The Deal of the Century: The Breakup of AT&T – Steve Coll

at&tAnyone who uses a mobile cellular device has undoubtedly experienced the issue of a dropped call. Upon resumption of the call, one party will typically ask the other who their service provider is. The choices of mobile service providers today are plenty but prior to 1982, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company controlled phone service across America (“AT&T”). But all that changed when a small communications company challenged AT&T’s rule and set int motion a chain of events that resulted in the breakup of the communications giant, paving the way for the diversity in service providers we have today. Author Steve Coll tells the unbelievable story here in a book that beautifully captures a crucial event in American history.

This book was in my list of recommendations, and when I noticed it the title instantly grabbed my attention due to me being a mobile subscriber of AT&T, Inc. And when I think back to my childhood, my family were also subscribers of AT&T. None of us questioned why but would agree today that we never had issues with phone service. But if AT&T was so good, why was it broken up? Well, a small company called MCI Communications (“MCI”) decided that it wanted to get into the communications field and had no choice but to impose on AT&T’s territory. The tech giant balked at first, but officials at the Federal Communications Commission had other ideas and approved MCI’s request to go into business. But there was a catch, and as Coll explains:

“When the FCC authorized MCI to go into business, over the strenuous objections of AT&T’s Washington lobbyists, the commission told AT&T that it had to allow MCI to interconnect with the basic phone network. But the commission didn’t tell AT&T how much it should charge MCI for connections, or how fast AT&T should install MCI’s lines, or how AT&T should calculate its own costs when determining an interconnection price for MCI.” 

The leasing agreement worked on the surface, but MCI’s William G. McGowan (1927-1992) was far from finished and on March 6, 1974, MCI filed an anti-trust suit against AT&T. Several years later in 1978, the two parties entered the ENFIA Agreement about the leased lines, but the lawsuit had also provided the framework needed by the U.S. Department of Justice in its own lawsuit to end AT&T’s dominance. But the tech giant did not go away quietly and had the best lawyers it could afford. And they were ready for battle when the Government filed suit in what became United States v. American Tel. and Tel. Co., 552 F. Supp. 131 (D.D.C. 1983). The first judge assigned to the case passes away and it is re-assigned to the late Judge Harold H. Greene (1923-2000) whose summary judgment opinion changed telecommunications in the United States. But before we reach that point, the author provides a crash course of litigation and discovery that those in the legal field will appreciate. The snippets of courtroom discussions and conversations revisited between the parties reveal the complexities litigators face in intricate litigation. And behind the scenes on each side, things were unpredictable as well. One area that stands out is the confusion at the U.S. Department of Justice. Before the case is over, several attorneys take the lead, each with a distinctive style. And at times, it seems as if no one on the Government’s side is on the same page, particularly when the parties begin settlement negotiations. However, while the two sides were revisiting strategy, politics in America were changing the course of nation and a former Hollywood star was soon on his way to the White House.

About halfway through the story, the narrative changes with the incoming administration of President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). At first, I thought it was strange that his administration would play a role in the story but as the book progresses, the reasons behind the importance of the AT&T case become clear. One issue regarding national security gives credence to the Government’s intrusion. But strangely, Reagan never takes the lead in the matter, nor does he get involved but instead leaves the matter to others. Coll points out this characteristic of Reagan’s time in office with this keen observation:

“The advantage of Reagan’s style was that on many issues, that consensus led to unity and strong, positive leadership within the administration. The disadvantage was that the President had a slim grasp of the questions being deliberated by his counselors and was thus unable to intervene when, as was the case early that summer, debate on a particular issue became skewed by personality clashes, turf wars, and internal White House politics.” 

Frankly, Reagan is a non-factor throughout the story, but cabinet officials take far stronger positions. At the Justice Department, a settlement remains a priority, but the attorneys remain committed to trial and seeing the case through. The agreement reached with AT&T in 1956 was seen as a slap on wrist and attorneys were determined not to let it happen again. AT&T’s attorneys resort to filing a summary judgment motion but even as the two sides engaged motion practice, they all remained oblivious to decisions in Washington, one of which pulls the rug out from under your feet:

“Neither Greene nor the majority of attorneys trying the case was aware on that September morning that a nearly irrevocable decision not to drop U.S. v. AT&T had already been made by the White House.” 

The White House had left AT&T to defend itself and was not going to step in. But settlement negotiations proved to be successful, and the case was eventually dismissed. And that settlement awakened the sleeping giant known as Congress. Coll explains what happened when the settlement went through and how its terms shaped modern telecommunications. And surprisingly MCI suffered an adverse effect from legislation that should have been to its benefit. Today, the matter of U.S. v. AT&T is history rarely discussed. But the decision of Judge Greene, the settlement reached and the actions by Congress, changed the telecommunications industry for good. The United States Government has commenced anti-trust litigation countless times and will surely use it in the future. But the breakup of AT&T will remain one of its most important cases. Highly recommended.

ASIN:‎ B071D53HV8

Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930s to the 1960s Before the Fires – Mark Naison and Bob Gumbs

BronxThe Bronx, New York is known as the birthplace of hip-hop music and the home of the New York Yankees. It is also a melting pot and home to immigrants from all parts of the world. And the history of the Bronx is as storied as the people who call him home. During the 1970s, New York City had ventured into its darkest days with the threat of bankruptcy and crime rate nothing short of astronomical. In the Bronx, an epidemic of fires emerged but not solely due to arson. In fact, arson played a minor role in the plague of fires that struck the Bronx. Regardless of how and why the fires started, the tragedies altered the Bronx landscape and left its people wondering where things went wrong. However, life in the Bronx was not always as perilous. Authors Mark Naison and Bob Gumbs conducted interviews with former residents of the Bronx to learn what life was like before the fires and drugs devastated communities.

