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tv   Jerry Yellin The Last Fighter Pilot  CSPAN  December 24, 2017 11:02am-12:01pm EST

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the world keeps giving me material. >> michael lewis, thank you so much. >> thank you. c-span where history unfolds daily, in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies, brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider.
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>> as you were downstairs getting ready to start the ceremony, captain yellin was asking me, do i stand for the army or do i stand for the air force? because he was in the army air forces. and i said, sir, you're 93 years old, you can stand for anybody you want to. [applause] captain jerry yellin is an army air forces veteran who served in world war ii between 1941 and 1945. he enlisted on his 18th birthday just two months after the bombing of pearl harbor. after graduating from luke army airfield as a fighter pilot in august of 1943, at the ripe old age of 19.
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he spent the remainder of the war flying p-40's, p-51 combat missions in the pacific with the 78th fighter squadron. he participated in the first land-based fighter mission in japan in 1945 and has the unique distinction of having flown the final combat mission of world war ii on 14 august of 1945, the day combat ended. on that mission, his wing man phillip slomberg was the last man killed in a combat mission in world war ii. his experience as a fighter pilot in the theater are captured in his book published. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to, the recipient of the flying cross, world war ii veteran and fighter pilot, captain jerry yellin.
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[applaus [applause] >> thank you, sir. i have to begin by saying this is an unbelievable honor for me. t the-- throughout my air force career i was constantly reminded that
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the air force that i served in stood on the shoulders of giants and those giants were the men, no apologies to the women present, but in world war ii there were no women in combat. not that none served. but you and your generation, properly referred to as the greatest generation, set the standard for what it means to fly, fight and win. which is the basis of what is today the world's greatest air force that i proudly served in. you gave us a warrior ethos that defines who we are and i'm talking about it from an air force perspective, but that same ethos, those same
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standards are present across all of our military services and it's on account of men like jerry yellin and your generation that gave that to us. and i thank you. i'm so honored to be up here with you. we had talked about some questions we were going to go through, but i've got to start with one. you talked in the bio, but flew different planes. and i'm the son of an aviator. and my son would say the corsair was the best. and i was in awe. you've got to tell us, what was it like flying the p-51 mustang. >> we learned to fly on 220 horsepower, and then a 400
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horsepower, and then a 600 horsepower at-6. each one of those are planes you flew with an instructor and then we got the p-40, which was a fighter plane, being used by general chenault in china against the japanese and then the p-47 which we called the jug. a hard airplane to fly, it wasn wasn't-- and then we got the best plane every built, the mustang. you could fly it with your fingertips, the instant response of anything you wanted to do, that's what the p-51 was about. still the best airplane. >> i would agree with you. [applause] you've made
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reference in the bio-- we're going to talk about that. it will be available know the bookstore and captain yellin will be available to autograph copies of the book. you share your experiences as a fighter pilot in world war ii, i think to start with-- although the book ends with it, but walk us through that last mission, okay, the last fighter pilot, the last mission, august 14th, 1945. >> we -- i landed on iwo jima on august 6th, the day that the first atomic bomb was dropped on hiroshima. my prop was still spinning and someone jumped up on the wing. we dropped a bomb.
