I've been a fan of Don Brown's military thrillers since his Navy Justice series. Enjoy meeting his latest protagonists ~ I think you are going to love them!
Over to you, Don:~
Lieutenant Commander Gunner McCormick, USN
Brief physical description
Mid to late 30s, salt-and-pepper hair, more pepper than salt. Athletic build, but not overly muscular. About six feet tall. U.S Naval Intelligence Officer.
Tom Cruise, with just a little more grey, and a bit taller.
Strengths and weaknesses
Strengths – Very smart. Patriotic. Determined to do the right thing. Dedicated to family and country.
Weaknesses - A bit of a riverboat gambler, almost to the point of self-destruction. Willing to try a personal mission that would jeopardize US security to find out about his missing grandfather.
Your inspiration for the character
I’ve written extensively about JAG officers in the first three novels of Zondervan’s Navy Justice Series. (TREASON, HOSTAGE and DEFIANCE).
In BLACK SEA AFFAIR (my fourth novel), and in MALACCA CONSPIRACY (my fifth), things started to shift from a JAG Emphasis. Aside from the fact that Zack Brewer, who is a JAG Officer, appeared in all five of those novels, In BLACK SEA AFFAIR, the real hero was a sub commander, Pete Miranda.
And in MALACCA CONSPIRACY, one of the secondary heroes was a US Navy Intelligence Officer named Bob Molster. In that novel, Molster’s work as an intel officer in analyzing oil price futures was integrated into his work as a military analyst and helped solve the MALACCA CONSPIRACY.
I decided I wanted to write a book about a Navy Intelligence Officer, and so my inspiration for Gunner started with the character of LCDR Bob Molster from MALACCA CONSPIRACY.
In fact, as I began the draft, I initially considered making Bob Molster my main protagonist. But then I decided that Bob was just a bit too bureaucratic, that his name did not contain a sufficient gravitas to carry the lead role. II wanted more of a swashbuckling, athletic type of Intel Officer driving the train. And thus, the birth of LCDR Gunner McCormick!
Gunner is a guy on a mission to find out what happened to his grandfather, who went missing at the battle of Chosin Reservoir some sixty years ago. Spurred by TOP SECRET intelligence reports he has seen that Americans were left behind alive in Korea, Gunner is prepared to risk his personal fortune, his military career, and his life to get some answers about the fate of his grandfather, who disappeared years before his birth.
Lieutenant Colonel John O. “Jackrabbit” Davenport, US Army (Retired).
Brief physical description
Mid to late 50s, crew cut, grey hair, athletic and muscular. About six feet tall. Wears tight, black t-shirts, even in freezing weather. Has a tattoo on his bulging bicep degrading to North Korea. An aging tough guy, who seems to get tougher with age.
Clint Eastwood. Think Dirty Harry with a crew cut about ten years older, and with a southern accent.
Strengths and weaknesses
Strengths – Special Ops Mastermind. One of the best sharpshooters ever in the U.S. Army. As a retired special forces guy living in South Korea, Jackrabbit Davenport is the guy you want to bring with you to a gunfight, especially if you are outnumbered.
Weaknesses - Jackrabbit Davenport, who married a Korean woman when he was assigned to Seoul while in the US Army, has a seething hatred for anything North Korean. This hatred is driven by the fact that his Korean wife was shot and killed by North Korean Guards in the Demilitarized Zone while on a humanitarian mission several years ago. His strong hatred of the North, this desire to shoot and kill anything North Korean, could compromise the safety and success of this mission.
Quirk (if any)
As a retired and highly-decorated Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, Jackrabbit is in fact highly-educated and briefed in special operation procedures, having served in deadly, covert operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Thailand and other parts of the globe. Having said that, he sometimes slips into sort of a Southern redneck type of dialogue, as if he has never taken an English class, as he sometimes longs for the good ole days as a deer hunter back in South Carolina. Your inspiration for the character
“Jackrabbit” Davenport is one of those characters who sort of “comes out of the blue” to a writer. While he is secondary to Gunner as the novel’s main protagonist, by the time I’d finished the manuscript, I think he had become my favorite character.
Jackrabbit evolved out of the idea that a naval intelligence officer (Gunner) would not be equipped to prosecute a commando mission on his own, and thus, would need someone with commando expertise on the team. So from this criteria, “Jackrabbit” Davenport was born.
Here’s an excerpt from the original manuscript, toward the beginning of the book, where Gunner is about to meet Jackrabbit for the first time. In this scene, just before the two of them meet, Gunner is reviewing some notes to remind himself of Jackrabbit’s qualifications for the job.
What about this Jackrabbit? Gunner pulled out a small piece of paper with notes on Davenport’s resume.
Special Forces. Green Beret. Multiple kills in Afghanistan and Iraq before transferring to South Korea. Met a Korean woman. Married her. She died. He stayed. Mercenary work in Myanmar and Thailand. Then back to South Korea—but for what?
So in Jackrabbit, we have a retired American special forces guy on the prospective commando team that will invade the North. But still, in addition to Gunner and Jackrabbit , the team needed tough-guy Korean to round it out in my opinion.
Enter Colonel Jung-Hoon Sohn.
Like Gunner and Jackrabbit, Jung-Hoon Sohn, a retired South Korean Special Forces officer, also has his personal axe to grind against the North Koreans.
Gunner’s Grandfather disappeared at Chosin and was never accounted for. Of course, as I just mentioned, Jackrabbit’s wife was shot by a North Korean guard. In Jung-Hoon’s case, his brother was shot and killed on a dangerous humanitarian mission to deliver bibles in the north and the help refugees escape.
So like Gunner and Jackrabbit, Jung-Hoon brings his own personal grudge to this mission. But that isn’t all he brings. Not only is he fluent in Korean – Jackrabbit is also –but his ethnic and racial features as a native Korean will help him blend in seamlessly in the North if the team makes it that far. He is also a pilot, a skill which will be invaluable to the plans for the mission. Like Jackrabbit, also brings special-forces expertise to the mission, which Gunner will need if he is to find an answer to the unsolved mystery about his missing grandfather.
Background to the story
Over 8000 Americans were missing or unaccounted for at the end of the Korean War in 1953. This is over four times as many as the approximately 1600 missing from our wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia combined! Bear in mind that the war in Southeast Asia lasted well over a decade, from the Kennedy Administration to the final fall of Saigon in the Ford Administration.
So we have 8200 missing from Korea over a three-year period, versus 1600 missing from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos over a twelve-year period.
Those numbers are unbelievable and are shocking to me.
What’s wrong with this picture? What happened to our Korean MIAs?
Our vets from the Vietnam era, finally, have gotten some of the overdue respect that they deserve. But incredibly, Korea is called the “Forgotten War,” and our Korean Vets never even got a memorial until 1995, over forty years after the signing of the Armistice.
By contrast, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington was completed in 1982, just seven years after the fall of Saigon.
Now the Vietnam Vets deserve all the accolades they’ve gotten and more. In fact, it’s a national travesty when you consider they were treated during the course of that war.
By the same token, the forgotten MIAs of Korea, in fact even calling Korea the “Forgotten War” is just as big a national tragedy as the inexcusable treatment heaped upon our brave Vietnam vets.
In fact, America has forgotten just what our troops did for Korea.
South Korea was a country that was suddenly and completely overrun by the surprise communist attack across the 38th parallel in June of 1950. Communist insurgents controlled the entire Korean Peninsula, with the exception of a small enclave of land surrounding the coastal South Korean City of Pusan, at the very bottom of the peninsula on the southeast.
But our boys, starting with a daring amphibious invasion at Inchon commanded by General MacArthur, cut off the head of the snake, and drove the communists out of the south, all the way to almost the Chinese border, until the Chinese started pouring south across the border in frigid winter conditions.
When the fighting ended three years later, South Korea, which today is one of the worlds’ greatest capitalist democracies, had survived and had in fact had been saved because of because of spilled American blood. The fact is, that is one of the greatest and most glorious triumphs of liberation in the history of the U.S. military.
But yet, it is swept into oblivion under such look-the-other-way phrases like a “UN Police Action” and “The Forgotten War.”
On top of that, over the years there have been numerous reports of live American POWs still in North Korea.
When the war ended, North Korea denied that it had any live American or South Korean prisoners. The United States denied that any POWs were still there.
But for nearly sixty years, dozens upon dozens of reports have surfaced of spottings of both American and South Korean POWs still in the north.
In 1996, the Eisenhower Presidential Library released previously classified documents revealing that in 1953, when the Korean War Ended, the US Government was aware of at least 900 Americans still being held by North Korea, which contradicted the U.S. Government’s position in 1953 that there were no such Americans in captivity in the North. This, in and of itself, is a travesty and a disservice to the truth.
Then, in 1998, two South Korean POWs from the Korean War escaped North Korea, directly refuting the North’s lie that it had no American or South Korean prisoners in its custody. About that same time, a senior Clinton Administration official handling the Korean POW/MIA issue resigned because so many reports of American POWs still alive could not be refuted.
Unfortunately, neither the Clinton Administration nor the administration of President George W. Bush pursued the issue meaningfully, and neither has the Obama Administration.
Reports of Americans alive in the North have surfaced as recently as 2006.
There is now absolutely no doubt, in my mind, as proven by documents released by the Eisenhower Presidential Library, that this country left Americans behind the lines in North Korea, and untruthfully denied that fact for many, many years.
There is also little question, in my mind, that at least some of those Americans lived for many years, forgotten and abandoned by their country.
Is it possible that some may still be alive?
Although it may be unlikely, yes, it is possible. We have not yet reached the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice, which will occur in 2013.
Any surviving Americans still left there would most likely be in their eighties. Perhaps unlikely, assuming the difficulty of surviving that long in harsher conditions, but certainly very possible.
At any rate, I’m very passionate about the sacrifice of our Korean Vets, and the missing plight of our over 8000 American MIAs there. It’s a horrible thing that this country has largely forgotten them, and I wrote this novel, in part, hoping that someone would read it, would remember them, and give some thought to the plight of missing Americans of Korea.
And maybe, just maybe, there’s still time to save a life.
Thanks for the spotlight and the history lesson, Don ~ Australian forces were part of this war, too, and I think feel similarly that it has become a forgotten war. Thanks for opening our eyes a little!