Category Archives: biographies

"I may not agree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

image(Click above to read the article)

Riots like this take me back to my younger days. It was 1964 and I was a young 20 yr. old sailor attending a Navy school at Mare Island CA (not far from Berkley). A group of us young sailors were talking in the barracks one night. I don’t recall the topic, but I do remember saying “I may not agree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” As I recall, there was general agreement among us about that statement.

I don’t recall knowing of a far distant country named Vietnam, nor do I recall a war going on over there — I don’t think any of us did. But soon enough, most of us were assigned to destroyers and found our way over to that war where we were faced with possibly having to make good on that cocky statement made in the barracks that night. And 1964 was a scant few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, so our youthful boasting was not done in a safe and protected vacuum like that campus just down the road.

But you know what? I ‘m sure most us believed it then and believe it now and would do the same now if able.

Don Johnson – February 2017

Sam Jankovich–A Butte Kid Does Well

C__Data_Users_DefApps_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_5838746a23c8d_imageSam's life 007

“ … I worked in the Leonard mine which was the turning point of my life. I was put in a tunnel and was scared to death. I thought for certain I would not get out alive. I came home and told Patty that if I had to work in the mine we were going to starve. … “

How did this young man, a hard rock miner from Butte Montana, rise from the depths of a mine tunnel to one day stand beside two Presidents and among two National Championship college football teams? From a dirty and dangerous mine to stand beside Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde and coaches of the caliber of Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson? How did this young man rise from that dark, cold mine shaft to become Chief executive Officer of the New England patriots? How did this man expand a football stadium in Pullman Washington from 24,000 to 39,000 seats – with no cost to the tax payer?

Sam Jankovich came to the surface of the Leonard mine and rose to the top of his chosen profession of athletics. From state championship teams in Butte — to assistant coaching at universities in Montana and Washington — to Athletic Director at Washington State and the University of Miami – to CEO of the Patriots. All along the way earning induction into the Halls of Fame of these institutions.

As the editor of Sam’s memoirs I learned the answers to these questions. Sentence by sentence – paragraph by paragraph – page by page – place to place. I found the answers in words like ‘character’, ‘loyalty’, ‘quality’ and ‘consistency’ bubbling up from the pages. I began to see the character of the man as golden threads woven through the fabric of his life and career. Part of the fabric and yet distinctly visible.

The story of Sam Jankovich is in these pages, but it is not a story of “I”. Rather, it seems subsumed and surrounded by the many stories of the “others” of Sam’s life. You will run across constantly recurring phrases as “… a wonderful man” “ … a wonderful person” “… a dear friend”, “a wonderful woman”

Sam Jankovich is one of the “old timers” I’ve become acquainted or reacquainted with in recent years. Others, along with their stories, have come to me from my US Navy past — some from that “Greatest Generation” of World War II, Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam. One of my Navy shipmates, and a friend, is a refugee from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and a three tour Vietnam veteran. Another is a Navy veteran of those many World War II sea-battles in the South Pacific — followed by infantry combat in that very brutal Korean War.

These folks who have lived such consequential lives, and have left behind recollections of their lives, deserve to be remembered. That is why I have become passionate in doing what I can to further those remembrances.

I hope you enjoy the story of one such consequential life – the life of Sam Jankovich.


(Click on the book cover below to find Sam)


Don Johnson – typoist and editor of Sam Jankovich

Immigration & Assimilation – A Hungarian Model

(Click on the image above for more)

[Note: Since this original post I’ve added another Hungarian refugee — Thomas Peterffy]

Immigration is much in the news these days, both here in the U.S. and in Europe, and a huge political football in both places with many violent crimes and sexual assaults being committed in countries such as Sweden and Germany (click on the links).

The United States from its inception is an immigrant nation, and as many of us can attest, our roots are in the forefathers who immigrated here whether in the present or in the distant past. For example, in my own home town of Butte Montana, a mining town that attracted people from all over the world, NO SMOKING signs in the mines were posted in 14 different languages.

The success or failure of a society such as ours tracks closely to the assimilation of those disparate immigrant people into the culture of the nation, and for the most part, this assimilation has been quite successful – often after much struggle as in the case of the Irish and the Italians. But through assimilation, each new immigrant population has entered into the fabric of America, and often with significant contributions.

The stories of refugees from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution provide inspiring stories of struggle, survival, perseverance and success. Some I have knowledge of provide a model of what immigration and assimilation should be:


(Click on the image above)

Adam von Dioszeghy  (Mr. von D – as he was known by his US Navy shipmates) is a survivor of the World War II battle of Budapest – a battle pitting the air forces of Great Britain and the United States, the German occupying army and the Soviet Red Army – all converging around the basement bomb shelter where seven year old Adam and his mother survive against this harrowing onslaught.

Surviving the war they suffered in the following years under the brutal oppression of Communist rule.

In 1956 young Adam became involved in the revolution and was twice wounded. The revolution was brutally squashed by the Red Army and Adam and his mother were marked for death and escaped in the dead of night to Austria with nothing but the clothes they were wearing and little usable cash.

Adam and his mother eventually made their way to Menlo Park California where Adam earned a degree from Stanford University. Mind you, that when the two of them first arrived in America they spoke no English.

Adam was then called up in the draft in the early years of the Vietnam War and joined the Navy and was commissioned an officer in the US Navy and assigned to the World War II Fletcher Class destroyer USS Porterfield where we served side by side at General Quarters and on the bridge during normal underway operations.

