Federal Favorites: Our Best Selling Books of 2013

January 16, 2014

Ahhh…. It’s that time of the year again: Awards season! From the Golden Globes to the Academy Awards, red carpets abound with interviews of movie stars and other celebrities boasting about their best work during the past year.

We at the US Government Bookstore want to make sure our star publications and Federal agency publishers get their moment in the limelight, too. So, we are pleased to announce the winning publications that you, our readers, chose through your purchases over the past year: The US Government Bookstore Best Sellers of 2013!

Top-Government Books and Best-Sellers-of-2013 from the GPO US Government Online BookstoreHere are some of the more notable books, eBooks, posters and more that were winners in your eyes over the past year:

ART & TRAVEL

National Park System (Wall Map Poster)Americans love our national parks, so it’s no surprise the National Park System Wall Map Poster was a big hit.

Humanities-Magazine-2014-01Humanities is a bimonthly magazine published by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) which covers NEH sponsored research in the humanities and NEH programs and projects, as well as information on recent and upcoming NEH grants.

HISTORY

With the 150th anniversary and reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg last summer, The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863 was a smash success (Read our post “Gettysburg, America’s Bloodiest Battle” for more information).

Perennial favorite Underground Railroad: Official Map and Guide (Read our post “The Underground Railroad Leaves its Tracks in History”) was joined by two publications commemorating 50th anniversaries:

Book Cover Image for Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012 (Paperback)Finally, the Statistical Abstract of the United States, the last official edition published in 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau, contains a standardized summary of all official key statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States (Read our post: “Statistical Abstract and Print Mashups in a Digital Age”).

TREES & FORESTS

Book Cover Image for The Little AcornI won’t be going out on a limb to say that our customers definitely wanted to hug trees this year, as books about Trees & Forests topped the lists. Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down? and The Little Acorn are extremely popular books for children explaining about the uses and life cycle of trees.

Image for Timber Management Field BookHow to Prune Trees and How To Recognize Hazardous Defects in Trees for amateur and professional gardeners, landscapers and foresters alike, and the Timber Management Field Book serves as the most popular reference handbook for forestry professionals.

(Read our posts “Oh, say, can you tree? American Christmas tree traditions,” “Pruning Trees” and “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax Inspires Kids to Hug a Tree” for more information on these titles.)

BUSINESS AND LAW

A Basic Guide to Exporting for Small & Medium-Sized Businesses (10th Revised)International business entrepreneurs and would-be exporters have made A Basic Guide to Exporting: The Official Government Resource for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses a best-seller every year (Read our posts: “Exporting Made Simple and “Government eBooks Made Easy– and Sometimes Free” for more information).

Copyright Law of the United States in U.S. Code as of 12/2011Protecting intellectual property and privacy were extremely hot topics in 2013, making the Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws and the Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974, 2012 Edition (extremely popular last year (Read our post: “The Privacy Act: What the Government Can Collect and Disclose about Youfor more information).

TRANSPORTATION AND NAVIGATION

TAstronomical Almanac for the Year 2014 and Its Companion the Astronomical Almanahe latest versions of the annual best-selling Astronomical Almanac for the Year 2014 (Combined Print plus Online Edition) and The Nautical Almanac for the Year 2014 are critical tools to aid commercial and private navigation by both air or water (Read our post: “Navigating by the Moon, Planets, and Starsfor more information).

Specifically for maritime navigation, Navigation Rules, International-Inland contains the latest international regulations for preventing Book Cover Image for FAA Safety Briefingcollisions at sea as well as the U.S. Inland Navigation Rules which have been in effect for all inland waters, including the Great Lakes.

The FAA Safety Briefing magazine provides updates on major Federal Aviation Administration rule changes and proposed changes, as well as refresher information on flight rules, maintenance air worthiness, avionics, accident analysis, and other aviation topics.

CITIZENSHIP AND CIVICS

Preparing to become a United States citizen and reaffirming knowledge of the American system of Government is extremely popular with our customers, and this year was no exception. Top civics and citizenship publications for 2013 included the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence (Pocket Edition) and materials for preparing for the U.S. Naturalization Test to become a United States citizen—

(Read our posts: “Quiz and History for Bill of Rights Day December 15”, “Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?”, and “Notable Documents 2009: Civics Flash Cardsfor more information on these products.)

Another patriotic publication that proved popular (Do you like the alliteration?:-) was Our Flag, which briefly describes the history of the American flag and sets forth the practices and observances appropriate to the display of Old Glory, was a top-seller.Book Cover Image for How Our Laws Are Made

The Congressional book, How Our Laws Are Made, provides citizens with a basic outline of the numerous steps of our Federal law-making process from the source of an idea for a legislative proposal through to its publication as a statute and becoming the “law of the land”.

HEALTH

Watching our weight and eating better were definitely on the minds of Americans this year as Diet & Nutrition books and posters were best sellers, including:

Book Cover Image for Special Operations Forces Medical HandbookHealthcare professionals turned often to the U.S. Government Bookstore for Physician References & Medical Handbooks, Medical & Health Research, and Military & Emergency Medicine publications in 2013. Top on the list were copies of the new Healthcare Law, as well as the Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook.

But also important were publications used to improve the quality of healthcare research and patient care and safety. These included the ORI: Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research  (also available in Packages of 50) which provides guidelines for Public Health Service-funded researchers, as well as the TeamSTEPPS patient care and safety training materials for healthcare personnel, such as the TeamSTEPPS Instructor Guide (Binder Kit) and TeamSTEPPS Pocket Guide that should be handed out to all healthcare personnel who attend TeamSTEPPS training.

