Monday, December 22, 2014

Invading New Mexico

Invading New Mexico

The AI tour proceeded west from Amarillo into New Mexico on our 36 state tour of the USA.
About halfway to Albuquerque the storm clouds arrived which helped to wash the dust of Texas from our van.

In Albuquerque we made a stop at indie Bookworks ( to present a talk on America Invades.
Albuquerque, NM
The staff of Bookworks was friendly and professional.  You can find signed copies of America Invades at their fine store.

In America Invades ( we note that the New Mexico national guard is partnered with Costa Rica.  We also note that the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, is a twin sister city of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
President James K. Polk
The entire state of New Mexico is literally "invaded ground" having been acquired from Mexico as a consequence of the Mexican American war that was launched by president Polk in the 1840s.  We discuss at some length in the Mexico chapter of America Invades (see video below).  New Mexico also played a vital role in our emerging role as a superpower in the 20th century.  It was near Alamogordo, NM on July 16, 1945 that the Manhattan project tested the first atomic device.  Two atomic bombs would be dropped on Japan the following month finally ending the bloodiest conflict in human history.

Thanks Bookworks and thanks for your service New Mexico.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Invading Texas

CK at Battleship Texas 
On October 31st we arrived in the "lonestar" state for a book signing event on board the Battleship Texas (

Battleship Texas (BB-35)
La Porte, TX
This ship, BB-35, was first launched in 1912 and served in both World Wars.  She is the last dreadnought class ship in the world that is still afloat.  During WWI she provided escorted convoys heading across the Atlantic.  Over 2 million members of the American Expeditionary Force crossed the Atlantic to fight the Kaiser's army.

The Eyes of Texas are upon you!
In World War II the big 14" guns of the Texas provided shore bombardment for the D-day landings on June 6, 1944, just over 70 years ago.

In our recently published America Invades we mention the role Texas played that day and its lasting impact...
Pointe du Hoc
Normandy, France
Bloody Omaha had received an abbreviated naval bombardment from ships such as the battleship Texas lasting only thirty-five minutes. Its bare beaches offered no cover for the American invaders as German machine guns from fortified gun emplacements swept the beaches. The US Rangers, who had trained earlier on the cliffs of Dorset, scaled the sheer cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc while being shot at by German soldiers; their mission was to destroy artillery pieces that threatened to sweep the landing zones. Their commander that day was Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder. Unknown to Rudder’s Rangers, most of the artillery had already been moved by the Germans. They held the position for two days in the face of fierce counterattacks by the 916th Grenadiers. At the Ranger memorial at Pointe du Hoc, one can still see massive craters created by Allied naval bombardment on D-Day. 

Source: America Invades,

AI + Battleship Texas
La Porte, TX
In 1945, having passed through the Panama canal, she would provide shore bombardment for the Marine landings on Iwo Jima.

CK on board the Texas
We had a great time meeting tourists on board the ship as well as a dedicated group of volunteers and professionals that keep the ship open and available to the public.  The non profit Battleship Texas Foundation does a terrific job of preserving our naval history (

Welcome to Texas
Thanks for your service Texas!

Special thanks to Jim and Maria Hooper of Houston, TX.  Thanks for the Texas hospitality.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Invading Louisiana

AI Van at Cafe du Monde
New Orleans, LA
Proceeding west on I-10 from Alabama, we soon arrived in historic New Orleans.  This wonderful city lies on the gateway of the Mississippi river.  General Andrew Jackson fought and won the battle of New Orleans against the British here in 1815 at the conclusion of the War of 1812.

Napoleon House, a charming bar in the French quarter, was built around 1820 as part of a conspiracy to liberate Napoleon from his British captors on the island of St. Helena.  Napoleon House was designed to be his home in the New world.  Napoleon himself foiled the plot by dying, most probably of stomach cancer, in 1821.
CK at Commander's Palace
New Orleans has wonderful restaurants, gulf oysters and some incredible nightlife.  Commander's Palace ( is a bastion of the old school Southern cooking -- you can even have the politically incorrect but delicious turtle soup.  Cafe du Monde ( has been making their trademark beignets and chicory coffee since 1862.  As you can see from my photo above, they are open 24 /7 all year long.

Higgins Boat
National WW2 Museum
During World War II New Orleans was vital to the war effort on account of the construction of wooden Higgins boats that were used for amphibious invasions.  These boats were used in both the European and Pacific theaters of operations.

Sherman Tank
National WW2 Museum
Today New Orleans is home to the National World War II Museum (  This growing museum has a fine collection of World War II aircraft.
B-17E Bomber, "Flying Fortress"
New Orleans, LA
The B-17 was the workhorse bomber for the US Army Air Corps in World War II.  You can see the video I shot at the IWM/Duxford for America Invades on the B-17 here...