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and i said what are you drinking? i want some. it's hard to believe. and then on august 9th, 1945, the second bomb was dropped on nagasaki and we thought the war was over, we would not fly any more missions. at that point in time i was with 15 guys who were killed. i never thought about them as being dead, they were transferred we'd see them again some day and we were called to a briefing on august 13th, 100 plus pilots, roux many -- room this size and told we would fly another mission and someone said why are we going to japan again? he said the japs are negotiating, but we have got to keep them honest. and if we hear the code word utah, if that was said, a
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19-year-old said, captain if we go on this mission, i'm not coming back. and i said, what are you talking about? >> he says it's a feeling i have. i went and told what phil slomberg, he said you cannot go, but a flight sergeant, he might get off the mission. i told him, and he said no way. early on the morning of august 14th, i said phil, get on my wing and don't get off, just stick in close. we're never going to make it to japan. well, we flew all the way to a drop tank where we had to drop our external tanks and we dropped our tanks and we went in a field somewhere over in japan. and we needed 90 gallons of fuel to get back to iwo jima. somebody in the squadron called
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90 gallons, and i looked over phil was on my wing i gave him a thumbs up, and he gave me a thumbs up and i led my four airplanes to heavy weather towards the b-29 we'd fly back on the wing in iwo jima. when i came out of the clear skies, he was gone. just gone. no radio contact, no visual contact and when we landed back on iwo jima we found out the moment we had started to strafe, the war had been over for three hours. it was never broadcast to us, we never heard it. but that was the devastating day. it was the last of 400 plus thousand world war ii veterans who gave layer liv-- their lives, he was the last 19 years old. >> and you were 21? >> i was 21, i was the old guy.
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>> the old guy, grandpa. you just made reference to the number of close friends and fellow pilots that were tragically killed either in combat or in flight accidents during world war ii. you relay several of those incidents in your book. how did the loss of so many affect you personally? >> well, you have to understand that when you put the uniform on of the military, or the policemen, or the firemen, you dedicate your life to protecting your buddies. and when they go, you can't think about them as gone, being dead or gone, because if you did you wouldn't fly another mission, wouldn't get into the airplane. so i had some that were killed. one the 29th may.
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and danny shared a kill of a zero. i landed on iwo jima, i had a toothache. a dentist from south carolina pulled four wisdom teeth. and grounded me. and danny mathis was given a place for my mission june 1, the squadron was led off into a front. 27 fighter planes went down. 25 guys were killed, including danny mathis in my airplane and it's hard to tell you the truth, but i missed my airplane, i didn't miss danny, we were there to fight, and it was after i suffered. and i spoke to the guys, i thought about suicide, i couldn't work, i suffered from what is now known as ptsd, post
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traumatic stress and didn't get my life back until 1975 when i learned transcendental meditation for relieving stress. combat is the killing of people for what they believe and that's the height of evil. we-- japan was evil, germany was evil, italy was evil. we fought against those countries and i don't believe i'm part of the greatest generation. general eisenhower, general marshall, general macarthur, they were all west point graduates. i was 18. i didn't know anything about the world. but admiral nimitz and admiral king, and annapolis graduates, they were the greatest generation. tom brokaw wrote a book and catchy title and sold a lot of books, but the leaders were the
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men who served from west point and annapolis. >> thank you for that perspective. the war ends in 1945, i think i heard you say downstairs you actually spent time in the reserve beyond the end of world war ii. but then like millions of world war ii veterans you returned from the war, you started a whole new life in the civilian world, the-- that returning work force and the work ethic, the belief in freedom that you brought back to our society really launched an incredible period in american history. how did your military service prepare you for that new life and what transpired after the
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war? >> i think that the military service for me was the greatest experience that i ever had in my life. we-- i graduated from high school in 1941. i had a scholarship to college, i was going to become a doctor, but i didn't have any money for books, didn't have any money for clothing or housing, so, i postponed entrance to college the spring semester of 1942 and when we were attacked at pearl harbor, december 7th, i made up my mind i was going to fly fighter planes against the japanese. i remember when i was 11 or 12 years old, i was pre-boy scoutment i went to boy scout camp for two weeks. and two weeks gave me the fundamentals to join the military ap to be in the military. and the discipline that we learned, we were all
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quarterbacks, all guys who were cocky guys who could fly fighter planes, bomber pilots weren't guys like that, but we were. and we became a squadron, we became more interested in protecting our buddies than we were interested in our own lives. and my life was all about you. today i have six grandchildren. i have four sons and it seems to me that today life is all about me, not about you. and the military put me in na frame of mind of service to our country. >> thank you for setting that standard for so many of us. you made reference to some of the things you struggled with based on your combat experience
