglia (seen in the below photo) if his daily tours through the badlands depressed him, and he replied that it was good in one way, as it made him appreciate what he had at home. But on the other hand, it was bad, as he saw so many awful things.

“Even in the Badlands, there are many decent people who try to live right,” Tartaglia explained. “I feel sorry for the decent people. It’s the crumbs here who make life bad.”

Tartaglia noted that when you drive through a safer neighborhood, you see young people and mothers with their babies. Kids out of school in the summer time. In the Badlands, the detective said you’ll see able-bodied people on the street selling drugs, hustling, robbing and committing other crimes.

“Here’s a guy and a couple of girls,” he pointed out as we rolled past one street corner. “They should be doing something constructive with their lives, but all they do is scam, sell drugs and drink and take drugs.”

Tartaglia said that he personally doesn’t have many problems or violent confrontations while working the badlands. A cop’s presentation, he said, makes the situation. A cop should be authoritative, yet casual.

“I just treat people like I want to be treated.”

As we cruised around the Badlands, Tartaglia talked about his career. He did not aspire to become a police officer, as he thought he had a future as a baseball player. But he had the opportunity to become a cop, and thinking of the good pay and benefits, he entered the Police Academy in 1981.

He worked patrol in South Philly until he was promoted to detective in 1985.

He married a neighborhood girl in 84, had a child in 85. He said he regretted that he missed out on much of his early family’s life due to his odd shifts and overtime.

“I thought that I was going to save the world, cleaning up whatever district I was in,” Tartaglia recalled. “It took about six months on the job to have that dreamed squashed,” he said, chuckling.

Homicide is the worst type of crime he encountered in his police career. Murder affects so many people and so many of the homicides he saw were horrible. Tartaglia recalled how he came on his first murder victim, a store owner who was behind the counter, wedged in, blood all over the place. They later discovered that the store owner’s partner murdered him. He also recalled his first visit to the morgue.

“You have to bring the body to the morgue and you get that formaldehyde smell – it’s the first thing that hits you – but what got to me was the sight of about six or seven gurneys with bodies on them covered up,” he said. “You eventually get so cold-hearted and callus.”

Another murder that came to mind occurred in the South Philly Passyunk Homes Project. They got the call of a report of a stabbing. He said there was a man standing outside who told the officers that he just came home from court and found his mother dead.

“We suspected him and stuck him in the wagon,” the detective said. “We went into the house and found the woman. She was stabbed repeatedly, blood all over. We checked his alibi and he was legit.”

That was a good alibi,” he said. “You can’t lie about being in court.”

Detective Tartaglia talked about other homicides cases involving drugs, organized crime, rape and robberies, as well as the less-severe crimes he has encountered, such as neighbor and family disputes.

In the Badlands, the police make arrests and then they see the criminals return all too soon to the same corners and bars.

"It’s disheartening," Tartaglia said.

As he swung out and headed back to his office, Detective Tartaglia again stated his sympathy for the good people who have to endure the drug gangs and the other criminals who inhabit the badlands.

The Badlands may be "outlaw country" – to use the Wild West term – but thankfully we have modern-day lawmen like Detective Mark Tartaglia, who “saddle up” every day and ride rough through the Philadelphia Badlands.

Note: The above column originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2006.

Blood Into Gold: Former Bonanno Crime Boss' Home Was New York's Answer To Fort Knox

The New York Post reports that former Bonanno crime family boss, Joseph Massino, who is currently testifing againt his successor, told the court that he forfeited four or five hundred gold bars to the feds. The gold bars were hidden in his home in Queens.

According to The Post:

He turned blood into gold.

Former Bonanno boss-turned-rat Joseph "Big Joey" Massino's family home in Howard Beach was Queens' answer to Fort Knox.

The man known as "The Last Don" had hundreds of gold bars stashed in the basement and millions in cash hidden in boxes in his attic -- funds he had set aside as his "pension" for his "golden years," Massino testified in a Brooklyn federal courtroom yesterday.

But Massino gave up the bullion and the rest of his millions following his conviction for seven murders as part of the deal that made him the first mob boss to squeal on the stand, he said at the murder trial of his successor, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano -- who Massino yesterday revealed assumed control without his blessing.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link:

Dumb Criminal Story: Why Stealing At A Security Conference Is A Bad Idea offers a story of a not particularly bright criminal at the International Security Conference at Las Vegas :

ISC West is one of the biggest international security conferences, and practically every inch of the expo floor has a camera or two trained on it.

