Reading Edge of Eternity

downloadReading Edge of Eternity the final book in the trilogy by Ken Follett whom I consider to be one of the greatest writers of his time. It is a history of the world which in his first book began at the turn of the 20th Century and has carried on through all the turbulent times since. I am currently reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis and concurrently the ongoing events of the early 60’s about the Civil Rights Movement.

Ken gives you an exciting look at history in fictional form although his research is always right up to snuff. I love history and most of his novels have dealt with WWII era although some were written in the present tense of time. His first novel was Eye of the Needle which was made into an exciting WWII thriller starring Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan.

This book is made more interesting for me because it entails events of which I had some involvement in especially the Cuban Missile Crisis and it has given me a slightly different perspective on that than I had before even though I was directly involved in it as the base at which I was stationed was one of 3 AF Bases who were in direct support of Gitmo all during the crisis and I remember the events vividly yet today in my mind.

I was stationed in Bermuda at Kindley Field which was an US Air Force Base and we were the base that did the refueling for the RB 47s that were flying recon mission over Cuba during and before the crisis developed. It was a scary time for me and we went all the way to DEFCON 2 (DEFCON ! is War) for a time and our base was in virtual lock down during that period and though I was personnel assignments clerk I was pressed into service guarding JP4 Fuel Tanks at one sight and later guarding civilian Oil Storage Tanks on St George’s Island across from the base next to the Astor Mansion (John Jacob Astor owned a sizable amount of property on St George Island and had a virtual mansion directly across from our base he was the third or fourth John Jacob Astor not the original of course).

The Soviet Fleet came within a couple of hundred miles of our base before turning back and before the whole thing ended in Russia removing the Nuclear Missiles from Cuba. We in turn agreed to remove some obsolete missiles we had installed in Turkey although that wasn’t publicly known at the time of the crisis as part of the deal to end the crisis. The Soviets actually shot down one of our U2 Spy planes killing the pilot but that wasn’t acknowledged publicly either and since it was done against orders from the Kremlin and against Kruschev’s orders we didn’t retaliate.

I also was issued a temporary Top Secret Security Clearance because I was required to prepare orders for a number base personnel who were sent TDY to Gitmo during the crisis. When it was over the 3 bases in support of Gitmo all received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal to honor our service during the crisis. My medal sits on my mantle along side by Great grandfather Everist’s medal he received when he attended the 75th Anniversary of Gettysburg in 1938.

As for the Civil Rights Movement of the time. I was dumped along with a number of other airmen straight out of basic training into a remote base in Mississippi that had been kept open at the behest of a Mississippi US Senator whose name excapes me now just outside of Greenville Mississippi in July of 1961 and it was a scary place to be because Mississippi along with Alabama was were the racial clashes were already under way and the KKK was operating openly in conjunction with the local police and the state police who were ignoring pretty much whatever they did. They stayed away from the base.

The Base Greenville AF Base was a training base under the Air Training Command of the Air Force whose head at the time was General Edward White Sr, father of Astronaught Edward White who was later killed in the fire aboard one of the early Apollo flights along with Gus Grissom at Cape Kennedy (Canaveral). The base trained Air Force Personnel Clerks (of which I was) and Air Force Fire Fighters.

But going into town wasn’t much fun as Greenville was a highly segregated city and it was starkly apparent the minute you stepped off the bus. One of my best friends was Black and we studied together along with another airmen and pretty went everywhere together but we only went into town once and I got turned away when I attempted to enter a store through the Coloreds Only entrance with my friend because he couldn’t go through the front. They wouldn’t let me go with him into the same store.

We didn’t spend much time off base in Mississippi and when we did get weekend liberty we usually went to Memphis or over into Arkansas or to New Orleans because there was a lot less chance of getting into trouble with the local authorities who didn’t particularly like anyone of color to even walk down the street in their cities or towns in Mississippi. There were a couple incidents relating to airmen from the base but nothing of a very serious nature at the time. We were there about 3 months and I was glad to ship out to Bermuda. Bermuda as a society was very open and tolerant society as the population there was 75% of African extraction and there were no problems of tolerance save a few stupid rednecks from the south doing stupid things. But those were minimal and quickly dealt with by the base authorities.

Ken Follett’s book is a very good lesson in history told from the perspective of several different families that all have a connection to each other in the US, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Soviet Union. It’s worth the read for the history it will teach you but it is as are all of Ken Follett’s books an exciting read. Thrilling and fast paced and his interweaving of real historical characters makes it even more interesting to read to the point that it is often hard to put down.

Bob Bearden


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