Close Calls : How Eleven US Presidents Escaped from the Brink of Death.
A book for Older Kids
Presidents have served in war and peace and have often become very close companions of extreme danger. In Close Calls, Michael P. Spradlin demonstrates his ability to take true stories and fill them with excitement, action and intrigue.
Readers will learn about the plot to assassinate George Washington, which could have ended the American Revolution. How Andrew Jackson fended off an assassin until famed frontiersman (then Congressman) David Crockett stepped in to save the president. When Abraham Lincoln was elected, it was Kate Warne, America’s first female private detective helped devise the plan to deliver him safely to Washington.
Compelling tales of disaster narrowly averted!
— Kirkus Reviews
Enjoy an Excerpt
It was a bad night to be on the water.
The sky was cloudy and moonless. Fog rolled in over the strait. The other PT boats were invisible in the settling gloom. Still, the enemy was out there. Somewhere. They were certain of it. Destroyers. Maybe battleships. All of them bristling with guns and torpedoes.
The small craft bobbed gently on the waves. It was set to silent running, one muffled engine quietly idling in the pitch-black night. The crew was anxious. Every noise, any sound, no matter how muted, could alert the Japanese that swarmed these islands. And if that happened, they would be vastly outnumbered.
In command of PT-109 was Lieutenant (JG) John F. Kennedy. Like the rest of the crew, he was antsy. He had wanted to serve in combat since the war began. Being in command of a PT boat would not have been his first choice. The PT boats did not have a great record in the fighting thus far. The typical Japanese warship had guns and torpedoes with far greater range. The PT boats could outrun them, but they needed to get in close to fire their torpedoes, well within range of enemy weapons. Firing the torpedoes in the darkness would also give away their position, making them vulnerable to return fire from both ships and aircraft. Sitting on the open water, waiting to engage a bigger, more heavily armed foe tended to make the captain and crew a little nervy.
They did everything in their power to remain hidden. The slowly idling, single engine would leave no wake that could be spotted by on-shore artillery or from the sky above by Japanese planes. The motors were muffled to reduce noise. Somewhere out on the water, two other PT boats waited, but they were no longer visible in the darkness.
They were cruising the waters near Kolombangara Island in the South Pacific. PT-109 had been assigned to search for Japanese warships that were delivering men and supplies to bases in the area. So far, they had no luck. They had been cruising through these waters for some time. No ships had appeared. It looked as if the Japanese navy had succeeded with their nightly resupply of troops and supplies to the island.
Up ahead, without warning, a dark and shadowy shape appeared, slicing through the gloom. It was a Japanese warship headed right for them. From the forward machine-gun turret came a shout: “Ship at two o’clock!”
There was little time to act.
The crew had less than ten seconds to get the engines to full speed and evade the destroyer. There was no time to load or fire rounds from the .37 mm gun. The destroyer, later determined to be the Amagiri, hit PT-109 broadside. It cut the ship in two at on a diagonal from amidships to the stern. Fuel exploded. Men screamed.
The night erupted in fire and smoke.
And for the first of several times over the next few days, John Fitzgerald Kennedy wondered if this was what it felt like to die.