Ensign O'Toole, meet THE UGLY AMERICAN

Ensign O-Toole and Me_tatteredandlost

Continuing with the Naval theme from yesterday, today I give you Ensign O'Toole and Me written by William J. Lederer, printed in 1959:
Ensign O'Toole and Me is the title of a semi-autobiographical novel by William Lederer. The book was loosely adapted to television in the 1962—1963 NBC Four Star Television series Ensign O'Toole, starring Dean Jones in the title role and featuring Jack Mullaney, Jay C. Flippen, Harvey Lembeck, Beau Bridges, and Jack Albertson.

Early chapters are light-hearted and amusing. One early chapter describes how O'Toole, the hero, gives a clever explanation to his peers at Annapolis, why he chose, as his first assignment, the post of Executive Officer aboard an American River Gunboat in China.

Several light-hearted chapters follow, all set in South-East Asia, prior to World War II, where O'Toole learns oriental languages from beautiful, exotic oriental women, which enable him to bail his Captain out of jail after a drunken rampage.

Our hero and our narrator lose touch during World War II. When they reconnect our narrator has retired from the USN and become a journalist. O'Toole is in Military Intelligence. Our hero keeps running into O'Toole in improbable locations, returning from dangerous missions, behind enemy lines, where he pleads with our hero to make the US public pay more attention to the dangers of Communism. (SOURE: Wikipedia)
Not directly a movie tie-in paperback, but the inspiration for a now-you-see-it now-you-don't NBC show.

Now, what other book do you suppose Lederer wrote? The Ugly American.

So who was William J. Lederer?
William Julius Lederer, Jr. (March 31, 1912 – December 5, 2009) was an American author.

He was a US Naval Academy graduate in 1936. His first appointment was as the junior officer of a river gunboat on the Yangtze River.

His best selling work, 1958's The Ugly American, was one of several novels co-written with Eugene Burdick. Disillusioned with the style and substance of America's diplomatic efforts in Southeast Asia, Lederer and Burdick openly sought to demonstrate their belief that American officials and civilians could make a substantial difference in Southeast Asian politics if they were willing to learn local languages, follow local customs and employ regional military tactics. However, if American policy makers continued to ignore the logic behind these lessons, Southeast Asia would fall under Soviet or Chinese Communist influence.

In A Nation of Sheep, Lederer identified intelligence failures in Asia. In "Government by Misinformation" he investigates the sources he believes lead to American foreign policy:
  • Trusted local officials.
  • Local (foreign) newspapers, magazines, books, radio broadcasts, etc.
  • Paid local informers.
  • Personal observations by U.S. officials.
  • American journalists.
Other works were intended to be light-hearted and humorous fantasies. His early work, Ensign O'Toole and Me is both. A children's book, Timothy's Song, with illustrations by Edward Ardizzone, appeared in 1965.

William Lederer rose to the rank of Navy Captain. The source for this is his own statement in Our Own Worst Enemy discussing being assigned as a Special Assistant to Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet. (pg 54, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1968).

A piece of history related in Our Own Worst Enemy is the story of Lederer as a young Navy Lieutenant, Junior Grade, having a chance meeting in 1940 with a Jesuit priest, Father Pierre Cogny, and his Vietnamese assistant, "Mr. Nguyen", while waiting out a Japanese bombing raid in China. Father Pierre asked Lederer if he had a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence on his gunboat, and Lederer said that he did and provided them with a copy. "Mr. Nguyen" later became better known as Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Communist revolutionary and statesman who served as prime minister (1946–1955) and president (1945–1969) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). The 1945 Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, written by Ho Chi Minh, begins by quoting from the American document.

Lederer died December 5, 2009, of respiratory failure at the age of 97. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
To read Lederer's obituary in the New York Times click here.

I don't think I've ever seen the original Marlon Brando version of The Ugly American, but I have seen the remake with Michael Cain many times. Great story. I know I have the book around here. Need to put it near the top of the stack.

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