SECURITY AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

Emergency management personnel and first responders responded strongly to the many great safety and emergency response publications on the U.S. Government Bookstore.  These books and pocket guides topped their “must have” list in 2013:

Specifically for dealing with Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) and Chemical-Biological-Radiological-Nuclear-Explosive (CBRNE) incidents, clean-up and response were these best-selling guides:

The importance of radio communications was underscored by the popularity of the United States Frequency Allocations: The Radio Spectrum Chart (Poster) of all assigned frequencies and the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide which contains radio guidelines for establishing or repairing emergency communications in a disaster area.

GOVERNMENT

Every year, the publications containing the President’s proposed Federal Budget for the upcoming fiscal year are on our best sellers list, and the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget publications followed this tradition. (Note: Stay tuned! The new Fiscal Year 2015 Budget publications will be coming out soon from the White House).

United States Government Manual 2013 lists all federal agenciesThe U.S. Government Manual, the ultimate handbook of all Federal agencies, was a hit as it is every year. Now you can get the new edition: United States Government Manual 2013 (Read about it on our Blog post:  “Understand How the U.S. Government is Organized”).

Other “Best of the Best” Government titles include:

How can I get these “Best-selling Books of 2013”?

  • Shop Online: You can purchase these publications from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov by clicking on the individual links above in this blog post. You may also click here to shop our entire “Best Sellers of 2013” collection.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for one of these publications in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is also Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public. Assistance provided by Stephanie Jaeger, Sales & Marketing Coordinator for GPO’s Sales & Marketing Division that markets GPO’s publishing services to the Federal sector.


Arming the Fleet: The Compelling Story of a Secret Navy Base in the Desert

November 7, 2013

Arlington Cemetery Veterans day posterIn honor of Veterans’ Day, we bring you a compelling story of China Lake, which answers the intriguing question, why would the U.S. Navy build a secret weapons base in the middle of the Mojave Desert? (Answer: It was the least likely place the enemy would look for a naval base!)

Nothing is more enjoyable than reading a well-written history book that brings to light the contributions of a highly secretive organization. Add in dozens of previously unpublished photographs and fascinating anecdotes of American technological innovation and ingenuity, and you have a real winner! Such is the case with the new fact and photo-filled publication about the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division or NAWCWD, entitled Arming the Fleet 1943-2011: Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage. The weapons systems developed by NAWCWD in China Lake have served generations of service members since World War II, and have undoubtedly saved many of our veterans’ lives

Government Book Talk invited Arming the Fleet author Wallace T. Martin, Deputy Director of the NAWCWD Business Development Office and expert in all things China Lake to give us the insider’s story about this book. Take it away, Wallace! Michele Bartram, Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief

THE NAVAL BASE IN THE DESERT

Arming the Fleet: 1943-2011, Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage ISBN: 9780160917127 by Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division  NAWCWD Available from GPO Bookstore.Gpo.govArming the Fleet or “ATF” tells a compelling story of the secret city of China Lake, California, a secluded Navy base that is hidden in the middle of the vast Mojave Desert that has been quietly delivering “weapons that work” since 1943. The book also provides an inside look at Point Mugu, California, a DoD (Department of Defense ) premiere electronic warfare site and home of the world’s largest instrumented over-water range where most Navy targets are tested. Combined, these two internationally recognized historic sites comprise the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), known also as “the WD” or “the Division”, an organization with a strong legacy in direct Warfighter support.

China Lake developed 75% of the air-launched weapons used during Vietnam and jointly developed 80% of those used during Iraqi Freedom— and the Center continues to arm the fleet into the future.

Jet with missiles from Page 25 of NAWCWD's Arming the Fleet: Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage 1943-2011 ISBN 9780160921612

WORLD FIRSTS

In the process of developing advanced weapons, the China Lake team has seen many of their technological inventions and innovations find application in the commercial world, helping to improve many fields including alternative energy, navigation, computing, medicine, automotive safety, communications, and industrial chemicals.

Along the way, the Division has been awarded over 1,600 patents, and the book documents 50+ world “firsts.” Below, are a few of these famous technological innovation firsts listed in the Arming the Fleet book:

  • First to patent new biofuel (renewable plant) technologies specifically designed to convert butanol into high-performance jet fuel
  • First subject search made by a digital computer – 43 years before “Google Search”
  • First to manage the Navy Navigation Satellite System “Transit” — Predecessor to today’s GPS
  • First body scanning technology – Predecessor to today’s MRI
  • First automatic air-bag sensors for automobiles
  • First stop-action video
  • First chemiluminescent “light sticks”
  • Non-nuclear components and testing for the first atomic bomb
  • First plastic bonded explosives
  • First air-to-air guided missile ever used in combat – Sidewinder
  • First successful anti-radiation missile –  Shrike, Predecessor to today’s HARM missile
  • First sea-based ballistic missile intercept
  • First U.S. aircraft rockets
  • First U.S. satellite launch – NOTSNIK
  • First lunar lander and Mars lander subsystems

Warhead and automobile air bag sensor from NAWCWD's Arming the Fleet: Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage 1943-2011 ISBN 9780160921612Image: ARMING WARHEAD TO DEPLOYING AUTOMOBILE AIR BAGS? In 1994, the Navy needed a means to accurately measure the distance traveled by the missile after launch, a computation necessary for arming the warhead firing device at a safe distance from the launch aircraft. NAWCWD China Lake engineers developed an extremely robust and precise micro-machined miniature accelerometer that was incorporated into several warhead SADs. The innovation proved so valuable, this device was later transitioned into millions of automobile crash-sensor air-bag-initiation systems by major foreign and domestic automobile manufacturers. It is also used for hundreds of other consumer and industrial applications and is marketed internationally. Photo Source: NAWCWD

COMBAT SUPPORT AND WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT

Page 120 Testing and Evaluation from NAWCWD's Arming the Fleet: Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage 1943-2011 ISBN 9780160921612ATF describes the Weapon Division’s significant role and quick response achievements in every major U.S. crisis from WWII to Iraqi Freedom – from Iwo Jima and Midway to Fallujah and Baghdad. In addition, the book identifies WD’s influence on more than 25 major weapons systems and tells the story about how many of today’s major weapons “in the news” got their start including Trident, Tomahawk, HARM, Standard Missile, and Sidewinder. Remarkably, most of the major technologies ever developed are still in fleet use today in one version or another.

Page_100-Unmanned Systems UxS from NAWCWD's Arming the Fleet: Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage 1943-2011 ISBN 9780160921612The book further documents the Division as a world leader in guided missiles, advanced weapons and systems, and complex software integration on tactical aircraft, energetic materials and subsystems. In addition, the Division is conducting RDT&E (Research Development Test & Evaluation) on over 25 varied unmanned aerial systems (UAV) which is a top-four strategic thrust area.

UNIQUE RANGES AND ONE-OF-A-KIND FACILITIES

High-tech work is performed at very unique ranges and facilities. Many are one-of-a kind, including:

  • World’s largest x-ray and live-fire facilities for massive Trident size motors
  • World’s largest weapons survivability laboratory with three high velocity airflow systems (HIVAS)
  • World’s largest fuze simulation arena
  • Second largest and fastest supersonic sled track in the world
  • Second largest photovoltaic plant (solar energy) in the DoD
  • Premiere DoD indoor Radar Reflectivity Laboratory
    • Far-field measurement capability covering the widest frequency range of any test facility in the U.S.
    • One of only a few DoD test centers capable of bistatic radar cross section testing
    • One-of-a kind outdoor radar cross-section range
    • One of only two large plasma coating systems (HiTUS) in the U.S.
    • Only U.S. electronic warfare open-air range

China Lake Naval Weapons Test Ranges from NAWCWD's  Arming the Fleet: Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage 1943-2011 ISBN 9780160921612

Image:Land and Sea testing ranges for NAWCWD China Lake

Other facilities include robotic prototyping, aircraft mock-ups, and one unique geothermal plant that converts natural heat from the earth into electricity, significantly reducing the Center’s total energy costs.

The enormous test ranges at China Lake are larger than the state of Rhode Island and the Sea Range at Point Mugu is expandable to 220,000 square miles.

COST-EFFECTIVE DIRECT WARFIGHTER SUPPORT

Arming the Fleet showcases the accomplishments of a creative and technically ingenious workforce –delivering weapons that work for more than 70 years.

More importantly for this era of tight budgets, ATF also provides an insider’s view as to how your taxpayer dollars are wisely spent in defense of our country. For example, in the 2005 BRAC congressional hearings, programs and capabilities from numerous other bases were transitioned to China Lake due to its extensive expertise and infrastructure. And on June 14, during the 1995 BRAC hearings, Secretary of the Navy John Dalton stated, “China Lake and Point Mugu [rate] number 1 and 2 in military value among all Navy activities.

This expanded third edition of Arming the Fleet is a high-quality publication of 208 pages, with a whopping 216 photos/graphics and over 1,000 indexed items, covering the Division from its founding through 2011. Anyone wanting to learn more about major milestones in U.S. Naval weaponry and technology “then and now” will find this book of great interest – not just “history.”

The legacy continues…

– Wallace T. Martin, Deputy Director, NAWCWD Business Development Office

Back cover from NAWCWD's  Arming the Fleet: Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage 1943-2011 ISBN 9780160921612

How can you obtain Arming the Fleet: 1943-2011, Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage?

  • Shop Online: Buy it online, 24/7, 365 days a year on the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website.
  • Order by Phone: Call our GPO Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a Library: Search for it in a Library.

Wallace T. Martin, NAVAIR, author of NAWCWD's  Arming the Fleet: Providing Our Warfighters the Decisive Advantage 1943-2011 ISBN 9780160921612 About the Author and Guest Blogger:  Wallace T. Martin began initial research for Arming The Fleet in 2001, culminating in the first edition in 2004, followed by the second edition in 2008, and the third edition in 2011 – the only version distributed nationwide. The ongoing ATF product line includes the larger publication, a shorter Arming the Fleet Highlights, and a one-page NAWCWD Quick Facts. Since 2000, Martin serves as the Deputy Director, NAWCWD Business Development Office. In addition, since 2004, Martin has served as the lead WD technical writer and site coordinator for the 200-300 page annual Command History, as required by the Chief of Naval Operations. Martin has a passion for telling the WD story providing an insider’s view as to how taxpayers’ dollars are wisely spent in defense of our country. Martin has a B.S. degree in Business Administration – Management from California State University.  


September 11 Tales of Heroes and Tough Lessons

September 11, 2013

9-11 Decade of Remembrance Twin Towers and Pentagon Logo designed by David McKenzie at the Government Printing OfficeThere are certain moments and events that are etched in our national consciousness. Ask any American who was alive in the 60’s where he or she was when John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King was assassinated and you will hear a stirring personal story. For our generation, it was September 11, 2001.

Image: September 11 Decade of Remembrance logo with World Trade Center Twin Towers surrounded by a figure representing the Pentagon. Created by David McKenzie with the Government Printing Office for the U.S. Government Bookstore.

I was right across from the Twin Towers twelve years ago today, getting ready to board a ferry for my daily commute from New Jersey across the Hudson River into Manhattan, when I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center right across from me. So, too, I cried with a group of strangers as we stood on the ferry platform and watched in horror as the first tower fall, saw the dust cloud rise and felt the earth—and the world—tremble.