Following Navy service with three tours to Vietnam, Adam returned to Stanford where he earned a law degree and practiced as a trial lawyer for many years in Northern California.

I hooked up with Mr. von D again in recent months (Spring 2016) when I discovered him via the internet. Adam and his wife retired a few years back, and at his wife’s suggestion, have returned to live in and around Budapest once more – his wife was born and raised in Northern California.

Click on the book image above to read my review of his memoir as well as a link to the book – a wonderful and fascinating book.




Charlie —

Note: Out of respect of privacy concerns expressed by Charlie’s wife, and by Charlie as expressed by his wife, I have written this in an anonymous fashion using my own paraphrase for events described in Charlie’s written memoir.


Like Mr. von D — Charlie was a Hungarian refugee and experienced many of the same things in surviving WW-II as a young child … living under a brutal Communist regime … escaping a crushed revolution … and finally resettling and assimilating into the American culture. We met the widow of Charlie, a year ago, but never knew Charlie. She told a spellbinding story of how she and her husband met and married. I later asked if any of this had been written down. She responded by sending unpublished stories of their life together, including an extensive account of Charlie‘s life growing up in Hungary through WW-II, the oppression of the Communist years and his involvement in the revolution and subsequent escape to the West and the US.

Several episodes highlight the heritage of Charlie and the type of man that came to America in 1956:

First are his descriptions of his mother hiding Polish Jews from the Germans who were bent on the extermination of all Jews. His mother did this at the risk of her own life as well as the lives of her family.

Second is Charlie learning English in America by spending many hours in movie theaters, often watching the same movies over and over and with a dictionary and a pad and pencil at hand.

Another came about somewhat casually as we were visiting with Charlie’s wife at her home. I commented on the flag flying at the property entrance and visible from the front window. Yes, she said, Charlie always liked to have the American flag flying where he could see it. This to me was a great testimony of how this refugee from war and tyranny viewed his new home country.


I’ve read Charlie’s story, and it is indeed captivating and inspiring. I hope his wife has success in the future and publishes their story and shares it with many. The story is very well written – and from one who knew no English when he entered the US as a refugee — rest assured that Charlie assimilated into the American culture and became a productive citizen in his new country. It is an inspiring story of overcoming war, an oppressive government, revolution and crafting a new and successful life in a free society.


I knew Gabriel Harkay and worked with him at Cubic Corp back in the 1980s. He was quite a good civil engineer and worked many projects around the world building communications towers and facilities for our Tactical Aircrew Training System . I wish I had paid more attention to Gabe back then, but I do know that he was a refugee from the 1956 Hungarian revolution, and likely had experiences similar to others I have written about.

One project we worked together was a system for the Iranian Air Force in the late 1970s. We were scheduled to deploy to Iran to install the system in early 1980, and Gabe was in Tehran doing some preparatory work. The revolutionaries stormed the hotel where Gabe was staying, broke all of the liquor bottles in the first floor bar and set it all on fire, cutting off escape of guests in the rooms above.  Fortunately there was a construction tower adjacent to the hotel and guests were lifted from the roof of the burning hotel to the tower and to safety. So inadvertently Gabe Harkay was involved in his second revolution and survived both. Needless to say, we did not deploy the system to Iran.

I regret not having details of my friend Gabe’s life, and I’ve since found that Gabe has passed.


(Click on the image for more)

Andrew Grove was a Hungarian-born American businessman, engineer, author and a science pioneer in the semiconductor industry. He escaped from Communist-controlled Hungary at the age of 20 and moved to the United States where he finished his education. He was one of the founders and the CEO of Intel Corporation, helping transform the company into the world’s largest manufacturer of semiconductors.

When he was eight, the Nazis occupied Hungary and deported nearly 500,000 Jews to concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Its commandant, Rudolf Höss, said at his trial that he killed 400,000 Hungarian Jews in three months. To avoid being arrested, Grove and his mother took on false identities and were sheltered by friends. His father, however, was arrested and taken to an Eastern Labor Camp to do forced labor, and was reunited with his family after the war.

During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, when he was 20, he left his home and family and escaped across the border into Austria. Penniless and barely able to speak English, in 1957 he eventually made his way to the United States. He later changed his name to the anglicized, Andrew S. Grove. Grove summarized his first twenty years of life in Hungary in his memoirs:

“By the time I was twenty, I had lived through a Hungarian Fascist dictatorship, German military occupation, the Nazis’ “Final Solution,” the siege of Budapest by the Soviet Red Army, a period of chaotic democracy in the years immediately after the war, a variety of repressive Communist regimes, and a popular uprising that was put down at gunpoint where many young people were killed and countless others were interned. Some two hundred thousand Hungarians escaped to the West. I was one of them.”


I’ve just finished reading Mr. Grove’s story “Swimming Across” and like the others it is compelling and repeats the common experiences of these young boys and men through World War II, the Nazi occupation and holocaust remembrances (Grove was a Jew), the brutal Communist years culminating in the 1956 revolution and Russian occupation.

A part of Andy Grove’s story that stands out is the reception he received upon arrival in the United States. At every turn, it seems, Grove was kindly treated and helped in many small and large ways. Like finding a relative and housing in New York City. He was outfitted with new clothing replacing the clothes he wore for over a month during his escape from Hungary to a brief settlement in Vienna Austria, to a long train ride to Germany followed by a two week long ocean voyage to Brooklyn New York.