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in world war ii, your dealing with pts, although we didn't have a name for it at the time. so, how has your experience as a veteran impacted your life since? your triumphs, your struggles. how have you used those experiences? >> i enjoy speaking to people, i enjoy going to 8th graders, 10th graders, seniors in high school to talk about 10% of the population served in the military of world 2. 16 million of us served. we fought against evil, we conquered the people who were evil. created democracies in germany, japan, and italy that exists today. as friends of america and the two countries that we fought with as allies, russia and china, seemingly to me are the
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enemies of the world. but what i've learned is we're not the color of our skin, we're not the language we speak, we're not the religion that we believe. we're all human beings, all exactly the same and we have to preserve that, that feeling. isis is evil today. they're willing to kill people for what they believe and that's evil. we have to protect, protect the people who believe that everyone is a human being, everybody is part of humanity. and try to give that message. it's probably the best time of my life other than when i was in uniform and i wear the uniform proudly of america. >> what, what would you say? we've got several young people here, we've got the band, the
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choir, several young people in our audience. i know some rotc cadets, children of our chaplain, others. what would you say to them today? those who are considering or maybe simply have an opportunity to make a decision about serving our nation as a member of the united states military. what would you say to them? >> i-- my mother used to read a lot of books and 80 years ago when i was 13 years old, i read a book by a minister called lloyd douglas. the book's name was "the magnificent obsession" >> it's the story of a small town lake george, new york state, where the richest-- son of the richest 20 or 21-year-old boy was drowning
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and a beloved doctor, dr. hudson was dying of a heart attack. and the fire department had one resuscitator, they served the young man and the old doctor died and then thousands and thousands of people came to his funeral. and his family discovered a journal that he had kept and had it translated from the code into english. the opening lines of that journal said do something good for someone else every day of your life and tell no one what you did because by talking about it, you might lose the benefit innered to you or to that other person. so i would suggest to everyone find a way to help somebody, find a way to do something for somebody every day, even if it's a smile. the four professions that i
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admire in america are the three who put uniforms on, and the four teachers in schools would learn a subject and give themselves a way in using that subject to give other people knowledge. and they're not as respected as i think they should be. my feelings are that we should be giving a little bit of ourselves away to other people every single day. that's the advice that i would give. [applaus [applause] >> so for you, what you just described is those of us who wear the uniform, especially around veterans day, a lot of people will tell us thank you for your service, but what i hear you saying is, service is what our lives should be about
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every single day, doing something for someone else, so service is not just military service. service is how we should lead our lives. >> i believe that very much p. we're all part of humanity. i think that the pure purpose of everything that is living on this earth, from trees to birds, to fish, animals, is to recreate ourselves, pass ourselves on and there's nothing or no one goes to recreation school, it all comes with the territory and that territory has to be protected, fathers pass onto their sons, mothers pass onto their daughters, what's good in life and we need you to keep doing that. we might have lost some of it, but that's, to me, that's what life is about. >> wonderful.
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in a moment we are going to open it up to see if our audience has any questions they would like to ask you directly. any final thought you would like to share before we open it up to the audience? >> no, i'm just proud to be a americ american. [applaus [applause] >> and continue to wear this uniform proudly and i can't tell you what an honor it is to me, for me to be in this audience on this day in 2017. i sort of live my life like a checking account. yesterday is a canceled check, can't get that back anymore. today's money in the bank, i can spend today and colonel
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thomas ends me a promissory note for tomorrow, and today is the day and i'm thrilled to be here. >> thank you, sir. we'd like to open up for any questions that we have for captain yellin. we have a mic handler in the audience. >> we have time for a couple of questions. please raise your hand, i'd come to you with the microphone. i'd like to ask a question of captain yellin. this is being broadcast, really, worldwide via facebook, and it's being recorded by c-span so we've got a very large audience. i know you said you suffered from ptsd for a number of years. what suggestion, what guidance might you give to somebody listening to this that might be in need of help. >> i was told that i had battle fatigue. the war was over, and you can't forget about it.
