Friday, August 5, 2011



Note:  This is the last installment of the 1994 interview.  Following is a list of published books by Clay Blair or Clay and Joan Blair, incomplete, but which I hope to update, along with a short piece based on recent conversations with Joan Blair.
 - DP

PART VII  (Feb. 1994)

Q -  Do you have thoughts of any projects beyond this one?  
Clay -  But I wouldn’t like to talk about it.   I will tell you that we signed a contract for a new book.  

Q -  I was just curious whether you’re exhausted  after something like this, or if it reenergizes you when you finish a book?   Your not inclined to sit around, given your past record.

Clay -  Its fair to say I’m a Type-A workaholic. 
Joan -  Yes!

Clay -  And so you can see, we’re not apt to sit around and enjoy retirement.

Joan -  We can’t even go on vacation! 

Clay -  That’s not true.   Last year we went on vacation!  

Joan -  But we didn’t just sit around.  We had to be doing something. 

Clay – Last year we went down to Florida, and we didn’t do anything.

Joan -  Oh yes we did!  Every single day.  We interviewed people.

Clay -  That’s right, we did.   I can’t help that.

Q – What is your feeling about this book (U-boat book)?

You must feel good about it.  First of all, being done with it, but any thoughts as to how it might be received?    You said you’re pleased, not that it becomes the definitive work on U-boats in Atlantic submarine activities, but that there were interesting things you found out that might change the view point of history?  

Clay -  I think the battle of the Atlantic was an epic part of WWII.  No matter how you slice it, whether U-boats were effective or not.  It was a huge thing without precedent in all history that linked the battle, the number of ships on both sides, the incredible effort at scientific that otherwise went into both sides.   The back-and-forth, weapons, counter weapons, was immense.  

The wrong spin has been put on that battle, and so we’re putting a new spin on it.  It would be my belief and hope that nobody could write about this war again without taking our point of view.  Because it really is the first…what is it Joan?  The first what?   

Joan – Nobody has ever gone through the whole war, patrol by patrol with the U-boats, and looked at the whole thing, the whole war, and come up with reasons why this didn’t work or that didn’t work.  
Most books, it's “Gee whiz, this many U-boats went out and sank all these many ships, and this was how they did it."

Clay -   "Gee whiz!"  Is right.

There are two kinds of journalism I learned in school:  There’s Gee-whiz Journalism, and there’s Aw-shit Journalism.   And this is…Aw-shit!  

That’s the one thing I learned from that journalism professor.   

Now, I’ll give you an example.   I’ve been reading this book by David Halberstam who wrote The Best and the Brightest and a lot of other good books.  He did a book on the 50s.   He’s got a chapter on the Korean War.    And he has relied almost entirely on Ridgway’s Paratroopers for background on Ridgway and The Forgotten War, in his chapter notes where he’s citing sources. 

Q -  Are you looking forward to getting back into something, Joan?  Or are you looking forward to that vacation?

Joan – (Popping popcorn while Clay leaves room.) 

There’s no sense looking forward to a vacation, because there ain’t gonna be one! 
Q -  There are only a few minutes left (on tape).  Is there any type (statement) of an overview? 
You’ve done these defense books.  You’re a veteran of WWII.   Many, maybe all, of the subjects have been about WWII that you’ve written about ...

Clay -  The Korean War.

Q – Yes, and even that book had key players from WWII.

Clay – That’s true.

Q -  For the first time we now have a president (Clinton) who was not of that generation.    What sort of differences do you see in the future, a different generation certainly that was involved in WWII than we see today?   Any overall comments?

Clay -  I think when our generation was going off to war, we were definitely afraid that Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo were going to conquer the world.  And there was every expectation that they were going to do that. 

So when we Americans, our generation, got into the war, we thought we were fighting to save the world against a great peril.  We all went charging off like knights.  I call it a crusade.   It had this ‘All or Nothing’ feel about it, and this attitude spilled over into the Cold War.   In other words, our generation thinking, “Well, here we are again, back in another all-or-nothing deal with the communists, and if we don’t do this or do that, they’re going to take us over just like Hitler, Tojo or Mussolini might have.”  

And so our attitudes developed in WWII carried us into the Cold War, our generation, and so we said, in apocalyptic terms, its “either/or.”   You know, either they’re gonna win, or we’re gonna win.  But now, the Soviets have collapsed of their own mismanagement, I think more so than anything we did.   Since they collapsed, we don’t have this all-or-nothing threat.   I don’t see it anywhere.  

