“Lincon’s Bold Lion: The Life and Times of Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin” Q&A with author

Originally Featured on St Augustine Register.com 02/06/2016

Posted: February 6, 2016 – 11:31pm  |  Updated: February 7, 2016 – 12:02am

The story of Martin Davis Hardin provides more than a combat record — in fact, it comprises a tour through 1800s America, with its most costly war only the centerpiece.

Abraham Lincoln was a close friend and political ally of Hardin’s father, who died a hero in the Mexican War. The family were also relatives of Mary Todd.

Made brigadier general at age 27, Hardin fought with distinction at Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, Grant’s Overland Campaign and the Jubal Early’s 1864 raid on Washington. He was wounded four times, nearly died on two occasions and lost an arm during the war. Hardin himself took part in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth after Lincoln’s assassination.

In “Lincoln’s Bold Lion,” Huffstodt walks the reader through Hardin’s life as it reveals the progress of a century. After the war, Hardin survived the Chicago Fire and the Gilded Age, with all its newfound fascinations.

Like many wealthy Northerners in the late 1800s, St. Augustine became the Hardins’ winter refuge. Martin and his wife, Estelle, stayed in hotels in the beginning, but eventually leased a winter “cottage” at 22 St. Francis St., known today as the Tovar House.

Anyone who is interested in the Civil War will surely want to read “Lincoln’s Bold Lion,” but locals will also enjoy the riveting tale that connected a decorated Civil War general to Henry Flagler’s elite Southern tourist haven.

Q&A with author

What inspired you to write the book?

I love biography. I love telling stories about people. I love giving history a human face. When I learned about Gen. Hardin’s fascinating life many years ago, I was stunned to learn that he had been almost completely forgotten. From that point on, I resolved to write his biography.

What type of research was involved?

Hunting down Gen. Hardin’s story led me to research his personal letters, photos, journals, photos, official Army reports and contemporary newspaper articles preserved at The National Archives in Washington, the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, the Saratoga Springs Walworth (Memorial) Museum, and the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. The research took the better part of six years.

Describe your writing process.

Research until you know the subject like a family member. Then put words on paper. Rewrite. Cut. Add. Prune. Rewrite again. Like someone once said: It’s 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. You keep rewriting until you get it right, not before.

What do you hope readers get out of the book?

My hope is that my readers meet and get to know this long-forgotten American hero who lived a remarkable life during a crucial span off American history. Despite the cynics, I believe strongly that America needs heroes; perhaps we need them more now than ever before. Gen. Hardin is such a hero: a soldier, a Christian and a gentleman.

Who is your favorite author?

As a lifelong reader, my list of favorite authors would probably top 100. But, if forced, my favorite historians would include David McCullough, Hampton Sides, T.J. Stiles, Eric Larson, Diane Preston, Iris Chang, Barbara Tuchman, Lloyd Lewis, Francis Parkman, William Manchester and Bruce Catton.


Ed and Cathy Gilbert awarded Presidential Service Center’s Distinguished Service Medal

Casemate is proud to announce that authors Ed and Cathy Gilbert were recently awarded the Presidential Service Center’s Distinguished Service Medal.

Presidential Service began with the American military, in the late 1700’s, as military aides and other positions.  In the 1880’s The US Navy requested of President Rutherford B. Hayes, to open a “mess,” (or restaurant) which is now known as the White House Staff Mess. It features restaurant service and thousands of take-out meals daily with close to 75 US Navy chefs.  The Navy chefs shop, cook, travel with and protect the Presidency.  The Presidential Service Center™ is presently in a five-year feasibility and research study phase, that began in 2010.  It is housed with the existing, and highly successful, Presidential Culinary Museum®. It remains interactive (under agreement) with The Official Society of World Chefs in Friendship since request in 1994.  Their aim being to foster care and kindness amongst countries of the world visiting the American White House and Camp David.  To interact with our Presidential Service Badge (PSB) authorized, serial numbered members – please contact us at 001 (704) 937-2940. The museum is open seven days per week for tours and bus groups.