P-51 Mustang
New Orleans, LA
You will also find a P-51 Mustang that helped to escort Allied bombers to targets in Nazi-occupied Europe.  Here is my take on this type of plane shot at the IWM / Duxford...

Barbara Sure
National WW2 Museum
The highlight of the National WW2 Museum was the opportunity to watch the 4-D film "Beyond All Boundaries" which plays there on the hour.  It was executive produced and narrated by Tom Hanks.  This short film manages to deliver an excellent overview of the bloodiest war in human history.

WW2 Nose Art
National WW2 Museum
Thanks for your service, Louisiana!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Invading Alabama

Alabama is Beautiful!

On the way from Pensacola to New Orleans the AI team launched a brief invasion of Alabama the beautiful.

USS Alabama  (BB-60)
Crossing Mobile Bay on I-10
Driving west on Interstate 10 we crossed Mobile Bay and saw a vivid reminder of the US Navy in WW2  -- the battleship Alabama (

The USS Alabama (BB-60) is a South Dakota class battleship that was launched in 1942 and served in World War II.  She could cruise at 28 knots power4d by engines that put out 130,000 hp.  Her primary armament were 9 massive 18" guns.  She saw extensive service in the Pacific theater where she supported the Marine invasion of Tarawa in 1943.  In 1944 the ship participated in the  "Marianas Turkey shoot" and bombed the phosphate rich island of Nauru which is today the smallest republic in the world.
Big 18" Guns of the Alabama
USS Drum
Mobile, Alabama
This collection includes much more than just an awesome battleship.  Visitors can also tour the USS Drum submarine that helped send nearly 60% of Japanese merchant shipping to the bottom of the Pacific during WW2.

B25J Mitchell Bomber
Mobile, Alabama
A Mitchell bomber similar to those used by Jimmy Doolittle for his 1942 raid on Tokyo can be found on the grounds.  The Doolittle raid did little physical damage but had a profound impact on the development of the war in the Pacific.

America Invades + B-52
Mobile, Alabama
Visitors will also find Cold war aircraft such as a B-52 bomber and a beautiful copy of the amazing SR-71 Spyplane.  This plane set the record for fastest manned aircraft in 1976.

SR-71, "Blackbird"
Mobile, Alabama

Thanks for your service Alabama!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Invading Florida

The Sunshine State
Not long after the American Revolution concluded, the Conde de Aranda, a Spanish minister prophesied about the United States that "the day will come when it will grow into a giant, even a fearsome colossus in the hemisphere.  The it will forget the assistance it received from (us) and will think only of its own exaltation.  The first step of this power...will be to seize upon the Floridas, in order to dominate the Gulf of Mexico."  (Source: The Other War of 1812, James Cusick,

Castello di San Marcos
St. Augustine, FL
Spain had provided substantial support to the Patriot cause during the American revolution.  In addition to financial support, Spanish forces conducted the longest siege of the American Revolution in Pensacola, Florida which lasted from March 9 to May 9, 1781.  A Spanish commander, Bernardo de Galvez, won a victory over English forces commanded by Major General John Campbell.  The city of Galveston in Texas is named in honor of Galvez.  Source: The Longest Siege of the American Revolution: Pensacola, Wesley S. Odom, 2009.

In March of 1812, just prior to the start of a war with Britain, General George Matthews seized a border town in Florida embarrassing the Madison administration.  President Madison, however, opted to leave American forces in Florida and reinforce them with militia from Georgia.  Spain at this time was allied to Britain with the Duke of Wellington fighting against the French on the Iberian peninsula.

In our book, America Invades (, we mention in our chapter devoted to Spain what happened next...

In 1818, Andrew Jackson led a successful invasion of Florida during the First Seminole War, and the Spanish ceded Florida to the United States in 1821, which is how Jacksonville, Florida, got its name.

CK and Jeff Dody
Jacksonville, FL
CK in Jacksonville

Naturally we had to pay a visit to Jacksonville, Florida.  Here we were entertained by my good friend Jeff Dody and his family who kindly hosted a book party at their home.  Jeff and I knew each other from our days in London where we each enjoyed many a hike along the Thames.  Thank you for the hospitality, Dody family!

Florida National Guard
St. Augustine, FL
We visited historic St. Augustine the oldest city in America.  It was founded by the Spanish in 1565.  It remains the home of the Florida National Guard to this day.  We paid a visit to the remarkable Castillo de San Marco, a Spanish fortress which was besieged many times yet never surrendered

We spent one night in Orlando which is the home to Disneyworld and Universal Studios.  It is also the home to my friends at The Daily Buzz -- a morning television program.  Special thanks to Michelle Yarn and Troy McGuire.

