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Seven Days In May - Fletcher Knebel,  Charles W. Bailey II He's not the enemy. Scott, the Joint Chiefs, even the very emotional, very illogical lunatic fringe: they're not the enemy. The enemy's an age - a nuclear age. It happens to have killed man's faith in his ability to influence what happens to him. And out of this comes a sickness, and out of sickness a frustration, a feeling of impotence, helplessness, weakness. And from this, this desperation, we look for a champion in red, white, and blue. Every now and then a man on a white horse rides by, and we appoint him to be our personal god for the duration. For some men it was a Senator McCarthy, for others it was a General Walker, and now it's a General Scott.

Democratic presidents have found themselves caught between the enemy abroad and the right wing elements at home.


Most recently we saw General Stanley A. McChrystal be arrogantly critical of the current administration while he was commanding operations in Afghanistan. I understand in their world they become GODS. They are controlling the fates of thousands of men and millions of dollars of equipment. They feel like the fate of their nation is resting on their shoulders and their shoulders alone. It is not that big of a leap for them to feel that they know what is best for their nation and that the civilian commander, their boss, really isn't qualified to be making the big decisions to keep the nation safe.

Did I say something wrong?

President John F. Kennedy read this book and thought it was a real possibility that the scenario discussed in this book could happen. The book came out in 1962 and a year later Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. The poignant part of the book is the fact that the writers assumed that Kennedy would serve out two terms. They set the book in 1974 and LBJ is only referred to ONCE in the whole book.

Kennedy had his own run in with a general when Edwin Walker was critical of Eleanor Roosevelt and President Truman in print. Walker was recalled to Washington and he was relieved of his command by the President. Walker was not finished with his place in history. In April of 1963 a bullet hit a casement window near where he was sitting in his house. Marina Oswald later testified that her husband, Lee Harvey Oswald, had targeted Walker for his outspoken conservative views and that he left a letter stating his intentions to her in case he was caught. I haven't researched that event enough to have an opinion on whether Oswald actually pulled the trigger that sent that bullet in Walker's direction.


Speaking of President Truman he had his own famous showdown with a very popular general. Douglas "I have returned." MacArthur disagreed publicly with Truman's policies regarding China and was relieved of his command.

General Douglas MacArthur

In the book Seven Days in May Democratic President Jordan Lyman has signed a treaty with the Soviets for nuclear disarmament that proves to be very unpopular with his constituency. His approval rating falls to a dismal 29%. The dissension from the military is contentious, but as in all command decisions once the decisions is made the military is supposed to put aside their personal feelings and follow the directives of their civilian commander in chief.

Colonel Martin "Jiggs" Casey, from his position in the Pentagon starts to unravel some inconsistencies in what he knows and what he should know. As he puts together the pieces of what has been hidden from him he discovers that the constitution is under threat and a potential cabal is in the wind for a military coup. His boss General James Scott, a dynamic powerful figure not only in the military, but also with the Republican party is at the center of the conspiracy. Jiggs Casey is in an impossible situation with information that requires him to go outside his command structure; and yet, he possess no solid proof to prove his claims.

Kirk Douglas plays Jiggs Casey and Burt Lancaster plays James Scott in the movie released in 1964

There are so many interesting scenes in the book, but as President Lyman becomes more and more convinced that Casey is correct in his assumptions of the facts, he mentally shuffles through his friends and allies and discovers how small a group of men he can actually trust in his own administration. He dispatches this ragtag batch of trustworthy friends around the world to find the proof he needs to head off this very real threat to his administration. The cat and mouse of the book is deftly handled by Knebel and Bailey. I felt the tension as missteps lead the administration to the brink of disaster.

This book is not only well written, but is an important commentary on the state of the nation in 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis proved the metal of President Kennedy despite the detractors that felt he was soft on Russian excursions. The right wing seems to insist that Democratic presidents are weak on defense and yet President Wilson managed WW1, FDR was a powerful figure in the defense of the nation in WW2, and President Truman made the tough decision, right or wrong, to drop the bombs that ended WW2. I believe that the current president proved his ability to make tough decisions when he gave the order to shoot the Somalian pirates and when he made the decision for the excursion into Pakistan to get Osama Bin Laden. We are all vulnerable to extremists domestic and foreign. The president is elected by the people and any time any faction decides to circumvent the constitution for political reasons we are in danger of never regaining what so many have fought so hard to protect. Our national fears show up in our literature and are as important, in my opinion more important, to understanding our past as nonfiction historical books. Highly Recommended!! Thanks JIM for the recommendation.