In 2008 a new, gold Presidential Service Center (PSC) Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) was discussed, reviewed and authorized for complete payment under private funds forwarded from 14592 badge holder and member Martin CJ Mongiello. Discussion ensued in 2008/9 with a sample idea commissioned in 2010. During the years of 2010 and 2011, the program was sent to feasibility and research with possible adoption, was rejected and eventually suspended for further design. In 2012, Mr. Mongiello received guidance from former Presidential aides that visited the museum in 2013 with former Presidential Security Detail member (USMC) Travis McVey. The medal moved forward in 2013 under new design and was authorized for striking to showcase a font of knowledge, lit with flame, bearing present status and ongoing service to better society. Encased in a traditional wreath with a circular design of continuity, the medal is awarded to those serving to make society better and subject to revocation and stripping of award (droit moral) based on behavior standards. Each award winner agrees to their good conduct in the future as it would reflect on our members center and association.

The numeral system to be used was offered in 2014 beginning with 1776, a year well-known amongst Americans, as significant and noteworthy for service to our country.

medals 3 - DSC_0004
1794: Presently rejected during the investigation. Resubmitting.
1793: In committee reviewing letters of reference.
1792: Cathy Gilbert, author.
1791: Ed Gilbert, author





Cathy and Ed’s most recent books, TRUE FOR THE CAUSE OF LIBERTY  is now available from Casemate and all fine retailers.

Layout 1Ed is also the author of several other Casemate titles, including Marine Corp Tank Battles in the Middle East, Marine Corp Tank Battles in Korea, Marine Corp Tank Battles in Vietnam,  and Tanks in Hell

Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Middle EastMarine Corps Tank Battles in VietnamTanks in Hell

Colorado’s Soldier of Fortune, the true story

Casemate  Author Vann Spencer sat down recently with  Josh Hosler,   for the Colorado Springs Gazette, to discuss I AM SOLDIER OF FORTUNE and Colonel Robert Brown, the man who  started it all.

Story originally featured January 31, 2016 in Colorado Gazette



GUEST COLUMN: Colorado’s Soldier of Fortune, the true story

By: Josh Hosler

January 31, 2016Updated: January 31, 2016 at 9:21 am

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The legendary Lt. Col. Robert K. Brown, founder of “Soldier of Fortune,” lives right here in Colorado. The numerous stories and exploits of this Boulder man, as recounted in the biography “I Am Soldier of Fortune,” make the reader believe Hercules and Achilles were most likely real and human at one time.

Soldier of Fortune magazine is a staple for military, law enforcement, veterans and Americans who like to read about mercenaries and Special Forces straight from the hardened men themselves. The biography “I Am Soldier of Fortune” demonstrates the rumors that have long circled around RKB are not only true, but only a small piece of this great man’s life.

Author Vann Spencer’s personal respect and admiration for Brown is evident in his description of RKB as no saint, but a man of character and principles – a rarity in today’s culture of compromise. The author explains how “The Colonel,” one of the toughest of Coloradans, is sometimes overcome by grief and silence, such as when he learned of the loss of famous sniper Chris Kyle. “The side of this business I dread the most is when the normally devil-may-care, boisterous RKB goes silent, and I know he is grieving. I will never get used to it and it will never get easier.”

In 1953, RKB enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve. In 1954, he enlisted in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps and, although he had been promised a life of intrigue, found himself pushing pencils. He resented the bait and switch. “I went in, mind you very respectfully, and on being called to account, explained that ‘With all due respect, I attribute my poor performance to the fact that I had been promised one thing [exerting great restraint in not going off on the Snake Oil Salesman the Army had pimped out] and forced into another – that I had purposely passed up getting an Air Force ROTC commission because I didn’t want to be a paper pusher.’ ”

Anyone who has served in the military can appreciate how many times recruiters sell you on a job as the next Captain America only to make you a janitor.

RKB’s status as a “mustang” (an officer who was previously an enlisted soldier) makes him credible to every level of the military. The officer route being the only way out of his pencil pushing, RKB went through Officer Candidate School. But even as an officer, he was still searching for his true calling.