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and the veterans today, 20, 22 commit suicide over d-- every day, those who serve. they need something for themselves. we spend a lot of anti-depressive and anti-psychotic drugs which are sometimes addictive. and we can teach to a veteran, one time fee, t mchm.org is a website they can find out about it. i still meditate 20 minutes a day, i think it kept me alive and it's keeping me alive. i'm an advocate of that. you can't force is on somebody, but something that's called remove the stress of combat. it did it for me and it can do it for others. >> center section, sir. >> hello, yes, my father-in-law, 94, world war ii
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flu c-47, through the hump, over the himalayas from india, to india. he's alive today and he does walk with a walker and today, i sat with a very good friend of mine at a breakfast who is 95 years old and flu co-- flew combat. and those who didn't read the book the greatest generation need to read the book and thank you very much, sir. >> i appreciate that. [applaus [applause] >> sir, in preparation in coming here, i read a little about your life after the war, and a little bit of some reconciliation you made through your family. i don't know if you would take a moment just to share that and i know that's probably a long story, but i'd like for everyone to hear a little about
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that. >> in 1983 i was a consultant to major banks in california and they asked me to go to japan to speak to a bank group. well, i had been on iwo jima, you can replicate the sites. you can rhett mri kate the sounds, but you can't replicate of smell of these stories running in the son. i had no use for the japanese people and i said i can't go i'm too busy. and i told my wife i turned down a trip to go to japan. and she said jerry, you never asked me once if i wanted to go to japan. so being a dutiful husband in 1983 i found myself in japan. and i was completely overwhelmed by the culture, the education, the food, the scenery, the people, everything. and my youngest of four sons
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was then a senior at san diego state and helene said we should give him a trip to japan for a graduation present. we did that. he signed a contract in 1984 to teach english in japan for one year and now it's 2017 and he hasn't come back yet. so there. in 1988 he married the daughter of a kamikaze pilot who hated me as much as i hated him. and we became friends and family. i have three japanese, six grandchildren, three japanese grandchildren. he has a master in physics from mit of japan university. and one of 100 people who got a job from 23,000 applicants. his brother simon, named simon not after my father, but two
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japanese characters and graduated from the university of london four year course of philosophy awarded two year course in oxford to get a masters in philosophy which he graduated from in one year. and a granddaughter sarah, so my enemy is my family. my whole thought process of world war ii is to kill japanese and now i have three grandchildren in japan and family in japan. i found that that was the biggest learning experience that i could ever have. i wrote a book about that in 1988 called of "of wars and weddings" i don't like to promote myself, but that's a book on amazon. i'm proud of them. i'm proud of the three american grand children, and they're all the same in my love for them. >> off to your right, sir.
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[applaus [applause] >> we have time for one last question and we'll take that now and then hear from our choir and band, the traumatic battle hymn of the republic. afterwards jerry will be available to autograph books, that are available in our store. next question. >> thank you for keeping us safe in america. have you flown anything since your time behind the 51? have you ever maybe even gotten in a jet and experienced that. and having parents both in the navy i quickly have to say go navy, beat army. [applause]. >>. >> what was the question? >> he's asking you-- >>. >> guest: well, you know, you never lose the ability to make
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laws unless you get old and you never lose the ability to fly, i flew in phoenix two days ago. [applaus [applause] >> i flew a t-6, the new t-6, 12, 1400 horsepower trainer at lackland air force base in december. and i'm going back to phoenix in january to get a ride in an f-16. [applaus [applause] >> they have a very small club of pilots today, fighter
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pilots, called a 9-g club, they pull 9-g's in an f-16 and i'm not going to let them do that. i don't think i'll make it through. >> he left out a detail he not only flew the t-6, but he actually landed it. [applause] >> i don't know how i got to be this age. i guess i have good genes, but i genuinely feel i'm in the prime of life right now and to be here, to be with you, sir, and to be with a marine colonel or chaplain in the audience is one of the thrills and honors of my life. thank you very much. >> sir, thank you very much. [applause] captain yellin, thank you.