America and Americans have changed since that day… twelve years ago today. We have since heard stirring stories of heroes and sacrifice, and learned many grim lessons that are still affecting both policy and people today.

Many of these stories of heroism, missed opportunities, and resulting actions have been painstakingly and faithfully chronicled by a wide array of Federal agencies, ensuring the sacrifices and lessons are not forgotten.

Responding to the Tragedies

Both in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, we saw how first responders and medical personnel rushed to save lives. These excellent publications tell the stories of the heroes from that day:

  • 008-000-01049-8Pentagon 9/11 (10th Anniversary Edition) (Paperback) includes a foreword by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and provides the most comprehensive account available of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and aftermath, including unprecedented details on the impact on the Pentagon building and personnel and the scope of the rescue, recovery, and care-giving effort.
  • 008-000-01048-0Attack on the Pentagon: The Medical Response to 9/11 not only tells the personal stories from medical personnel responding to the attack on the Pentagon, but also provides insight from MEDCOM officers detailed to New York to support National Guard troops guarding ground zero’s perimeter. It also includes the Army’s involvement in the recovery of deceased attack victims at the Pentagon and the work of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in identifying human remains at Dover Air Force Base. In addition, the roles of military and civilian hospital staffs and of military environmental health and mental health specialists in taking care of attack victims and their families are also examined.

Tough Lessons

The single must-read for every American about September 11 is the official version of The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. This publication lists the findings of the National 9/11 Commission, listing all the painful errors made leading up to the terrorist attacks and outlining specific recommendations for international, national, state and local changes in policy and procedures that the panel of experts felt needed to be implemented to ensure a similar attack never happened again. This seminal publication has served to inform all subsequent policies and legislation since 9/11. It is available in print or as an eBook.

911-commission-report

Image: Launch of the 9/11 Commission Report. Courtesy: CSMonitor.com

The Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, and House, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence examined the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11 and jointly published the results in United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14750: Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activity Before and After Terrorists Attacks of September 11, 2001 With Errata.

027-001-00097-1Additional insights into the causes of and responses to terrorism can be gleaned from Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP): A Collection of Research Ideas, Thoughts, and Perspectives, V. 1. This publication provides the findings from the post-9/11 FBI Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP) Symposium. TRAP is a leading research consortium made up of international/domestic academics and law enforcement officers, and is a working group sponsored by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. In it, these counter-terrorism experts provide a better understanding of the causes of terrorist activity and possible government response tactics to mitigate terrorist actions.

064-000-00029-2As we watch the new World Trade Center going up in New York, we can be assured that builders are incorporating architectural and construction lessons learned from the World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations.

Policy and Legislative Response

United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14924, House Report No. 724, 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, Pts. 1-6 outlines the specific legislative changes enacted by Congress, providing both background and justifications for them along with attribution.

A print copy of the law itself can be purchased here: Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Public Law 110-53 along with the details of the various committee conferences contributing to it in Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 1, July 25, 2007.

Defending the Homeland since 9/11

041-001-00657-5National Strategy for Homeland Security (October 2007) provides the common framework outlined by the George W. Bush Administration to guides, organize and unify the United States’ homeland security efforts.

008-000-01068-4A new publication from the Air Force Reserve called Turning Point 9.11: Air Force Reserve in the 21st Century, 2001-2011 tells the story of how the Air Force Reserve responded to 9/11 and have contributed to the security of the United States in a post-September 11 world.

050-012-00440-4In a similar vein, Rogue Wave: The U.S. Coast Guard on and After 9/11 chronicles the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard on that fateful day and the evolving role in national and world security since.  Part of the Coast Guard 9/11 response is told in this touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience.”

A touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan on 9/11 (September 11) is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience. Click on the image above or this link to view the “Boatlift” video.

The upcoming U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Issues, Volume 2: National Security Policy and Strategy provides a summarized look at the national security curriculum now taught to our nation’s top military and civilian leaders by the U.S. Army War College. Revised with the lessons learned from the years since 9/11, this publication includes a chapter on ”Securing America From Attack: The Defense Department’s Evolving Role After 9/11.”

How can I obtain these Federal 9/11 publications?

  • Shop Online: Print Editions of these 9/11-related publications may be ordered from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov, by clicking on the links above in this blog post or shopping our Terrorism & 9/11 History collection under our US & Military History category.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy copies of these publications at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find them in a Library: Find these publications in a federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Hawks vs. Doves: The Joint Chiefs and the Cuban Missile Crisis

October 18, 2012

50 years ago this week, the world stood on the brink of nuclear war as the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded. The United States finally decided to first blockade rather than immediately attack Cuba to prevent the Soviet Union from finishing installation of missiles that could reach the continental United States. This article introduces the little-known story of the battles between the “hawks” and the “doves” in the Kennedy Administration as related in a new publication, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964.

When President John F. Kennedy finally announced the naval blockade of Cuba and the reasons for it on national television, Americans huddled together, practiced nuclear drills, and prayed for some peaceful solution to prevent all-out nuclear war. Only decades later did the full story of brinkmanship, bravado and brilliance come out about what really happened behind the scenes during those two weeks.

Image Credit: The Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records

A little known side of the story comes from the top military commanders who were serving the Kennedy administration during the crisis, found in the surprisingly fascinating book titled The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964, from the Office of Joint History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Kennedy Administration

This accounting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during this tumultuous period in the history of American foreign affairs goes beyond the normal third party historian’s post mortem, since the author was actually able to meet with several members of the joint chiefs in the 1970’s to add more of their personal insights, including Admiral Arleigh Burke, Admiral George Anderson, General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman during 1960-1962, and the Chairman who succeeded him, General Maxwell D. Taylor.

