The Soccer War

SoccerSoccer arrived in Latin America in the 1800s. In the beginning it was primarily played by affluent Europeans, but was soon adopted by people from all socio-economic classes bridging the divide between the ruling elites and the indigenous population.

As a cultural institution, it quickly became synonymous with national identity and disputes on the field of play frequently resulted in violence between players, fans, and in extreme cases even countries.

The visible displays of nationalism include flag waving, national anthems, even colorful clothing. They are an expression of the emotional attachment that individuals feel for their teams. So when deliberate physical injury to a player or perceived bias by referees alter the outcome of games, fan violence is inevitable. Add to that political tensions between the governments of the competing teams, and international competitions have even led to war. Such was the case in 1969 between the neighboring Central American countries of El Salvador and Honduras.

The Soccer War (sometimes referred to as the 100 Hours War) was fueled by extreme national pride. Violence erupted between fans during the first two 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches. The teams split the first two contests spawning yet greater tumult between the two fan bases as the third and deciding match approached.

Tensions had been building for months between the two governments over new immigration laws in Honduras that stripped land ownership from Salvadoran citizens settling in that country. The expulsion of over eleven thousand such immigrants and migrant workers just happened to coincide with the timing between the first and second games. Citing Honduran nationalism and fan violence as the reason for its action, El Salvador severed all diplomatic ties with its neighbor and deployed soldiers onto Honduran soil.

The war was brief, beginning on July 14, 1969, and ending on July 20, 1969, with a cease-fire negotiated by the Organization of American States (OAS). El Salvador initially demanded that Honduras agree to reparations for those Salvadorans who had been displaced and assurances of fair treatment for those settlers who chose to remain. It finally withdrew its forces on August 2, 1969, after promises of protection for its citizens on Honduran soil.

The dispute simmered long after the Salvadoran soccer team defeated Honduras 3-2 in the final qualifying match in Mexico City and long after cessation of hostilities between the two armies. A final peace treaty would not be signed until October 30, 1980. — Excerpt from Tarnished Brass.

 

 

 

The Doctrine of Liberation Theology

The arrival of European powers and the conquest of Latin America by Spain and Portugal that began in the 15th century aligned the ruling elite and the Roman Catholic Church. Indigenous peoples were not only subjugated, they were taught that their suffering was the will of God and that they should accept their earthly existence, which included forced labor, poverty, and oppression. Their liberation from these conditions would only come in the afterlife if they remained faithful and accepted their fate.

However, by the 20th century calls for both social and political change caused the Church to transition towards an acknowledgement that it had a role in helping the poor and underprivileged. Rather than just focusing on their souls, it began advocating “the power of man to determine his own destiny.” This radical shift in doctrine became known as Liberation Theology.

In the small Central American country of El Salvador clerics not only spoke out about the impoverished conditions under which most Salvadorans labored, but advocated rising up in confrontation to the authorities. One of the more outspoken voices was that of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.

The Archbishop vocally preached against the repression of the underprivileged calling upon all Christians including the military dictatorship to heed Jesus’ teachings regarding social and economic justice. In his final sermon the Archbishop urgently petitioned those in power to alter course. In the name of God and this suffering population, whose cries reach to the heavens more tumultuous each day, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you, in the name of God, cease the repression.

His words were met by a sniper’s bullet to the heart. Archbishop Romero became the first Catholic bishop killed in a church since Thomas Becket was slain at Canterbury in 1170. He was canonized and declared a saint October 14, 2018.

Archbishop Romero’s assassination galvanized a fledgling FMLN guerrilla movement in El Salvador resulting in a brutal civil war that lasted from 1980-1992. My latest book Tarnished Brass looks at that war and all its causes and ramifications, spotlighting American involvement in the conflict and the ongoing struggle in El Salvador that to this day continues to impact the immigration crisis on our southern border and the spread of MS-13 gang violence throughout the United States.

Look for it on Amazon and at other major online retail book stores.

 

 

Honoring Their Legacy

Published Book CoverAlthough Tarnished Brass is a work of fiction, it is based on my memories of the brutal civil war fought in the small Central American country of El Salvador from 1980-1992.

United States involvement in that conflict was principally focused on training support to the Salvadoran military. In a departure from US policy in Vietnam, American military advisers were prohibited from accompanying Salvadoran forces during combat operations. Their role was solely to train the ESAF [El Salvador Armed Forces] and change the way it prosecuted the war. Of course, in spite of these restrictions, the Operations and Training Teams (OPATTs) assigned to Salvadoran Infantry Battalions often found themselves in harms way.

Reports of fighting involving US troops, however, was a closely guarded secret. It would not be until 1996, four years after the peace accords were signed, that the twenty-one American service members killed in El Salvador were finally recognized.

Their headstone in Arlington National Cemetery does not contain their names. It simply states… El Salvador 1981-1992. Blessed are the peacemakers. In sacred memory of those who died to bring hope and peace.

Of course, I was not acquainted with everyone who died in the war, but I did have a personal and professional relationship with one of the deceased. Lieutenant Colonel James M. Basile, US Air Force, served as deputy commander of the US MilGroup, San Salvador. He was killed in a helicopter crash on July 16, 1987, at age forty-three.