It found him when he happened upon a book about guerrilla warfare. “ ’150 Questions for a Guerrilla,’ was going to be of great value, I just knew it. I didn’t have a clue what it was at the time, but I soon saw the light. My mission became to translate this manual that revealed the techniques – primitive though they may have been-that helped Castro seize power.” In the 1990s, RKB discovered, because of his connections to Cuba, the CIA had considered him possibly involved in the JFK assassination.

As you read the book, you will stop to remind yourself that “I Am Solider of Fortune” is nonfiction and not an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. RKB has led an incomparable life. From wanting to sell guns to Cuban rebels, to his time in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Africa, Southeast Asia, Grenada, Pakistan, Russia, Lebanon and every other country that has had a war since the 1950s, the book will grip you from page to page.

With the United States short on leaders who aren’t worried about political correctness, we should be proud to know we have a hero in our backyard who stands up for our veterans when so many thank them for their service and then forget them.

“It’s been a hell of a ride and as long as tyrants continue to pollute the environment, and I am still kicking, I march on with my mission. I have a few regrets and made a lot of mistakes but make no apologies. I will continue to follow my long time motto: ‘Slay Dragons, Do Noble Deeds, and Never, Never, Never, Never Give Up.’ ”

I pray “The Colonel” keeps kicking. We need him now more than ever.

Josh Hosler served in the Marine Corps from 2007 to 2011 and completed tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the president of Colorado Reuse, a recycling firm. “I Am Soldier of Fortune: Dancing with Devils” is available at Amazon.com.

Who was Lincoln’s Lion?


La Salle native and 1965 graduate of La Salle-Peru Township High School, James Huffstodt of Tallahassee, Fla., is the author of a recently released biography of one of Illinois’s most heroic Civil War generals who was also a personal protégé of President Abraham Lincoln.

“Lincoln’s Bold Lion: The Life and Times of Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin (1837-1923) by James Huffstodt is published by Casemate Publisher of Philadelphia and Oxford, England. The 440-page hardback, with a 16-page photo section, will be printed in ten languages.

“History was my passion from a very early age,” Huffstodt said. “My interest in the Civil War grew from listening to my maternal grandmother, Celia Baker Sykes of Utica (1876-1965), tell about her father’s experiences as a soldier in that war. Private Martin Baker of Utica served in Co. K, 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, raided by General W.H.L. Wallace of Ottawa. Baker was seriously wounded at the Battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee on Feb. 15, 1862.”

Huffstodt currently works part-time in the public health field in Tallahassee and devotes the rest of his time to various writing projects. His other works include: “Hard Dying Men: A History of the Eleventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry.” (1991), “Everglades Lawmen: True Stories of Game Wardens in the Glades.” (2000), and “Journeys In Time: A History of the Huffstodt-Sykes Family” (2014). The last title was privately published in a limited edition of 50 copies.

The subject of Huffstodt’s newest work, Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin (1837-1923), was born in Jacksonville, Ill., the son of Colonel John J. Hardin, a close friend and political ally of young Abraham Lincoln. The father died a hero’s death at the Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican War in 1847 at age 36.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln kept in close touch with Hardin’s widow and took a personal interest in her son. Young Hardin fought in 20 pitched battles including Gettysburg, and suffered four wounds. After he was wounded in a Confederate ambush, surgeons amputated Hardin’s left arm.

Despite serious wounds that nearly took his life, the 27-year-old Hardin returned to lead troops in the war’s final year.

On June 30, 1864, President Lincoln wrote the following recommendation for Hardin’s promotion:

“Col. Martin Hardin named within is the son of a very Dear Friend of mine who fell at Buena Vista, has himself a West Point education, has fought in the War, losing an arm and been shot through the body, and if there is any vacancy, send in nomination for him as Brigadier General at once.”
Only a week later, the newly promoted one-armed Brigadier General Hardin played a key role in defending Washington against a threatening Confederate Army. On the night of the assassination on Good Friday, 1865, Hardin helped lead the massive hunt for Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth, and his accomplices.

After retiring from the army in 1870, Hardin became a Chicago attorney and survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. He and his first wife also helped Lincoln’s widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, nurse her terminally-ill son, Tad, at Chicago’s Clifton House.

