Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Book Availible in Kindle Format Now - and FREE for limited time!

Its Out! My publisher has just released Wattensaw Bayou in ebook/Kindle format and it is FREE for the first four days. You must hurry, they will start charging for it after June 25th. There is an Amazon link below.

Mark Hubbs

... The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou is an action packed yet sometimes touching tale of war, family and forgiveness set during the twilight days of slavery.This is a side of the Old South that is seldom seen.If you love Civil War or Southern history, The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou is a must read!

You can download it HERE:  The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A True "Castle Keep" - World War II’s Strangest Battle

This is the first time I have reblogged a book review on Eras Gone.  The review itself is so well done and the story is so compelling, I could not help but pass it on.  At first blush, this reminds me of the 1969 war movie, Castle Keep.  However, as I read more I realized that this true story is much more fantastic and only has a castle in common with the 1969 movie with Burt Lancaster. 

World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and
Germans Fought Together
May 12, 2013 4:45 AM EDT
By Andrew Roberts

Days after Hitler’s suicide a group of American soldiers, French prisoners, and, yes, German soldiers defended an Austrian castle against an SS division - the only time Germans and Allies fought together in World War II. Andrew Roberts on a story so wild that it has to be made into a movie.

Castle Itter. From
The most extraordinary things about Stephen Harding's The Last Battle, a truly incredible tale of World War II, are that it hasn’t been told before in English, and that it hasn’t already been made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Here are the basic facts: on 5 May 1945 - five days afterHitler’s suicide - three Sherman tanks from the 23rd Tank Battalion of the U.S. 12th Armored Division under the command of Capt. John C. ‘Jack’ Lee Jr., liberated an Austrian castle called Schloss Itter in the Tyrol, a special prison that housed various French VIPs, including the ex-prime ministers Paul Reynaud and Eduard Daladier and former commanders-in-chief Generals Maxime Weygand and Paul Gamelin, amongst several others. Yet when the units of the veteran 17th Waffen-SS Panzer Grenadier Division arrived to recapture the castle and execute the prisoners, Lee’s beleaguered and outnumbered men were joined by anti-Nazi German soldiers of the Wehrmacht, as well as some of the extremely feisty wives and girlfriends of the (needless-to-say hitherto bickering) French VIPs, and together they fought off some of the best crack troops of the Third Reich. Steven Spielberg, how did you miss this story?

Taken about two months before the battle at Schloss Itter, this image depicts Company B commander Jack Lee (at right) with, from left, 2nd Lt. John Powell, one of Lee’s platoon leaders, and 1st Lt. Harry Basse, Co. B’s motor officer and Lee’s closest friend in the unit. Within weeks Powell was dead and Lee and Basse had both been lightly wounded.  From:!/LastBattleinEurope
The battle for the fairytale, 13th century Castle Itter was the only time in WWII that American and German troops joined forces in combat, and it was also the only time in American history that U.S. troops defended a medieval castle against sustained attack by enemy forces. To make it even more film worthy, two of the women imprisoned at Schloss Itter - Augusta Bruchlen, who was the mistress of the labour leader Leon Jouhaux, and Madame Weygand, the wife General Maxime Weygand - were there because they choseto stand by their men. They, along with Paul Reynaud’s mistress Christiane Mabire, were incredibly strong, capable, and determined women made for portrayal on the silver screen.

There are two primary heroes of this—as I must reiterate, entirely factual—story, both of them straight out of central casting. Jack Lee was the quintessential warrior: smart, aggressive, innovative—and, of course, a cigar-chewing, hard-drinking man who watched out for his troops and was willing to think way, way outside the box when the tactical situation demanded it, as it certainly did once the Waffen-SS started to assault the castle. The other was the much-decorated Wehrmacht officer Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, who died helping the Americans protect the VIPs. This is the first time that Gangl’s story has been told in English, though he is rightly honored in present-day Austria and Germany as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.