You would expect that such a setup would make attendees reject the idea of stealing items on display on the stands even before it had half-formed in their minds, but at this year's edition of the conference, one man must have ignored the nature of the conference and the subtle clues by his mind telling him that there are cameras everywhere.

 He simply went for it - it being an unsecured iPad which he slipped into a bag after "discreetly" looking around. Naturally, several cameras caught him red handed.

You can watch a video of the incident via the below link:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Long Arm Of The Law: FBI Snatches Alleged Pirate Inside Somalia

As the late President Ronald Reagan said as a warning to international terrorists and criminals some years ago, "You can run, but you can't hide."

Keith Johnson at The Wall Street Journal reports that FBI agents traveled to Africa to arrrest a suspected pirate. 

In a first for U.S. anti-piracy efforts, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents ventured into Somalia to arrest the man who allegedly oversaw ransom negotiations for four Americans held hostage and later killed by pirates.

Mohammad Shibin, 50 years old, was captured in a joint operation, led by the FBI and coordinated with Somali authorities.

U.S. agents had never before apprehended an alleged pirate on land, though it has prosecuted a number of Somali pirates caught attacking U.S. ships in the Arabian Sea. To date, counter-piracy efforts had been waged almost exclusively in millions of square miles of ocean off the Horn of Africa.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My On Crime & Security Column: Shine A Light On Business Burglary Prevention

Through the Internet I located an old friend who served with me on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War 40 years ago.

Richard Stellacci was from the Bronx and we shared many a great time together on liberty in the wide-open city of Olongapo in the Philippines. I still have fond memories of our time there.

I contacted him and via email and a phone conversation, we swapped old sea stories and talked about what we've been doing since we left the carrier so many years ago. 

As it happens, my old shipmate is a retired captain, having served 25 years with the Putnam County, New York Sheriff's Department.

I interviewed him about burglary - known as the Silent Crime - for my On Crime & Security column at

You can read the piece via the below link:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Prince Of The City: A Look Back At Sidney Lumet's Powerhouse Crime Film

As director Sidney Lumet died Saturday, I watched one of his finest films again last night.

Prince of the City is a gritty and realistic crime film. Treat Williams and Jerry Orbach lead Lumet's  outstanding cast in this powerhouse film.

The 1981 film is based on Robert Daley's outstanding 1978 true crime book about Robert Leuci, an elite NYPD detective who voluntarily went undercover to fight corruption in the legal system, targeting lawyers and political fixers, but in the end he is forced to testify against his fellow detectives. 

You can view the beginning of the outstanding film via the below link:

I interviewed Robert Leuci a while back and you can read the Q & A with the retired detective-turned crime writer via the below link:

The Late Film Director Sidney Lumet's Career In Clips

The Guardian's web site offers a series of video clips from the films of director Sidney Lumet, who died Saturday.

The video clips include The Hill, starring Sean Connery (seen in the above photo), Network, Serpico and Lumet's last film, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

You can view the video clips via the below link:  

You can also read an earlier post on Sidney Lumet, which included his obituary in The Los Angeles Times, via the below link:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ian Fleming And Agatha Christie Lead List Of UK's Top-Earning Crime Writers

Maev Kennedy at the British newspaper The Guardian reports that the late Ian Fleming and the late Agatha Christie lead the list of top-earning British crime writers.

Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, has beaten Agatha Christie to the title of most successful – and highest earning – British crime writer of all time.

The first crime writers rich list, prepared for the crime drama digital TV channel Alibi, is based on recorded sales, box office returns, licence fees and company accounts. It reveals that many dead writers, including Fleming and Christie, live on as flourishing brands.

It puts Fleming in first place at more than £100m, with more than 100m copies of the Bond books sold worldwide. Christie comes a close second at £100m exactly, including ticket sales from The Mousetrap, the longest running stage play in the world, a fixture in London's West End since 1952.

