BOOK REVIEW by Jack Schlight
Smokey Joe and the General
This book, issued last month by Amazon, contains both a biography and an autobiography. The biography is the author's paeon to Gen. General John E Wood (Smokey Joe), his commander before and during the Second World War and confidant afterwards. During the war they served together in Liberia and in the 5th Army in Italy. Rowny emulated Wood, a brave and farsighted innovator who instilled pride and self-respect in his men and devised unusual approaches to solve difficult problems. The two remained close friends and corrrespondents even when separated and discussed professional issues until Wood"s death in 1963.
The autobiographical portion, the brunt of the volume, is a whirlwind tour of Rowny's long and impressive military career near or at the scene of many of the major military and diplomatic events and figures of the late twentieth century. During the police action in Korea he and two other officers planned the Inchon landing.
As the X Corps' logistics director he helped to rescue Marines trapped at the Chosen reservoir by arranging to drop an air bridge over a chasm. He also helped to save 100,00 North Korean civilians during the evacuation at Hungnam. Following tours at SHAPE and on the Joint Chiefs Rowny became the operations director for the 82nd Airborne Division.
While at the division he conceived of the idea of extending helicopter missions from their present use in medical evacuation and liaison to armed combat. In the face of widespread skepticism and some outright hostility throughout the military, he began what he calls his "nefarious" efforts to garner support by arranging for boards, testing equipment, and eventually, by 1963, personally introducing armed helicopters into the growing conflict in Vietnam.
The book ends without a discussion of his seven year tenure as the JCS military representative on the SALT and START negotiations with the Soviet Union which he earlier described in his book titled "It Takes One to Tango."
One of the Smokey book's strengths is Rowny's success in melding his personal life seamlessly into the narrative. Another is his incisive descriptions of the professional and personal characteristics of many of the generals with whom he worked - Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower and others. Both elements are illustrated with well chosen photogaphs.
Jack Schlight of the Flambeau Newletter, Fairfax, Virginia