Official recognition of his service to country and that of the other twenty individuals helps to heal old wounds. William G. Walker, the former US Ambassador to El Salvador (1988-1992), best phrased that sentiment when he spoke to those assembled at the cemetery — For too long, we have failed to recognize the contributions, the sacrifices, of those who served with distinction under the most dangerous of conditions.

May they all rest in eternal peace.

 

 

 

Tarnished Brass: Press Release

Published Book CoverIt’s one thing to write a book and quite another to get the word out following its publication. To that end I’m including the official press release from Page Publishing in today’s post. The publisher has already provided the release to local, regional, and national print, broadcast and online media, but no one is more important than you (the reader) at creating “buzz” about the book. I encourage comments at this site and reviews posted to platforms such as Goodreads and Amazon. A word or two or an in depth discussion of your reaction to the novella is very much appreciated.

Headline
Author Max L. Knight’s new book “Tarnished Brass” is a gripping and potent work of realistic fiction examining the brutal civil war in El Salvador between 1980 and 1992.
Short Description
Recent release “Tarnished Brass” from Page Publishing author Max L. Knight is a riveting novella capturing the savage violence of a military regime determined to preserve its social hierarchy and the desperate resistance of an oppressed people fighting for their lives in the El Salvadoran Civil War. Rich in vivid detail and the author’s deep knowledge of the country, its people, and the conflict itself, this story, though a work of fiction, informs and resonates with timeless and global issues of human rights and military intervention.
Long Description
Max L. Knight, a married father of five residing with his wife, Janet, in San Antonio and decorated US Army veteran who served for twenty-four years as an air defense artillery officer, retired in 1997 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, and after 9/11 once again volunteered to serve his country as a contractor for the Department of Defense in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Central America, has completed his new book “Tarnished Brass”: a spellbinding work of historical faction bringing the twelve-year conflict in El Salvador to life. Max writes, “From 1980 until 1992, a brutal civil war was fought in the small Central American country of El Salvador. ‘Tarnished Brass’ looks at America’s involvement in the conflict; the United States provided funding, arms, and training support to the Salvadoran military. It also examines current issues affecting both countries—twenty-six years later, gang violence has replaced and even surpassed the brutality of both the Salvadoran military and the guerrilla factions during their prolonged conflict. The war and its aftermath are told through the perspectives of a US Army officer, a guerrilla leader, and a refugee turned gang member. By giving voice to all three, it looks not only at history but at the current crises. Today, El Salvador has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, and the influence of MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) has spread beyond its borders to many cities in the United States.” “Tarnished Brass” is a timely examination of a conflict fought over thirty years ago that continues to resonate today. Though a work of fiction, the author draws upon his experiences in-country to write a story that will definitely resonate with readers looking to understand past US foreign policy as well as current events.

Published by Page Publishing, Max L. Knight’s engrossing book is a compelling read for anyone interested in Latin American and US military history. Readers who wish to experience this engaging work can purchase “Tarnished Brass” at bookstores everywhere, or online at the Apple iTunes store, Amazon, Google Play, or Barnes and Noble.

Book Release & Upcoming Events

Published Book CoverFinally! I’m pleased to announce that my latest book, Tarnished Brass, is now available for online purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and iTunes. It seems like the release has been a long time coming. I last posted a “Cover Reveal & Update” in June (see my post dated 06/27/19) and held a pre-release book signing at the San Antonio A&M Club in July. It’s now October!

Such are the vagaries of the publishing business, and there are still some processes yet to be finalized by Page Publishing– the formal press release and a promotional video. Of course, marketing is a totally different phase that will begin in earnest the end of this month with a Book Blog Tour from Lone Star Literary Life.

For anyone who has yet to read a summary of the book, the novella is loosely based on my own experiences in-country:

More than just a history of the war in El Salvador, a conflict that ended almost thirty years ago, Tarnished Brass gives voice to those who fought and those who only wanted to escape the violence. It is a reflection on war and its aftermath as seen through the eyes of a U.S. Army officer, a guerrilla leader, and a refugee turned gang member —

Patrick Michael Moynihan finds himself returning to the small Central American country where, as a young impressionistic junior officer, he was thrust into the middle of a brutal civil war.

Miguel Alejandro Xenias, once a member of the ruling elite in El Salvador, recalls his change of heart, advancement within the guerrilla movement, and his new found hope for the country now that the FMLN is in power.

Antonio Cruz, seeking a new life in America, finds only a different kind of hatred and conflict, joins the street gang MS-13, and returns home bringing with him a new kind of warfare.

These perspectives spotlight an ongoing struggle in El Salvador that continues to impact the immigration crisis on our southern border and the spread of gang violence throughout the United States.

 

 

Killing Patton – The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General: My Review

Killing Patton Book CoverHaving recently reviewed Killing the SS (see my post dated August 23, 2019) I was asked by a friend whether I had read Killing Patton, another entry in the series by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. I had not, so I was given his copy to read.

From the title you might think that the book focuses solely on Patton’s death in December 1945. It does not. In fact, only the last few chapters are devoted to the “accident” that initially left him paralyzed and took his life less than two weeks later. There’s a definite reason for this which I’ll address in a moment.

Most of the book is an account of the waning days of World War II. The Nazis are defeated but the Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler, clings to the delusion that he can somehow turn the tide of war and yet claim victory. He mounts an all out counterattack in the Ardennes Forest that is so unexpected that it nearly succeeds before the Wehrmacht and the SS Panzer Divisions simply run out of petrol and can advance no further.

The Battle of the Bulge, as it is known to history, sets the stage for General George Patton’s Third Army to rush to the relief of the 101st Airborne Division trapped in the town of Bastogne, Belgium. It will be his greatest moment in a career of amazing accomplishments.

Forever the warrior, Patton doesn’t believe that World War II is the war to end all wars. He sees the Soviet Union as the next big threat even as the Soviet Army is given the honor of taking Berlin. He is outspoken in his characterization of Soviet forces as Mongol hordes, and the ruthless slaughter and rape that occurs as they liberate previously held German territories is proof of Stalin’s brutal push for Soviet hegemony in postwar Europe.

Patton’s outspokenness has got him in trouble before. A casual remark to women at the opening of a “Welcome Club” for American soldiers in Knutsford, England causes an uproar when Patton slights the Soviets by telling the gathering that the Americans and British will rule a postwar world. The well-intentioned words make headlines around the world and he becomes a political liability. “His hopes of assuming a major postwar command in a world divided between the United States and the Soviet Union had all but vanished.”

“Old Blood & Guts” also has no tolerance for cowardice. While visiting with soldiers that have been wounded in battle he encounters two men suffering from what we refer to today as PTSD. There’s no such diagnosis at the time and when he sees no visible wounds, he not only berates the soldiers in question but orders them back to the front, and on two separate occasions strikes the afflicted servicemen. In the latter instance, he even pulls out his pistol and threatens to shoot the individual on the spot. Such actions almost lead to his relief from command and reduction in rank, but his skills as a battlefield commander are yet sorely needed. Patton is forced to issue a public apology and his standing and influence in a postwar world are further marginalized.

All of these accounts are well known, covered by the press and captured on celluloid in the 1970 Academy Award winning film “Patton” starring George C. Scott. Where O’Reilly and Dugard really standout, however, is in little known background information and insights involving world leaders such as Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt and Truman, and both the Allied and German military commanders; Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery, Zhukov, Rommel, Peiper and their personalities, ambitions, strategies and tactics that determined victory or defeat. No other historical writers offer these kind of anecdotes and details about World War II.

Ironically and through no fault of their own, these are exactly the type of details lacking in the story of Patton’s death. The official accident report no longer exists. The driver of the 2.5 ton vehicle that struck Patton’s jeep, Tech Sergeant Robert L. Thompson, was never investigated for driving a stolen vehicle or operating it under the influence and simply vanishes from the historical record. The only report is that of PFC Horace Woodring, Patton’s driver, who claims he never made or signed any such report.

Even more interesting is the initial diagnosis that, in spite of his paralysis, Patton will recover from his injuries and regain some mobility. Two weeks later he is dead and no autopsy to determine the cause of death is ever performed. And, still more damning is a confession on September 25,1979 by OSS operative Douglas Bazata that he was part of a hit team that assassinated the general. Bazata claims to have fired a projectile into Patton’s neck that snapped it, but when he didn’t immediately die, Soviet NKVD intelligence operatives poisoned him while he was recovering at the U.S. Army 130th Station Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany.

In the Afterword to their book, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard call for a re-examination of the case in the belief that technological advances might resolve the mystery. Regardless of whether the many unanswered questions are ever resolved, this is another fascinating entry into the Killing series.

 

 

 

Tarnished Brass: Cover Reveal & Update

Published Book CoverPart of the process of being a writer is to explore different formats and genres. To date, I’ve published a memoir, a novel, and my latest book, Tarnished Brass, is a novella.

While the scope of a novella is far less broad than a novel, it still entails a detailed exploration of subject matter with more fully developed characters and plot than a short story allows. Its concise nature definitely results in a quick read — individuals may find themselves completing this type of book in a single sitting — but it shouldn’t lessen the reader’s enjoyment or involvement in the story.

Tarnished Brass is historical fiction. It examines the civil war that was fought in El Salvador from 1980 to 1992, and the consequences of that conflict as seen through the perspectives of a US Army officer, a guerrilla leader, and a refugee turned gang member.

Though a work of fiction, I drew upon my experiences from 1984 to 1986, as well as more recent trips in-country to tell this story. Anyone looking to understand past US foreign policy as well as current events (the rise of MS-13 and the immigration crisis on our southern border) should find the story compelling.

Earlier projections for a June release have been revised. Final edits are ongoing and the book should be available late Summer. I’ll post the press release when the book becomes available for purchase, but if you happen to be in San Antonio on July 29th, come to the San Antonio A&M Club at Aggie Park for their Monday Luncheon. I’ll be the guest speaker for a pre-release discussion. Doors open at 11:00 a.m. and my talk begins at noon. Hope to see you there!