Most of the people interviewed are Black Americans but there is one interview with a former resident who was white. The participants range in age and occupation, but all called the Bronx home, with a heavy focus on the Morrisania section. Among the speakers are a relative of jazz legend Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) and the sister of NBA legend Nathaniel “Tiny” Archibald. Their stories are interesting but there are numerous interviews in the book which are highly informative. What struck me as I read is the diversity that existed in the Bronx at a time when racial segregation in America was legal and enforced. In fact, the Bronx during the 1930s to the 1960s could serve as the blueprint for the United Nations. Speaker after speaker comment on the diversity they saw in a neighborhood home to Jews, Irish, Italian, Blacks, and anyone else who needed a place to live. Of course, there were racial issues on occasion and the presence of gangs cannot be overlooked. Names such as the Slicksters, Savage Nomads and Fordham Baldies are cemented in New York City gang lore. The dark elements of life in the Bronx are discussed but the speakers are unanimous in the position that the racial violence found in American South was unknown to the Bronx. That is not to imply that everything was perfect. In fact, during those times Crotona Park and Arthur Avenue were off limits to blacks as is discussed by more than one speaker. And though white flight did occur, the speakers also fondly remember their white neighbors with whom they created memories to last a lifetime.

There is a dark side to the interviews and that takes the form of heroin which floods New York City and turns the Bronx into a nightmare. The rise in drug addiction is the most difficult of the stories in which it is mentioned. Thankfully, none of the speakers suffered from addiction but they recall how they saw their neighborhoods change as drugs flooded the streets. The stories are heartbreaking and an eerie premonition of the current opioid crisis in America. Fentanyl has the possibility to repeat the events in the Bronx a thousand times over across America, and in some places it has already started. The influx of heroin resulted in the exodus of long-term residents resulting in a change in demographics, income level and quality of life. However, today the vacant lots are gone, and the fires in the 1970s ancient history to the younger crowd. But there was a time when the Bronx hit rock bottom and was one of the worst parts of New York City. My borough of Brooklyn had its own issues and in East New York, we were able to relate to the Bronx as we too saw the influx of drugs and escalation of violence that turned the streets into war zones.

Another thing I noticed as I read the stories was the sense of community that once existed. The Morrisania section was its own world with close bonds and unlocked front doors. The image that I formed in my head is far removed from the reality of life in the Bronx today where doors must be locked. The carefree environment discussed by the speakers sounds too good to be true, but it was a different time with different mindsets. The loss of community and the indifference on the streets today is puzzling to the older residents as can be seen in the interviews. The Bronx they knew is long gone, having been replaced by new tenants whose experiences and lives have taken different paths to the city that never sleeps. However, New York and America by large was built by immigrants and that is also evident in the interviews.  The men and women interviewed in the book had been away from the Bronx for extensive periods of time, but they are all clear about their love for the borough known informally on the streets by its nickname “the Boogie Down Bronx”. If you like New York City history, this will pleasantly surprise you.

ASIN: B01J86B22Q

Iwo Jima: World War II Veterans Remember the Greatest Battle of the Pacific – Larry Smith

iwoIn the 1989 film ‘Born on the Fourth of July‘ by Oliver Stone, there is a scene in which the Marine Corps. recruiter (Tom Berenger) is speaking to high school student Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) and his high school class. To boost interest, Berenger calls out the names of the battles that defined the United States Marine Corps. The list is extensive and impressive but to this day, the deadliest battle in the history of the Marines is Iwo Jima. Between February 19, 1945, and March 26, 1945, the Marines suffered thousands of casualties as they secured the island which translates into “sulfur island” in English. The battle is also famous for the image captured of Marines and Corpsman raising the American flag as they pushed forward against Japanese resistance. Despite the high casualty rate, thousands of Marines survived Iwo Jima and returned home. But they never forgot the sights, sounds and smells from the fierce battles being fought as the world was at war. Larry Smith talked to veterans of Iwo Jima and has compiled those interviews into this book that provided the retired Marines with a platform to tell readers what they remember from the battle that claimed lives and left others with dark and haunting memories.

Sadly, the Marines in the book who fought on Iwo Jima are deceased and the number of surviving World War II veterans decreases each year. Their voices are silent, but their stories are powerful and will leave readers with a sense of gratitude and shock. The battlefield and injury descriptions are graphic in nature, and discretion is advised. Further, the scenes that are relived are nothing short of hell on earth and highlight the deadly environment waiting for arriving Marines. I also found myself shocked at the age of the young Marines at Iwo Jima. More than one in the book was not old enough to buy alcohol but found himself shipped off to the Pacific where the Japanese were waiting. Military commanders knew that it would be costly to take Iwo Jima, but the number of casualties suffered is staggering and the author specifies that

“On the first day alone the Marines suffered 2,420 casualties, including more than 500 killed.” 

The number of casualties increased exponentially on both sides of the conflict as the battle raged. Eventually the Marines began to gain ground and reached the top of Mt. Suribachi. It was there that the American flag was raised more than once. The emotional scenes were captured on camera and the second image of the Marines hoisting the stars and stripes remains one of the most popular images in American history. But there is more to the story of the flag than one might suspect. In the book, Marines who were there speak on the matter, clearing up any confusion or misinformation that has persisted over time. Readers who are interested in a more thorough discussion of the event will appreciate ‘Flags of Our Fathers‘, by James Bradley and Ron Powers. Bradley’s father John “Doc” Bradley (1923-1994) was a Navy Corpsman and one of the soldiers captured in the iconic second photo taken on February 23, 1945. As we learn in the book, seeing the American flag being raised was a tremendous boost to morale. The pride felt by Marines tasked with taking the island is best captured by former soldier Chuck Lindberg who reminisced:

 “It was a great patriotic feeling, this chill that runs through you. . . . My proudest moment of my time in the Marines was raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. My feeling of being a Marine is I served with the finest, and I feel proud every day that I can tell somebody that.

That sentiment is echoed by others who survived combat on Iwo Jima. On the Japanese side of the conflict, losses were equally devastating, and it became clear that Japan could not win against the Allies. Reasons for the Japanese defeat are not discussed here but the speakers do recall how they felt when they learned that the atomic bombs had been dropped resulting in Japan’s surrender. Unbelievably, it would take four more years to remove the last Japanese soldiers from the island. Every war has its mysteries and World War II is no different. The biggest unsolved mystery in this book is the fate of Japanese Imperial Army General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (1891-1945). I previously was not aware of his demise but am inclined to believe that the Japanese troops knew what happened to their fallen commander. A surprising discovery explained in the book provides information that explains the general’s thoughts that were almost lost to history. While researching the book, Smith made the acquaintance of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC (Ret.) who did not serve in World War II but did serve in the Vietnam War and became a military historian of Iwo Jima. The issue of the general’s last known location was a source of interest during and after the war but as Ripley explains, 

“ The thing which is the most irrefutable evidence of all is that Kuribayashi’s body , which was a hot item , was never found . Every single body involved in that last attack was not necessarily identified , but they knew it wasn’t Kuribayashi . Every single one . Because they were looking for him . And he wasn’t there . Period . So that is the premier fact that refutes his involvement in that battle .”