General and the second Mrs. Hardin, Chicago coffee heiress Amelia McLaughlin, built a mansion called Two Chimneys in 1914, which still stands in Lake Forest. General Hardin was a winter resident of St. Augustine for 40 years, where he died at his home, “The Union Generals House” in 1923. He was the last survivor of the West Point Class of 1859 and one of the last surviving Civil War Generals.

Hardin and his second wife are buried at the National Cemetery in St. Augustine.
Civil War Historian Ezra J. Warner wrote of General Hardin in the 1964 book, “Generals In Blue: The Lives of the Union Commanders”:
“Hardin … embarked upon a combat career which has few parallels in the annals of the army for gallantry, wounds sustained, and the obscurity into which he had lapsed a generation before his death.”

Huffstodt’s work, “Lincoln’s Bold Lion: The Life and Times of Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin,” is carried by most major book outlets including Amazon.com.

About the author
James Huffstodt, his wife Judy, and their granddaughter, Jade, now reside in Tallahassee, Fla.
The author, 68, is the youngest child of the late Robert W. Huffstodt (1907-1957), who worked his entire career as an advertising man with the La Salle NewsTribune. His older brother, Eugene Huffstodt of Peru, also worked at the NewTribune as the business manager for 45 years before retirement in 1990.
After studying American and European history at Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois, James Huffstodt worked as a reporter and feature writer for the Ottawa Daily Times. In 1973, he became assistant public relations director at Illinois Valley Community College, leaving in 1978 to embark on a 30-year career in wildlife conservation with the Illinois and Florida state conservation agencies.






originally featured on Illinois Valley News Tribune


James Bilder to speak at Pritzker Military Museum and Library

James Bilder, Artillery Scout: The Story of a Forward Observer with the U.S. Field Artillery in World War I

Pulling from stories shared by his grandfather—an Artillery Scout in France during World War I—as well as military records and diaries from  33rd Infantry officers, author James Bilder paints a captivating picture of the life of a soldier on the front line. Sponsored by The United States World War One Centennial Commission.

2014 Finalist, Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award


The American Doughboys of World War I are often referred to as the “Lost Generation”; however, in this book we are able to gain an intimate look at their experiences after being thrust into the center of Europe’s “Great War” and enduring some of the most grueling battles in U.S. history.

Len Fairfield (Bilder’s grandfather) was an Artillery Scout, or Forward Observer, for the U.S. Army, and was a firsthand witness to the war’s carnage as he endured its countless hardships, all of which are revealed here in vivid detail. His story takes the reader from a hard life in Chicago, through conscription, rigorous training in America and France, and finally to the battles which have become synonymous with the U.S. effort, St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive―the latter claiming 26,000 American lives, more than any other U.S. battle.

Fairfield, with his artillery in support of the 91st “Wild West” Division, was on the front lines for it all, amidst a sea of carnage caused by bullets, explosives, and gas―with the occasional enemy plane swooping in to add strafing to the chaos. Entire units were decimated before gaining a yard, and then the Doughboys would find German trenches filled with dead to indicate the enemy was suffering equally.

The American Expeditionary Forces endured a rare close-quarters visit to Hell until it was sensed that the Germans were finally giving way, though fighting tooth-and-nail up to the very minute of the Armistice. This action-filled work brings the reader straight to the center of America’s costly battles in World War I, reminding us once again how great-power status often has to be earned with blood on battlefields.

JAMES BILDER has a B.A. in Journalism from Lewis University and a M.S. from Loyola University. He is the co-author of A Foot Soldier for Patton with his father, Michael. Mayor of Worth, Illinois from 1993-2001, he currently resides in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.

Tickets available at




Artillery Scout

Warm welcome at the Delhi Book Fair

So far Casemate has found their first time exhibiting at the Delhi Book Fair to be a huge success. Both the public and the trade have offered Casemate an extraordinary welcome into this market and have expressed a real thirst for publications within our subject areas

While we only had a small selection of books on the stand, within the first two days we sold over half of the them. There are some keen military history enthusiasts here and I’ve had a number of interesting conversations with readers, some being retired from the military, and others just really happy to see books on subjects they haven’t been able to get ahold of easily. It became obvious rather quickly that Casemate is able to offer readers here books about well known subject areas with a new, thought provoking perspective. More than one visitor to the stand commented on how bookshops here don’t carry much in the way of military history and expressed a desire to see our books more readily available in shops here. One man came back three times and purchased six books and will be ordering more from us in the future. Another customer was excited to see that we had volume three of ‘Barbarossa Derailed’ on the stand, as he had previously purchased volumes one and two online from Amazon, and bought volume three from us.

The three Allison & Busby books I had on the stand all sold very quickly. Crime and mystery fiction seems to be very popular from the comments offered.

Additionally, in terms of Oxbow/Casemate Academic, archaeology, particularly Middle East archaeology is quite popular, especially with the level of government sponsorship that is offered to university archaeology departments.

We look forward to the rest of the fair!

DAKOTA HUNTER featured in Sunday Times

By Paul Ash THE DAKOTA HUNTER Sunday Times · 10 Jan 2016 ·

IT is a winter afternoon in 1970. I know it’s winter because the grass is brown and the Joburg sky is that wide, pale, cloudless blue and I can smell the dust in the air. am playing on the swing in the garden, wondering if I could get enough velocity to launch myself into prolonged flight when an aircraft drones slowly past overhead — a short, fat fuselage held aloft by long wings tapering gracefully to their tips — and the grumble of a pair of big piston engines splits the cool air. You never forget your first DC­3, says a man who has made tracking the Gooney Bird his life’s work.

I am four years old and I have just seen my first Dakota. You always remember your first Dakota. It is 1951 in the garden of a Dutch oilman’s house in southern Borneo and a four­year­old named Hans Wiesman and his sister are playing on the swing in the garden. They are standing on the swing seat, face to face, gripping the ropes in their little hands, swinging higher and higher, when Hans — at the apex of the arc — lets go with one hand to scratch his nose. During the subsequent plunge to earth, he smacks his head on the swing’s steel pole and tears a chunk of flesh off his head. Our garden swing also taught my sister, my brother and me all about physics, specifically gravity and what happened when we let go of the ropes in our illconsidered attempts to “fly”.

But while these follies caused a few broken bones and teeth, we never had to be evacuated out of the steaming Borneo rainforest by Dakota. After being rushed to the local clinic, Where a doctor sewed up the gash in his head without anaesthetic, the next day Hans drove with his parents down a jungle road to the nearest airstrip, where they were picked up by “a shiny DC­3 Dakota that flew us over the jungle up north to the big hospital in Balikpapan”.

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It was Hans’s second time in a Dakota and it left an indelible impression which, in the convoluted way of life, would, decades later, lead him to the forgotten, miserable, heat­struck or frozen corners of the earth — the kinds of places where the Dakota thrives — as he hunted for pieces of wrecked and abandoned DC­ 3s. Hans, you see, has what by most accounts would be considered an odd profession — he acquires Dakota cockpits for collectors and museums, and he makes office desks from Dakota wing tips. Jolly fine desks they are too, all gleaming, polished aluminium and rivet heads that reflect light like water droplets, making them look, as he writes in his offbeat autobiography The Dakota Hunter, “like a pearl necklace stretched out on a mirror”.

It is work that dovetails neatly with his obsession with an aeroplane that not only changed the face of commercial aviation but, 80 years after the prototype first flew, is still earning its keep in some of the world’s less­genteel places. THE Douglas Commercial 3 was the child of Donald Douglas, owner of the Douglas Aircraft Company, who was under pressure from airlines to build a fast, tough aeroplane that would let them make money carrying passengers without having to rely on government mail subsidies to make ends meet. That aeroplane was the DC­3

. On December 17 1935, the company test pilot fired up the two big radial engines on the shiny new bird and rumbled off into the blue. The plane could sleep 16 passengers in liedown berths, but the eighth aircraft off the production line had 21 seats instead of bunks and was given the designation DC­3, and history was made. By the end of the 1930s, the DC3 had pioneered air routes all over the world. It was fast and tough, had a useful range and could take off from short, rough airstrips. Douglas sold hundreds of them. Somewhere along the way, the “DC­3” was dubbed the “Dakota”, perhaps by an overeager journalist struggling for a more colourful name. It stuck. When the war came, Douglas built a strengthened floor and double cargo doors for the DC­3 and called it the C­47 — a skytruck that could haul 28 paratroopers in battle kit, or a Jeep and a towed artillery piece, or three tons of ammunition, and it could do this while towing a glider carrying another 14 troops or a Jeep.