A career soldier three times decorated for bravery in combat against his nation’s enemies, Wehrmacht Major Josef “Sepp” Gangl willingly chose to put his life in even more direct peril in order to help Jack Lee save a querulous group of French VIPs locked away in a fairytale Austrian castle.
Harding, is a respected military affairs expert who has written seven books and long specialized in World War II, and his writing style carries immediacy as well as authority. “Just after 4am Jack Lee was jolted awake by the sudden banging of M1 Garands,” he writes of the SS’s initial assault on the castle, “the sharper crack of Kar-98s, and the mechanical chatter of a .30-caliber spitting out rounds in short, controlled bursts. Knowing instinctively that the rising crescendo of outgoing fire was coming from the gatehouse, Lee rolled off the bed, grabbed his helmet and M3, and ran from the room. As he reached the arched schlosshof gate leading from the terrace to the first courtyard, an MG-42 machine gun opened up from somewhere along the parallel ridgeway east of the castle, the weapon’s characteristic ripping sound clearly audible above the outgoing fire and its tracers looking like an unbroken red stream as they arced across the ravine and ricocheted off the castle’s lower walls.” Everything that Harding reports in this exciting but also historically accurate narrative is backed up with meticulous scholarship. This book proves that history can be new and nail-bitingly exciting all at once.

Despite their personal enmities and long-held political grudges, when it came to a fight the French VIPs finally put aside their political differences and picked up weapons to join in the fight against the attacking SS troops. We get to know Reynaud, Daladier, and the rest as real people, not merely the political legends that they’ve morphed into over the intervening decades. Furthermore, Jean Borotra (a former tennis pro) and Francois de La Rocque, who were both members of Marshal Philippe Petain’s Vichy government and long regarded by many historians as simply pro-fascist German puppets, are presented in the book as they really were: complex men who supported the Allied cause in their own ways. In de La Rocque’s case, by running an effective pro-Allied resistance movement at the same time that he worked for Vichy. If they were merely pro-Fascist puppets, after all, they would not have wound up as Ehrenh√§flinge - honor prisoners - of the Fuhrer.

While the book concentrates on the fight for Castle Itter, it also sets that battle in the wider strategic contexts of the Allied push into Germany and Austria in the final months of the war, and the Third Reich’s increasingly desperate preparations to respond to that advance. This book is thus a fascinating microcosm of a nation and society in collapse, with some Germans making their peace with the future, while others—such as the Waffen-SS unit attacking the castle—fighting to the bitter end. (Some of the fighting actually took place after the Doenitz government’s formal surrender.)

The book also takes pain to honor the lives of the“number prisoners” who worked at Castle Itter - faceless inmates from Dachau and other concentration camps whose stories have never before been told in this much detail. Whatever their political leanings or personal animosities toward each other, the French VIPs did what they could to help the so-called “number prisoners” - i.e. the ones stripped of their names - in any way they could.

One of the honored prisoners was Michel Clemenceau, the son of the Great War statesman Georges Clemenceau, who had become an outspoken critic of Marshal Petain and who was arrested by the Gestapo in May 1943. At Castle Itter he showed “unshakeable confidence” in rescue, and had clearly inherited the courage of his father, who’d been nicknamed “The Tiger.” During the attack, with ammunition running dangerously low - they got down to the last magazines of their MP-40s - their tanks destroyed, and the enemy advancing from the north, west and east, this septuagenarian kept blasting away. His father would have been proud of him.

The story has an ending that Hollywood would love too: just as the SS had settled into position to fire a panzerfaust at the front gate, “the sound of automatic weapons and tank guns behind them in the village signaled a radical change in the tactical situation.” Advancing American units and Austrian resistance fighters had arrived to relieve the castle. In keeping with the immense cool that he had shown throughout the siege, Lee feigned irritation as he went up to one of the rescuing tank commanders, looked him in the eye and said simply: “What kept you?” Part Where Eagles Dare, part Guns of Navarone, this story is as exciting as it is far-fetched, but unlike in those iconic war movies, every word of The Last Battle is true.

The Last Battle is availible on

The Author also maintains a Facebook page at:!/LastBattleinEurope

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Flipper, the Maritime Archaeologist

SSC Pacific Recovers Historic Howell Torpedo

Story by Elisha Gamboa, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command

SAN DIEGO - Space and Naval warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) has discovered and recovered one of the first self-propelled torpedoes developed and used by the U.S. Navy, known as the Howell torpedo.

Members of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific Marine Mammal Team pose May 15, 2013, with one of the Navy's specially trained Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. The team, along with the dolphin, are responsible for the discovery and recovery of the Howell torpedo. (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)
Primarily the work of Lt. Cmdr. John A. Howell, the Howell torpedo was developed between 1870 and 1889. The Howell torpedo was an 11-foot-long brass torpedo, driven by a 132-pound flywheel spun to 10,000 rpm prior to launch. It had a range of 400 yards, a speed of 25 knots, and a warhead filled with 100 pounds of gun cotton.
The only other extant Howell Torpedo on display at the
Naval War College Museum in Newport, Rhode Island (US Navy)

“It was the first torpedo that could be released into the ocean and follow a track. Considering that it was made before electricity was provided to U.S. households, it was pretty sophisticated for its time,” said Christian Harris, operations supervisor for the SSC Pacific Biosciences Division.

