The Cuban Missile Crisis – Map of Guantanamo Bay During the Crisis

Gitmo – 1962

I am an author primarily in three genres:  Science Fiction, True Crime, and Military History.  Military History is the fun one since, in many respects, it bleeds into my science fiction writing so heavily.  October always stirs memories for me as a writer.  Some go to the first of the Colonial Park Murders, other thoughts go to the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Both tug at me differently, emotionally and otherwise.  A few years ago I wrote a book on the Cuban Missile Crisis – The Fires of October

My approach was different than previous books on the subject.  It focused on the planned invasion of Cuba – Operation Scabbards (Op Plan 316-1-62).  No one had really done a book on the invasion that never happened, so I did break some new ground.  I got a lot of material declassified for the book and found some real surprises in my research. There is little doubt in my mind that if we had invaded Cuba with conventional forces it would have been very costly for the US military. We would have had our own little Vietnam experience in 1962, 90 miles off the Florida Coast. 

The attached map was one we didn’t use fully in the book, but I thought historians out there might like it.  It was drawn up in November of 1962, right on the heels of the crisis, showing Guantanamo Bay.   It is one of the best maps I found of the Bay from the time period.  The letters marked key marshaling points and staging areas.  During the invasion, there would have been a push out from Guantanamo Bay, but the main thrust of the invasion would have been on the north shores of the island. 

As we cross another anniversary of the crisis, I thought folks might enjoy this little graphic tid-bit. 

Writing Update – So Many Words…So Little Time

I have been quite busy on a few fronts (both of my careers) and negligent in updating my blog.  So, here’s an update on various writing projects for those that are interested. Pardon me if I ramble…

 Fires Promo

First up – I discovered today that my book on the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Fires of October, (Fonthill Media) is a finalist in the History category for the Military Writers Society of America.  I couldn’t be happier.  The book breaks new ground in Missile Crisis studies, revealing the invasion plans for Cuba in 1962.  I have gotten two silver medals in the past for my books – I’m hoping that this year I score a gold.  The book has been getting good coverage in the media, so I’m honored just to be considered again.

My next book to reach readers is the true crime project, The Murder of Maggie Hume: Cold Case in Battle Creek. (The History Press).  The title of this project changed from Unsolved Battle Creek and I’m happy that it did – I like having the victim of this crime brought up-front-and-center.  This is a case where the victim has sometimes been lost in the chaos of the investigation, so I’m glad she gets top billing here.  When you read the book you’ll understand what I mean.

Maggie Front Cover

Sidebar:  For some reason publishers like changing my titles, and I’ve learned not to cringe much at this.  You have to have a thick skin in this business.  Like I told one marketing person who questioned one of my titles several years ago, “You can call the book, Free Beer if you think it will sell the books to the right people.”

This book will start arriving in bookstores in August, and it’s available right now for pre-order from The History Press and on  This book was an incredible amount of labor to research, but I was lucky because my co-author, Victoria Hester, is so talented and full of energy.  She’s my daughter as well, and from what I have found, we’re the only father/daughter true crime author team out there.  She tackled some of the hardest parts of this book – and did a great job.

This book hits home for both of us because, as a cold case, this one is one that could be brought to trial.  There have been a lot of rumors over the years in Battle Creek MI, where the crime took place, as to the perpetrator(s) and motives.  The national media got involved and really muddied the waters, as you will read in the book.

We’re hoping this book can give people the answers to some long open questions regarding this senseless and brutal murder.  Books on cold cases tend to make some people uncomfortable – especially those responsible.

We will be in Battle Creek in mid-October doing some lectures and book signing events. More on that later, when the book is finally out.