By 1946, 10 680 DC­3s and C47s had been built, plus another 5 500 built under licence in Russia and Japan. Hans reckons 900 Dakotas have survived into 2016. Some are wrecks, many are in museums, and a good few — 150 or so — are still flying. The Dakota has done everything. It has carried passengers in their cosy bunks on night flights across America. It has ferried royalty and film stars, rockers and generals. It has been a freighter, an air ambulance and a pretty lethal gunship. It has scoured Africa from 10 000 feet, looking for minerals, and rumbled along at 50 feet over the bush on tsetse fly­spraying missions. It has smuggled cigarettes, marijuana and cocaine. It flew pigs across Borneo. It has carried scientists over Antarctica and racehorses across the Caribbean. It has flown food to war zones in Berlin, Mozambique and Congo, and taken rich tourists on sightseeing expeditions over Africa and the Angel Falls, and roughnecks to the Yukon. That brutally tough wing and those thirsty but preternaturally reliable Pratt &; Whitney radial engines have ensured that, 80 years later, hundreds of Dakotas are still flying, although most will be “only” 70 years old, or thereabouts. Every day, somewhere in the world, a Dakota is doing what it does best — flying low and slow with a cargo of passengers and their stuff — diesel, timber, plastic barrels, cheap clothes, hammocks, cooking oil, dried fish, anything, in fact, that can fit through those double doors — heading to places few other aircraft can go. When its day is done, it might find salvation in a museum where it can rest on its tired wheels. Or it will sit in the jungle, or rot away, forgotten at the edge of some bustling airport, until one day someone comes along with aluminium cutters and chops it to pieces.

sundy times

If he has been lucky or persistent enough, Hans Wiesman will be on hand to get the wing tips. “I have a network of people who follow my blog,” says Hans. “They call me and say ‘Hey Hans, I know of this wrecked Dakota . . . ’ I check it out on Google Earth, then I make a short list of the five or six planes I want to see. Then I go.” HANS’S foray into wing tip desks was the result of a happy accident when a friend brought a wing tip he had found at a fair in Miami back to the Netherlands. They put the gleaming airfoil on a set of legs and realised they had . . . something. And Hans, whose Borneo childhood had sparked a lifelong passion for Dakotas, knew where he could get more — many more — wing tips. For the past 15 years, Hans has scoured the planet for old, wrecked and unwanted Dakotas, trawling the boondocks of South America, Asia, Africa and North America for forgotten planes. He has run the gauntlet of thieves, drug smugglers, con men and corrupt officials out to make a fast buck from an unwary Westerner, like the time in Thailand when he stumbled across a couple of ex­Royal Thai Air Force machines that were about to be dropped into the sea off Phuket to make an artificial reef. “These aircraft had flown in Vietnam as ‘Spooky’ gunships during the war,” he says. “I knew that if I could get my hands on one then, hey­hey, every museum in the US wanted a ‘Spooky’.” But the army was involved and lots of people wanted to make a few bucks on the side. “You get completely lost in a web of people who see you as the million­dollar baby,” says Hans. “Everybody jumps on you like flies.” In the end, Hans could not save any of the Spookys, or even get the wing tips. The aircraft took one last flight, gliding into the depths. The reef didn’t work either — someone forgot to anchor the Dakotas to the sea bed, and they flew away with the currents, off on their own adventure. It was a similar story in Madagascar, where he heard about five Dakotas rotting in an air base boneyard. “They were interesting planes,” he says. “One had flown with KLM, another had come from Indochina. It had flown to Dien Bien Phu during the French war in Vietnam.” Dien Bien Phu, the six­month siege in a remote valley in north Vietnam that cost the French their Indochine empire, is one of the Dakota’s great battle honours. For six months from November 1953, Dakotas dropped paratroopers and supplies to the valley, braving curtains of anti­aircraft fire to land on the strip to fetch the wounded. On the last day that they flew in to the embattled fortress, two Dakotas were shot down and their crews killed. One, flown by Captain Dartigues, was on its second run of the day — he had landed just after dawn and managed to sneak off under a rain of Viet Minh shells with a full load of wounded. On his second run, just after 10am, his luck ran out. “Later that evening,” writes Bernard Fall in Hell in a Very Small Place, his horrifying account of the battle, “one last transport aircraft, piloted by Captain Bourgereau, managed to land at Dien Bien Phu and to pick up 19 wounded who had been waiting anxiously in the drainage ditch near the airfield’s taxi stand. The plane took off in a rain of mortar shells. Its crew (which, like all the ambulance aircraft in Indochina, included a French Women’s Air Force nurse) did not know it but theirs was the last flight to take off safely from the fortress.” There was every chance that Captain Bourgereau’s Dakota was lying in the boneyard in Madagascar. “If I could find the last Dakota out of Dien Bien Phu, that would be a smash hit for any French museum,” says Hans. He started negotiating with the commander of the air base. “He said I could have these planes but he wanted a $250 000 Piper Navajo [a twin­engined light aircraft]. I went to see his boss, the minister of defence, who told me this guy was not allowed to deal with me at all.” Hans left the island emptyhanded. He fared better in Colombia — the last place in the world, he says, “where Dakotas still come in flocks” — and where once drugdealers and FARC rebels ruled. The US­trained military is well­disciplined, the big drug cartels have been smashed and the FARC rebel movement has lost its muscle. The jungle provinces are now open for business and there is lots of work for Dakotas, the world’s best bush plane. Still, it takes time to do business in Colombia, what with the DEA watching over everything like a hawk. Hans laughs. “It took me two years to get a container out of the country because everybody thinks ‘this guy is coming to Colombia for old aircraft parts? You must be kidding!’ ” In 2016, Hans will continue hunting for old Dakotas, “not so much for furniture anymore”, he says, “because that is becoming awkward”.