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we will conclude with the battle hymn of the republic. [applause] ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪ . [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, i think it would be appropriate, one more round of applause for the wonderful people who have
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shared their music with us today. [applaus [applause] >> author sally smith. your last books have been about the royal family. why is that? >> yes, they have. i was asked to do the queen's book, and took a nano second to do and it was going to be her diamond jubilee, a big deal celebrating 60 years on the throne ab i have been fascinated by her and i had written a biography about diana, princess of wales
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published in 1999. and i thought, well, this is an incrutable character and let's pull back the curtain and see what she's like. and i thought there was an obvious sequel here, the heir, the oldest heir to the throne in british history, waited longer than anybody else for the throne in british history and so, i thought, even after writing about diana, after writing about the queen, i realized very quickly there was a huge amount that i didn't know about him. and that he is complicated and compelling and in many ways the opposite of his mother, you know. he's had so much to say over-- about so many things over so many years, it was like containing the story and explaining him and understanding him and what the influences were, all the way from his childhood, all of his mentors, all of the
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experiences, some of which were searing in the 11 years that he was married to diana, in a letter that nancy reagan showed me, he said it was a greek tragedy. so he was just-- he he was like a labyrinth. i went down some dark passageways and some bright passageways and came away knowing he is obviously flawed as a human being, but he has done so many admirable things that people don't appreciate. one of the most gratifying things when i've been out talking about him and afterwards people came up to me and said, i have no idea, i really admire him. obviously, he made mistakes, but he has been a force for the good, just like winston church's son-- i mean, winston church's youngest daughter who i interviewed about the queen and
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prince charles and she was really, really fond of prince charles and she said i believe he's improved each shining hour on the way to the throne. which was kind of a wonderful chur churchilian thing to say. >> he's a politician. >> he's know the a politician, he is a' charitable entrepreneur, he's over the years been outspoken and tried in some instances to influence public policy. certainly writing letters and he, himself, would put it, to harass politicians to try and persuade them of his point of view, particularly about climate change, the environment, the sustainability and those issues that are very dear to him. but he's done lots, for example, to help poor farmers
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and he's tried to educate members of parliament on what kinds of things can be done to keep a lot of the small farmer, you know, to keep them economically viable. >> as a head of state though, how would his reign be different than his mother's, do you think? >> we will have to see. i think he's very different sort of person from his mother. i think he'll probably speak more. he'll have, even though his image is sort of as a stuffed shirt, he's actually quite informal when he speaks. she's much more constrained in the way she speaks. i don't think he's going to be what some have predicted, that he might become, which is an activist king because by the very definition of being an activist king, you're taking positions on issues the day and the minute he-- if he were to do that, he would
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alienate a portion of the population. so, i think he will use his convening power, which he has done effectively. not long ago, he got the head of the major chocolate manufacturers to come together for a meeting and they made an agreement to farm their cocoa more sustainbly. i could see him as king doing something like that, it's not controversial, and, but i think he will -- he will play within the lines. he knows what the limits are on a constitutional monarch. he knows that once he walks into buckingham palace and sits in that office, that he has to take the advice of the people around him, including the people in the government and his open advisors. he's made a career of the prince of wales by doing what he wanted to, starting his own initiatives, giving advice to other people.