CK and Lori
My Favorite Books, Talahassee, FL
On the way from Orlando to Pensacola we stopped in Talahassee and made friends with the fine folks at My Favorite Books (  Yes, they have signed copies of America Invades!

National Naval Air Museum
Pensacola, FL
In Pensacola we stopped to visit the amazing National Naval Air Museum ( which is on the grounds of the active duty Naval Air Station Pensacola. It was Andrew Jackson who first proposed Pensacola as the site for a naval installation.  The Confederates operated Pensacola as a naval yard during the US Civil war.  In 1911 the Pensacola Navy Yard was shut down, but in 1914 it had a new lease on life as naval secretary Josephus Daniels chose to make it the home of US Naval aviation.  His assistant secretary, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, toured Pensacola in 1913.

Grumman TBM Avenger
NNAM, Pensacola
At the NNAM you will find the type of plane that Lieutenant George H. W. Bush parachuted out of on September 2, 1944.  His two fellow crewmen were killed after their plane was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.  The fortunate lieutenant was picked up by a USN submarine (USS Finback) after spending four hours in raft of the coast of Chichijima.  Less fortunate American aviators that were captured by the Japanese were executed and eaten by their captors.

WW2 Naval Pilot
Pensacola is also the home of the famous Blue Angels that perform regularly in Florida and around the country.

Blue Angel
NNAM, Pensacola, FL

Thanks to all my friends in Florida, new and old.  Thanks for your service Florida!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Invading Georgia

Airborne Memorabilia
Curahee Military Museum

Just slightly off the beaten path in North Georgia, an intrepid traveler can find the Currahee Military Museum in Tocoa Georgia (  It was near here that Airborne units of the US Army trained for their daring drops into Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.

Camp Tocoa T-shirt
Currahee Military Museum
The young paratroopers would train by running three miles up nearby Mount Currahee and three miles down.  This was depicteded in the TV series Band of Brothers (based on Stephen Ambrose's book) about Easy Company in the 101st Airborne division.

Virgin Mary surrounded by US paratroopers
St. Mere Eglise, France
Paratroopers trained here would drop into North Africa during Operation Torch in the fall of 1942.  Paratroopers that trained here would invade Sicily in July of 1943.  Paratroopers who trained here would drop at night near the beaches of Normandy by the town of St. Mere Eglise.

Graduating Class
Currahee Military Museum
At Currahee boys were transformed into men, men into warriors.

Shed used by Airborne in England
Transported to Tocoa, GA
In our work America Invades we wrote about the D-day Airborne drops...

"The vaulting began on the night of June 5 when private John Steele, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, got his chute caught on the tower of the church at Ste.-Mère-Église. He survived the conflagration and firefight that shook the sleepy Norman town that night by playing dead. A visitor to Ste.-Mère-Église today will find a stained-glass window in the church has the Virgin Mary surrounded by American paratroopers. The American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Divisions would secure the western flank of the Normandy invasion."  Source: America Invades

Doris Hines in Atlanta
In our all too brief stay in Georgia, I also had the pleasure of taking my dear friend Doris Hines out to dinner in "Hotlanta".  Great to see you, Doris!

Why should you consider a visit to Currahee Museum or some other Military museum in your part of the country?  My answer: Go in order to preserve the memory of those who sacrificed so much for the freedom we enjoy today.  Better still, go with your kids so that they will know and never forget.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Invading the Carolinas

AI invades North Carolina
North Carolina is one of the most heavily militarized states in the union.   Many retired veterans live there.  The US Marines train at Camp Lejeune in NC.  Fort Bragg, named after a Confederate general was established as an artillery base in WWI and is an active base to this day.  Bragg is situated in Fayetteville, a somewhat seedy area, which is also known as "Fayettenam".

The AI tour, however, went to Raleigh.  Here we met up with some old friends who had also spent time living in the UK.

Desert at Plates
Steve Day is the proprietor of a gastronomic paradise known as Plates (  Everything on the menu was exceptional including some heavenly deserts.   They had a full bar featuring local micro brews on tap and a well-chosen wine list.  When in Raleigh be sure to dine at Plates!

The next day we made a brief stop in Charlotte where you can now find signed copies of America Invades at Park Road Books the best indy bookstore in Charlotte.

South Carolina

We cruised through South Carolina on our way to Georgia.  Sadly, we missed a state rich in military history.  We must return soon.

Special thanks to Steve and Kate Day, Ken and Julia Curtis.