Monday, February 25, 2008

World War II 'Spy in the Sky' dies

World War II 'Spy in the Sky' dies

By Walter Haan

Jean L. Chase, author of The Grasshopper That Roared, published by Southfarm Press in 2005, died on February 11, 2008 at age 86. He was born June 16, 1921 in McMinnville, Oregon. He served in the Army for 20 years and saw service in the Pacific as an L-4 Piper Cub artillery spotter pilot during World War II. He served in Korea after that.

I was going through papers involved with the publication of his book looking for material about Jean that I could share with you about him. We had talked many times on the phone in 2005 before our publication of his book that November. I came across his suggested epilogue for his book, most of which we didn’t use. Now that he is gone, it seems like his own words are the fitting epilogue for him personally.

“The Army was good to me. It taught me self discipline, how to approach a problem in a logical sequence and that there is no job you cannot accomplish. But most of all it taught me how to think.

“I can’t say that I enjoyed every minute of my service, but there were many exciting and beautiful things that I experienced. After retirement I observed many young men working in banks and business that would be stuck in that position for the rest of their lives. The same old thing every day. I pondered how much of life would they really miss?

“I was afforded the opportunity to see a large part of the world. My education, from a flying standpoint, operating in the mountains, desert, jungle and the flat land of Mid-America, was invaluable to me as a pilot. I learned the hazards of the thunderstorms in the south, the heat and cold of the desert and the high humidity of the jungle that could produce a quart of water in a half filled gas tank overnight.

“These were things we learned that helped keep us alive, and sometimes we learned them the hard way.

“I was just an ordinary guy that got up in the morning, went out to my little old Piper Cub and then took off on a combat mission, like hundreds of other pilots in those horrible days of war. The mission was primary in mind at all times. I was just going to work.

“I have awakened in the morning at home since my retirement, sat on the edge of the bed and thought, ‘What if today, I had to go out and climb into a plane and take off, knowing full well that I would be shot at that morning.’

“A chill would go up my spine.

“Whenever I would get a little skittish about flying a combat mission, I would think about that poor infantry guy on the ground who was depending on me to keep the enemy artillery from firing by just flying around overhead. That was pretty easy to do, compared to what the soldier faced on the ground.

“The advancement in Army Aviation has been tremendous since World War II. But Army pilots should never lose sight of the fact that their only reason for being is for the guy on the ground that takes the real estate.

“I knew deep down, when I retired, that I would probably not ever fly again. I love it, but my experience in Mississippi where I had a number of close associations with civilian pilots, taught me that flying now and then on weekends was not for me. I knew how much you lost when you only flew occasionally and I knew how sharp you could be when you flew almost every day.

“The things I prized most, that I received from my short 18 years as a Liaison Pilot and Army Aviator, is not the decorations or the satisfaction of fighting for my country. It is the friendships I have made and the comradeship I received during those wonderful years. You always knew that you were never alone.

“My comrades and I will meet again at that great Cub Strip in the sky that is open both ends, wide, with no pot holes to dodge or ditches along the sides, where the wind is never gusty, it is always straight down the runway and the sun never stops shining.

“When my granddaughter Heather was seven years old, she asked me if I would drive her and a friend to a birthday party. As we were waiting outside the friend’s house, a civilian model of the L-17 flew across the sky in front of us. I commented that I had flown that type of aircraft in the Army.

“When the little friend came out to the car, we started for the birthday party. Out of a clear blue sky my granddaughter suddenly spoke.

“'You know my granddad was a good pilot when he was flying in the Army.’

“'How would you know? You weren’t even around when he was flying,’ the friend replied, looking down her nose at Heather.

“Heather looked her straight in the eye when she answered.

“'He’s alive isn’t he?’”

Thank heaven Jean L. Chase and other Army Aviation pilots like him, our spies in the skies during World War II, were alive when we needed them. Read The Grasshopper That Roared, You won’t be bored or disappointed. There are so many good stories such as the time Chase was almost run over by his own Cub. Or the time he rode in a Cub’s back seat raking a Japanese campsite with his machine gun stuck out the window. Or the time he fulfilled his spotter duties in a torpedo plane off the escort carrier USS Fanshaw Bay. He was a remarkable man.—Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Perils of operating a publishing company at home

There have been a number of "Homes Using Wood Stoves" articles
in February
2008, and the drawbacks to burning wood for heat
were prominently mentioned in the articles. For example, pollution
from wood stoves and wood boilers. There is another drawback to
burning wood not mentioned in any articles.

I've operated Southfarm Press from our home since about 1987.
We had maintained a separate office before that in downtown
Middletown, Connecticut. My wife and I burned four cords
a year
in a Vermont Casting stove for 11 years until my shoulders gave out
all of that splitting wood.

