C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent

A CS Lewis Scholar recently found an unknown vinyl record of a CS Lewis radio broadcast for sale on eBay. The record has several of his lectures that were broadcast to Iceland. The British invaded Iceland during WWII to prevent the Nazi’s from gaining the upper hand in the North Atlantic. Lewis’ role was to try to further the peace between the British and the people of Iceland via literature. A fascinating episode of history.

“How Lewis came to be recruited and by whom remains a secret. The records of the Secret Intelligence Service, known popularly as MI6, remain closed. Perhaps one of his former pupils at Oxford recommended him for his mission. It was an unusual mission for which few people were suited. J. R. R. Tolkien had the knowledge base for the job, even beyond that of Lewis, but Tolkien lacked other skills that Lewis possessed. Perhaps someone had heard Lewis lecture on his favorite subject in one of the two great lecture halls in the Examination Schools building of Oxford University. At a time when Oxford fellows were notorious for the poor quality of their public lectures, Lewis packed the hall with an audience of students who were not required to attend lectures. In the 1930s, Lewis was the best show in town. Somehow Lewis had developed the skill to speak to an audience and hold them in rapt attention, in spite of his academic training rather than because of it.”

Source: C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent | Christianity Today

When Father Is A Monster: Stalin’s Daughter

Joseph Stalin was a monster who often treated his friends worse than his enemies. What was it like to be his daughter? Horrible.

Here are some snippets from a NYT review of a new biography on Stalin’s Daughter. It looks fascinating, but at over 600 pages, only serious history lovers will read it. But it looks fascinating.


“But as she [Stalin’s daughter] gets older, she starts seeing and hearing more, and sinister shadows creep into the light, dimming it little by little. The aunts and uncles begin to vanish one by one. Her grandmother says: “Where is your soul? You will know when it aches.” Her mother draws a little square over the child’s heart with her finger and tells the girl, “That is where you must bury your secrets”; then, before the girl’s seventh birthday, she shoots herself in her own heart with a Mauser pistol. The little girl’s world is shattered, never to be the same. Troubled and lonely, she will spend decades trying to escape the horror of her past, the terrible weight of history. “You can’t regret your fate,” she will say later, “though I do regret my mother didn’t marry a carpenter.” She is Svetlana, her father is Joseph Stalin, and her extraordinary story is the subject of “Stalin’s Daughter,” Rosemary Sullivan’s thoughtful new biography.

“In 1967, 14 years after Stalin’s death, Svetlana Alliluyeva created an international scandal by defecting to the United States, only to return to the Soviet Union in 1984, then run away again in 1986, each escape taut with cloak-and-dagger suspense worthy of any spy thriller. She fell in love disastrously and often, had three children from three of her four failed marriages, published several books, made a million dollars, lost a million dollars, moved from home to home with the restlessness of a nomad, abandoning the past again and again, driven by eternal disquiet, “always leaving things all over the globe,” in the words of her younger daughter, Olga, before dying nearly destitute in Wisconsin, at the age of 85, under the anonymous name of Lana Peters. Olga scattered her ashes in the Pacific Ocean. The historical context of Alliluyeva’s unsettled life, the immense monstrosity of Stalin forever looming behind her, makes her story impossibly haunting and equally impossible to put down.”

via ‘Stalin’s Daughter,’ by Rosemary Sullivan – The New York Times.

Book Review- First Seals by Patrick O’Donnell


Seals book

The First Seals by Patrick K O’Donnell

I have read a number of books about special operations history, it is a kind of a hobby.  Some of these were personal memoirs and others books about unit histories.  The First Seals certainly ranks as one of my favorites.  It tells a believable story that is still amazing. And it does it without too much machismo or chest pounding.  It gives a broad history, but also focuses enough on specific individuals that you can understand the characters.  After reading this one, I want to dig into the rest of O’Donnell’s works.

If you like books about military history, read this book. 

If you like books about World War II, you will love the the back story. There are aspects of the war told in this book that I haven’t read anywhere else. Who knew that the Italians were the best in underwater demolition?

If you like books about sabotage, espionage, and partisan warfare, read this book.

If you like books about entrepreneurship, and people creating new things… If you like the books about people solving problems and taking risks, read this book.  Not all creative people work in business.

If you’re one of those people who likes fiction, but thinks that truth is often better than fiction,  you will enjoy this book.

Toward the end of the book when Lt. Taylor (one of the central figures in the story) is rescued from the Mauthausen concentration camp, I teared up. If I hand’t been driving, I would have cried. It is a great story not only of the units and tactics that would become the US Navy Seals, but a great example of American Heroism in the fight against fascism. What is amazing is that so many of the other prisoners sacrificed their lives to keep O’Donnell alive because they knew that the world would be more likely to believe an American officer.  Taylor would later serve a key role in the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals.

I sound like a fan… I know.  But this was a truly great read. I consumed it on Audible.com and the reader was terrific as well. You can find it here 

You can watch original footage of Jack Taylor’s interview the the US forces liberated the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. He begins talking at 50 seconds into the video.

I first heard of the book in an article by O’Donnell in National Review that you can read here.  “Christmas with America’s First Seal in A Gestapo Prison.”