So I think the world goes into a whole new era of relations and history that your generation will take over without that all-or-nothing feeling, probably, so that on the one hand its wonderful not to have to face the possibility, real or imagined, that its all-or-nothing.  But then, on the other hand, that was a great organizing principle, this threat, and now it's disappeared, and I see a tendency that everybody seems to be floundering:    What are we doing?   What is the purpose in life?  What is the purpose of our country?  Should we be policing the world?  Bosnia, Somalia…what is it we’re supposed to be doing? 

And I think that fact, plus it’s radically, absolutely changing the complexion of the population of this country…the influx of Latins, Asians, and so forth…who are of a different mindset from, let’s say, the old establishment, and the changes that will ensue from democracy.   It’s going to fragment us further.

Q – Do you see people today of the same stature as Bradley, Ridgeway, or anyone else you want to cite?

 Clay -  No.  George C. Marshall, who was the head of the army in WWII, Eisenhower, Nimitz,  King - head of the Navy in WWII...  people of that stature, maybe its because they had epic jobs to perform, they assumed epic proportions in our mind. 

Q -   Certainly not Schwarzkopf, you wouldn’t put him on the same page as Bradley? (Schwarzkopf had been rumored to be considered for 5-star promotion following the first Gulf War).

Clay -  No, I would not. 
And the publicity machines are bigger now, and people achieve instant fame sooner.   Often undeserved.   No, I certainly wouldn’t.  I’d put him (Schwartzkopf) on par with a lot of division commanders in WWII, not army commanders.  
The changing democracy, the unsettled role that America should be playing in the world, I think it makes a very unsettling future for you people, your generation.

End - February 1994 Interview 



1.     The Atomic Submarine and Admiral Rickover (Henry Holt, 1954). 
A crusading biography which led to Rickover’s retention in the Navy.
2.     The Hydrogen Bomb, Clay Blair and David Shepley (David McKay, 1954).
The weapon and the policy debate between Teller and Oppenheimer.
3.     Beyond Courage (David McKay, 1955).
Tales of escape and evasion in Korea about Air Force pilots.
4.     Valley of the Shadow, by Major Ward Millar (ghosted by Clay Blair) (David
McKay, 1955).  A single escape and evasion tale told by an Air Force pilot in the Korean War.
5.     Nautilus 90 North, by Commander William R. Anderson and Clay Blair
(World, 1959).   Story of the Nautilus’ voyage beneath the North Pole. 
6.     Diving for Pleasure and Treasure (World, 1960).   Adventure tale of the
Discovery of a Spanish galleon wreck in Yucatan.
7.     Always Another Dawn, by Scott A. Crossfield and Clay Blair (World, 1960).
Autobiography of the first X-15 pilot with a history of all experimental aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base.
8.     The Voyage of the Nina II, by Robert Marx (ghosted by Clay Blair)
(World, 1963).  In the footsteps of Columbus with a replica of the Nina.
9.     The Board Room (E.P. Dutton, 1969).  A novel set in the magazine industry.
10. The Strange Case of James Earl Ray (Bantam, 1969).  Biography of Martin Luther King’s assassin.
11. The Archbishop (World, 1970).  A novel about the winds of change in the Catholic Church.
12. Pentagon Country  (McGraw-Hill, 1971).  A novel about a senior Navy captain
and his anti-war son.
13. Survive!  (Berkley, 1973).   Story of the Uruguayan rugby team that crashed in the Andes.
14.    Silent Victory:  The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan (J.B. Lippencott, 1975).  A definitive work.  A Main Selection of the History, Military and Playboy Book Clubs.
15.   The Search for J.F.K., by Clay and Joan Blair (Berkley, 1976).  A close biography of J.F.K.’s younger years, debunking the myths.
16.   MacArthur (Doubleday, 1977).  A biography.
17. Scuba! By clay and Joan Blair (Bantam, 1977).   An adventure novel set in the Bahamas.
18.    Combat Patrol  (Bantam, 1978).   An action-oriented condensed version of Silent Victory in paperback.
19.     Return from the River Kwai, by Clay and Joan Blair (Simon & Schuster, 1979).   Non-fiction account of what happened to the British and Australian POWs after they built the Burma-Thailand railroad. 
20.    Mission Tokyo Bay, by Clay and Joan Blair (Bantam, 1980).   World War II adventure novel about the submarine war.
21. Swordray’s First Three Patrols, by Clay and Joan Blair. (Bantam, 1980).  World War II adventure novel about the submarine war.
22. A General’s Life, by General of the Army Omar N. Bradley and Clay Blair (Simon & Schuster, 1983).   Bradley’s autobiography, enhanced by independent Blair research.
23. Ridgway’s Paratroopers (Dial, 1985).   A history of the American airborne in World War II.
24. Korea:  The Forgotten War  (times books, 1987).    A definitive work.
[Note:  List is current only through 1993]

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