A Story Of Korea And The Politics Of Injustice

There are a myriad of reasons why an author writes a book, for some it is fame and fortune, for others it is to share their most intimate secrets, oh the list goes on an on. Once in a while though a book does not fit into the regular pigeon holes, that is most certainly the case with Command Influence. Robert Shaines is trying to get justice for a friend and client almost 60 years after it was denied.

Early in the 1950’s Robert Shaines at the tender age of 23 found himself involved in what many called the forgotten war, Korea. WWII had ended but Korea was still very much a powder keg. The world was weary of the mere mention of the word ‘war’, so much so that it was euphemistically referred to as the Korean Police Action, but make no mistake, this was war!  Because of his legal background he became part of the Air Force’s internal legal branch, Judge Advocates General’s Corps, better know as JAG.

Robert Shaines returned to the US and has had an incredibly successful career as an attorney. Although he was involved in many cases while a JAG, there is one that still haunts him. It was a case that was lost before it even began. Second Lieutenant George C. Schreiber was a man of high morals and well respected by the men he commanded leading the Air Police guard unit in Pusan, Korea. His rise to relative power was meteoric by Air Force standards, a mere year before he had been a grammar school teacher and sports coach in Brookfield, Illinois. I do not think that Schreiber could be classed as wanting to make the Air Force his career, but he was a man that would give his very best effort to whatever task he was confronted with.

On the night of September 1952 Eric Schreiber’s life was forever changed. The actions of one man at Pusan put Eric Schreeber’s life at risk. Eric found himself facing a General Courts Marshall accused of premeditated murder. If found guilty he faced at least life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Robert Shaines was assigned to the case in the role of defending attorney and bizarre as it sounds jailer. and it is through his eyes that the case unfolds in Command Influence.

There is little doubt that the Eric Schreiber case is one of:

Presumed Guilty, until proven guilty

The title of the book Command Influence really says it all. a scapegoat was needed to appease the powers that be, and poor Eric Schreiber was it.

Some might ask why Robert Shaines has waited so long to tell this story, I suspect that the reasons are many. To have written this account in the late 50’s would likely have brought his civilian career to a screeching halt. Now in his 80’s it is not a concern. I think there is also another reason, a much more personal reason. Robert Shaines has spent his life in search of justice and the Eric Schreiber case has been eating away at him for six decades. Justice and politics make for poor bedfellows.

Recently I came upon a quote, the exact wording escapes me, but it goes along the lines of ‘by reading history you understand the present and maybe get a glimpse at the future‘.  In a way I think that Command Influence is exactly what the quote was referring to.

Some might classify Command Influence as a courtroom drama, personally I don’t buy into that. For me it is a window into the world of injustice, and the military and political mind of that time. The larger question is does this type of injustice remain today?

Command Influence is a book that operates on several levels, all of which I found important. Obviously the main story line is about George Schreiber, however, the author also spend time to explain the rather mysterious world of the military justice system in the wake of WWII, and also some of the background and reality of the Korean war.

Each year in late December I compile my top ten books of the year. We are hardly half the way through January, but I suspect that Command Influence will make the list. I do not like the cliche terms that some book reviewers use, could not put down, page turner, etc. But I will say this, I picked up Command Influence and headed to my favorite reading spot, the front porch. The day was sunny, but the temperature was cool and in the low 50’s. Yesterday was the first time in over a week that my lair had been habitable. My plan was just to sit outside in the sunshine and fresh air for a few minutes. As the sun started to sink I read the epilogue:

…if nothing else. I could be proud and happy about bringing to his family the true facts about his being charged, tried and convicted, and the ensuing outcries in the press and by those of us who were participants in that case because of the many inequities imposed on a loyal and dedicated teacher and air force officer. If nothing else, we all can be proud of George C. Schreiber who led an exemplary life without complaint. He left the complaining to us who still survive and remember. It is with pride that I have told this story.

Command Influence is written from the heart. I don’t give stars like other reviewers, but if I did, my advice would be to step outside on a clear night and look upwards.

You can order your copy of Command Influence by using the Amazon link above.

Simon Barrett

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