Image: President John F. Kennedy meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Photograph includes: (L-R) United States Marine Corps General David Shoup; United States Army General Earle Wheeler; United States Air Force General Curtis LeMay, President Kennedy; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell Taylor; United States Navy Admiral George Anderson. West Wing Lawn.  White House. Washington, D.C. Credit: Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

What results is an interesting amalgam of history and a peek into the tensions between military joint chiefs and the civilians to whom they reported. Describing the relationship of the Kennedy administration and the military establishment, author Walter S. Poole says: “During 1961-1962, relations between the JCS and their civilian superiors were often awkward and even confrontational” particularly between Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Lemnitzer.

The old-school Joint Chiefs were concerned about the new approach to foreign policy being espoused by the Kennedy administration, and tensions grew. According to the author:

“What most concerned the JCS was an apparent erosion of US credibility that emboldened communist leaders to pursue more adventurous policies. President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara pursued what they conceived as more flexible approaches to strategy and crisis management.”

Quick Background on the Cuban Missile Crisis

In 1962, the Soviet Union was losing the arms race with the United States. In late April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range missiles in Cuba to double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a real deterrent to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union from the Jupiter missiles the U.S. had just placed in Turkey.  Ever since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion the previous year, Fidel Castro felt a second attack by the U.S. on Cuba was inevitable, so he agreed to host the missiles as protection.

Image: Initial U.S. intelligence estimates of possible U.S. targets within range of the nuclear-capable Soviet SS-4 medium-range ballisticmissiles (MRBMs) and SS-5 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) found by the U-2 spy plane surveillance photographs if they were launched from Cuba.  Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS

On October 15, 1962, the National Photographic Intelligence Center confirmed that secret reconnaissance photographs from an American U-2 spy plane flight the day before were finally able to definitively prove the suspicion that Soviet medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Atlanta, the Midwest, Washington, DC, and even Los Angeles and Seattle were indeed in place and in the process of being installed and ready in Cuba within days. In response, President Kennedy and Secretary McNamara assembled the Executive Committee of the National Security Council call “ExComm” as a task force that, together with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and experts from the State Department and other intelligence agencies, would debate the United States’ options to deter the Soviets from nuclear escalation.

To Blockade, Strike or Invade?

Earlier in September 1962, after cloud-obscured U-2 photos had hinted at Soviet build-up in Cuba, the Joint Strategic Survey Council had submitted a recommendation for blockading rather than invading Cuba, on grounds that a blockade would be less dramatic, require smaller resources, cause fewer casualties, and be more plausibly related to upholding the Monroe Doctrine. In his 1823 annual message to Congress, President James Monroe had established this doctrine followed by the U.S. ever since that warned European countries not to interfere in the Western Hemisphere, stating “that the American continents… are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

However, as the crisis unfolded, the primary debate among the military commanders of the Joint Chiefs was over whether to carry out an all-inclusive attack against Soviet and Cuban forces on the island or a surgical strike confined to just attacking the missiles themselves, the nuclear storage sites, and Soviet MiG planes.

Both President Kennedy and McNamara thought that an all-inclusive attack would inevitably lead to invasion of Cuba, and then possible counter-attacks elsewhere by the Soviets or escalation to all-out war.

But General Taylor reported that the Joint Chiefs and the combatant commanders felt “so strongly about the dangers inherent in [only] the limited strike that they would prefer taking no military action. They feel it’s opening up the United States to attacks which they can’t prevent, if we don’t take advantage of surprise.” Taylor added that his personal inclination was “all against invasion, but nonetheless trying to eliminate as effectively as possible every weapon [present in Cuba] that can strike the United States”.

According to the reports by the author, the Joint Chiefs were opposed to only attacking the medium-range ballistic missiles themselves, saying it would incur “an unacceptable risk” and that not attacking the enemy’s planes would expose the continental United States and Puerto Rico to air attack and could cause unnecessary casualties among the garrison at Guantanamo and the forces assembling for invasion.  Instead, the JCS initially recommended “also hitting tactical missiles, aircraft, ships, tanks, and other appropriate targets, as well as imposing a ‘complete’ blockade.


Image: A meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council in the Cabinet Room during the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 29, 1962, 10:10-10:58am. Clockwise from left: Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (standing); Assistant Sec. Defense Paul Nitze; Dep. USIA Dir. Donald Wilson; Special Counsel Theodore Sorensen; Exec. Sec. NSC Bromley Smith; Special Assistant McGeorge Bundy; Sec. Treasury Douglas Dillon; Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson; Ambassador  Llewellyn Thompson; William C. Foster; CIA Dir. John McCone (hidden); Under Secretary of State George Ball (hidden); President John F. Kennedy; Sec. State Dean Rusk; Sec. Defense Robert McNamara; Dep. Sec. Defense Roswell Gilpatric; Chairman JCS Gen. Maxwell Taylor. Credit: Photo by Cecil Stoughton, JFK Library ST-A26-18-62

The Blues vs. the Reds

Even more fascinating was the story of the war gaming techniques used. To quickly develop two alternative scenarios for the President to consider, the ExComm task force split into two groups that constantly exchanged position papers and critiqued each other’s work. The “Blues,” who were to prepare the scenario for a surprise air strike, included General Maxwell Taylor, Robert Kennedy, Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, Director McCone, Dean Acheson, and McGeorge Bundy. The “Reds,” drafting the blockade option, included Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Adm. George Anderson, Marine Corps Commandant David Shoup, Secretary Rusk, Deputy Secretary Gilpatric, and Theodore Sorensen.