Sidebar Number Two:  There must be something going on where I was raised because Western Michigan is getting a lot of air-time soon. CBS has a new TV series coming out soon called Battle Creek.  And Marshall MI, the nearby town my family hails from (and that I wrote about in my true crime book, Secret Witness) has a TV show airing this week on The History Channel – Dark Horse Nation.  My family and I have long been patrons of the Dark Horse, so it is extra cool to see Aaron and the guys get some much deserved publicity. The Dark Horse Nation is strong in Virginia guys. But I digress…

I just finished the last editorial pass on Never Wars The US Plans to Invade the World. (Fonthill Media).  This book covers the US’s war plans starting in 1904-1941.  The details of these plans for attacking Great Britain, Germany, Canada, etc., are fascinating reading.  They really give you an insight into the political realities of the era, as well as the gradual evolution in US military planning.  Wargamers out there are going to love this because it is fertile material for any number of “what if” gaming sessions.


Sawney Bean – Dissecting the Legend of the Scottish Cannibal. (Fonthill Media) will be coming out sometime this fall.   Ever see The Hills Have Eyes?  It was based on this story.  This is a cross between a history book, a horror story, and a true crime book.  Did Sawney Bean and his family kill over a thousand people in the Galloway region of Scotland, only to devour their victims?  This book really emphasizes how folklore evolves and changes over time as well.

Other stuff.  I’m writing fiction again, military sci-fi.  That’s all I can say.  No, it’s not BattleTech.  I know my fans what BattleTech, but there are tangible reasons I am not writing those novels right now.  I just finished the first book in this new and exciting effort – well over 110k words – so this is not a small book at all.  This is something new, something huge, something different and more importantly, fun.  It has been great for me to get back to doing some good military fiction again.

So what’s next?  More on the fiction front – follow my blog for information.  I have two ideas in mind for Michigan history books, something I enjoy doing.  I’m heading to Ithaca NY in October for a silent film viewing of Bert Hall’s film, A Romance of the Air, which was filmed there.   Since I wrote his biography (The Bad Boy – Fonthill Media) , I thought going there was a great idea.  I am also penciled in to speak at the September meeting of the League of WWI Aviation Historians in Dayton on another subject I wrote about – Frederick Zinn (Lost Eagles – University of Michigan Press).

Thanks for tuning in…there’s a lot coming.

Update on Book Projects


The ebook of The FIres of October (Operation Scabbards – The planned US invasion of Cuba in 1962) is out and the hardcopies of the book are on their way from the UK.  I’m pleased to say that the book has already hit an bestseller list.  I must admit that I am chomping at the bit to see the physical book.

After considerable research, I’m finally starting writing a new book, Neverwars, for Fonthill Media.  This book details the early 20th century military color coded military plans of the United States government.  After my work on The Fires of October  I became fascinated with military plans of the United States for invading, well, the world.  These plans, starting in 1903 through 1938 cover a wide range of US plans to invade countries like Great Britain, Canada, Mexico, South America, China, the Philippines and others.  It’s a neat project I’m pretty pumped about.  This book has a lot of neat potential for military historians.

I recently re-secured my rights to my book on office politics – Cubicle Warfare – and I’m going to be re-releasing it (with some updated material) sometime in the next few months.  For people who like my book, Business Rules – The Cynic’s Guidebook the Corporate Overlords – this book will be a treat.  I’m amazed as I go through this just how relevant this book still is.  Moreover, it has never been made available in digital form.

I actually have another business book project that is nearly ready for editing. I’m not even putting this on the calendar yet.  When it happens, it happens.

I’m starting my edit pass on Sawney Bean – Dissecting the Story of the Scottish Cannibal Family.  For my true crime fans, this book will be a pleasant diversion.  This is a little different than my previous true crime works.  One thing is for sure, folks in Scotland are going to enjoy this little romp in Scottish history.

Sawney makes Hannibal the Cannibal look like a wimpy amateur

On top of this I am preparing a Kickstarter for sometime next spring – a Steampunk project called Confederacy of the Damned.  I’ve been working with a BattleTech artist on some of the artwork for the book and the Kickstarter.  Awesome stuff here!

This spring (January/February) if all goes as planned, I’ll be back in Battle Creek Michigan, my hometown, working on a new true crime project.  I say “as planned” because we still have some hurdles before I can make any sort of big announcement here.  There are a few things that excite me about this project – and I’ll be working with another writer on it – my daughter, Victoria Hester.  I think for this book it will be important to have a woman as the same age as the victim to co-author this book.  I’ve been looking for the right project for her and I to team up, and I think this is it.  It will give perspectives to the readers that I think are very important.  I know people want details – but I have none to offer at this point.