Grove had completed a fair amount of university education in chemistry while in Hungary, and in seeking to complete his goal of becoming a chemist, he was helped along the way to becoming a chemical engineer with interviews and scholarship aid at several New York schools.

And of course it is widely known that Andrew Grove was one of the small group of founders of Intel Corpo0ration, and was its CEO for many years.  (Source –Wikipedia)

Read now what Andy Grove says about his life in America:

“I have loved my life in the United States. The doors that the International Rescue Committee and Professor Schmidt opened for me were just the first of many. I went through graduate school on scholarships, got a fantastic job at Fairchild Semiconductor, the high flying company of its day, then participated in the founding of Intel, which in time has become the largest maker of semiconductors in the world. I rose to be its chief executive officer, a position I held for eleven years, until I stepped down from it in 1998; I continue as chairman today. I’ve continued to be amazed by the fact that as I progressed through school and my career, no one has ever resented my success on account of my being an immigrant.”


Here is another fascinating story I stumbled on:

Chance encounter in war-torn Hungary renewed 64 years later (click on he link)


Gabriel Pall   is yet another interesting and inspiring refugee from Hungary. An American B-24 bomber was forced to crash land in Hungary after a bombing mission. Bob Holcomb was the bombardier on that mission, and after the unplanned landing a group of young and curious Hungarian boys gathered around the aircraft and its crew. Among the boys was Gabriel Pall who spoke a little English, and the two struck up a very brief friendship.

Like other local children, young Gabriel was drawn to the U.S. airmen like a magnet.

Holcomb had some candy in his pockets and gave some to the young boy, told him his name and said ‘If you ever get to America … look me up’

Mr. Pall did come to the States — in 1957 following the 1956 revolution, and like the others I’ve found, assimilated into the American culture and led a productive and quite remarkable professional life.

And Mr. Pall was tenacious in finding his American of years past and he and Mr. Holcomb met again after a long 64 years. For Pall, their meeting left a lasting impression as evidenced by the tenacity in which he searched those many decades for his American flyboy friend.

“I remember two things,” Pall said. “One, he gave me Wrigley’s chewing gum. And two, he said, ‘Hey, kid – if you ever get to America, look me up.’”

Holcomb and the rest of his bomber crew made their way to Budapest and then back to Italy … and finally back home to America.

Pall escaped from Soviet-dominated Hungary in 1956 to start a new life in America.

Gabriel Pall with his wife, Christine Rose, left, and their daughter, Laura Rose, at Laura’s graduation from the University of Virginia.

Pall grew up under the Soviet-backed communist regime in Hungary. His family moved to Budapest, where he attended high school and enrolled in college to study civil engineering. In 1956, he graduated from the Technical University of Budapest. He went to work for the government, designing state rail and highway projects, and began training as a reserve officer with the Hungarian army corps of engineers.

Then came Oct. 23 that year, and the Hungarian Revolution. After a brief, heady taste of independence, the Soviet armored divisions rolled across the border and crushed the rebellion.

Hungary’s Stalinist government had been repressive before the uprising, Pall said, but now, he knew, it would be even worse. He and his fiancée, Agnes Szabo, decided they would try to get out.

On Nov. 23, the couple left Budapest by train for Szombathely, only 20 miles from Austria and freedom. But the railroad station was surrounded by Soviet troops and local militias, checking identity papers and arresting anyone without a residency permit.

They were trapped.

A local resident warned them of armed Soviet patrols and showed them where to hide, promising to send a guide after nightfall. The man showed up as promised and took them to a house at the edge of town, where a small group of refugees was waiting to cross into Austria.

They walked several miles across open fields, not speaking, wrapped in bed sheets to blend into the snow-covered countryside. When they arrived at the frontier, they found it guarded by barbed wire and landmines.

Using knitting needles to probe the ground, Pall and the guide painstakingly marked a safe path through the minefield. As the group began to cross, flares lit up the night and machinegun fire shredded the silence. The guide ordered everyone to drop to the ground.

They were lucky. The border guards hadn’t seen them – they were shooting at someone else. After the gunfire stopped, they completed their journey into Austria, where they found safe haven at a place called Lutzmannsburg.

Later, they learned that another group of refugees had been gunned down by a patrol a mile or two from their crossing point.

‘If you ever get to America …’

Gabriel Pall and Agnes Szabo found a warm welcome in Austria, and the couple got married in Vienna on Dec. 27, 1956. But Pall never intended to stay there forever.

I had this destination, which was to come to America,” he said.

He had an uncle in the States and, he thought, a friend in Oregon – that dashing young flyboy he had met during the war.

The next year, under an Eisenhower-era program designed to recruit engineering talent fleeing Soviet-bloc countries, the couple secured a visa and crossed the pond.

They settled in Philadelphia, where Pall began a long and successful career with IBM. He rose through the corporate ranks, taking ever more challenging assignments with the company. In 1983, Agnes died of cancer. Pall remarried, and his new wife gave birth to a daughter. He retired from IBM, did some consulting, then accepted a faculty position at the College of William & Mary.

Gabriel Pall:  Some Background Information

·  Member American Society of Civil Engineers

·  Member Association for Computing Machinery.

·  Member American Society for Quality

·  Member American Society for Training and Development


· BS degree
Structural Engineering
Technical University of Budapest

· MS degree
Engineering Mechanics
University of Pennsylvania

A fitting conclusion to this story of Gabriel Pall is the following news article:

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., March 11, 2014 – A Citizenship Ceremony for children of recently naturalized United States citizens will be held on Saturday, March 22, at Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia. The event is hosted by the Williamsburg Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation in partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security.