Image: On October 11 last week, certain documents from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s personal papers about the Cuban Missile Crisis were declassified. In it was the above personal list of who RFK thought among the ExComm were the “Hawks” who favored an air strike (shown in the right column labeled “Strike”) vs. the “Doves” who favored a blockade of Cuba (in the left column). Note that the “Chiefs” meaning the Joint Chiefs of Staff along with General Taylor are shown on the “Hawks” Strike side of his list on the right.  Source: The National Security Archive

In less than two days, two complete scenarios were prepared and presented to President Kennedy on October 20, with competing input coming from the Pentagon and the State Department.

From this insider accounting of events, we learn that the Chairman thought that the probable sequence of events to be green-lighted would be: a political approach; a warning; air attack on the missile sites; blockade; and, if necessary, invasion, with the earliest air strike date set for October 21 (optimally the 23rd), and an invasion to begin on October 28.

However, to find out exactly what happened and how the drama played out behind the scenes, pick up a copy of this fascinating book.

HOW DO I OBTAIN The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964”?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s US Government Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.

Find this and other Government publications about Cuba in our Cuba collection.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


The End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

June 25, 2012

On September 20, 2011, the 18-year old United States military official “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy came to an end.

Six months later, a new book by J. Ford Huffman and Tammy S. Schultz was published by the Marine Corps University Press entitled, The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The Impact in Studies and Personal Essays by Service Members and Veterans.

This is a collection of four scholarly studies and 25 essays about the impact of living under this policy from a diverse group of gay and straight, current and former military members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Since June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Pride Month, we thought it appropriate to review this book available through GPO and give some background on the policy that led to it.

Rise of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

In the early 1990’s in the United States, a push for more rights for non-heterosexuals in both civilian and military life was rising.  Eventually, on June 2, 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June 2000 the first official “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month” in the United States. (This was later renamed by President Barack Obama in 2009 who declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month which it is called today).

However, lawmakers and the military establishment in 1993 were not ready to allow openly gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

As a compromise, United States federal law Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654 called the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy, nicknamed DADT, was passed and went into effect on December 21, 1993. It “prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service” (Wikipedia).

Image: Web banner from the U.S. Army’s DADT website

Not Asking vs. Not Telling

The “Don’t Ask” part of the DADT policy specified that superiors should not initiate questioning or investigation of a military service member’s sexual orientation without first having witnessed disallowed behaviors or received credible evidence. Because of the number of unauthorized investigations and harassment of suspected servicemen and women, the policy was expanded to “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, don’t harass.”

Under the “Don’t Tell” aspect of the policy, the military service members themselves were prohibited from disclosing their sexual orientation or homosexual relationships while actively serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Anyone who did disclose or were discovered to be homosexual could be separated (discharged) from the military, resulting in some 14,346 members of the military being discharged because of their sexual orientation under 18 years of the DADT policy.

Changing Times, Changing Military Needs Led to DADT’s Repeal

After nearly two decades under DADT and the increasing need to recruit and retain the best able service members to help fight wars on multiple fronts, many American military and political leaders felt it was time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Pentagon performed a detailed analysis of possible issues and recommendations for implementation in the November 30, 2010 Support Plan for Implementation: Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Image: Pentagon’s November 2010 implementation plan and report on the issues associated with DADT repeal. Source: Gawker.com

Bipartisan support in Congress led them to pass the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.” The caveat was that the policy would remain in place until the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military all certified that the repeal of DADT would not harm military readiness, followed by a 60-day waiting period. The required certification was sent to Congress on July 22, 2011, which set the end of DADT for September 20, 2011.

In a statement accompanying the certification, President Obama said:

Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families—more than two-thirds—are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian. This report also confirms that, by every measure, from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness, we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security.

Thus, on September 20, 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed. Said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican credited with pulling together bipartisan support for the repeal: “Today, for the first time in our history, we will welcome the service of any qualified individual who’s willing to put on the uniform of our country,” (Source: CNN).

Image: President Obama signs the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.” Source: AP

Covered in the Book

The first part of The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell book contains academic reports and research that “shed light on the way forward for the services and policy makers.” This includes a report by Dr. Nora Bensahel who conducted extensive research with RAND Corporation on experiences of the other 26 countries who allow homosexuals to openly serve in their militaries. Other reports by military officers include one discussing the importance of considering service members’ “family readiness,” as well as the prevailing views and culture in the military in 2010 toward “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The second part of the book includes personal essays from both gay and straight members of the military who served under DADT, emphasizing their personal experience of living under this policy. In them, the authors either provided details or “assurances that they were willing to testify under oath regarding their experiences.” As described by editors Schultz and Huffman in their introduction: “These personal essays peel back the curtain of the shame, uncertainty, homophobia, anger, fear, and other emotions of living under DADT. These are the views, recollections and words of the authors alone.

In one essay, a former female Marine described herself as: “I was a woman. I was black. I was gay. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I was invisible.”  She concludes her essay with hope that her story helps others:

 “Change and transition can be difficult, and there will be casualties along the way. If sharing my story helps someone in the military whether they are gay or straight, it will have been worth it. If it helps the leadership make different decisions that include and help everyone with the transition of the repeal of DADT, it will have been worth it.

An Air Force officer who was discharged after his superior searched his personal emails and discovered he was gay was gratified that so many members of his old unit said they’d be honored to serve with him again. He sums up his essay with:

Soon I hope to resume my career as an officer and leader in the Air Force without the mandatory silence of DADT and the constant fear that I will be fired… Now [after the repeal of DADT] our military can judge its men and women on their merit and not their sexual orientation.