Myths and Misconceptions About the Cuban Missile Crisis

In three weeks or so my book on the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Fires of October, will be released.  As we are in the middle of the anniversary of the crisis, I thought it would behoove me to dispel some of the commonly held misconceptions about the crisis.  A lot of these myths have been born in popular media…that and the fact that we don’t do a good job of teaching history.

We were hours from Armageddon.  This crisis was the closest we came to a nuclear confrontation with the former Soviet Union, but that does not mean that we were on the cusp of all-out nuclear war.  Because we went to DefCon-2 we did move some of our nuclear arsenal out of a highly controlled state to where lower ranking officers had access and the capability to unleash weapons without authorization.  Yes, the risk was there, but dropping bombs on the missile sites in Cuba did not necessarily mean we’d be toe-to-toe in nuclear war immediately with the Soviets.

The US was at risk of a first strike from Cuba.  Okay, on paper this was true, but in reality, the Soviet missiles in Cuba had to be prepped, set-up, fueled, targeted, etc..  All of this took considerable time.  With our Blue Moon reconnaissance flights over the island, we would have had some advance notice if the Soviets were preparing to launch.

This was the Soviet’s fault.  I’ll grant you, the Soviets put the missiles in Cuba.  In reality however the Kennedy Administration created the circumstances that led to the crisis.  The debacle of the Bay of Pigs signaled the US wanted to topple Castro.  The Berlin crisis which led to the creation of the Berlin Wall was not responded to by President Kennedy, seeming to signal that US resolve was not strong.  Yes, Khrushchev set the missiles to Cuba, but after the summit with the US President, he was convinced that the young American leader was weak and indecisive. Kennedy inadvertently sowed the seeds that led to this crisis.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff were pushing to get the US into war with the Soviets.  The movies and some of the memoirs sure seem to point to this.  Having said that, I’ve listened to some of the key tapes at the National Archives, and have spent hours going over the transcripts.  Much of this rhetoric that the JCS was trying to ignite a war is speculative and is often quoted out of context.  What they did repeat, over and over again, was that there was no way to ensure that all of the missiles were destroyed by airstrikes alone.  You’d need boots on the ground.  Their role, as they stated in conversations with the President, was to protect the United States.  The best way to ensure that was to attack and possibly invade Cuba.

The US made the Soviets back down.  Secretary Rusk’s comment, “”We’ve been eyeball to eyeball and the other fellow just blinked,” confuses some people.  This crisis was averted not by making the Soviets back down – but via a backdoor (non-public) agreement on the part of President Kennedy to trade the obsolete Jupiter missiles in Turkey for the missiles in Cuba.  We didn’t make the Soviets lose.  We didn’t make them back down.  We traded with them.

The infamous clash in the plot room.  The movie Thirteen Days made it look as if there was a clash between Secretary of Defense McNamara and Admiral Andersen in the plot room at the Pentagon resulting in Admiral Andersen stating, “We’ve been running blockades since the days of John Paul Jones!”   This is bolstered by McNamara’s autobiography.  However there are two sides to every story.  I found several written accounts by Admiral Andersen that certainly cast doubts on the McNamara account.  I’m not saying that McNamara is wrong, but if the truth is somewhere between these two versions of the event – then the movie is inaccurate.

The Soviet ships ran right up to the quarantine line, nearly sparking war.  The truth of the matter is the majority of the Soviet ships turned around hundreds of miles from the quarantine line.  In fact, the US contracted the line during the crisis, bringing it in closer to Cuba.

The US invasion of Cuba would have been a cake walk.   Okay, this is the subject of my upcoming book.  Let me assure you, this was not a walk in the park for the US.  We thought there were 17,000 Soviets on the island – there were 44,000 – and these were highly armored/mechanized units.  We could only account for 11% of the 100,000 men of the Cuban Army – and army that had been recently trained by Soviet advisors.  There’s more – but then again, that’s why I wrote the book.  Cake walk?  Far from it!