But, as The Guardian noted, both Fleming and Christie were beaten hands down by the Yanks - American writers John Grisham, at $600m (£366m), and Dan Brown, at $400m.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link:

Philadelphia Signs Lease To House Homeland Security Fusion Center At South Philadelphia's Quartermaster reports that the City of Philadelphia signed a lease that would allow the city to house their planned counterterrorism and anti-crime "fusion center" at the old defense depot in South Philadelphia, known locally as the "Quartermaster."

The site, which was for many years the home of the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP) has been largely vacant since the Defense Department procurement command moved to the Navy base in Northeast Philadelphia in 1999.

You can read about the planned fusion center and watch a video with Fox news reporter Dave Shratwieser via the below link:

I wrote about Philadelphia's plan to create a fusion center, to be called the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center, at the Quartermaster for Counterterrorism magazine a while back.

You can read my magazine piece via the below link:

I worked for a Defense Department command at the Quartermaster for more than 25 years. You can read about my time at the Quartermaster via the below link:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Prince Of The City Himself: New York Film Director Sidney Lumet Dies

Sidney Lumet, the New York director of scores of fine films, died today. He was 86.

Although I didn't always agree with his worldview, I love many of his films, such as his masterpiece, Network.

Lumet made mostly crime dramas. I love Serpico, Q & A, Night Falls on Manhattan, Dog Day Afternoon and many others. I believe Prince of the City is another of his masterpieces.

Prince of the City is based on the true story of a New York City undercover detective who testifies against his fellow detectives. Lumet's work with Treat Williams, Jerry Orbach and the other fine actors in the cast make this police drama a powerhouse of a film.

Prince of the City is a classic crime film, in my view.

(The photo above shows Treat Williams on the left with director Sidney Lumet).

I also loved his work with one of my favorite actors, Sean Connery. Lumet directed Connery in the crime dramas The Anderson Tapes, Family Business, and a little known but great film called The Offense.

Lumet also directed Connery in one of his finest performances in the military prison film, The Hill. 

Sidney Lumet left behind a fine body of work.

You can read Lumet's obituary in The Los Angeles Times via the below link:,0,5850102,full.story

A Farewell To Ernest Hemingway's Wyoming Cabin?

Carolyn Kellogg at The Los Angeles Times reports that the Wyoming ranch where Ernest Hemingway finished his novel A Farewell to Arms has been sold.

You can read the piece via the below link:

Former Bonanno Crime Family Boss Scheduled To Testify Against Successor

John Marzulli at The New York Daily News reports that former Bonanno Cosa Nostra crime family boss Joesph Massino will take the stand against his successor, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano.

Massino (seen in the above FBI mugshot is the highest-ranking Cosa Nostra member to cooperate with the government.

You can read the newspaper story via the below link: 

You can also read how the FBI's forensic accounting brought down Massino via the below link:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Frank Vincent: A Veteran Character Gangster Actor Takes The Lead In Chicago Overcoat

Bill Iddings at The Muskegon Chronicle wrote an interesting piece about Frank Vincent, the character actor best known for his gangster roles in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino.

In Frank Vincent's latest effort - Chicago Overcoat - he again portrays a gangster, but this time he has the lead role.

You can read the piece via the below link:

You can also read an interview with Frank Vincent via the below link:

Cool Photo Of Fast Attack Submarine USS Tucsun Off Hawaii

The fast attack submarine USS Tucson (SSN 770), seen in the front of the above Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico, U.S. Navy, transits waters surrounding Oahu, Hawaii, during a Koa Kai photo exercise on April 5, 2011.

The submarine was followed by the guided missile cruisers USS Lake Erie (CG 70) and USS Port Royal(CG 73); the guided missile destroyers USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Russell (DDG 59), USS Chafee (DDG 90); and the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202).

Welsh Thriller Writer Craig Thomas Dies

The BBC reports that Welsh thriller writer Craig Thomas has died. He was 69.

Thomas wrote Firefox, Sea Leopard and other thrillers. Firefox was made into a successful film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.

I read most of Thomas' thrillers years ago and I enjoyed them.

You can read the BBC report via the below link:

You can also read an unofficial Craig Thomas combanion web site via the below link:

Somali Pirate Sentenced To 25-Year Prison Term For Attack On Merchant Ship

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Justice Department announced yesterday that Jama Idle Ibrahim, a/k/a Jaamac Ciidle, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a violent act of piracy in the Gulf of Aden against a merchant vessel, the M/V CEC Future, that began in November 2008 and lasted for 71 days, until January 16, 2009.

