Fact is often stranger than fiction, and Legerdemain is living proof. The tag line alone was enough to get my attention.

‘The President’s Secret Plan, The Bomb, And What The French Never Knew…’

And James Heaphey is just the man to tell us. He was there, this is living history at it’s absolute best. It has been only recently that the documents involved have been declassified, the events happened over 50 years ago, but I will be willing to bet that there are fractions in the Pentagon, the CIA, and other branches of the government that would have preferred their permanent burial! To add insult to injury, the book is not written by some investigative reporter digging through dusty boxes of long forgotten memorandums, but the ‘Point Man’. Even more embarrassing is the fact that than not only were the French duped, but the whole of NATO.

Morocco may seem like an unlikely location for international intrigue, but in the early years of the 1950’s it was pivotal in the Cold War. Our hero James Heaphey at the tender age of 22 finds himself playing in the always murky world of secrets. He is stationed at Nouasseur Air Base, a French facility run by the US, and flying the NATO flag. The mission is ostensibly one of peacekeeping in the powder keg that describes Morocco. During this period Morocco was a French protectorate, and a place where the Moroccans felt that France was little more than an overbearing dictator.

America had a completely different concept for Morocco. Although the brink of nuclear war was still a decade away, and the term ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ was yet to be invented, the US had already declared that if it came to using The Bomb, it was an all or nothing proposition. There would be no limited response should the USSR use this weapon. The response would be total destruction of Mother Russia. The problem though was that of delivery. ICBM’s were still just a twinkle in the designers eye’s and the only real way of dropping nukes was with bombers. Unfortunately Russia was way outside the range of even the longest range bomber based on American soil, the response time to an aggressive act would be days rather than hours.

Breaking just about every international treaty known to man, the solution was to store nuclear weapons in Morocco. Of course informing France who controlled Morocco, the Moroccans themselves, or even NATO, whose skirts they were hiding behind was out of the question.

The history books currently are all wrong! They reflect that it was 1954 that the US started stockpiling Nukes in Morocco, James Heaphy explodes that myth, 1952 was the actual date.

Obviously it was vitally important that the storage area at Nouasseur be kept secret, and ‘Area Q’ of the the air base did keep its secret for decades. A more serious concern though was the political climate in the country. The French rulers were hated, nationalistic factions were working hard to extricate themselves from the colonial rule. Where would this leave the US, and what could they do? In an intricate ballet of deception they must appear supportive of France, yet also back the various groups seeking freedom, I guess in gambling parlance you would say ‘hedging your bet’.  This is where James Heaphey enters the picture, this unassuming base newspaper editor is tasked with contacting the various groups and creating an environment that fosters friendship. At 22, he is old enough to die for his country, but young enough that his country has plausible deniability should anything go wrong.

“If you do well, nothing will be recorded anyplace….. If you screw up, they’ll either hide you or make an example of you” is the sage advice James receives at the beginning of his mission.

The Copts, Istiqlal, The Berbers, Osama Bin Ladens guiding light Sayyid Qutb, even the Israeli Mossad, are all part of the patchwork quilt that James Heaphey must somehow work with.

Legerdemain hits the book stores on December 30, and if you only read one book in 2008, make sure it is this one. This book rewrites history. This will be hell for the average History author, and heaven for those college professors, who will be able to revise their books, and sell more copies to the poor students that will need the new copy for the 2008 school year!

You can get you copy of Legerdemain from History Publishing Company.

Simon Barrett

 

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