The Howell torpedo was used by U.S. Navy battleships and torpedo boats until 1898, when it was replaced by the Whitehead.
Torpedo Boat "Stilletto" launching a Howell torpedo c. 1890
“There were only 50 Howell torpedoes made, and we discovered one of the two ever found,” said Braden Duryee, operations supervisor for the SSC Pacific Biosciences Division.
Hotchkiss Ordnance Co advertisement clipping for Howell torpedoes 11-24-1888
The Howell torpedo recovered by SSC Pacific, is stamped “USN No. 24.” The Naval Undersea Museum houses the only other known Howell torpedo in existence today.

SSC Pacific discovered the Howell torpedo in March 2013, off the San Diego coast, near Hotel Del Coronado, during a mine-hunting training exercise with Navy dolphins.

“Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man. They can detect mines and other potentially dangerous objects on the ocean floor that are acoustically difficult targets to detect,” explained Duryee.

The Navy has an entire program dedicated to studying and training marine mammals, called the Navy Marine Mammal Program. The development, training, veterinary care and research facility that supports NMMP is centered in the Biosciences Division at SSC Pacific.

With the NMMP, the Navy trains dolphins to find and mark the location of underwater objects. Some of the objects the animals find, such as non-explosive Navy training mines, are expensive to replace. Others could present a danger to Navy personnel and vessels. In this case, the object found was an important piece of naval history.

“The animals are very good at their job. We were just doing our daily training exercises with the animals, when one marked an object on the sea floor. About a week later, another animal marked the same object,” said Duryee.

During training and the actual hunting of mines, a dolphin waits to receive a cue from its handler before it begins to search a specific area. Once the dolphin completes its search, it reports back to its handler, giving one response if a target object is detected, and a different response if no target object is detected.

This time the dolphin detected a mine-like target; the handler sent the dolphin to mark the location of the object so that Navy divers could recover it.
A Navy-trained dolphin named Ten, with handler Shawn McDonald, found the torpedo. (

At first, the recovery team thought the object was an old tail section off an aerial drop mine, but once the object was recovered, it was obvious that the object was something completely different.

“It was apparent in the first 15 minutes that this was something that was significant and really old,” said Harris. “Realizing that we were the first people to touch it or be around it in over 125 years was really exciting.”

After thorough research, the team discovered that the object was in fact a 130-year-old Howell torpedo. After the noteworthy discovery, SSC Pacific moved quickly to preserve this part of naval history.

“The torpedo was in remarkably pristine shape, so to preserve it, Braden Duryee had the idea to submerge it into a tank of water to prevent it from breaking down in the surrounding oxygen,” said Harris. “Later on, experts confirmed that Braden was correct.”
Navy technicians move the tail section of the torpedo to a holding tank. (US Navy)
The center section of the torpedo is submerged into a holding tank.  The sections will be stored this way until they can be properly cared for by museum conservators. (US Navy)
SSC Pacific will continue to preserve the torpedo until it can be shipped by air to the Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard. The Naval History and Heritage Command is an Echelon II command responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. Naval history and heritage for present and future generations.

You can learn more about the Howell Torpedo here:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My First Interview As a Fiction Author!

Blogger Chris Rice Cooper interviewed me recently about my book The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou.  It is the first time that I had been interviewed in my new career as a writer.  Chris interviews authors of all types on her blog that reaches thousands each day.  Some are well know, others like me are new to the craft.  I was humbled and gratified that she enjoyed Wattensaw Bayou and took and interest in the story and how I came to write it. 

She has included some illustrations from the book among the photos that she has used in the blog.

My only regret is that she has gotten my illustrator's name incorrect.  It should read Tracy "Scott" Lyndon instead of Tracy "Lyndon" Scott. 

You can read the interview on Chris's blog here:

By the way, the e-book version of The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou will be available soon.  I'll post a notice here when it comes out.  If you prefer to read the old fashion way (like me!) the hard copy is available at and other on-line book sellers.  It is also on the shelves of most Books A Million stores.