Ibrahim, 39, of Somalia, pled guilty on September 8, 2010 to conspiracy to commit piracy under the law of nations and conspiracy to use a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. He received the maximum penalty of five years in prison for the piracy conspiracy charge and the maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the firearm conspiracy charge.

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, announced the sentence after Ibrahim's appearance before the Honorable Paul L. Friedman in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

This represents the first conviction in the District of Columbia for a piracy related offense.

The act of piracy against the M/V CEC Future began on or about November 7, 2008. According to a statement of facts presented to the court, Ibrahim and other Somalis were armed with AK 47s, a rocket-propelled grenade, and handguns when they attacked and seized the vessel. The ship is owned by Clipper Group, a Danish company, and contained cargo belonging to a Texas-based company, McDermott International, Inc.

The pirates approached the merchant ship in high-speed boats and fired their weapons at the vessel in order to accomplish the takeover. They held the vessel, cargo, and 13 crew members for ransom and forced the crew to anchor in waters off the Somalia coast. During the takeover, additional pirates boarded the vessel, and the pirates threatened the crew and controlled their movements with their weapons. The pirates stole money, food, and supplies from the ship.

The vessel finally was released on January 16, 2009, after Clipper Group delivered $1.7 million in ransom to the pirates.

"Modern-day pirates are nothing like the swashbuckling heroes in Hollywood movies," said U.S. Attorney Machen. "Today's pirates are ruthless criminals who hold ships and their crews hostage with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. Twenty-five years in prison is a just punishment for this attack that threatened international commerce and human life."

"The FBI is charged with investigating attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests, wherever in the world they occur," said Assistant Director McJunkin."Today's sentencing demonstrates that the FBI is capable of conducting our investigations around the world through the help of our foreign law enforcement partners. This should serve as a warning to those who seek to attack American interests overseas regardless of your ideology or intent—you will be identified, located, and brought to justice."

The CEO of Clipper Group, Per Gullestrup, attended today's sentencing. In a letter to Judge Friedman, he told the court of the importance of bringing pirates to justice and said that he was grateful that the case against Ibrahim was pursued in the United States legal system.

In November 2010, Ibrahim was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment in the Eastern District of Virginia following a guilty plea to charges stemming from an April 10, 2010, pirate attack on a U.S. Navy vessel, the USS Ashland, also in the Gulf of Aden. The sentence from the District of Columbia is to run concurrently with the sentence from Virginia.

In announcing today's sentencing, U.S. Attorney Machen and Assistant Director McJunkin praised the work of the FBI's Washington Field Office and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. They also commended Assistant U.S. Attorney Brenda J. Johnson from the U.S. Attorney's Office, National Security Section, and Trial Attorney Jennifer E. Levy from the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice's National Security Division, who prosecuted the case.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey Elects To Stay On As The City's Top Cop

I ventured to South Philly High - my old school - in 2008 to see the newly appointed Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey at one of his scheduled town halls around the city.

Ramsey faced a racially-charged group that was furious with the police over the shooting death of a young Black criminal suspect and there were various activist groups there looking for a public forum to vent.

Ramsey handled them all well. He said he would wait for the investigation of the shooting (later ruled justified) before he would comment on it, but he defended the police in general terms. I also liked the way he answered a woman who asked if he was going to work with the Black clergy.

"I'm going to work with all the clergy, not just the Black clergy," Ramsey responded.

I believe Ramsey (seen in the above Yong Kim photo) has been a good commissioner and I'm pleased that he decided to remain in Philadelphia rather than return to Chicago, his home town.

You can read David Gambacorta and Catherine Lucey's piece on Ramsey in The Philadelphia Daily News  via the below link:

You can also watch a video interview of Ramsey at via the below link:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Critic's Pick: A Look Back At The Classic Crime Film "The French Connection"

A. O. Scott, The New York Times film critic, looks back at William Friedkin's 1971 crime film The French Connection, starring Gene Hackman (seen in the above photo).

