On January 16, 1991, Lt. Comdr. Michael Scott Speicher launches from the USS Saratoga, one of 40 F/A-18 Hornets of which only 39 would return. Moments after an assault by an Iraqi MiG-25, Speicher's plane vanished in a fireball over the Baghdad desert. The next day, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell declared Speicher killed in action - the first casualty of the Gulf War.
Two months later, a Kuwaiti secret police colonel claimed he was in the same hospital as a captured American pilot. Over the years, evidence of Speicher's survival continued to emerge, and on January 10, 2001, Speicher was declared missing in action - the first time in history that a U.S. serviceman's status has been changed.
Tracking this explosive story for the past eight years, Yarsinske has interviewed top government and military officials, diplomats, pilots, informers, and Iraqi defectors. The result is a stunning true account of government denials and cover-ups that obscured an essential fact: Speicher actually survived. No One Left Behind takes us beyond the lies to unearth the truth of the pilot left behind.
© 2002 Amy Waters Yarsinske; (P) 2002 Listen & Live Audio, Inc.
"The entire production [has] a feeling of an overheard conversation between knowledgeable friends, adding a depth of believability and confidence that fancier, more melodramatic treatment might have weakened." (Publishers Weekly)
"It amounts to an extraordinary betrayal of the U.S. military's proud boast that 'no man is left behind.'" (The Times (London))
I was excited about starting this book, but I barely made it to the end. It reads like someone's history MA thesis. It's full of detail, that gets repeated many times before the end, but short on actual synthesis. It repeatedly insinuates conspiracy without ever actually accusing anyone. My father, a lifelong bureaucrat, always told me not to assume conspiracy when incompetence is a possible explanation. That pretty much summarizes my take on this episode in American history. I am fully prepared to believe that there were many incompetent bureaucrats involved, but the constant insinuation that everyone actively covered this up because they were afraid it would make them look bad doesn't ring true to me. And to make the book more disappointing, it ends before his body was discovered in 2009, the circumstances of which seem to pretty much disprove the author's thesis.
This book would have been better as a long piece in the New Yorker or some similar outlet. There just isn't enough here to make a compelling and interesting book. Hopefully someone will make an abridged version of it. You can get the whole story in a nutshell by reading the Wikipedia entry.
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