Some time he would like to get back to the wreck he once visited in the Yukon, a crash site from which nothing has been taken. “What I saw in the Ruby Mountains is untouchable,” he says. “It was like the Titanic of crashed aircraft. You leave it intact because it’s a monument.”

The Dakota Hunter by Hans Wiesman is available on amazon.com for $28.22 (about R440). Kindle edition $15.38. See sundaytimes.co.za for a podcast about the legendary DC­3 and the people who flew her. HANS RECKONS 900 DAKOTAS HAVE  SURVIVED INTO 2016 SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD, A DAKOTA IS FLYING, LOW AND SLOW

By Paul Ash THE DAKOTA HUNTER Sunday Times · 10 Jan 2016 ·



Lincoln’s Bold Lion author gets in the holiday spirit

Author James Huffstodt had a great time at the Victorian Christmas event held Thursday and Friday, December 11-12, in Thomasville, Georgia. The parade, various chorale presentations, people in period costume, and other holiday entertainments attracted more than 12,000 people.

Ms. Rebekha Arwood, the manager of “The Book Shelf” in Thomasville, provided James with display space. Dressed as a Civil War veteran, James handed out pre sale flyers for “Lincoln’s Bold Lion”

Casemate’s Spring 2016 Catalog

Casemate Spring 2016 Catalog

Click cover above to view our new catalog!

We’re excited to announce that our Spring 2016 catalog is now available!

In this latest edition of our catalog, we are pleased to present an extraordinary selection of military history titles from Casemate Publishers as well as our distributed lines from around the world. Thanks to the expertise of our associated editorial teams, we are proud to consider this lineup of titles the best and most expansive we have seen yet.

We hope that this season’s line of releases will pique your interest as much as it has ours.

Casemate Advent Calendar Book Giveaway


This Christmas, we are setting up the Casemate Advent Calendar!

Follow us, retweet and reply to our giveaway post on twitter @casematepub to be entered into a daily drawing, with a free book being given away every day!

The winner will be randomly selected by the Casemate team and will be announced and contacted on Twitter for mailing information.

Good Luck and Happy Retweeting!



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