You can watch Scott discuss the classic crime film and see selected scenes from the film via the below link:

The French Connection was based on Robin Moore's nonfiction book, The French Connection: The World's Most Crucial Narcotics Investigation:

The book was a true account of the largest seizure of drugs at the time, which was the early 1960s. Two tough and dedicated New York City Detectives, Edward Egan and Salvatore Grosso, initially stumbled upon, investigated and then busted a criminal ring that brought into the country 112 pounds of almost pure heroin. The heroin had a 1960s street value of almost $32,500,000. The criminal ring was headed by Jean Jehan, the director of the world’s largest heroin network at the time, and members and associates of American organized crime.

"The account that follows is a case history of what must qualify as one of the finest police investigations in the annals of United States law enforcement," Robin Moore wrote in his introduction to The French Connection in 1969. "Almost certainly it represents the most crucial single victory to date in the ceaseless, frustrating war against the import of vicious narcotics into our country. Indeed, this investigation, and the information gleaned from it, eventually has led to the progressive breakdown of Mafia investment and proprietorship in the U.S. narcotics market."

Robin Moore and his associate Ed Keys interviewed the principal New York City detectives, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso and the other New York and federal law enforcement officers involved in the major drug case and listened to wiretap recordings. They also went out with Egan, Grosso and other narcotics detectives several nights a week for several months to get a feel for the streets and to understand what it was like for detectives to pursue criminals on the mean streets of New York. The result was a first class true-crime thriller.

The 1971 film based on Moore’s book won five Academy Awards; including Best Picture of the Year, Best Actor for Gene Hackman, Best Director for William Friedkin, Best Screenplay Adaptation for Ernest Tidyman, and Best Editor for Jerry Greenberg.

The film’s gritty and dark documentary-style gave the film a sense of authenticity that matched the book. The film’s soundtrack by Don Ellis was also perfect for setting the film’s suspense, excitement and tension. The film even made surveillance look exciting; especially when the detectives initially follow a suspect driving across the city after a nightclub closes, and when Hackman follows "Frog One" on the subway.

I love the scene when Hackman is standing outside in the cold watching "Frog One" eat in a fine, and warm, restaurant. Scheider brings Hackman a slice of pizza, and holding two cups of coffee, sarcastically asked Hackman "you want the white or the red?"

I also love the scene where the two detectives barge into a bar and Hackman announces that "Popeye’s here!" I later learned that all of the black hoodlums in the bar scene were in fact New York cops.

Gene Hackman, as Detective "Popeye" Doyle, a character based on Eddie Egan, and Roy Scheider, as Detective "Buddy" Russo, a character based on Sonny Grosso, gave us a true, brutal portrayal of street cops.

My only complaint - which Hackman shared, I’ve read - is that Doyle was portrayed a bit over the top, and he was certifiable at the end of the film. Egan, by all accounts, was an aggressive, blunt cop, but he never killed a federal agent and I don’t think he was quite that racist, vulgar or slovenly.

Egan himself is in the film, playing Doyle and Russo’s boss. I suppose he got a kick out of chewing himself out when he lashes into Hackman’s character. Grosso also has a small part in the film and both Egan and Grosso were hired as technical advisors.

If you are a fan of crime films and have not seen The French Connection, I highly recommend that you get hold of a copy and watch it. I also receommend Robin Moore's true crime book The French Connection.

92-Year-Old WWII Frogman Gets Grand Honor During Visit To National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum reports that Norval Nelson, a 92-year-old World War II veteran, was recently honored at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Nelson appears in the center of the above photo by Eric Hasert

Nelson was being honored as one the graduates of the Underwater Demolition Team School at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Training Station at Fort Pierce during World War II. He arrived under the auspices of Charity Stripe, an Illinois not-for-profit group that tries to fulfill final wishes, similar to the Make a Wish Foundation.

You can read more about Nelson's visit to the UDT-SEAL Museum via the below link:

My late father, Edward M. Davis, was also a graduate of the Underwater Demolition Team School during WWII and he went on to fight in the Pacific as a Chief in UDT 5. He passed away in 1976.

I wrote an article for Counterterrorism magazine about the WWII UDT frogmen and how the combat swimmers were the forerunners of today's Navy SEALs.

You can read the article via the below links:

You can also visit the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum's web site via the below link: