Category Archives: Navy

Yearning for Liberty–A New Book

Click to get your copy of this new book.


In Yearning for Liberty, the author explores various facets of Liberty. Relying heavily on first person accounts, history and some of his own personal experiences and friendships, Johnson examines a broad sweep of time and geography beginning with the Biblical Exodus; through the American Revolution; the American Civil War and the aftermath of the long struggle in gaining liberty for the freed slaves. Then modern-day events and nations are examined such as the Normandy invasion of World War II; the 1956 Hungarian Revolution; the fall of South Vietnam to the communist North, and the subsequent mass evacuation from Saigon. The stunning contrast between the two Koreas is highlighted.

Combining first person accounts with plenty of pictures, Johnson weaves an eye-opening story of what having liberty looks like – its value, as well as the grim reality of what the lack of liberty brings to nations, individuals and the world at large – its cost.

These first-person accounts are taken from sources such as: memoirs and diaries of French citizens experiencing the brutal Nazi occupation and the liberation at Normandy France; the story of a personal friend and US Navy shipmate – a World War II veteran at age 7 followed by years of oppression under communism, a twice wounded freedom fighter from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, a refugee to the US, and a Navy Vietnam veteran; soldiers and marines regaining freedom for captive Europeans; the story of a small Navy warship rescuing tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees.

Click to get your copy of this book.


The Greatest Generation: bitter-sweet


Sweet because I have had the high honor and privilege of knowing some of these men in recent years who have called me friend and shipmate.  Bitter in knowing the friendships would be short-lived.

The young men above are three of the “greatest”:  Bob Allard, Gene Beckstrom and I don’t know the third young man.  In September we lost Bob Allard, and then in mid-November we lost Gene Beckstrom.

I met Bob Allard briefly at a ship reunion in Denver, and that was a sweet experience. Gene and Bob served together on the Porterfield down in the fire-rooms, but hadn’t seen one another since 1946 and the end of the war. When Bob saw Gene, his countenance lit up and he shouted out “Beckstrom – where the hell have you been? I’ve been looking for you for years.” 

I was the mouse in the corner eaves-dropping on this wonderful reunion, and dared not intrude.

Bob gave the picture of the three shipmates to Gene who from that point on treasured it. The next year (2016) at the San Diego, Gene once more proudly brought out that picture. Gene’s son Bruce – also a Navy veteran – has the picture now.

I’ll greatly miss this man!


What is the legacy these men leave behind?

When these young man (Gene was 16), along with 10’s of thousands of others, entered the service the German war machine had overrun all of Western Europe, much of Northern Africa, were threatening Great Britain and had invaded the Soviet Union to the east. Germany’s ally Italy was part of the axis juggernaut. 

In the far-east, the Japanese military had brutally invaded Korea, China, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and were threatening New Zealand and Australia. 

So the task facing these young men was daunting indeed.

***  *** ***

What sort of world did these young men, and those who followed, leave behind?

A free Western Europe with representative constitutional governments and free market economies.

Communism was stopped with the former slave nations of Eastern Europe now living as part of the free world.  

The Soviet backed North Korean invasion of South Korea was stopped and South Korea is now a strong, free and successful nation.

Japan has been transformed into a modern free industrial nation.


Honoring the Flag


Sports stadiums and sports celebrities are getting top billing these days – but for the wrong reasons.

Perhaps contributing to this is that  a very small percentage – 1 or 2% – of the population are on active duty in the military these days. It’s easy to think that the national anthem is for the entertainment of sports fan and sports celebrities who can manipulate the national anthem and flag honoring as props for current Social Justice agendas.

But military folks – active duty, families and veterans – typically take a very much different view. I’m a Navy vet from the 1960s, so let me recall some of the protocol regarding the flag.

When out walking around base in the early morning hours toward the pier and “colors”  was heard, you stopped, stood at attention, and if in uniform you saluted in the direction of the raising flag. Likewise at the end of the day when the colors were “retired” and lowered, you stopped what you were  doing, turned towards the lowering flag and saluted. When boarding the ship we turned to the flag, saluted it and requested permission to board the ship. This is protocol and what is expected of  our military and civilians when on board a military base. 

Let me tell you about the four young sailors above – David Crabbe, Jim Devin, Dave Lesh and Frankie Paxton.

These four went through the daily protocol I described, and when it really mattered, put their commitment to the ultimate test. Following their deployment to Vietnam on the USS Porterfield, a US Navy destroyer, they were on the way home to San Diego. A typhoon delayed that trip when a shipmate lay badly injured on the deck, unconscious and in danger of  being washed overboard to his death. These four sailors risked their own lives in rescuing their fallen shipmate, with Devin actually being washed overboard in the effort. The event ended well, with injuries but no deaths, and Devin rescued hours later in the midst of that typhoon.


Then there is this image of the family of a fallen soldier who will be left with memories, pictures and a folded American flag. 

These heroes of real life served, fought and many died believing “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” 

Yes, you have the right to publicly dishonor the flag and the National Anthem. But you ought not to exercise that right.

Don Johnson – September 2017  




by Adam von Dioszeghy

Reunion. The word conjures up school gatherings 10, 20, 50 years after graduation. Old schoolmates getting together to talk about old times….the times of youth; the girl everybody pined for, who eventually ended up marrying a loser; the sporting event that was almost won, but for the demonic referee’s outrageous ruling. After all that’s been discussed, the topic turns to present ailments: this week THIS hurts, last week THAT hurt. After the reunion weekend is over, everybody goes home thinking, “Gee, I don’t look near as bad as some of them do..” [self-foolery is still the best medicine]. And five years later, this charade is repeated all over again…at least by those still around.

Not all reunions are school reunions. Some are for sport clubs or teams, remembering and discussing the great victories and mourning those close losses…and now, making notes of the big bellies some other mates have acquired. There are all sorts of other reunions, not very different.

And – lest we forget – there are military reunions: members of companies, battalions, units, ships, squadrons, whatever. These can have extra significance if war times were shared by the participants; the reunions of those who managed to dodge death, who managed to survive through skill, luck and the
grace of God. Often, the ties in these groups are stronger than those in other groups. This story is about one of these reunions, which is yet to come, but is already casting a long shadow.

The participants of this reunion – just two – have to look back over 50 years to the time when fate brought them together: they fought in the Vietnam War in the 1960s. They were young titans then, and now they are in their 70s. But let us approach the subject gingerly and with due care.

Fate brought these two people together on a United States Navy warship, a destroyer, the USS Porterfield (DD682). One of them was an enlisted man – a fire control technician (FT) – while the other was an officer, a Lieutenant junior  grade. The FT was 21 years old, the officer was 27. Lets’ give them names: the FT was called Don Johnson, the Ltjg. was called Adam von Dioszeghy…to all those on board the ship he was known as “Mr. vonD”. They served together from 1965 through 1966. Then their ways parted and neither heard from the  other for decades.

I – the erstwhile “Mr. vonD” – after leaving the Porterfiled and the Vietnam War, went to Stanford Law School, graduated, passed the bar exam, taught law, dabbled in prosecuting, and ended up practicing law in the San Francisco Bay Area for 40 years. Then, in 2000, my wife, Aliz, and I moved to Hungary to begin a new life there. Though I spent a lot of time thinking and talking about my ship, the Navy and the War, I basically left all that behind.
With the exception of a couple of my fellow officers – with whom I kept in touch very occasionally – the Porterfield and all it meant, faded from my memory. That all changed when Aliz received an e-mail, in January, 2016, as follows:

“Hello Mrs. von Dioszeghy, I hope you get this message, and I hope I have the right people to send this to. I was in the Navy back in 1965-66, on board the USS Porterfield (DD682) and at one of my General Quarters stations in a place called IC-Plot was this crazy guy, LTJG Adam von Dioszeghy, who was the officer in charge in that space and the guy that actually pulled the gun triggers. I was an FT Seaman at the time and made FT3rd class on the Porterfiled. If he is the guy, it would be great to say hello once more after all these years.

                                  Don Johnson”

The memories came rushing back: the Navy, the Porterfield, the Vietnam War, IC-Plot….


….the sharp lines of the graceful grey lady – the Porterfiled – come crystallyzing out of the misty fog of fifty-odd-years memory in my mind.
Commands and acknowledgements are flying back and forth on the bridge:


“Now secure the Special Sea and Anchor Detail…set regular watch section four ………………… Mr. vonD has the Deck and the Conn…

“Aye, aye, I have the Deck and the Conn…All engines ahead standard, indicate 15 knots…Aye, aye Sir, all engines are ahead standard, indicating 15  knots…Very well…

“Right full rudder, come right to 052 degrees….Aye, aye Sir, the rudder is right full, coming right to 052 degrees….Very well.” 

…. It is now 1966, and the Porterfield is “on station”, engaged with the enemy. Presently, we are supporting US Marine ground troops with our naval guns. We are lying close to shore and firing our guns inland to help the Marines who have no artillery support close enough to fight off the onrushing VC (Viet Cong) and RNV (Regular North-Vietnamese Army). We are in modified General Quarters condition, which means that personnel have to stand “6 hours on, 6 hours off” watches in  their wartime positions. My position is officer-in- charge in the IC-Plot.


What is IC-Plot? It is a space amidships, full of equipment and communication devices. There are 8-10 people at this station, all working together, with one officer in charge. The main piece of equipment is the “computer”. Those of you in Generations X or Y (that is, born after 1965), will have a gross misconception when you read the word, “computer”. The Porterfield was built in 1943 (essentially to fight in WWII), and its equipment is of that vintage. Thus, when we speak of computers on it, we mean something entirely different than an IBM piece or something more modern.

This computer is a huge, heavy item, taking up most of IC-Plot, sitting in the middle, with 6-7 people standing around it. It has cranks and dials; it’s main function is to regulate the position of the guns….the elevation and the direction. It also functions to keep the guns properly aimed regardless of the roll or pitch of the ship. The act of firing a gun takes place here and not in the gun mounts. The IC-Plot crew is in communication with the Marine spotter on the ground, who gives direction as to where to put the next high explosive shell. The communication goes something like this:

Marine spotter (MS): “Porterfield, add a 100” (meaning the shell should go 100 yards further), or  MS: “Porterfiled, right 50” (meaning the shell should go 50 yards to the right).

Then, the enlisted man dials in the change, and the guns respond accordingly….
One hopes! This goes on for 6 hours until the watch is changed and another crew takes over. Seems simple, doesn’t it, you say as you suppress a yawn.

Before we decide whether or not to agree with that supposition, a few things need to  be considered. The first is that the ship is in full wartime mode, meaning that all watertight doors are “dogged down” (meaning, locked). In practicality this means no outside air. Secondly, since it’s summer time in Vietnam, the temperature outside is about 100 degrees F (41C) in the shade, and in the enclosed space of IC-Plot it is 122F (50C). Thirdly, the ship is firing 5″38cal shells (which can reach 9 miles), and which land sometimes within 30-50 yards of our own troops. Any mistake in the aiming will cost several lives through what is euphemistically called “friendly fire”.  To a loved one it makes precious little difference whether a husband/father/son was killed by the enemy or your own kind. Any mistake can be deadly.

To sum up, standing in 122F heat, in a closed space for 6 hours and firing high explosive shells into close proximity of your comrades requires total concentration, and it is very taxing, if not totally exhausting. Therefore, perhaps, it’s not quite like a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon.

So here we were, Don Johnson, myself and the others, day in and day out, standing our 6 hour watches together. The thirst was killing everybody in that heat. We played a little game to see how long it took for the water that one drank to turn into perspiration and spring out of the skin on the arm; it  was something like 18 seconds. Finally, one of the “old salts” – a Navy Chief – on watch with us taught us a trick. He said, “Don’t drink water, it just comes right out of you! Drink hot coffee and it will cool you down”, he said. We were incredulous, but we tried it. And, sure enough, he was right: the hot coffee DID cool us down. I have practiced this piece of knowledge on hot days ever since,
and it has worked.

Our unit in IC-Plot melded together, and we functioned as a well-oiled machine. We destroyed a lot of enemy troops and never had a mishap of firing onto our own Marines. God was looking out for us. And – eventually – the war ended for each of us, and civilian life beckoned. Decades passed, until the email I wrote about above.

Don Johnson and I corresponded for the next year and a half with some frequency. Don wrote me that there are reunions for the Porterfield from time to time. The last one was in the Fall of 2016, in San Diego. He attended it, and met up with some old shipmates, including one Jack Hix, who was also a member of the IC-Plot crew. Sadly, I was unable to attend the reunion, but was fully briefed on it by Don, including pictures and even a video.

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Part of our IC-Plot team

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And us 50 some years later

The Porterfield is, alas!, no more. It lies at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, having been used as a target for torpedo practice by submarines. As a former anti-submarine officer, it pains me to think about the role reversal. But, perhaps, it is more fitting for it to have been sunk, doing its “duty”, than to have been cut up and sold for scrap-metal or transferred to some foreign

But, back to the subject of the reunion. Some months ago, Don and his wife, Diana, decided that, included in their next European trip, would be a visit to Hungary, and the renewal of the old friendship. Or, perhaps, “old  friendship” is the wrong phrase: officers and enlisted men were not allowed to fraternize” … so, our relationship on the Porterfield was “comradeship”. Plans were made and put into place: the Johnsons would arrive into Budapest by plane on May 25, and would spend about a week with us, in Budapest and at our country house.

Today, I received an email that they left their home in New Haven, Connecticut for the first leg of their trip, which would take them to
Scandinavia where Don’s roots are. Excitement is high on both sides. The reunion is coming!

It was all against Navy regulations. First, both sailors saluted simultaneously, instead of the enlisted man saluting the officer first. Secondly, neither had covers on their heads, a gross violation. In their defense, they were very excited (not having seen each other for over 50 years), but most importantly, they were no longer the property of the US Navy … they was free!
They was right-proper civilians. And, of course, the hug that followed would have surely resulted in a court-martial: fraternizing between an officer and an enlisted man!?! No matter, the reunion had begun!!

When an event is upcoming, and you really have no idea how it will go, it always gives a challenge to your mind. You can have great expectations – based  on nothing – or you can worry that it will be a disaster. In our case, here were the knowns: Don and I have not seen each other for over 50 years; neither Aliz nor I have ever met Diana; Don and Diana have never met Aliz. What can you truly expect? I – being a closet optimist – thought it would go “OK”. To eliminate any further suspense, let me tell you that the get-together was FABULOUS. Beyond all expectations. Now, let’s get into the meat- and- potatoes of it.

The Johnsons arrived by plane, late in the evening, and checked into their hotel. We picked them up at ten-ish the next morning. We traveled to our country house by our car, had a fantastic lunch there, drank everything that was alcoholic, and started to get to know one another. We were blessed with fabulous weather throughout the visit. The skies were clear and blue, the winds were only wafting about, and the temperature was around 75F (25C). At the country house, I cooked my signature Hungarian gulyas – in a kettle over an open fire – and we talked about the last 50 years. The wives got along famously…which is no mean thing, considering that the only thing initially in common between them was the fact that they were both married to “Navy men”. It was fascinating to learn that Don and Diana had been married for over 53 years (!); in fact, they were married before Don joined the crew of the Porterfiled in 1965.

After a couple of days, we went back to Budapest to show the Johnsons “our” city. We covered a lot of ground in the next four days. Aliz and I showed them everything that would fit into this tight schedule: items of historical interest, places of particular beauty, and things uniquely “Hungarian”. We also ate and drank excellent Hungarian meals and drinks, especially good Hungarian wines. One day, Aliz took the Johnsons to the famous Gellert Baths, an experience worth having by any standard. But the integral part of our daily
routine was the laughter, the stories, the jokes and the camaraderie which – by then – came completely naturally to us all. It was as if we had not only known each other for decades, but saw each other with some frequency over that time.

The last night we had dinner at a lovely place built atop a man-made lake in the City Park. To set the tone, the restaurant was called “Robinson” (after Robinson Crusoe, the shipwrecked sailor). We watched the ducks on the lake, enjoyed the refreshing sight of the fountains shooting water up into the air, and saw the sun set on our final day. As we took our guests back to their hotel to say our farewells, Diana expressed all our feelings when she said – with tears in her eyes – “This is the hard part.”

Porterfield warriors with the ship’s official plaque

Old shipmates sharing a drink and a few sea stories

She was right. The four strangers of a week earlier had molded into a unit, a unit one could sincerely call, “FRIENDS”. This was no longer just a reunion of two long-separated shipmates, but a gathering of four people who
very much grew to be intimate in many things: values, beliefs, interests. We all regretted that we lived so far from one another. And the two aged warriors (no longer aging but aged), while still finding common ground of their long – passed experiences on the old Porterfield, found that they have both learned
much about life through hardship, understanding, perseverance, wonderful mates, love and God. How can you do all that in one week? And still have time for fun? A tall order, you say? Just ask the Johnsons and the von Dioszeghys.

The long-suffering wives get to have at least a little fun

One could say they have aged gracefully

Here’s to friendship & camaraderie – no matter the miles or years between!



USS Fitzgerald DDG-62 Collision at sea



An excerpt from the article:
” … An Alabama woman says her grandson contacted her from the USS Fitzgerald to say he’s OK after a nighttime collision off Japan left seven crew members missing and three injured.
Rita Schrimsher of Athens, Alabama, tweeted: “Just heard the sweetest voice and saw a wonderful face. He’s okay. Thank you all for the prayers.”
She says: “It could have been worse so we’re grateful.”


That comment from a grandmother is the reason why I titled my book “I Didn’t Want To Worry You Mom … (But sometimes it got a little scary and dangerous out there!)”
I was a sailor during the 1960s on a WW-II vintage destroyer – they are often called “tin cans” because of their small size and non-existent armor.
I was witness to a collision off the California coast in the 1960s between a large freighter and a large oiler. We were a three ship formation taking on fuel from the oiler – two destroyers on either side of the oiler steaming at about 12 knots in calm seas, but patchy fog conditions.
My job in UnRep (Underway Replenishment) was to help pull the fuel lines over from the oiler to our ship. When that was done I was free to go below and take a nap, which I did on this occasion. My rack was in the forward part of the ship directly below and behind he foreword most gun mount.
I was abruptly awakened from my nap by the shuddering of the ship and the clanging collision alarm. The shuddering was from us cutting away from the oiler and backing down as fast as we could.
I jumped out of my rack and climbed the forward ladder to the bow of the ship. I gazed off to my right and saw this huge (not as big as todays container ships) cargo ship coming out of the fog and crossing directly across our three ship refueling formation. The other destroyer had likewise cut away from the oiler and with a full left rudder was racing away. This left the oiler and the freighter on a collision course, and I saw it unfold in real-time slow motion. The oiler had no maneuvering space and was too massive to slow its momentum, and the freighter made no observable attempt to maneuver – as I recall, we could see no human activity on the bridge of that freighter as if it may have been on auto-pilot.
They hit. The oiler center punched the freighter right below the bridge and the two ships bounced off one another, again in slow motion.
The collision punched a large hole in the freighter and caused it to list substantially to starboard. Fortunately it did not capsize, and the hole was above the waterline and there seemed little fear of it going over and under.
Back to my book. As I became passionate about such at-sea experiences such as my own and others I read and heard about first hand, I recalled seeing a documentary of a destroyer that was cut in half during WW-II. I eventually found the documentary on the USS Murphy DD-603, and how it was cut in half as it was escorting a large convoy to England in 1943.
The Murphy story became the anchor story of my book, but I soon found out that Murphy’s story was not unique and I discovered other stories of collisions. The USS Frank Evans DD-754, again a destroyer, was cut in half in 1969 by the Australian aircraft carrier Melbourne with the loss of 27 sailors who went down with the forward part of their ship.
I was reminded vividly by both Murphy and Evans, that my bunk that day off the California coast was in the bow of my ship – the bows that took sailors to the bottom on both those destroyers..
The book began to take on a life of its own as I discovered more stories where the sailors (and a few soldiers) involved “Didn’t Want To Worry You Mom … “
I invite you to look at my book and a 20 minute video I put together of some of the things our war fighters, and their loved ones at home, face on a regular basis. The USS Fitzgerald DD-62 is the latest such story, and we mourn the sailors lost in that tragedy – they remain “on watch” in the defense of liberty.


The video is here:

The book is here:




Don Johnson – June 2017

A Navy reunion–and more: a personal walk through history.


My wife Diana and I have just returned from Budapest Hungary where we visited an old Navy shipmate and his wife Aliz.

Adam and I served together on the USS Porterfield DD-682, a destroyer, in 1965-66. Adam was an officer and I was enlisted, so it couldn’t be said that we were friends or old Navy buddies. But we stood shoulder to shoulder at General Quarters – our Battle Stations – in a small space called IC-Plot from where our five 5” guns were controlled. Adam was a memorable character in those days, with an uplifting attitude and demeanor that helped ease any boredom or tension during long, often very hot, watches during combat operations off the coast of Vietnam.  He had an accent and an  unpronounceable last name beginning with ‘van’ or ‘von’ which was changed by all aboard to Mr. von D. For years I thought he was Dutch.

We went our separate ways following our Naval service, and I didn’t give him – or for that matter my Navy experience — much thought thereafter. Then at a Porterfield reunion a few years ago I was able to get my hands on the cruise book from that time in the Western Pacific. I was drawn to the ships roster and that strange name von Dioszeghy. I did an internet search for that name and discovered the Facebook page of Aliz von Dioszeghy and sent off a message asking if this lady knew of that crazy Dutchman from the Porterfield. She did, and was married to him. I soon found out that Adam had written a wonderful 440 page story of his life beginning as a 7 year old in the midst of the WW-II Red Army siege of Budapest.  By the time I finished his book I felt I knew this man and his incredible life story.

Then in May 2017 the opportunity to visit Adam and Aliz presented itself at the end of a Baltic cruise.

What follows is a personalized historical account of a tour conducted by Adam through the significant places and events of his life in Budapest. 

January 1945 This first set of pictures show some of the places where Adam and his mother endured the WW-II battles all around and above them. The allied bombers were bombing the city from above, the Germans controlled a square just down the boulevard to the left of their apartment, and the Red Army  controlled the square down to the right. Bombs, bullets and artillery shells flowed in abundance.

Adam and his mother lived on the third floor of this building.

And behind this basement window was the bomb shelter where the building residents endured the bombings. 

This is also the window where Adam’s young German soldier friend Hans positioned himself with two machine guns in a futile attempt to hold off the advancing Red Army.

Hans, 19 years old, befriended 7 year old Adam and gave him his last chocolate just before his unit pulled out and left him to delay the Red Army onslaught.  A hand grenade thrown in the basement window ended the life of young Hans.

Adam and his wife Aliz live close by this window, and on their way to church Adam respectfully salutes that window – “Hans didn’t start that war” says Adam. And Aliz invariably tears up. 

The bombing cut off the water supply to the apartment building, so the residents had to traverse the main boulevard to a nearby apartment building that still had water. This was a very dangerous operation requiring Adam’s mother to cross a very active combat zone. 

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The Red Army to the left. The German Army to the right and the street in front of Adam’s home.


This is the apartment building from where Adam’s mother carried water in buckets. One day just as she entered the door to get water, a bomb hit above her and collapsed the front of the building causing rubble to bury her up to her neck. Miraculously she was not injured and neighbors removed the debris allowing her escape. 

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This is the doorway to the building where Adam’s mother was buried by the building debris. Adam remembers seeing her in the doorway on her return to the bomb shelter as a ghostly image covered in white plaster dust.

We were able to peek into the interior courtyard where the well was. clip_image018

Walking the streets of Budapest in 2017, 73 years after the fact, makes it difficult to place all of this in the context of the time. The pictures below show a small part of the carnage of the siege of Budapest.

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clip_image027 The bridges of Budapest are beautiful, but not so much during the war.

Post War Budapest to October 1956 – I don’t have any pictures of life for Adam and his mother under the Communist rule following the war, but life after the war under Communism is brutal for Adam and his mother, and especially tough 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. … “


October 1956 – Now we move forward to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In the following picture sequence we follow Adam as he walks us through to those places of personal remembrances, and the tragedies experienced by those freedom fighters.

The revolution started as a student solidarity movement in support of student protests in Poland. It began as a peaceful and unarmed demonstration against a tyrannical Communist government. The group drew up a list of 16 requests – not demands as Adam points out – that were brought to the radio station along this very narrow street where 5000 students had marched.


The government response to the 16 requests was “not only no – but hell no.” Officials in the radio station were armed, and soon a shot rang out from above and a young student was killed in the street below.

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This plaque on the sidewalk opposite the radio station commemorates this first casualty of the revolution, marking the name and date of this young man’s death. And these plaques on the wall of the radio station commemorate the event – and that is Adam’s hand reaching up to that commemoration.  


The protests moved to the Parliament building, a magnificent building, and one in which Adam’s grandfather, a Baron,  had in years past sat as a member of the Hungarian Parliament.

Adam recounts that at some point in what was now a revolution, a truck drove up to where the students had gathered and started handing out weapons. Adam recalls when about twenty students gathered in a room, each having a Russian machine gun. They are sitting in a circle facing one another as someone is instructing them on how to use these weapons. Suddenly a shot rings out, and a young student just to the right of Adam falls dead, a casualty of an accidental shot from one of those machine guns. 


Back to the Parliament, the scene is one where there is a huge crowd gathered in the square between the front of the Parliament building and the building shown above.

There were armed government soldiers stationed on the roof of that building and they started shooting indiscriminately into the crowd.  There were also tanks stationed in front of the parliament, and at one point a tank commander is fed up with the killing from the rooftop, and he shoots a couple of tank rounds to the shooters above. 

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Years later, after the collapse of the Communist regime, the deaths of those brave freedom fighters is commemorated by the placement of these bronze balls on the walls of the building from which those murders took place – one for each death.

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Somewhere along the way Adam is wounded and he is headed back to the Technical University, pictured above, where he was a student.

A friend and fellow student intercepts Adam on the bridge pictured above and warns him to turn back. A wounded and bandaged student is certain to be arrested and most likely to be executed. So Adam turns back and thus begins the next chapter in the life of Adam von Dioszeghy and his mother – a flight to freedom in Austria and ultimately to the United States.

It is important to note that as this revolution unfolded, nearly every segment of Hungarian society joined with the students in the attempt to throw off the tyranny.  This included even the Hungarian military, which had to be removed from the city and replaced by Soviet troops from the interior of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the Soviets brutally crushed the revolution resulting in many arrests, deaths and tens of thousands of refugees, some 40,000 who came to the United States. 

Again, walking the streets of Budapest in 2017, 60 years after the fact, makes it difficult to place all of this in the context of the time. The pictures below show a small part of the carnage of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The images are brutal.
















Sitting at the breakfast table in our hotel overlooking the streets of Budapest in 2017, it is hard to picture anything different than the people below going to and fro – peaceful and minding their own business going shopping, going to work or school. That is what Budapest and the world should look like.



The life of a refugee in America.


Coming to the United States as a refugee; to a foreign land and a foreign culture, not knowing the language was the next huge hurdle facing this young man.

But Adam’s life in America shows the grit and fortitude of this young man who had lost everything in his Hungarian homeland. His family heritage in Hungary was one of aristocracy, land and wealth. Yet here he was, having to begin a new life from scratch.

In 1957, Adam and his mother arrived to an exceptional nation. A nation that afforded him two key elements that make that nation exceptional – liberty and opportunity. Adam took great advantage of that fabric of liberty and opportunity and earned a degree at Stanford University, one of the great universities of America. Then when his new nation called him to military service in time of need at the beginning of the Vietnam War, he gratefully stepped up and became a US Naval officer serving three tours to the war zone of Vietnam.

Following his Navy service, Adam returned to Stanford earning a law degree and practicing law in the San Francisco area for many years before retiring and returning to his homeland of Hungary.   



A fitting conclusion to this story is this picture of Adam standing beside the statue of President Ronal Reagan in Budapest’s Freedom Square. Communism had failed and fallen, and the people of Hungary rightly commemorate their liberty with this tribute to this great American leader. 

Leaders like American President Ronald Reagan, Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II took note of the evils of Communism, and were finally in a position to defeat it and bring liberty to those many like Adam von Dioszeghy who yearned so strongly for and fought for it.

Adam is engaged in another battle for survival, this time against a cancer that has invaded his body. These kinds of personal battles eventually visit all of us, but I must say, this friend of mine shows a love of life – a joy of living – not often seen. A joy in spite of the tragedies he has lived through. But no … I believe his joy comes not in spite of, but rather because of his experiences. I am honored to be his friend and shipmate.        

Poland likewise recognizes Reagan with similar tributes.

“ … Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. … “

Ronald Reagan

References and further reading:

BRIDGING TWO WORLDS: Memories and Reflections – at

My review of Adam’s book at —

The Bridge at Andau: The Compelling True Story of a Brave, Embattled People — at

Immigration & Assimilation – A Hungarian Model – at

Statue in Budapest’s Liberty Square credits Reagan for freedom  — at

Ronald Reagan statue unveiled in Warsaw  — at

Reagan, John Paul II honored with statue in Gdansk Poland – at:

Make Your Bed!


(Click above to read the review)

I’ve been making our bed almost daily since somewhere near when Adm. McRaven first gave his speech back in 2014. I like to remember that I started this habit shortly before that now famous speech, but am willing to admit that the Admiral was most likely my motivator. After all, he is the admiral and me a lowly enlisted guy.

In any case, read this review, and better yet read the book. Who knows, perhaps you will start making your bed as well.


From the Wall Street Journal review of the book … 

Reset Your Life in an Hour |

Never give up. Always maintain optimism. We’ve all heard these lessons before—but not from the man who led the bin Laden mission. John Nagl reviews “Make Your Bed” by William H. McRaven.

Navy Seal trainees lock arms in the Pacific during Hell Week. Photo: Getty Images


John Nagl

April 3, 2017


F. Scott Fitzgerald was completely wrong when he suggested “there are no second acts in American lives.” If America stands for anything, it is reinvention, renewal and second chances. Take the Navy SEAL who oversaw the most important manhunt in history and rose to command all of U.S. Special Operations Forces. What did he do for an encore? Only give the most successful college graduation speech in history—at his alma mater, the University of Texas, wearing Navy dress whites.

In “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World,” retired Adm. William H. McRaven admits that he was nervous before the address in May 2014. He was afraid that contemporary college students wouldn’t welcome a military man, even one who had once been, just like them, a slightly hung-over Austin senior eager to graduate and get on with life. They loved his speech, and word spread. It has been viewed more than 10 million times online, and Mr. McRaven has expanded the talk into a little book that should be read by every leader in America.

The motto of the University of Texas is “What starts here changes the world.” Mr. McRaven’s book provides instruction on doing 10 little things that aren’t little at all. His first suggestion is to make your bed every morning, because when you accomplish one thing early in the day, you’ll be motivated to achieve more—even if you aren’t having the quality of your work tested by a Navy chief petty officer with a quarter.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle, he goes on, because you can’t accomplish much on your own. And always measure a person by the size of his heart, not by his physical size, skin color, creed or anything else. Tommy Norris, the last SEAL to earn the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, was nearly booted out of SEAL training for being “too small, too thin, and not strong enough.” He proved a giant among men when he infiltrated deep behind enemy lines on successive nights to rescue downed airmen.

Some of the lessons won’t make perfect sense at first. “If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.” A sugar cookie is a wet SEAL trainee who has rolled himself in sand as punishment for some infraction of the rules—or for no reason at all, purely at the whim of the instructor. Life isn’t fair is Mr. McRaven’s point, and that’s no reason to cry. Keep going, even if there’s sand in every crevice of your body.

Embrace your failures, because every life has them, and what you learn will make you stronger. Dare greatly, because life is a struggle, and without challenges you’ll never know the limits of the possible. Stand up to the bullies, whether they are sharks circling you as you swim (sharks literally circle you in SEAL training during the deep-water swims) or Saddam Hussein. The latter was detained under Mr. McRaven’s watch for 30 days after his capture, and the SEAL firmly broke the deposed dictator’s self-confidence. Dig deep and rise to the occasion when all seems lost, whether working underwater in absolute darkness or responding to the deaths of those you lead in combat.

Mr. McRaven believes that good leaders are optimists even in the darkest times and make their teams believe in a brighter day. This is one of the best lessons of the book, illustrated by a story about Marine Gen. John Kelly, the current secretary of Homeland Security. Mr. Kelly’s son Robert was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010, and when a Special Forces helicopter was shot down killing 38 in Afghanistan in 2011, he was the right man to comfort the families. “More than any other visitor that day,” writes Mr. McRaven, “Kelly’s words resonated with every parent, every wife, every brother and sister, and every friend.” He had lived their pain and could give them hope.

Make Your Bed

By William H. McRaven
Grand Central, 130 pages, $18

Finally, never, ever quit. One hundred and fifty SEAL candidates began Basic Underwater Demolition School with Mr. McRaven in 1978; 33 graduated. As tough as these survivors were, even stronger was an Army Ranger named Adam Bates, who lost both of his legs to a land mine in Afghanistan but a year later was standing tall in his dress uniform on prosthetic legs and challenging his Ranger buddies to a pull-up contest. If Ranger Bates wouldn’t quit, which of us has an excuse?

These are not complicated lessons; we’ve all heard them before. But we haven’t heard them from the man who led the bin Laden mission. And we haven’t had them illustrated so memorably with stories from SEAL training, universally regarded as the most difficult course in the U.S. armed forces, or from a 35-year career leading men in combat.

Eight months after giving the talk that spurred this book, Mr. McRaven became the chancellor of the University of Texas System, overseeing 14 institutions with more than 200,000 students. There he has continued to demonstrate the courage, wisdom and spirit of service that he extols in “Make Your Bed.” In January, he released a statement decrying President Trump’s executive order on immigration, stating “that the talent, energy, and ideas flowing into the United States of America . . . from countries around the world are among our greatest strengths. The men and women who show up at our shores and our doors—ready to study, work, and participate—make us stronger, smarter, more competitive.” Reading that statement makes one hope for a third act in Mr. McRaven’s life, one that would affect the largest number of Americans.

“Make Your Bed” is a book you can read in an hour. It is a book to inspire your children and grandchildren to become everything that they can. It is a book to discuss with your executive leadership team as a spur to meeting shared goals. Most of all, it is a book that will leave you with tears in your eyes as you ask yourself: How does this nation find men and women like Tommy Norris and Adam Bates and William McRaven, who willingly risk their lives and their limbs to keep us safe and to protect our way of life?

Follow their example. Dare greatly. Don’t ever give up. And make your bed!

Mr. Nagl is the headmaster of the Haverford School. A retired Army officer, he is the author of “Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War.”

Appeared in the Apr. 04, 2017, print edition as ‘Reset Your Life In an Hour.’