My wife, Sarah, and I lived in charming New England for twenty enjoyable years, mostly around historic Boston. It was such a beautiful area that we sometimes miss it. Did we perhaps make a mistake by relocating to the South?
The other day we just happened to receive
the photo on the left from our good friend, Betsy Harper, who lives in Hamilton, MA.
Thank you, Betsy. We feel better already.
Meanwhile, spring has come to Saint Simons Island, Georgia, and I've moved my office back to the beach. Aaah, the life of a freelance writer!
In this season when new life is starting to bud, it's very fitting that I'm starting work on a very interesting new book. The author, Lee Ellis, is an Atlanta-based business consultant who spent five and a half years as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton. The life-and-death crucible of the North Vietnamese POW camps forged some of the most courageous acts of leadership in our nation's history.
In his forthcoming book, Lee uses riveting war stories as a springboard for highlighting some key leadership principles that can increase the success of any organization. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 1:
November 7, 1967, 4:00 p.m.- Captain Ken Fisher and I rolled our F-4C Phantom jet into a dive-bomb pass. As we swooped downward, our bird's turned-up wingtips, elevated tail, and deafening roar must have resembled a high-tech version of a prehistoric pterodactyl.
|Lt. Lee Ellis and his F-4 Phantom |
Tracers from the North Vietnamese antiaircraft artillery flashed by our canopy like giant Roman candles, their explosions encircling us with ominous puffs of gray and black smoke, each representing hundreds of shards of shrapnel designed to mortally wound our beautiful beast. It was combat as it has been for thousands of years, only updated with the latest technology.
Our mission was to destroy the guns that protected the Quang Khe ferry on Route A1A, the main thoroughfare for transporting war materials to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As our jet plunged toward the enemy at 500 miles an hour, the earth enlarged in our windscreen as if we were adjusting the zoom of a telephoto lens. It was an eyeball-to-eyeball stare-down, with each side expecting the other to die.
When you face enemy fire, you're at the point of the sword. Ken and I knew the sword of combat cuts both ways; we had lost three close friends in similar situations in the prior two months. As we released our bombs, our lightened plane lurched upward. Suddenly, an explosion rocked our aircraft, shattering it into three large pieces that went flailing and tumbling through the sky. Fortunately, our intact cockpit was one of them.
|F-4 on runway in Danang. Lee is in the second seat. |
In the cockpit, the noise of the plane coming apart reverberated like marbles in a blender, a sickening sound to any pilot. The control stick was frozen full aft right, and smoke was quickly filling the cockpit. Just before bomb release we had been at 5,000 feet and descending rapidly. Now the aircraft was on fire and tumbling out of control. I had only one option: EJECT. But that was impossible! My head was pushed against the top of the canopy, which meant we were in negative Gs. If I ejected while I was floating instead of seated, I could suffer severe injury, even death. But time was running out; we were at the margin of the ejection envelope.
Suddenly the aircraft flipped again, and I felt the pressure of the seat. Positive Gs! It was now or never. I sat upright and pulled the ejection handle. An explosive charge fired, blowing away the canopy. I was blasted free of the aircraft, still strapped in my seat, at an acceleration force eighteen times the force of gravity (18 Gs), like a carnival stunt artist shot from a cannon.
If this expensive, one-time-use Martin-Baker ejection system was going to save my life, it would now have to flawlessly execute a remarkably complex series of events. A half-second later, the man-seat separator worked as advertised, firing a blast of compressed air to open the lap-belt connecting pin, freeing me from the heavy seat. Then the appropriately named "butt snapper" - a folded nylon belt under the seat - mechanically snapped tight, thrusting me into space. As the ejection seat moved away, it pulled out the still-attached D-Ring, deploying my parachute. My aircraft's marvelously engineered James Bond-like escape system had snatched me from the jaws of death in less than two seconds.
But much like Bond's adventures, escape from one danger only brought another. I had ejected from the womb of the F-4 into a very unfriendly world. Hanging in the parachute without my shell of protection, I felt naked. Gunfire cracked below and bullets whizzed past me.
|Consultant Lee Ellis in his office|
Sorry reader, but I have to cut this story short for lack of space.
However, you can read the entire book when it comes out. Watch for the announcement in a future newsletter. Meanwhile, I want to thank Lee and others like him for risking their lives so we might be free. No one appreciates freedom more than a freelancer.
Now, I'd better get off this beach before I get a sunburn.