Fifty young people ages 11 to 25 from 26 countries – Belarus, Benin, Canada, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Lithuania, Mauritius, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Sudan, United Kingdom, Ukraine and Vietnam – will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and receive formal acknowledgement of their citizenship. The ceremony begins at 2 p.m. and is open to the public on a space-available basis.

“We are proud to join with the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and USCIS to sponsor this truly special ceremony for a third year,” said Jane M. Stewart, regent for the Williamsburg Chapter NSDAR, which co-sponsors two adult naturalization ceremonies annually in June and December with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “It’s appropriate to hold it at Jamestown Settlement, near where some of the very first immigrants to our country came ashore.”

Featured speaker for the event is Williamsburg resident Gabriel A. Pall, an internationally recognized author and management consultant. A native of Hungary, he escaped to Austria during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, immigrated to the United States the following year and became a naturalized citizen in 1962. After a 30-year career with IBM, he retired as an executive and later became president of Juran International Inc., a global consulting firm specializing in quality management. More recently, Mr. Pall has consulted on project and process management with the College of William and Mary.


Finally, read this snippet from an article from a Hungarian organization in Cleveland where many of the refugees, including Charlie, lived for a time before moving on.

“ … These refugees were markedly different from any previous wave of Hungarian immigrants. First of all, they were the youngest group; many were single. The majority had some kind of technical training and their skills were readily employed by American industry. Psychologically, immigration made lasting impressions on these refugees. For eleven years they experienced life under economic depravity and political terror. As a direct consequence, their interests in America were more materialistic and self-centered; cultural or group attachments were much weaker when compared to those of previous waves of immigrants. They adjusted with greater ease, learned English in a short while, with many of them marrying English-speaking mates. Their contributions to their adopted homeland were numerous. … “

I am inspired by these stories, and hope you are as well.  I also hope you will agree that these Hungarians represent the best possible model of immigration and assimilation.

And note that these Hungarian refugees were gathered together at an Army base in New Jersey and vetted prior to release into the general American populace – for several reasons:

· Among the refugees were plants from the Soviet Union, plants whose missions included espionage against the United States, and assassinations against fellow refugees. Charlie, in his memoir, tells of the many years he spent in looking over his shoulder for that would be assassin.

· 1956 being at the height of the Cold War, the US was interested in conditions behind the Iron Curtain. These Hungarian refugees were interrogated in order to extract as much useful information as possible. Some such as Andrew Grove were educated in the sciences and engineering, and could provide insight into the scientific and engineering maturity and capabilities of the Soviet Union. The average age of refugees was 23, including many children, well educated (from one university 500 students, 32 professors, and their families fled), and talented (including musicians, athletes, writers, engineers and other professionals) people come through swamps and guards to reach non-communist Austria. The Austrian people were exemplary in their welcome of the Hungarian refugees.


But let’s not leave this story just yet – there’s more.

The nation that welcomed these refugees is a big part of the story. A story that begins with the words  from our Declaration of Independence “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.“ and from our Constitution beginning with the words “We the People …

It is these ideals enshrined from the very beginning in the very fabric of America that afforded these refugees the liberty and opportunity to begin new lives – lives to be lived not under the yoke of kings, queens, emperors, dictators, bishops, czars or other autocrats. No, these new American citizens would rise or fall primarily on their own merits … and also with the benevolent help of other free citizens and the governments freely elected by free men and women. Was it easy? No. But there were no machineguns, tanks or minefields set up to dictate their every thought or movement.

These 35,000 or more freedom seeking Hungarians sought out and made new lives in that “Exceptional Nation” the United States of America.



(The following bio information is taken from Wikipedia with {Publius edits in this font})

Thomas Peterffy was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1944, in a hospital basement during a Russian air raid.[1][6] He left his engineering studies and emigrated to the United States as a refugee in 1965.[1][6][7] When he moved to New York City, he did not speak English. He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from Clark University.[8]  

{Note that Peterffy came out of Hungary much later than the others I’ve highlighted. However, he did live under the oppression of Communism in Hungary and escaped from it.}

Peterffy began his career in the US as an architectural draftsman working on highway projects for an engineering firm. It was at this firm that he volunteered to program a newly-purchased computer, ultimately shaping the course of his future. Of his background in programming Peterffy said, “I think the way a CEO runs his company is a reflection of his background. Business is a collection of processes, and my job is to automate those processes so that they can be done with the greatest amount of efficiency.”[1][6]

Peterffy left his career designing financial modelling software and bought a seat on the American Stock Exchange to trade equity options. During his career in finance, he has consistently pushed to replace manual processes with more efficient automated ones. He would write code in his head during the trading day and then apply his ideas to computerized trading models after hours. Peterffy created a major stir among traders by introducing handheld computers onto the trading floor in the early 1980s.[1][6] His business related to his AMEX seat eventually developed into Interactive Brokers.[1][6]

Regulatory influence and political views

In 1999, Peterffy was influential in persuading the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that US options markets could be linked electronically, which would ensure that investors receive the best possible options prices.[9] He has also testified before the United States Senate Banking Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment about adding banking regulations.[1]

During the 2012 United States presidential campaign, Peterffy created political ads in support of the Republican Party. Peterffy bought millions of dollars of air time on networks such as CNN, CNBC, and Bloomberg. The ads consisted of a minute-long spot narrated by Peterffy that warned against creeping socialism in the United States. The ads were considered remarkable in part because Peterffy is not a candidate and did not buy the ads through a “527 group” but instead paid for them directly.[10]

In the spot Peterffy said, “America’s wealth comes from the efforts of people striving for success. Take away their incentive with badmouthing success and you take away the wealth that helps us take care of the needy. Yes, in socialism the rich will be poorer — but the poor will also be poorer. People will lose interest in really working hard and creating jobs.” Peterffy did not directly mention Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, but clearly favored the former.[11]

Peterffy’s ad received mixed responses. Joshua Green, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek, said “The ad, while slightly ridiculous, is deeply sincere and also quite affecting”. Green also asked Peterffy whether the comparison between the United States and Hungary made in the ad was a fair one: “[Peterffy] couldn’t really think that the U.S. was turning into socialist Hungary, could he? The government isn’t suppressing speech and throwing political opponents in jail. No, he conceded, it wasn’t. But it sure feels like that’s the path we’re on”.[12] Politico reported that the ad was “being hailed as one of the best spots this election cycle”, and said that it could have been influential in Ohio due to its large Hungarian population.[13]

Voter registration records in Connecticut show that Peterffy is registered as an independent voter.[10] Campaign contribution records show that he donated at least $60,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2011 and that over the past few years has mostly donated to Republican candidates.[11]

During the 2016 presidential election, Peterffy donated $100,000 to the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump.[14]


Hungarians know things that others in the West have only read about. They know oppression and tyranny.

Many, though certainly not all, within todays new refugees from the Middle East are merely transplanting their tyranny to new locations – but it doesn’t take many to wreak havoc as seen recently in many European nations and in the United States as well.

Read “The Bridge at Andau” by James Michener, a work of non-fiction. Yes, the Hungarians were refugees themselves and others in Europe welcomed them and many came to America. The Hungarians did not bring with them a murderous attitude to all who were not Hungarians. They did not bring with them a hatred of those who gave them shelter. They did not attack women, priests, nightclubs or newspapers. They did not fly large airplanes into large buildings nor drive trucks down the streets mowing people down. They did not behead others in the land that gave them sanctuary. They did not set off bombs at large sporting events or in shopping malls.

The Hungarian refugees of 1956-57 sought to escape oppression and avail themselves of the opportunities offered by free societies. And many have contributed in positive ways as shown by the handful I have highlighted above.

Many of the un-vetted new refugees in Europe and the US want to spread oppression and destabilize rather than contribute to their host nations in positive ways.

If we are to remain a culture valuing liberty and opportunity, and a culture gleaning the best that foreign immigrants have to offer, while providing sanctuary to those fleeing oppression,  let us return to the Hungarian model. The high bar set by the Hungarians in the mid 1950s has been dramatically and deliberately lowered in recent years in the name of political expediency. We lower the bar at our own peril and risk a fundamental transformation of our nation.

Immigration – yes, but with great care in culling out those who mean harm.

Don Johnson – July 2016

Crass Capitalist Marketing Campaign – Part 1

You’ve seen Springsteen’s memoir — look at mine, it’s more interesting — see below.


It’s time for a crass Capitalist marketing  campaign – meaning I’m trying to sell a few of my books here. So take a look and if you see something you like, buy 40 or 50 copies to give away to your friends and relatives — or at least one for  yourself.

They’re really good.

First watch the following video which is a companion to the book which follows:

Life at sea

And here is the book:


Then there is this dystopian short story I wrote a few years back.


And now along with Bruce Springsteen,  I’ve written my own memoir:



Bridging Two Worlds: a book review


I’ve been reading the memoir of my old USS Porterfield shipmate and new friend Adam von Dioszeghy. Well I’ve just finished it and would like to share with you a bit about that remarkable story.

I’ve read many books over the years, and many have been biographical and some autobiographical. This one is among the best, if not the best I’ve read, and certainly the most captivating. The man’s story is almost beyond belief, and I am thrilled to have known him back in 1965-66 if ever so briefly and casually. And now to know him so much more intimately, albeit via the book and e-mails back and forth, brings a deep satisfaction.

The man begins life in 1938 as a Hungarian aristocrat – a Baron – the ruling class. But at 7 years of age everything is stripped away except for his mother — herself a Baroness – by World War II. Adam describes those war years vividly and with much passion, but also with a fair amount of humor.

Life after the war, under Communism is brutal for Adam and his mother, mainly because of his mother’s previous station in life as an aristocrat. Here is how he describes the treatment of his mother in those Communist years:

“ … she … was stripped of all human dignity common to even the lowest of beings. The authorities treated her worse than if she was a leper or a person afflicted with the foulest of communicable diseases, or possibly a criminal. There were only certain places – and not very desirable ones – where she was allowed to live. … Day in and day out, in every conceivable circumstance, it was made known to her that her very existence was bothersome to the “state,” and the sooner she could depart this vale of tears for better climes the better. … “

In Adam’s late teen years as a university student he becomes involved in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and is twice wounded. Now a wanted man and marked for death, he and his mother escape on foot to Austria with nothing but the clothes on their back.

Within a few short years they wind up in St. Louis and then on to Northern California where Adam gets a bachelors degree from Stanford University. (Mind you, when he and his mom arrived in the US, they spoke no English.) This was a year after the beginning of the Vietnam War, and Adam was drafted. But rather than let the draft play out, Adam joined the Navy and was commissioned an Ensign at Newport Rhode Island. He was then assigned to the USS Porterfield (DD-682) where he and I served together including one tour to Vietnam (he did three).

Following his Navy service, Adam returned to Stanford where he earned a law degree and began a 35 year career as a trail lawyer.

Just a note here that his book is full of very insightful and often humorous experiences as he (and his mom) navigate through this new country of theirs.

Following retirement the von Dioszeghys moved to Hungary where they have a flat in Budapest and a small 7 acre country estate where they grow grapes and make wine.

Adam closes the book by revisiting his heritage and discovering more about his father and his service in World War I, and how as a respected leader strived to return order and dignity to the now defeated and very fragmented nation. He also described a visit and tour to the Parliament building in Budapest, and to a very elegant meeting room where his grandfather sat and spoke nearly 100 years prior. Had life turned a different direction, Adam would have sat in that same seat years later.

And remember his description of how his mother was treated by the Communists? Now standing outside the Parliament with his wife Aliz, Adam reflects on one of the menial jobs his mother was allowed to have – chipping marble stones used in the reconstruction of that magnificent but badly war damaged Parliament building — chipping stones for long hours in all kinds of weather as if a slave in the service of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

And I close by pointing out the irony of two immigrants, Adam and his wife Aliz, each choosing citizenship in new nations – he as a US citizen and her as a Hungarian citizen, while at the same time retaining citizenship in their respective old-countries.

Don Johnson – March 2016

A Life Well Lived —

Here’s a story of a life well lived – a story of a man I am proud to have met in recent years – a story of a man who calls me “shipmate” and who I call friend.

Gene Beckstrom served aboard the USS Porterfield (DD-682) from 1943 – 1946, in the thick and heat of the South Pacific sea battles against the formidable Japanese fleet.  I served on that same ship in 1965-1966, including a tour to the waters off Vietnam where we provided Naval Gun Fire Support to the soldiers and Marines on shore. 

C lick on each page below and read Gene’s story  —-  and enjoy:






Don Johnson – July 2015

JFK, Conservative: A book review

JFK, Conservative.

image A Conservative? A Tea Party Conservative? A Ronald Reagan precursor? A Liberal?

I’ve always resisted the urge to rank John F. Kennedy among the presidents, either among the best or worst, and always placed him somewhere in the muddled middle. My rationale was that he didn’t serve long enough to accumulate the gravitas needed to place him. I’ve been wrong, and this book by Ira Stoll now allows me to fill in much of what I had been missing all these years about the life and times of a man I am now willing to place in the upper ranks of American presidential greatness.

Let me begin by summarizing the world of the early 1960s, and the world in which John Kennedy became President of the United States – and the world in which I was becoming of age as an adult:

The freedom of West Berlin had been threatened by a Soviet ultimatum, backed by boasts of medium-range ballistic missiles targeted on Western Europe. The existence of South Vietnam had been menaced by a campaign of guerrilla tactics and terror planned and supported by the Communist regime in Hanoi. The independence of Laos had been endangered by pro-Communist insurgent forces … The Russian and Chinese Communists had competed for a central African base in Ghana, in Guinea, in Mali and particularly in the chaotic Congo. The Russians had obtained a base in the Western Hemisphere through Fidel Castro’s takeover in Cuba and his campaign to subvert Latin America. Red China was busy building it’s own Afro-Asian collection of client states and its own atomic bomb.  (Theodore Sorensen’s book  Kennedy – 1965)

Pretty scary times.

In reading Stoll’s account, I found myself walking down a path of surprising reactions and revelations:

  • The man was indeed a legitimate war hero as the account of his PT-109 exploits show – not in his valor and bravery in battle, but in how he reacted to save lives among his crew following the collision with a Japanese destroyer.
  • The man was a indeed a conservative as Stoll documents so well.
  • The man seems much like a modern Tea Party kind of guy.
  • The man truly believed in the rights of the individual man over the tyranny of the state.
  • The man was a deeply religious man, and held a high opinion as to America’s place in the world – quoting John Winthrop, he said in 1974: “We will be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.”
  • Kennedy projected a posture of: economic growth, limited government and peace through strength.
  • The man was strongly anti-Communist in both his speech and actions – witness Berlin and the Cuban missile crisis. But it wasn’t an anti-Communism as just opposing a differing political and economic system. No – Kennedy was genuinely repulsed by the staggering abuses of humanity this atheistic world view  was imposing on the world – especially its own citizens, and the threat it represented to free and independent people around the world.
  • The man seems a pre-cursor to Ronald Reagan.
  • Kennedy, politically and economically, was well to the right of most of his successors, including: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and most certainly Barack Obama.
  • The man, at his core, comes across as a genuine American patriot.

I first became acquainted with JFK while taking an economics course my first year of college at the Montana School of Mines in the 1962-63 school year.  The Kennedy economic policies and ideas matched very nicely time-wise, with the course, and we studied them. Somewhere in my archives, I believe I still have my notes from those studies – I’ll have to find them some day and review what I was learning then. But I do remember the impact his economic policies had in the 1960s, and I match those policies and successes with the similar policies of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

But then life happened.

I left school … married … was drafted but joined the Navy; LBJ became president and I was off to the war in Vietnam – started and strongly advocated by Kennedy and escalated sharply by Johnson and Nixon. So my thoughts of Kennedy went dormant for many years, and I guess I mildly bought into the notion he was just another “Liberal.”

In the past dozen or so years I have been playing catch-up in my knowledge of American Presidents and founders. I’ve read and learned a great deal about Hamilton, Madison, Lincoln, Reagan, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Truman – and yes, even filled in a dearth of knowledge of the greatest of all … George Washington.

Now I am pleased to report a rekindled interest in and knowledge of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And I hope you will join me in that interest.

Don Johnson – December 2013

James Madison on Barack Obama, Obamacare, Dodd Frank, and Foreign Policy

I recently received an e-mail from a friend talking about: the title of this post. I responded to Jack’s article thus:

Thanks Jack. Over the years I have studied the Federalist Papers and the folks who wrote them; in particular Hamilton. Yes indeed, they warned of the type of leaders we have today in the form of Barack Obama, and they wrote of how the Constitution was crafted to guard against such leaders. It would seem that few of the voting public learns of such men as Hamilton, Washington, Madison and others of that founding era.

(If another bust is put up on Mt. Rushmore, I would vote for Hamilton.)

Jack came back with:

Interesting, Don. I’d like to hear your case for Hamilton. I always distrusted him a bit as too much of an advocate for central government powers and taxation. He’s also the architect of the “sin tax” on whiskey that led to the Whiskey Rebellion. But maybe that is just my personal issue because I hail from Western Pennsylvania and enjoy a good snort every now and then.

And this is my response to Jack:

*  *  *  *

It’s been a number of years now since I read the great biography Hamilton by Ron Chernow – I actually read it twice. It was in this book that I discovered Hamilton, and a wealth of early American history; and though time has dimmed that discovery, there are some general themes that have stuck in my mind so let me see if I can recall some of them.

The man Hamilton came from humble beginnings as the bastard child of a father that abandoned the family when young Alexander was about 8 years old as I recall. But the young lad showed such worth and promise to the owner-manager of the sugar plantation in a mall Caribbean island that he sent the (by then teenager) to New York City for an education in hopes of him one day taking over the business.

Alexander arrived in NYC about the time of much agitation for independence and became involved in the rebel’s cause.

As the war began, Hamilton quickly came alongside General Washington, and as a young man (I think he was about 19 at the time) became one of Washington’s most trusted aides and advisors. Over the course of the war, Hamilton became Washington’s most trusted advisor.   So it impressed me that this man had the ear of the man many have called the indispensable man in American history.  Hamilton chaffed at being so closely tethered to Washington and longed to fight the battle on his own merits, but was rebuffed time and again by Washington. Eventually Washington relented and Hamilton was given his own military command and was a key participant in the final victory over the British general Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Following the war, Hamilton became somewhat of a successful business man, or lawyer, I can’t remember which, but kept his hand in the political world of the new nation as well.

When the Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia, Hamilton was there as a representative of New York. His contributions there were minimal as he was very much in a minority in that delegation and his efforts, ideas and votes were countered and marginalized by the other two NY delegates who had contrary opinions. His one speech of note left people with the impression that Hamilton favored a monarchial for of government, although I believe his subsequent work on the Federalist Papers and as Secretary of the Treasury belie that view of him though it tarnished his reputation in future years.

Similar to Madison who studied the rise and fall of republics throughout history, and came to the convention armed with much knowledge and history of various forms of political structures, Hamilton studied economic history and philosophy and came to the convention armed with much knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of  various economic schemes.

When George Washington was elected as the first president of the new nation he selected two prominent men to key positions in his administration; Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, and Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. The two men came into the Washington administration to quite different effect; Hamilton came prepared on day 1 with ideas, plans and staff and set off to structure the American financial and economic landscape according to those ideas and plans. His work was deep and long-lasting, and included setting up of import-export tariff structures, starting up the Coast Guard and a series of costal lighthouses. Among Hamilton’s chief, and most controversial accomplishments was in tackling the massive debt accumulated during the war. This plan made him plenty of enemies, but settled the debt issue and established the faith and credit of the new nation among foreign nations. I’m going to have to revisit his plan someday; the details escape me now, but are worth looking into.

Another of Hamilton’s successes was to counter Jefferson’s fascination with and inclination to side with the French as opposed to the British in foreign affairs. Hamilton made the point that the new American nation was more naturally inclined toward the British in terms of culture, historical heritage, trade and economic structures.

Jefferson’s entry into the Washington administration was quite different; he was months late getting started and came ill prepared with little staff, few ideas and an inclination towards the French in foreign affairs.

Throughout President Washington’s two terms in office, he once more relied heavily on Hamilton as his key advisor as he had done during the war, and there was a fair amount of friction between Hamilton and Jefferson. Washington, more often than not, sided with Hamilton, even in questions of foreign affairs.

I came away from the Chernow book with a great deal of admiration for Hamilton, and a great deal of disappointment with Jefferson. As well, I came away with a greater understanding and appreciation of Washington, the war, the problems with the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation. I’m just glad the Washington listened to Hamilton and not Jefferson. I’m not anti-Jefferson; it’s just that during this period he doesn’t appear to have acquitted himself well at all.

I might also point out that Hamilton and Washington fought an 8 year war while suffering often times from an ineffectual, weak and unsupportive Continental Congress. They both learned firsthand the necessity of a strong, but limited, central government.

Along with the Chernow book, I’ve read the Federalist Papers and several books about the Federalist and came away with just an awesome respect for Hamilton and Madison and their grasp of the nature of man and the nature of government. Would that more people these days study these ideas and issues that plague mankind in all eras.

In more recent years I’ve read another history on Hamilton and Jefferson; Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth by Stephen F. Knott. This history is a story of the feud between Hamilton and Jefferson that has persisted to modern times. Quite an interesting read. Another good read by Knott is Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics.