One day, my wife and I, both being in publishing, had this
At her Weekly Reader office, in a meeting, somebody entered the
room while the meeting
was in progress and exclaimed, "I smell
Hickory Farms." My wife said that
the smell was coming from her.

Across town I was in another meeting with printers.
entered the room and exclaimed, "Wait a minute. I smell fire."

And I replied no, that was me. We laughed about it that night.
When you burn constantly
inside your house, it gets into your
clothes, drapes etc. But it was worth it. Our oil furnace
was off for
those 11 years, we got lots of exercise and the kids loved the
warmth and stacking the four cords outside each year.

Another peril in operating our publishing business at home was
our cat, Kitty. Note the creative name. It seemed every time I
was on the phone on a business call, the cat would start to throw
up, noisily. I would then begin praying they couldn't hear it on
the other side of the line. One publishing customer wound up
publishing a picture of me and Kitty in their journal. Maybe
they did hear her. --Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Abraham Lincoln's character-building years

As it is Abe Lincoln's birthday today, I thought I'd mention a book about his character-building years in the 1830s.

The book, Abe Lincoln and the Frontier Folk of New Salem (ISBN: 978-0-913337-36-6, 2002) by Thomas P. Reep and Constance Reep Unsworth, details Abraham Lincoln’s life, loves, friendships, fist fights, and work on the Illinois frontier. It is the only book currently in print that shows photographs of the actual individuals who influenced Lincoln’s character in the 1830s.

The village of New Salem, Illinois, rose up out of the wilderness, tarried for a while, then disappeared. It was a small village, never housing very many people, and of little account socially and economically. It was like hundreds of frontier towns save for one thing: it may have been the most important influence on the character development of one of the greatest men the United States of America ever produced—Abraham Lincoln.

Constance Reep Unsworth’s grandfather, Thomas P. Reep, 1870-1960, was a noted Lincoln scholar. At age 20 he began researching Abraham Lincoln’s life by interviewing people who had actually known Lincoln in the 1830s. Among those he interviewed was Lincoln’s close friend, William G. Greene, who had clerked at a country store with the future president.

Unsworth, an editor of the children’s newspaper Weekly Reader for over 30 years, found copies of her grandfather’s books about Abraham Lincoln’s life in Illinois, including Lincoln and New Salem from 1918. Realizing the importance of her grandfather’s research, Unsworth had rewritten that book for today’s audiences and added an introduction about her grandfather. Abe Lincoln and the Frontier Folk of New Salem is available online at for $14.95 and for $24.00. The book is not only a valuable original source for Lincoln research it is also good reading.

Other Lincoln historians, including Carl Sandburg, used Reep’s research as a basis for their writings about Lincoln’s life in the 1830s.

Believe it or not, both authors have a personal connection with Lincoln. Both the Reep family and Unsworth’s grandmother’s family, the Shipps, had ties to that period of Lincoln’s life. Parthena Jane Shipp, whose name was given to her by Lincoln, was Reep’s mother-in-law and Unsworth’s great-grandmother. --Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Barnes & Noble and other booksellers in the economic doghouse?

Explaining in Publishers Weekly that it is possible Barnes & Noble could report negative same-store sales figures in 2008, a JP Morgan analyst downgraded its stock to “neutral” from “overweight” last week. The analyst explained that a poor economy, the presidential election and increased discounting from Borders could have a negative impact on sales and earnings in the year.

Also according to Publishers Weekly, B&N has not issued its own forecast for 2008. For the 48-week period ended January 5, B&N reported that same store sales were up 2.0%, although holiday sales were below expectations, due largely, B&N said, to poor music sales.

No retailer is immune from today’s doghouse recessionary trends, but it appears that bookstores will have a bumpier ride in 2008. Time will tell. Only about 40% of books sold in this country are sold through bookstores, both chain and independent. So it is up to publishers, especially small publishers such as Southfarm Press, to vigorously develop other markets for their books. I love it when I see a book for sale in a hardware store. Besides bookstores, Southfarm Books have been sold in museum gift shops, online at and other online sites such as and through book clubs.

Going back to Barnes & Noble, in 2006 it purchased retail rights to two Southfarm Books through a packager. We received $3,500 for the rights. However, back in 1987, we received a letter from a B&N buyer saying they would never, I emphasize never, buy any Southfarm Books because we didn't have any bestsellers and many of our books were paperbacks. If B&N had stocked their stores with the two books they later bought the rights for in 2006, Southfarm's income would have been $31,275. So we received only 10% of the income from B&N of what we would have if they had stocked our books, not theirs. Just another example of what a small publisher like Southfarm has to contend with.--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Marines versus Berkeley, California

Grow Some Balls in Berkeley

Hey, here's a good one. The city of Berkeley, California wants to kick the Marine recruiting station out of the city. So it recently designated a parking space directly in front of the Marine's recruiting station in the city to an antiwar group. The hope is to run the Marines out of town.