Image: A sign at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State. Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Best Story Ends with a Non-Event

The most common argument by critics against DADT’s repeal was that changing the policy in the middle of multiple wars would be a distraction and could cost lives. This was the original opinion of Marine Commandant General James E. Amos who lobbied against allowing gays to serve openly when the repeal was first passed in 2010, even though the Pentagon’s own 2010 research had shown already that 70% of Service members said they would be able to “work together to get the job done” with a gay service member in their immediate units.

Today, Amos, as are other military leaders, are pleased with the progress of the Armed Forces’ implementation of the repeal, with mandatory training sessions for all levels of the military haven taken place. DADT support groups say they have received no reports of harassment, discrimination or negative experiences connected with the DADT repeal from gay and lesbian active military.

In fact, an April 2012 article in the Marine Corps Times seems to show just how smoothly the transition has gone, as demonstrated by this anecdote involving Amos and his wife, Bonnie, at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball in November 2011. During the Ball, a female Marine introduced her lesbian partner to Amos’ wife, General Amos explained: “Bonnie just looked at them and said, ‘Happy birthday ball. This is great. Nice to meet you…’ That is happening throughout the Marine Corps.

Image: General Amos & Bonnie Amos. Source: Black Tie International Magazine.

Retired Marine Col. Brendan Kearney predicted a smooth transition in one of the book’s essays: “I believe the demise of DADT will quickly become a non-event, and the services as a whole will get on with the business at hand: Defeating the enemies of our country.”

Co-editor Tammy Schultz believes The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell book outlines a “relatively smooth compliance with the new law” according to a Huffington Post article. She concludes: “That is not to say that challenges don’t remain ahead, and our book details some of those. But the U.S. military can more than handle it.

So in the case of the end of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, the best story ending seems to be that it is a non-event.

UPDATE 2012/06/27: On June 26, 2012, the Defense Department hosted its first ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Pride Month event since the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” at the Pentagon. Click here to watch the program on C-SPAN.

HOW DO I OBTAIN The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The Impact in Studies and Personal Essays by Service Members and Veterans?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


New Caledonia and the New Yorker?

August 4, 2011

From time to time I’ve talked about the little World War II-vintage booklets produced to familiarize Army and Navy personnel with various places around the world that the fight against the Axis might compel them to go. Some of those places are still hot spots, like Iraq. Others were obscure then and remain so today, unless you’re a specialist or someone with an inordinate curiosity about things in general (me).

For out of the way places, you can’t beat New Caledonia. This large island in the Southwest Pacific, a French territory only now looking towards a future referendum on independence, is populated by Melanesian Kanaks and French settlers and has an economy centered on nickel mining. During the war, however, it was the island’s strategic position that made it the subject of a Pocket Guide to New Caledonia. Not long after the fall of France in 1940, the French colonials on the island revolted against their pro-Vichy governor and declared for the Free French, so the island and the harbor at Noumea, the colony’s capital, became a huge naval repair, troop transit, and logistical nexus for America’s armed forces. TheU.S. presence had a huge and generally positive economic, political, and cultural impact on the Kanak population, but stimulated an almost paranoid reaction among Free French officials, who saw the American “occupation” as a threat to their colonial dominance. Clearly, our soldiers and sailors needed some guidance on how to handle these complicated crosscurrents!

Pocket Guide to New Caledonia does a very good job of outlining New Caledonia’s history and cultures, with an emphasis on tolerance and understanding of the customs and faiths of others, whether French or Kanak. It also manages a light touch when discussing some topics, to wit:

“People living in the tropics or subtropics are likely to be exposed to       hookworm and other intestinal parasites, and to be bothered by dysentery. To check this latter ailment, the natives eat a certain grass which is called ‘dysentery grass’ and is supposed to have a herbaceous effect. Our troops have made not a few noble experiments with this particular variety of hay, and up to date nobody has been hurt, though the record is confused as to whether anybody has been helped. So if you see a creature eating grass inNew Caledonia, don’t shoot! It may be the corporal.”

Like other wartime publications, this booklet also benefited from the work of a well-known artist. While Dr. Seuss handled malaria prevention, the great New Yorker cartoonist George Price drew theNew Caledonia short straw (see left) and provides a comic glimpse at GI life in the tropics.

I enjoyed browsing through Pocket Guide to New Caledonia. The Government did a good job of prepping folks for trips to places that most of them never imagined going, and now we can make the same visit thought these little time capsules. You can read it here or in a library.


On the Greenland Patrol

September 10, 2010

A few posts back I blogged about a booklet that told the story of the U.S. Coast Guard beach patrol and corsair fleet during World War II. The Coast Guard and the Greenland Patrol, another booklet in the same series, recounts another forgotten episode that pitted the Coast Guard against the perils of the Arctic and marked the only U.S. capture of a German surface vessel during the war.

When the German Army occupied Denmark in 1940, the fate of Greenland, a Danish possession, loomed large in American strategy. Greenland was a major source of cryolite, a mineral used in the extraction of aluminum, its largely frozen land mass lay athwart a major air route used to ferry Lend-Lease aircraft to Great Britain, and was of great value in establishing weather stations. Two Coast Guard cutters equipped as icebreakers, the Northland and the Modoc, conducted a lengthy survey of Greenland’s coastal waters in early 1941, in the course of which the Modoc stumbled into a British air attack on the German battleship Bismarck!

Although the U.S. and Germany were not yet at war, tensions were high as America moved aggressively to defend the hemisphere. During June and July 1941, the Northland and the Modoc, joined by other Coast Guard and Navy vessels, were organized into the Greenland Patrol with the missions of supporting the Army in establishing bases in Greenland, defending Greenland from Germany, and preventing German operations in northeast Greenland.