As I read the book, I thought of my great-grandfather who served in Europe during the war. As a black infantry soldier, I am sure he had his share of unfortunate experiences. But he served his country and never spoke negatively of America, nor did he discuss what he saw in combat. In the story at hand, black Marines do play a role as the speakers explained but at the time, segregation existed in the armed forces and on Iwo Jima that also applied. However, as we learn from the Marines in the book, blacks played pivotal roles in the American victory and the burial of deceased Marines whose remains were later retrieved from the island after Japan’s defeat. Smith even had a discussion with Thomas McPhatter, a black Marine who provides a needed perspective on the black experience in the Pacific. I personally learned for the first time from the author that regarding the African American experience, 

Between fifteen hundred and two thousand blacks served on Iwo. Each Marine division had a regimental service battalion or field depot staffed by black marines, not to be confused with the Army DUKW drivers.

I thought to myself that had more black Marines been accepted and deployed, the battle on Iwo Jima might have ended sooner and very differently. De-segregation of the military continued in the years following World War II, but its existence placed America in a difficult position of attempting to deliver freedom around the world whiles struggling to enforce it at home. Despite resistance and discrimination, blacks continued to serve in the military and do so today. This is in no way detracts from the heroic efforts of the Marines of all backgrounds who fought on the island. Their experiences and success in turning the tide of the Pacific war remains firmly entrenched in the annals of military history. 

Readers might ask themselves why Iwo Jima was important. That question is answered in the book as the speakers and the author explain its significance. to success in the Pacific. The number of casualties was undoubtedly high, but without occupation of Iwo Jima, the Allied effort to force Japan’s surrender might have taken longer and the full-scale invasion of Japan on November 1, 1945, could have become a reality. President Harry S. Truman‘s decision to drop the bomb ended the war in the Pacific and brought feelings of relief to the Marines and other military personnel who remained at their posts in the Pacific. V-J Day brought World War II to a close, but history cannot forget mankind’s deadliest conflict. These are the stories of the Marines who served on Iwo Jima in the battle that further defined the Marine Corps. and sealed Japan’s fate.

ASIN:‎ B00ZHJEJWO 

 

We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program – Richard Paul and Steven Moss

nasaOn January 28, 1986, Americans watched in horror as the Space Shuttle Challenger suffered a catastrophic rupture in its rocket booster shortly after liftoff. Among the seven crew members who perished was Ronald McNair (1950-1986) and African American astronaut who had joined a diverse crew of individuals who were making history. As a student, I remember being in awe of McNair and the mission he was on. Naturally, my fellow students and I also had an affinity for Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986) a schoolteacher whose hometown was watching that day as well. To millions of young black children, McNair was a remarkable sight, but he was not the first to break NASA’s color barrier. In fact, NASA had begun to integrate the space program decades before, during the administration of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), whose initiative to travel to the moon led to NASA changing itself and playing a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement.

When I first started to read the book, I was not sure what to expect but admittedly, I did not associate the cover with the movement for civil rights. However, I knew that what I was about to learn would provide me with knowledge of the men and women who have not been given credit for their journeys in life that undoubtedly had obstacles along the way. Readers may ask why the story of NASA’s role in the movement is unknown. Until I read this book, I was not aware of the agency’s importance. The authors are also cognizant of this and pull no punches in stating that:

“NASA’s role in southern desegregation remains an unwritten and almost forgotten chapter in the history of the space program.”

I believe this to be an understatement and cannot recall any of my history books mentioning this. But such is the beauty of reading; there are always new things to learn. The story focuses on the American South where Jim Crow was at the height of its power. The Kennedy Administration could not ignore the growing social unrest in America but faced challenges in Southern States and their representatives in Congress who were openly hostile to the thought of minorities having equal rights under the law. However, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) did not shy away from difficult tasks and when “ruthless Bobby” was needed, he delivered. Space exploration was not on the administration’s primary agenda but once it became clear that the program could be a vehicle to drive forward integration, all hands were on deck. And soon NASA found places to operate its growing program in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas. The goal was admirable but even NASA learned that the South was unlike any place in America.

On March 6, 1961, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925, which was a multi-part order that set into motion important procedures. The most crucial was the creation of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, known by its acronym PCEEO. Upon the creation of this committee, civil rights activist and government agencies committed to dismantling segregation kicked into high gear and the space program itself became a prime target. As the story shifts its focus to the South, the complicated position of NASA and its black employees takes shape. The recruitment of blacks did commence but the South was not ready to change, which created a strange paradox across the region. NASA struggled to attract qualified candidates due to the South’s infamous reputation. Added to this unusual operation was the role of Werner Von Braun (1912-1977), the former Nazi party official and director of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The irony that a former member of Adolf Hitler’s (1889-1945) Third Reich became a key figure in the movement for civil rights and integration will not be lost on readers. The authors are even more frank in their assessment when they remark,

“The word “ironic” does not begin to capture what it meant that a man tasked with implementing a program of racial equality had once worked for Hitler. Von Braun had used the slave labor of concentration camp inmates to build the V2 rockets that fell on London and elsewhere. Yet this was the man tasked with correcting the legacy of slavery in Alabama.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910) had it right when he remarked that “truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t“. But in a time when society was changing rapidly and alliances were needed, the unlikely became reality. However, that is not to say that the introduction of Black Americans into the space program was without its setbacks. The new recruits arrived to find that NASA as an agency was responsive to federal law but changing the culture within NASA required more time and determination. That did not deter the men in this book whose names are part of history such as Julius Montgomery (1929-2020), Clyde Foster (1931-2017) and Theodis Ray (1942-2021). In Washington, the White House was watching the progress at NASA and remained committed to seeing it succeed. But as the authors show, not everyone within the administration was on the same page. The bitter rivalry between Robert Kennedy and future President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) again rears its ugly head. Following John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson continued the movement towards integration, and he was able to succeed in the senate in comparison to Kennedy, whose civil rights bill had not gained any significant traction. Johnson’s reputation as a master politician is on full display.

Outside of NASA facilities, the movement continued, and the authors also discuss what was happening on the ground as marches, sit-ins and strikes took place in the hotbed of segregation. The scenes are disheartening and readers sensitive to the subject matter may want to use discretion. The events are well-documented but revisiting them here is as unsettling today as they were then. However, the emphasize the seriousness of the change NASA was attempting to bring to the South, the authors had to show the threat of death that existed for blacks who dared to challenge the system and the deplorable living conditions of blacks trapped under Jim Crow. There were successes but also tragedies as we see in the book. And like places in which conflict has occurred, there was a talent and brain drain out of the South, which is another part of the movement that is not discussed.

Through location, NASA found itself co-existing with a growing movement that was not going to slow down. The agency did act on occasion but as we see in the book, there were also missed opportunities. The NASA effort was not perfect, but the agency did have success and it did help change the social climate in America. The story is not as popular, but it is equally as important as any in history. Moving forward I hope to see more young men and women from all backgrounds take interest in the space program. Tools of untapped talent exist everywhere, and NASA learned this surely but slowly during the 1960s. Today America is a different place, but in the future, younger generations will be required to carry the torch. As we look for those future engineers, astronauts, and important personnel, this book will remind us that they can be found in the most unexpected of places. Highly recommended.

ASIN:‎ B00VGELYTU

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 – Garrett M. Graff

graffThis past Sunday marked the twenty-first anniversary of the September 11th attacks which claimed the lives of 2,996 people. The mood in New York City was somber, with rain and dark clouds all day. However, that did not stop anyone from remembering the tragedies on September 11, 2001, a day that changed America. Friends are always surprised to learn that I have never visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. As a New Yorker who was in Manhattan on the day of the attacks, and watched the events unfold from an office window, I will always have my memories of that sad day. But my reluctance to visit the museum has never prevented me from reading and hearing stories from people who were at the World Trade Center and survived. Undoubtedly, there are survivors who have never told their stories, choosing not to re-live the events of that day. Thousands of others did go on the record and their words have been preserved so that the history of 9/11 can continue to be told to future generations. Author Garrett M. Graff has compiled hundreds of statements from survivors, Bush Administration officials, NYC officials, military personnel and first responders, and has turned them into this oral history of the attacks.

Because the book is an oral history, there is no standard narration. The author does provide relevant information when needed but otherwise, the speakers tell us what happened as the day progressed. They range from former President George W. Bush to office workers at the World Trade Center complex. To be clear, Bush does not give an interview but what is included are snippets from the speeches he gave to the country on the evening of the attacks. Readers may feel that the approach is disjointed at first because the statements provided by the speakers are short but also long enough to give you relevant information. And the format works beautifully because it allows them to add small pieces to the bigger picture. And what emerges are unbelievable stories of luck, courage, heartbreak, and fate. You will experience a range of emotions and in the epilogue, the author discloses that even he became emotional while authoring the book. But he pressed forward, and the result is a masterpiece that belongs in the vast archive of materials about the 9/11 attacks.

Readers will notice that there are four stories in the book, one for each phase of the attacks that morning. They began in New York when the North Tower was struck at 8:46 a.m. At first, it was thought that a horrible accident had taken place but when a plane struck the South Tower, it was clear that America was under attack. Surprisingly, the response to the threats did not move at the speed at which one would hope. In fact, the confusion and chaos within America’s air defense network is clear in the book. Fighter pilots were forced to take flight in time spans they would never see under normal conditions. And what the pilots reveal about how prepared they were, and the reality of confronting Flight 93 will give you chills.

There are no smoking guns in the stories and the alleged hijackers are rarely mentioned but there is a wealth of information in the book about what took place behind the scenes within the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the hijacked airliners and Air Force One which found itself the only plane in the sky as officials shut down America’s air space. As I read the book, I noted that the sobering reality of that day is that no one imagined that type of scenario. Former New York Fire Department Commissioner Thomas Van Essen, who watched the deaths of hundreds of firefighters, first responders and civilians has stated that “nothing could have ever really prepared us for what happened—or how fast the events would unfold“.  All hell broke loose in Manhattan and the horrors of the battle to survive at the World Trade Center as told by the survivors is haunting. I felt chills reading of the last moments from trapped workers on floor about the crash location and the breakdown in communication that could have saved lives. At the helm was Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his statements also show how chaotic the day had become. 9/11 was a day that no one thought could ever happen but there were warnings that something was brewing and that an Islamic fundamentalist had America in his crosshairs.

Prior to the attacks of 9/11, the name Osama Bin Laden (1957-2011) was unknown to the public. But there were officials in Washington who knew of him and his plan to destroy America. The author does not explore whether Bin Laden was guilty and how planning was executed or any connections between the alleged suspects. He leaves that to the speakers who do state that they believed Bin Laden was behind the attacks. Aboard Air Force One, President Bush was briefed throughout the day and the former administration officials who appear in the book clarify any theories about his alleged “strange behavior” that day. The main concern was always Bush’s safety due to the belief that the president himself was a target. Action was swift and the Secret Service was taking any chances. The cabinet’s departure from Florida and decision to land at Barksdale Air Force Base are revisited in vivid detail and the suspense unfolds like Hollywood but this is what happened, and there was no script that day. People had jobs to be done and they went into action to the best of their abilities. The number of heroes in the book is staggering and chance encounters proved to be a matter of life or death.

The day after 9/11 I remember the feeling in New York City that what had transpired the day before could not have been real. It felt as if we were trapped in a horrible nightmare that would not end. We wanted to go back to Monday September 10 and keep that day going instead. But as weeks turned into months and crews continued with the cleanup of debris and identification of remains, the dark and unsettling truth that America was not immune to attack became clear. The country had changed, and the threat of terror became the number one priority. Children coming of age today will only know the attacks through multimedia but for older generations, 9/11 remains vividly clear. And we have authors such as Garrett M. Graff to thank for the books that preserve the history of the attacks that impacted the United States and the world. This oral history of that day is a treasure and a literary work that is a gift that keeps on giving.

