4 out of 4 stars
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When I thought I had read some of the most engaging memoirs, I got a surprise in the form of Steven W Minnick’s memoir. The title of the memoir was so catchy that I could not resist it. My zeal to add a new file in my mind did not disappoint.
Need to Know: Marching to the Unknown Drummer contains information that could have cost someone’s life (or several people’s lives) five decades ago. It revolves around the life of Steven Minnick when he worked as a military man in the American Air Force. Minnick noted that the memoir is “a first person account of actual events that took place in Southeast Asia in the summer of 1960”. Minnick was “working with Morse code and highly classified information”, which put him in a very critical position. What (or who) is Morse code? You will have to read the memoir to know.
In my opinion, this memoir is the Mother of All Memoirs. It contains what was, I still believe could be, classified information for the United States of America. Minnick and a team of eight other Top Secret military men were assigned to a mission in Southeast Asia. They were to apply their expertise to gain valuable information that involved both Russia and China. Before leaving for the mission that was based in Bangkok, Thailand, their Top Secret clearance was upgraded to “Top Secret code word Presidential Eyes Only”. That is how serious this memoir is.
I liked everything about this memoir. I followed Minnick everywhere he went, listened to every conversation that he was involved in, shared in his fears and victories, and experienced his other less serious part of his life during that time. His experiences in the jungle were adrenaline-filled.
My favorite part was the interaction of Minnick’s team with the natives in the regions they visited in Southeast Asia. The Americans were under orders not to show any disgust for whatever the local people offered them to eat. Can you imagine knowingly eating monkey meat without showing any expressions on your face? I also loved Minnick’s willingness to sacrifice everything for his country.
I kept wondering why Minnick chose to give a detailed account of a Top Secret operation. In the epilogue, he disclosed that he suffered PTSD after the mission. Having read the entire memoir, I knew that it would not be easy for him to live a normal life afterward. Minnick was denied compensation for the disability he developed from that mission because there was no evidence that he ever worked on a special mission in Southeast Asia. Minnick noted, “So, if I was never there and NSA has no record available to confirm or deny this action ever took place, I can conclude I am not violating any order barring me from writing my account of what, officially, didn’t take place in Southeast Asia in the summer of 1960”.
The book was professionally edited. However, there were a few minor errors but not enough to prevent me from giving it a perfect score. Therefore, I gladly rate it 4 out of 4 stars. If you love to learn about the secret missions conducted by the American government, you should read this book. Those who enjoy learning about the history of the relationship between China, Russia, and America will also find it useful. This could also be enjoyed as a thriller due to the nature of events that took place during the Southeast Asia mission.
Need To Know
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