The first mission involved escorting troop and supply ships, breaking the ice to get them to port, and, especially after the declaration of war against Germany, defending them against attacks by U-boats. The duty included “cold weather, ice, fog, snowstorms, and plenty of hard work…cooped up in that little tub month after month, in bad weather, wet to their skins…” It was tough and unglamorous, but vital in keeping the northern sea and air lanes open.

On several occasions, Coast Guard cutters captured German ground personnel and vessels intent on establishing clandestine radio stations in northeast Greenland. One German trawler scuttled itself after a lengthy pursuit, while another, the Externsteine (left), surrendered after the new Coast Guard icebreaker Eastwind fired three salvoes alongside its icebound hull – the only American capture of a German surface ship in the course of the war.

As you can tell, I’m totally taken with this fascinating story – Arctic gales, secret enemy weather stations, and “snow ice cream” (“Take two bowlfuls of snow, add sugar to taste, then throw in a dash of fruit juice or extract for flavor. The result isn’t bad.”). You can read all about it here or find it in a library here.


War on the Beaches

August 23, 2010

Spending time at the Jersey shore, as I have since I was a kid, always conjures up my parents and the things they talked about back then. For example, they remembered walking on the beach during the early days of World War II and seeing Coast Guardsmen on patrol amidst the debris of torpedoed ships. I think of those men often when I walk the beach, especially at night, when it’s easier to imagine the cold, loneliness, and boredom they endured as part of their contribution to the war effort.

After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard continued its pre-war beach patrols – usually one man armed only with flares – to spot enemy submarines and watch for saboteurs who might be landing from those subs. All of that changed after June 13, 1942, when Seaman 2nd Class John C. Cullen was approached by a stranger on the beach near Amagansett, Long Island. The men and his companions were Nazi agents (an extremely incompetent group, fortunately) freshly landed from the German sub U-584. Their discovery and subsequent capture turned the Coast Guard beach patrol into an armed force that used men, dogs and horses (left) to patrol America’s shoreline for the balance of the war.

The Beach Patrol and Corsair Fleet, one of a number of booklets produced by the Coast Guard to commemorate the 50th anniversary of World War II, tells the little-known story of this aspect of the war. Although saboteurs never amounted to much of a problem, the patrol performed its most important service in its traditional role of lifesaving. A particularly dramatic rescue occurred off the coast of Washington State in 1943, when the Soviet freighter Lamut struck the rocky ground below a sheer cliff near Teahwhit Beach. Guardsmen hurled a makeshift heaving line from the cliff top to the freighter so the crewmen could ascend hand over hand, “Hanging between the black clouds above and the snarling, crashing breakers below…One slip on the wet line would have meant instant death.” Wow!

The Corsair Fleet, complete with a Donald Duck logo (left), was a motley conglomeration of yachts and smaller craft offered to the U.S. Navy by the Cruising Club of America for emergency U-Boat spotting off the East Coast in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor. The Navy refused the offer until an avalanche of bad publicity forced its hand and it gave the Coast Guard permission to organize the Coastal Picket Patrol, more commonly known as the Corsair Fleet. During much of 1942, these ships and their amateur crews patrolled in all kinds of weather and spotted a few U-Boats before being eliminated as an economy measure in 1943. Shades of Ernest Hemingway’s private submarine patrols off Key West!

You can read this fascinating little booklet here or find it in a library here.


A Book about the Civil War – and a Mystery

May 3, 2010

I was at a book sale last week and, lover of obscure historical topics that I am, picked up a book on the Civil War in Maine. Yes, there was a naval battle in Maine in 1863: the battle of Portland Harbor, when Confederate raiders seized the revenue cutter Caleb Cushing and, after pursuit by Federal forces, set it afire. Seeing this incident mentioned in the table of contents reminded me that the vast Government Book Talk vaults (AKA my office) held a copy of U.S. Revenue Cutters of the Civil War – a Government book published years ago and a perfect subject for blogging.

Things got mysterious after I unearthed it, though. Upon examination, I couldn’t find any indication that it was a Government publication. In fact, the publisher seemed to be “Alised Enterprises.” Had I been deluding myself all these years? On the other hand, the book also stated that it was “A U.S. Coast Guard Bicentennial Publication” and had a foreword by the Coast Guard’s official historian.

After a quick perusal of the Internet, I relaxed. It had a SuDocs classification number – TD 5.30: C49, to be exact – which means GPO had cataloged it as a Government book. I then learned that, according to WorldCat, which bills itself as “the world’s largest library catalog”, U.S. Revenue Cutters of the Civil War was published in 1988 by Alised Enterprises and again in 1990 by the Coast Guard. I couldn’t find a publication date in my copy, but my guess is that it’s a Coast Guard printing and that the author, Florence Kern, may have done the book under contract. (If anyone can add to the solution of this bibliographic mystery, please let me know.)

Florence Kern wrote a number of short pamphlets about various revenue cutters, mostly of the Revolutionary era. This book does something similar for Civil war cutters but also covers which ships went North or South at the beginning of the war, their work as blockaders for the Union, and much more, including the battle of Portland Harbor. It’s based on extensive archival research and provides a good introduction to a little-known aspect of the war. I wouldn’t mind delving into some research on this topic myself – maybe once I finish reading that book about the Civil War in Maine…

I couldn’t find an online version of U.S. Revenue Cutters of the Civil War, which is long out of print, but used copies do seem to be available at reasonable prices – and through Federal depository libraries, of course.

GPO does have other, more recent books about the Civil War that are well worth reading, so feel free to take a look.


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