What did I miss?  Were there misconceptions you’ve spotted over the years that I missed?

Speaking at the US Naval Academy


This week I was allowed to present my paper on Operation Scabbards : OP Plan 316-62, the Planned Invasion of Cuba October 1962, at the McMullen Naval History Symposium at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.  The paper was a highly condensed version of my upcoming book, The Fires of October, due out next month from Fonthill Media.

This symposium was a gathering of the top naval historians from around the globe.  In fairness, I felt a little intimidated.  As an independent scholar, I was outnumbered by professional historians who have dedicated their lives to the research of naval topics.  My topic, The Cuban Missile Crisis, was one that had I’m sure been covered heavily in previous sessions.  But I wanted to go.  One, it was a chance to vet my research with true professionals.  Two; I have always had a secret desire to present at one of the military academies.

When I graduated high school I applied at West Point.  Seriously.  I sent in my application but that was as far as it went.  I was told I needed appointment by a Senator or the Vice President.  I reached out to Michigan’s senators and was rather rudely told that such appointments were committed to years in advance, usually as political favor.  I never gave up on my dream of going to the military academy though – I just knew after that I would have to find another way.  This week I met that goal, just not the way I had planned when I was a kid.

It was beyond awesome.

The US Naval Academy is itself an icon of history.  There wasn’t a step you could take where you weren’t exposed to the illustrious history of the US Navy.  Not only was the campus stunningly beautiful, but the names I saw on monuments everywhere oozed history.  We had a reception at the museum after hours, which was incredible.  Outside of the room where I was presenting was a massive display on the wall about the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a subtle reminder of my role to tell part of that story.

This was a rough week for the Navy family – with the shootings at the Navy Yard.  The Navy is truly a family and reacts like any family when the suffer tragedy.

The format was daunting for me at first.  Not only did you present your paper but a commentator then critiqued it.  Some were a bit brutal.  Academics were used to this format.  As a mild-mannered civilian, I have to admit it was a level of scrutiny I wasn’t used to.

It was so neat having the midshipmen sit in on the sessions too.  I have to wonder if the words we shared will someday influence a key decision or action. It puts a lot of burden on you as a presenter.

I spoke in the last session of the day.  My opening was along the lines of “I’m here to talk about the Cuban Missile Crisis – specifically the plans to invade Cuba in 1962.  Yes, that’s right, I’m the guy that came to a history conference to present a paper on something that never happened.”  I did get a few chuckles at least.

My commentator was a man who had worked with Robert McNamara on his autobiography – who was also a professor at the Naval Academy.  I was quite nervous.  But his critique was pure praise.  I was quite pleased.  And the questions I got from the audience told me that the subject was going to be a success.  One person said, “You’ve managed to take something like the Missile Crisis and find a new angle that no other historian has explored.  This is ground breaking stuff!”  I have to admit I was surprised and delighted to hear this.  It gives me hope that the book is going to do well.

I met a lot of new contacts and friends this week.  I also learned a lot.  I sat in presentations on Royal Navy recruitment during the Napoleonic era, US Navy Cybersecurity, Pirating, Civil War Sabotage, a wonderful presentation on the sinking of the USS Cumberland, newspaper coverage of the War of 1812, the Hartford Convention, the role of the USS Essex in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and numerous other presentations.  My head was swimming with all of the new data I sucked in. I also saw some new ways to present information that I’ll be using at my day job.

In front of the Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit in the museum. Yes, I’m that level of geek.

As an independent scholar I now understand how Howard Wolowitz feels on The Big Bang Theory.  “Doctor Phillips, Doctor Anderson, Doctor Turner, Mister Pardoe.”  After a while they started to refer to me as “Professor Pardoe” which helped.

There was a genuine fear that the symposium might be cut due to sequestration.  I was happy that it was not and I see a real value to the Navy to have a gathering of such scholars.

It’s going to be hard to return to my day job this week.  When I finish talking at one of these events, there’s applause.  You don’t get that during a meeting at work…but I think we should start.