ASIN:‎ B07P5H18W6

A Great Sacrifice: Northern Black Soldiers, Their Families, and the Experience of Civil War – James G. Mendez

MendezThe more I learn about history, the more I realize how much of it is not taught in schools. I recall learning about the Civil War but in limited discussions. And I fondly remember the 1989 film Glory featuring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington. The story of black soldiers in the Civil War needed to be shown but of course, there is far more to the story. Here, author James G. Mendez discusses the experiences of the Civil War’s black soldiers and their families during a time when America was being pulled apart at the seams. And what he shows is that there is far more to the story of the Civil War than one might expect.

When I saw this book in my list of recommendations, it immediately caught my attention. I knew beforehand that it would not be an easy read and my suspicion was correct. And though the story is not all tragedy and heartbreak, it is rife with examples of the grueling hardships black troops faced in the Union Army during the war as they fought for their freedom and the lives of millions of Black Americans.  But before the author arrives at the point of the induction of black troops, he first provides a discussion of the social climate in America which constantly denied African Americans basic rights. Frankly, life was brutally hard for blacks and as the author shows, basic rights were a dream for them. Readers might be shocked to see that states considered to be “liberal” or “blue” today have their own dark history including New York, my home state. Mendez pulls no punches and shows that even in the North, blacks still faced enormous hurdles, and support for the war effort varied and was not unified behind the idea of eradicating slavery. In fact, the author’s work shows that attitudes towards slavery were varied and unpredictable. However, the abolitionists were determined to see its demise.

I once told a friend that black history is American history. I say this because you cannot separate the two. And as can be seen in the book, the efforts of Black Americans have been crucial in the history of this nation. In regard to combat, Mendez explains:

“Blacks fought, both as slaves and free men, in every American war, including the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War. They fought bravely and received accolades from prominent American leaders such as Andrew Jackson, who acknowledged after the Battle of New Orleans (December 1814 to January 1815) that black soldiers played a major role in his victory.” 

Despite the contributions of blacks, resistance to black troops during the Civil War was strong and commonplace. Readers will be disheartened and surprised to learn of the attitude towards using black troops held by those in power in across states in the Union and in the army itself. Delaware in particular will stand out to readers in the book. As the war progressed, it became apparent that the Union Army needed manpower and eventually, the idea of using black troops became a reality due to the actions of Governor John A. Andrew (1818-1867) of Massachusetts. His vision and the developments that ensued will provide readers with a firm foundation as the story of the Northern Black troops kicks into high gear.

As one would expect, the arrival of black troops did not always go smoothly and the harsh reality the new soldiers faced is discussed. And their opponents were not solely those wearing a uniform. In fact, I learned for the first time about the deadly race riots in Detroit and New York City that were horrifying. The shocking events and impact on the troops’ morale is a crucial point in the book for it shows the difficult place black troops found themselves in. How did they have the courage and will to fight for a country that denied them basic rights? In the face of severe hostility and violence, blacks continued to enlist in the Union Army. And to put the importance of their service into perspective, Mendez provides key statistics:

“Nearly 200,000 black soldiers served in the Civil War—178,975 in the army and the remainder in the navy. Out of the total number in the army, 32,723 were from the North.” 

On the battlefield, black troops fought and died alongside white soldiers but even in death they and their families continued to suffer indignations. Not only was the pay between whites and blacks unequal but for black families, obtaining benefits for a loved one’s death could be impossible. The sad and complicated story of the unequal pay matter is one of the darkest parts of the book, yet it makes the story of the troops even more remarkable. The military and Congress did eventually address the matter, but the timing will leave readers mystified.

In the film Glory, the battle scenes are graphic, and it is known that the savagery in which battles were fought was not for the faint at heart. However, I learned here that soldiers often died due to conditions that would not be fatal today and the leading causes of their deaths may surprise you. Of course, what the author reveals does make sense in hindsight but is still shocking. Further, those who survived returned with their scars and trauma. Survivors of the war include Charles R. Douglass (1844-1920), the son of abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass (1818-1895). His story is a prime example of the extensive damage the war inflicted upon its participants.

Eventually, the war reaches its bloody climax, and the Confederacy is forced to concede defeat. But the Union mission was far from over. Black troops were needed more than ever and how they were used after the South’s defeat is, yet another example of the difficulties faced by them before, during, and after the war. But what stands out here is that the reality of black troops being gatekeepers of the South was a recipe for a disaster and doomed from the start. The intricacies of the Union’s post-war actions and failures by Washington are additional tragedies that afflicted black troops and the country, inadvertently paving the way for the rise of Jim Crow. This book is not about the Reconstruction Acts, but Mendez does mention the actions of President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) who clashed with Radical Republicans as the latter sought to rebuild the South completely.

I wish this book had been available and required reading when I was a student years ago. There is a wealth of information contained here often neglected or possibly unknown. America has come a long way since the Civil War, but the conflict continues to haunt the nation as the issues of race and equality remain at the forefront. In comparison to the 1800s, life for Americans is vastly different. But let us not forget that between 1861 and 1865, America was at war with itself, and joining the effort were its black residents fighting for their lives and the freedom of future generations.

ASIN:‎ B07BHQ6XKM

The Gotti Wars: Taking Down America’s Most Notorious Mobster – John Gleeson

GleesonAmerica has always loved gangster stories. Tales from the lives of larger-than-life characters both feared and respected have captivated film audiences and true crime readers. In my hometown of New York City, the Italian American mafia holds a firm place in the annals of the city’s crime history. Of all the mafia bosses, none was as flamboyant and media savvy as the late Gambino Family boss John J. Gotti (1940-2002). The media nicknamed him the “Teflon Don” due to the acquittals his lawyers obtained of a multitude of charges that could have put the mafia boss in prison for life. On March 13, 1987, Gotti and his co-defendants were acquitted of federal racketeering charges and the verdict left prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York licking their wounds. Gotti and his fellow mobsters were elated the Federal Government was far from finished. However, prosecutors knew that to convict Gotti, they needed irrefutable evidence of his crimes and witnesses willing to testify. As fate would have it, in time prosecutors would obtain all that they needed through a chain of events that began with wiretaps in the home of mobster Angelo Ruggiero, Sr. (1940-1989) known as “Quack Quack”. And leading the mission for the Government was lead prosecutor John Gleeson, also a former judge in the Eastern District. This is the story of how the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn secured a conviction against America’s most notorious mobster.

Gleeson provides an early recap regarding the murders of Gambino Family boss Paul Castellano (1915-1985) and his driver/underboss Thomas Bilotti (1940-1985) in front of Sparks Steak House on December 16, 1985. Castellano’s death, less than a year after former underboss Aniello Dellacroce (1914-1985) paved the way for Gotti to assume the throne and removed the threat of death to mobsters whose crimes were discussed on the wiretaps from Ruggiero’s home. However, the murder was far from the end and only part of the downward spiral that culminated with Gotti’s conviction. After a brief discussion regarding his early life and how he arrived in Brooklyn, Gleeson moves on to the 1987 trial and defense verdict. Following Gotti’s acquittal, morale in the prosecutor’s office plummeted and its relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) was strained to say the least. Further, prosecutors soon learned that the mafia had its influence everywhere and dismantling that vice grip would not be a simple effort. Gleeson had his work cut out for him but that did not deter the young prosecutor and soon enough, he would prove himself as an able litigator.

Readers do not need prior knowledge of Gotti’s life to enjoy the book, however, a minimal understanding of the Gambino Crime Family will make the book more intriguing. Gleeson does include a short biography of Gotti’s life before moving on to his criminal empire. The crux of the book is undoubtedly the investigation, arrest, and conviction in the wake of the 1987 not-guilty verdict. But the most interesting part is how the case came together. As stated before, wiretaps had already been placed in Ruggiero’s home, but a second bug placed in the apartment of widow Nettie Cirelli located above the Ravenite Social Club helped doom the mafia boss. The story of how that wiretap came into existence is broken down by Gleeson who expertly narrates the developing case. As a sub-story, the current investigation also provides clues as to how the 1987 case was lost. It may feel at times as if the information being uncovered is overwhelming. The story is a roller coaster ride full of dark criminals, shady lawyers, and collateral damage. The Cirelli wiretap had captured Gotti himself on tape, but prosecutors still wanted an air-tight case. They eventually received the biggest surprise of their life when a high-ranking mobster wanted to talk.

As the story progresses, the case against Gotti begins to take shape and eventually he and several co-defendants are arrested. After early shenanigans at the hands of defense counsel, several of whom were dismissed and/or convicted of other crimes, the government begins to lay out its damning case against the mobsters with prosecutors becoming increasingly confident of a conviction. The mountain of evidence had cast a dark cloud over Gotti, but when Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano reached out to prosecutors through his wife Debbie, the case took an earth-shattering turn. Gotti had no idea the avalanche was coming towards him. Gleeson explains in detail the step-by-step secretive movements to debrief Gravano and protect his cooperation which required Gleeson to conceal his actions from his superiors as well. Gravano was a wildcard and at the time, no one knew for certain how he would affect the pending case against Gotti. But as he divulged information on the organization’s structure and crimes, prosecutors knew they had Gotti right where they wanted him. The events were dramatized for the silver screen in the 1996 HBO production ‘Gottistarring Armand Assante as the mafia boss and the 2018 film of the same name starring John Travolta as the Teflon Don.

I appreciated how Gleeson explained the legal hurdles they faced during each trial. Each obstacle is explained in layman’s terms giving the book a reader-friendly narrative that does not require knowledge of civil or criminal litigation. Interestingly, the firm I work for had Gleeson as a presiding judge in the past and he was always seen as fair but stern. That code of conduct which became his trademark is on display here as he manages Gravano as a government witness and presents his case in front the jury who held Gotti’s fate in their hands. However, Gravano soon steals the show as he peels back the layers on crimes that mystified law enforcement. And what he reveals is nothing short of riveting and highlighted the cutthroat nature of life in the mafia. Honor, loyalty, and success are nothing more than smoke and mirrors in the mob with death lurking around every corner. The way in which people were murdered for reasons that were pure insanity discard any nothing of “family”. Life in the mob was far darker and less glamorous than Hollywood productions. The proof is contained here in this book that sets the record straight. Frankly, the mafia life is not one to be admired.

When Gotti was convicted, I remember the media frenzy and the shock that the “Teflon Don” was headed to jail. The mob boss had become a folk hero and a modern-day Robin Hood to those who loved him. For years, it seemed as if the mafia was untouchable. But that all changed on April 2, 1992, when the jury announced its verdict. It was clear to anyone paying attention that the once invincible mafia would soon be reduced to a lightweight crime faction far removed from the heights of its power. The government had proved without question that no one was above the law. If you like true crime, New York City history and have an interest in how the mafia met its demise, this is must-read.

ASIN:‎ B09JPK7XLW

The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis – Jerald E. Podair

NYNew York City is famously known as the “Melting Pot” due to the diversity among the residents that call it home. As a lifelong New Yorker, I can attest that the city attracts people from every part of the world. However, what is often neglected is that diversity and assimilation are two very different concepts. That is not to say that the entire city is divided. In fact, my neighbors hail from places both domestic and abroad. My father has told me stories of his childhood in Brooklyn and his neighbors who had emigrated from Eastern Europe. He has fond memories of the Italian woman who cooked breakfast for him and my uncles and the Jewish neighbor who made fresh breads and other dishes they loved. But that all changed when my grandmother moved the family to a different part of Brooklyn and the Government began to de-segregate public schools. The pushback from the middle class was swift and in May 1968, tensions came to a head at P.S. 271 in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn, when teachers engaged in the first of several strikes that changed New York. This is the story of those strikes and the people whose actions changed New York City politics.  

Readers should be aware that any pre-conceived notions about New York City being a liberal mecca will be challenged by this book. 1968 has long passed and may seem like ancient history to the youth of today but older readers will recall the turbulent atmosphere of the 1960s. Social unrest, war, revolution and assassinations marked the decade as one of the deadliest in history. New York City’s public school system had long attracted Jewish professionals and college graduates from white middle class backgrounds. In Ocean Hill-Brownsville, the local community had come to see this as an issue and on May 9, 1968, Community Board administrator Rhody McCoy (1923-2020) sent a letter to 19 white teachers informing them that they would no longer be allowed to teach at the school and would be reassigned. The impact was enormous and the fallout is on full display at Podair takes us through the events. 