Good luck with that. Marines are men and women whose experiences are like those of Frank M. Beyea's as he described in Monk's War, Volume 2: Crossfire--A Marine Grunt in Vietnam (ISBN: 978-0-913337-66-0; 2007):

“I was having a hard time getting my breath back and all
hell had broken loose since the explosion. Three NVA
were coming at us down the trail with guns blazing, and
as I tried to get off my back and into a firing position, I
discovered that the entire stock of my M-14 had been
blown off at the narrow part of the grip just behind
the trigger. Nevertheless, I did manage to fire off a
short burst that got one of the NVA and that’s
when a round grazed my shoulder and knocked
me down once more.

“By this time the rest of the squad had caught up to the
fire fight and gave us some blistering cover fire that put
the other two NVA down in a hail of bullets.”

The city's mayor said the vote by the city council represented his constituents longstanding, vocal distaste for current military activity. Well, many of us (not enough in my mind) are upset about our lying leaders getting us into Iraq illegally, but that is not the fault of individual Marines or soldiers. It is the fault of the American public for not forcing the House of Representatives to impeach Bush and Cheney for their crimes. It is the fault of the American people for not forcing our government to pull out of We have had plenty of opportunities to initiate the impeachments, the last being Representative Dennis Kucinich's bill in November 2007 to impeach the vice president. It was thrown into the House judiciary committee to rot.

Meanwhile, the city of Berkeley blames the Marines for current military activity! Come on! Grow some balls in Berkeley. Lead all Americans to put the blame where it belongs: on Bush and Cheney. Not on our fighting men and women.

I'll bet if Berkeley were under attack by a foreign invader, the people of Berkeley would be singing a different tune: The Marine Hymn.

I find this whole episode in Berkeley upsetting. It reminds me of my experience in December 1966 when, upon my discharge from the military, I was boarding a train at Grand Central Station in New York City and looking for a seat when a suit challenged me by asking how many babies I had killed. ---Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Friday, February 01, 2008

Top 15 Selling Books in 2007

The top 15 Books sold in 2007 are (drum roll please):

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-- by J. K. Rowling

2. The Secret-- by Rhonda Byrne

3. Eat, Pray, Love-- by Elizabeth Gilbert

4. A Thousand Splendid Suns-- by Khaled Hosseini

5. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter-- by Kim Edwards

6. The Kite Runner-- by Khaled Hosseini

7. Water For Elephants-- by Sara Gruen

8. The Dangerous Book for Boys-- by Conn Iggulden, Hal Iggulden

9. I Am America (And So Can You!)-- by Stephen Colbert

10. You: Staying Young-- by Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet C. Oz

11. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince-- by J. K. Rowling

12. You: On a Diet-- by Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet C. Oz

13. The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town--
by John Grisham

14. The Road-- by Cormac McCarthy

15. The Glass Castle: A Memoir-- by Jeannette Walls

Note that there are two novels by Khaled Hosseini on the list along
with two Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. The two novels by
Hosseini are the closest to anything on the list of books about war
and revolution and the results of both. Both books take place
in Afghanistan, both in the seventies and eighties. Both novels
are highly recommended by reviewers across the board, as is the
movie, adapted from the book, The Kite Runner, now playing in

This list of the top 15 selling books sold in the USA in 2007 came
from a list by USA Today this week of the top 100 books sold in

Again, I am sorry that there isn't a real military history nonfiction
book in the top 15, but there just seems to be less interest in
military history these days. That seems to be accompanied by
less interest and respect for our military. The Iraqi and Afghanistani
Wars are off the front pages, replaced by the bad economic news,
such as the loss of 17,000 jobs in a report issued today.

The wars may be off the front pages, and people may have less
interest in them, but that still doesn't change facts such as we've
lost 3,900+ men and women in the Iraq War so far.

Other items of news this past week are the loss of five American
service people in one single attack in Iraq and that a report
has concluded that the U.S. does not have the forces in its own
country to respond adequately to an attack on our own soil.

I guess people console themselves with fluff. Entertainment that
doesn't mention all this bad news. Books like Eat, Pray, Love
(number 3 on the list) and You: Staying Young (number 10 on
the list).

I'll bet books such as You: Staying Young weren't very popular
during the depression in the thirties or in 1944-45 Europe when
people were eating tulip bulbs in The Netherlands, for example,
during World War II.--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,