So there you have it. And thanks for prodding my memory, as dim as it is becoming.

An interesting aside to Jefferson and Hamilton: “We honor Jefferson,” columnist George Will once wryly observed, “but live in Hamilton’s country.”


Don Johnson – November 2013

Be Very … Very Careful Who You Vote For

What just one man can do.

I start this essay while touring the Eastern European countries of (East) Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Quite a beautiful tour, mostly on a Viking River Cruise ship on the river Elbe. A lot of history along the way, and if you will bear with me I’ll try to relate my observations from this tour with my political thinking regarding the future of the United States, and in particular the November 2012 elections.

Eastern Europe represents the confluence of three major flows and eras  of modern world history; actually two since two of the three I will talk about are essentially one and the same.

The three are: the German Nazi movement of the 1930’s and 1940’s; the Communist movement of the1920’s thru the 1980’s and into the early 1990s; the third flow is that of  the nations of the free world as represented by Great Britain and the Untied States who fought back against the tyranny of the Nazis and the Communists. The philosophical, political and economic roots of the first two eras emanating primarily from a singular man. Karl Marx

We can still see in Berlin:  the shadows … the results and remembrances of what just one man can do … the destruction that just one man can accomplish. We see it in the large Holocaust Memorial just across the street from our apartment; we see it in the Brandenburg Gate just around the corner, once severely damaged but now fully restored; we see it in the Reichstag just down the street, once  severely damaged by allied bombing and artillery but now fully restored; we see it in the remnants of the Berlin Wall that held so many captive for 30 years; we see it in the patched up bullet damage in buildings all around the city; we see it in the many written and pictorial reminders to German citizens of the darkness of their not so distant past.  Years ago on a different trip we saw the results of this one man while touring the infamous death camp of Dachau in Southern Germany.

Adolf Hitler was the man’s name .

Here in the former captive countries of the Soviet Union which we have visited, and further to the East throughout the Soviet empire we can study the results of another singular man, Joseph Stalin. And going further East we can study the results of another singular man, Chairman Mao Zedong of China and yet another singular man Pol Pot of Cambodia. It is estimated that over 100,000,000 (that´s 100 million) people died because of the ideologies and policies of these singular men.

Also during this trip I am reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a prominent German pastor who resisted Hitler and the Nazis and gave his life in that resistance in a failed assassination plot against the Fuehrer. This book, although the story of one extraordinary man, provides much insight into the rise of the Nazi government, and provides many warnings from the history of that dark and Satanic era.

While I don’t see an American president having such a catastrophic impact on world history, I do want to caution us on the fallacy that it couldn’t happen here. We have had our own dark history; the dark history of slavery and the resulting civil war it spawned resulting in the death of over six hundred thousand soldiers on both sides of that war. Even after the Civil war, racial hatred and its evil activities and policies existed far beyond the ending of the war. The potential for massive injury lurks just beneath the surface of any society, and is only constrained by transcendental means; a societal belief in a just God coupled with a governing structure such as our constitution which seeks to minimize the excess of government.

A common thread I see in the rise of such tyranny is captured in a phrase uttered by a prominent American politician several years ago … “Never let a serious crisis go to waste …”

Germany after World War I was in a serious state of crisis where the value of the Deutsche Mark fell from seventy-five to one in 1921 to forty billion to one just two years later in 1923. This crisis afforded the opportunity for the Nazi party under Adolf Hitler to rise to power.

Likewise in Russia, World War I devastated Russia giving rise to the revolution in 1917 and creating a crisis environment leading to the Communist regimes of Lenin, Stalin and those following. Not letting the serious crisis of 1917 go to waste resulted in the deaths of some one hundred million people during the reign of the Communist empires in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia and elsewhere.

But is catastrophic war the only form of massive damage that can come upon a nation, or emanate from a nation? I think not, and as I look at the building troubles ahead of our great nation I see potential for great peril:

  • I see a rising national debt that will kill off the hopes and dreams of future generations including those of my grandchildren, depriving them of the opportunities and freedoms previous generations and my own has experienced.
  • I see a rising national debt that will cripple the ability of the United States to protect and honor its commitments around the world, and cripple the ability to maintain important domestic needs.
  • I see a rising national debt that will turn the lights off in that Shining City on a Hill that has attracted so many from around the world to these shores of liberty and opportunity.
  • I see a President that is governing by Executive Order and bureaucratic regulation rather than laws passed and overseen by congress; he has made Congress irrelevant and obsolete, and thus has come perilously close to destroying our republican form of government with its checks and balances that protect our individual freedoms.
  • I see a President that is systematically weakening American influence around the world, especially in the volatile region from Pakistan westward to Tunisia. As Glenn Beck warned several years ago, we are facing an Islamic Caliphate extending from Pakistan westward across Africa and possibly into Europe. This Caliphate will be a continual threat to world peace much like Communism was in the previous century.
  • I see a President who is turning the back of America to Israel in spite of the Biblical injunction “I will bless those that bless you, and curse those who curse you” (speaking of Israel.)

This last concern is perhaps my most serious concern; America turning away from God. Such a turning away can result in any manner of trials and tribulations for a nation and its people; trials and tribulations that cannot be full realized untill it is too late.

Am I being overly pessimistic in my outlook? Do I want to risk the future of our republic with a vote for one who will not let a serious crisis go to waste?

Or will I trust one who values his faith in God and the American people and one who values the very foundational princilples which established this great republic in 1789?

Be very … very careful who you vote for in this and every election-