The response by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) was predictable and swift. Union President Albert Shanker (1928-1997) saw the move by McCoy as nothing short of absurd and before long, the UFT and the local community became locked in stand-off that showed the dark side of New York City and questioned the meaning of liberalism. It is hard to put into words the scale of the tragedies contained within the book. The strikes are only one aspect of the story. Other regrettable components are the changed in racial dynamics, political affiliation and the ultimate failures by those who believed in their cause. Sure, there are winners and losers in story but the price paid by the local community was higher than anticipated. Podair simplifies the events even further by stating: 

“The Ocean Hill–Brownsville school controversy, which began in earnest with Rhody McCoy’s letter to Fred Nauman on May 9, 1968, was at its core the story of black and white New Yorkers who spoke different languages to each other, like strangers.

The question that readers will ask is how did New York City reach that point? The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act had both been signed into law but the reality is that the problems of Black Americans were far from gone. Economic and social advancement remained out of reach for millions of blacks. And an ugly truth is that Congress cannot legislate acceptance. Consider this fact by the author that sheds light on what black students faced in the 1960s: 

“Residential segregation led in turn to educational segregation. By 1964, the average black student in New York attended a school that was over 90 percent nonwhite. While the central Board of Education did not shortchange black-majority schools in terms of funding, spending as much on them as on white schools, two crucial characteristics distinguished the two: the number of experienced teachers and class size.”

It should be pointed out that there were teachers who did want to make a difference. Fred Nauman, one of the central figures in the story believed in the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) and found McCoy’s actions unbelievable. The sentiment was shared by others. But what they didn’t expect was the reaction from the local community which wanted their children to be taught by teachers who come from the same places that they do. And this idea serves as the issue that stoke the fires raging in the book. As the tensions mounted, sharp divisions began emerge and the racial incidents in the book are disheartening. As I read I could feel the charged atmosphere and see the long-term effects of what was being said and done. Readers should know that the story gets ugly at times with no punches being pulled. The rise of anti-Semitism made me cringe and I am sure you will have the same response. On the teacher’s side, we also see ugly displays of racism from teachers thought to be “liberal”. Quite frankly, the strike revealed more than meets the eye. Podair is even more direct: 

“The third Ocean Hill–Brownsville strike was the most bitter of all. It drew in the rest of the city. The strike divided the city in two important respects. First, by pulling blacks and Jews apart, and bringing Jews and white Catholics together, it reconfigured New York’s social landscape in sharp, defining shades of black and white. Second, it brought long-simmering class resentments to the surface, arraying poor blacks and corporate, government, media, and intellectual elites against the teachers and their allies in the city’s white middle-class population.” 

City Hall was not oblivious to the matter and several mayors had to confront the strike issue, social unrest and financial peril to varying degrees of success. Former Mayor Robert F. Wagner (1910-1991) found himself directly in the line of fire personally attempting to diffuse the situation. His actions and role are discussed thoroughly as are the roles of mayors Abraham Beame (1906-2001) and Edward Koch (1924-2013). I took note of the sub-story of New York City’s near bankruptcy and its relevance to the UFT and issues plaguing the city. Childhood memories of graffiti-riddled trains, vacant lots and burned out cars came flooding back to me as I read through the account of how close the city came to disaster. 

By the time I finished the book, I could not help to feel that those who lost the most were the students. Shanker and the UFT survived the strike but also paid a price.  A short term success was achieved in exchange for unintended long-term results. As for the local community in Brownsville, it found itself politically isolated, devoid of teachers and necessary social programs. Further, the relationship between the Jewish and Black communities deteriorated and those tensions later culminated in the Crown Heights Riots after Galvin Cato and his cousin Angela Cato were struck on the sidewalk by a car being driven by Yosef Lifsh on August 19, 1991. The next morning, Yankel Rosenbaum, a University of Melbourne Student conducting research for his doctorate was attacked and later died of his injuries. For several days after the accident, rioting occurred in what would become one of New York City’s darkest periods. 

Throughout the story, I found that I could related to the local community and their goals but questioned whether the end justified the means. In what could be described as political suicide, the strike helped formerly distant groups solidify political unity leaving black communities isolated. And not even the most liberal of mayors could rectify that. I also thought of the teachers I had as a child, all of whom I remember fondly. And most importantly, I thought of the late Sister Margaret “Peggie” Merritt (1937-2016) who served as the principal of St. John Neumann Roman Catholic School in one of New York City’s worst neighborhoods. I cannot recall the number of times she walked my brother and I home when it was late. Her actions and those of other teachers showed the devotion they had to the young kids growing up in a warzone plagued by crime, drugs and poverty.  When they left at night, they drove home to their neighborhoods far removed from East New York but I have no doubt that they took with them the realization that the streets outside the school were waiting to devour those who fall victim to their seduction. If they were biased, they sure picked an interesting place to use it. 

New York City has come a long way since 1968 but still has some distance to travel. This story can serve as an example of the divisions that can be found in cities across America even today. And if we are to prevent or rectify what is wrong, the first step is learning from mistakes of the past. If you have an interest in New York City politics and its history, this is must-read. Highly recommended. 

ASIN:‎ B0014CL72S

The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid – Pat F. Garrett

KidBilly the Kid remains one of the most mythical figures of the American Old West. There are parts of his life that remain a mystery, but “the Kid” did shoot and killed several men before his own death at the hands of Deputy U.S. Marshall Pat F. Garrett (1850-1908), on July 14, 1881. Following the Kid’s death, Garrett authored this book regarding his former acquaintance. For decades it stood as the best account of the Kid’s life but has been surpassed and challenged. Further, the book is Garrett’s account and not subject to cross-reference within. While it is true that Garrett did know the Kid, questions remain about the outlaw’s life.

Information about the Kid’s early life is scarce but the sources I found agree that he was born Henry McCarty and that the name William H. Bonney was a pseudonym he often used. It has been alleged that he was born in New York City but to the best of my knowledge there is no official birth certificate in existence nor is there a marriage certificate for his biological parents. However, there is evidence that the Kid himself once stated that he was born in New York. To date, I have not seen any evidence that clarifies who his biological father was. What is known is that after his mother Catherine’s (1829-1874) death in Silver City, New Mexico on September 16, 1874, he embarked on the path that led him to becoming a notorious icon of the American Old West. And that life is what forms the bulk of Garrett’s book.

The first thing I noticed is that the book is short in length which caused me to wonder why there is so little information about the Kid. And as reviewers online have pointed out, there are inaccuracies as well. One example is the Kid’s date of birth which is “probably” November 23, 1859, according to historians. However, without a birth certificate the exact date is unknown. Garrett does not address even this important detail which would have addressed the confusion about the Kid’s age at the time of his death. The details Garrett does provide are nothing remarkable and readers will easily find articles online that have statements from others who knew the Kid personally. In his defense, Garrett may not have intended to author a full biography of the Kid’s life. Further, as the man who killed the Kid, I doubt that he would have been received warmly by those who knew him. As a result, the book covers a brief period due in part to the Kid’s limited time on earth. But that is not to say there is nothing of value in the book.

One area where the book does excel is that Garrett shows that the Kid was not the larger-than-life figure he is often portrayed to be. Further, there were hundreds of other outlaws during the era who were just as deadly. The American West was a wild place, and the Kid pulled off daring escapades but, in the book, he emerges as another drifter who was a product of his time and his environment. But America has always had affection for rebels and the Kid fits that mold perfectly. Even Hollywood jumped into the mix with the 1988 film Young Guns starring Emilio Estevez as the Kid enhanced his legend exponentially. The truth about the Kid which can be partially seen here despite the book’s flaws, shows a young man who had lived a rough life and died violently in an era that was lawless at times. For a full biography of the Kid there are other options, but Garrett’s account should not be dismissed.

ASIN:‎ B07BDLXJWN

Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire – Bret Baier

BaierReaders old enough to remember the Soviet Union will recall the shock and disbelief that came with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) flag being lowered for the last time on December 25, 1991. The “Cold War” had come to an end, but a long road lay ahead between the United States and Russia in coming to terms with each other’s way of life. On May 29, 1988, United States President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) and First Lady Nancy Reagan (1921-2016) arrived in Moscow for a three-day summit with  Soviet General  Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa (1932-1999). It has been held as a triumph in American foreign policy and as an example of strong leadership. In less than three years, the Soviet Union dissolved, and Reagan was vindicated in his predictions of its demise. During the summit, Reagan spoke to the people of the Soviet Union at Moscow University and to this day it stands as a breathtaking moment in world history. But as always, there is more than meets the eye. Fox News host Bret Baier revisits the summit in this book about three days that impacted world history.

Before I continue, I do have to acknowledge that the book may be viewed with skepticism depending on the reader’s political beliefs. Further, it is no secret that Reagan has long been the icon for conservatives. Ironically, he was once a liberal Democrat and as Baier explains, Regan’s parents had no tolerance for ignorance or bigotry. Exactly how Reagan became a conservative is not the point of the book and a full biography of him will better suit readers searching for that information. Baier does provide a short biography of Reagan tracing his roots in Tampico, Illinois, and the path he took to become Governor of California and the Republican candidate who unseated President James “Jimmy” Carter. The story picks up in pace once Reagan is sworn into office and moves into the White House. The chill in the air between the Carters and Reagans is evident in the book but a small part of the bigger picture. To anyone paying close attention, it was evident that all was not well within the Soviet Union. In fact, Baier correctly points out that:

“By the time of the Moscow summit, that fact was evident to everyone, including the Soviets themselves. Yes, they remained a world power. Yes, their arsenal of weapons was still great. But beneath the surface, the economy was in free fall, its citizenry was restless; the architect of perestroika was breaking down the remaining barriers. Reagan’s prediction was coming true, as he, if not others, had always known it would.” 

Reagan did believe that the Soviet Union would fall but it should be noted that problems within the U.S.S.R. had been mounting for years, even before Reagan took office. Further, the fall of the Soviet empire is far more extensive and complicated than presented on the surface here. I vividly recall Reagan’s statement telling Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. The Berlin Wall did fall, and it was a significant turning point in both German and world history. But even that goodwill gesture caused in part by weakening Soviet influence was not enough to stave off the inevitable. Gorbachev knew that trouble was brewing but also faced opposition within his own ranks. However, he had developed a strong relationship with Reagan and that is the crux of the book.

The visit by the Reagans had a profound effect on the Soviet Union and it was an extraordinary act by a U.S. President. Baier takes us deep behind the scenes as the two leaders seek to come to an understanding of key issues. As I read the book, I could see their relationship developing slowly but surely. It is a prime example of how people from diverse backgrounds can find common ground. That is not to say that all went well. In fact, in the book, we see more than one situation where the two leaders remain on opposite ends of a rope with each refusing to give ground. And the first ladies did not have a warm or jovial relationship themselves. Reagan and Gorbachev were leaders of the two most powerful governments on earth and needless to say the stakes were high. Before the book’s conclusion, Reagan leaves office and is succeeded by George H.W. Bush (1924-2018) who developed his own relationship and different relationship with Gorbachev. When Reagan leaves the White House for the last time, the sadness in Washington and in Moscow can be felt through the author’s words. Reagan emerges as a leader that is hard not to like. Of course, the Soviet story was far from over and Gorbachev had to defend himself from party members determined to see his downfall. Baier discusses how close the Soviet General Secretary came to being removed from office and the roles of Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007) and a young intelligence officer named Vladimir Putin who currently has the world watching his every move.

Undoubtedly, Reagan comes across beautifully in the book and I did notice that the darker moments of his president are discussed briefly. The Iran Contra scandal and Sandinista affair in Nicaragua are mentioned but Baier touches only the surface of those matters. The seriousness of each is not felt in the story at hand but I do implore readers to further research those topics to get a full understanding of Reagan’s presidency. To be fair, no administration is perfect, but the people of Central America will surely give you an interesting opinion of the Reagan era. His policies had a profound impact on Latin America that continues to be felt to this day. In the United States, the legacy of the jovial actor turned politician is permanently embedded in the Republican party’s core and he remains an icon of conservative values. If her were alive today, I am not sure if he would recognize what the GOP has become and I believe he would be both shocked and dismayed at world events. The world is a far different place today but the importance of this time in world history captured by Baier cannot be understated. In three days, Ronald Reagan accomplished what decades of U.S. foreign policy failed to do, he captured the attention and minds of the Soviet people. Readers with a thirst for historical information on U.S. and Russian relations will appreciate this book.

ASIN: B072LL4ZN2