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he's going to have to change, have an attitude adjustment when he becomes king. i think he recognizes that. >> will he have to wait for his mother to pass or being incapacitated? >> yes, well, that's really two different questions, to become king he will have to wait for his mother to die. now, there's the-- what about abbidication. >> she will not abdicate. it's anthema to her. and in the coronation, she was anointed with oil and made a sacred vow before god to serve her people until death and she has reiterated that pledge when she was 21 years old, she gave that wonderful speech from south africa, she said i pledge for you, i will serve you for
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the rest of my life and some years later she did a narrative in a documentary and said this is for life. >> and the british are a common sense people, there's a regent act. and if something happens charges could be installed until his mother were to die if she were incapacitated. but she will not abdicate. >> has he been trained well to be king? >> yes, he has. he understands the constitutional structures on him. strictures on him. i think the last ten years the people working with the queen have been working with him and the duties and tasks that will
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become his life. and there will be a remembrance sunday where they honor, you know, honor the war dead and for the first time the queen is going to be a observer and not a participant and he's going to lay his own wreath as well as his mother's wreath. she's going to watch with the duke of eden edenboro from the balco balcony. there are things he's taken on. in the palace she's reading her boxes every day and doing things she's called upon to do as head of state. she's meeting with ambassadors, durings vest tours, and doing those things as long as she's mentally capable and physically
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able. she will continue to do that, but he will be much more in the public face, he and his sons and his siblings, but mostly he and william and harry and kate and anybody somebody else, we don't know yet. >> and sally bedell smith, you were asked to do the qeii and who asked you. >> a definitive ask. >> and what about cooperation from the royal family? >> well, i have a lot of cooperation from buckingham palace. it took a while to win their test. who is this american coming over to write about her majesty. i think they were satisfied that the book was serious and that it was thorough and they leaked it. when it came time to do the book about the prince of wales.
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i got the same level of cooperation. there was no quid pro quo. they did not have an opportunity to see the manuscript, but i was able to travel with him and watch him in action and go to all the places that are significant to him, to meet with his top officials and i had a range of my own sources, so, it was a good mixture across the board for 300 people and traveled with him to sri lanka and malla and around the country and saw him doing lots of different kinds of things, that's the cooperation i like to have. >> sally bedell smith, prince charles, and written a biographer on queen elizabeth ii. and book tv covered that. if you go to c-span.org, type
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in sally bedell smith and watch that on-line. >> you're watching book tv on c-span2, television for serious leaders. here is our prime time lineup. 7:30 p.m. eastern, the scientist explores the connection between the brain and the world and argues that virtual reality enhances lives. and book tv, astronaut scott kelly recalls his record setting time in spaes. he's interviewed . and administrator it direct of the manhattan project and harvard university. we wrap up prime time programming at 11. christopher scalia, son of the late supreme court justice antonin scalia.
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that happens tonight, 72 hours of nonfiction books this holiday weekend. television for serious readers. here is a look at some of the best books of the area according to national public radio. journal entries from a southern road trip in 1970 and her time reporting on the patty hearst trial in south and west. ali, buying fuhr recalls the life of former heavy weight champion and activist muhammad ali. historian explores the political acumen of franklin d. rooseve roosevelt. in the gulf. jack davis provides a history of gulf of mexico region. and impact that oil, and tourism had. according to national public
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radio, is elaine cooper on the life of liberian president ellen johnson, the first across history. >> everyone was interested in the woman, after pressure from groups, he released he he will l-- helene. they had one more act to play and it was a doozy. i could stand up here for hours going on about what charles taylor did a liberia, that needs to be the subject of his own book. the tribal war he started, the child soldiers, hundreds of thousands of people killed.
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and in the ivory coast. he kidnapped children from their terrified mothers, his sources went on a raping and killing spree that spared almost no one. once again as they had many times before. it was the liberian women, they became market women travelling by foot to the border to get food to bring back a starving population. they had the babies in the forest and strapped them on their books and went back to their market stalls or sat on the side of the road selling oranges and they bided their time. when the war finally ended, they had made their power play. in 2005, 12 years before a secret facebook group and i'm with her buttons and bumper
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stickers and sprouted on lapels. they held a master class on how to elect a female president. >> many of these authors appeared on book tv. you can watch them on our website, book tv.org. i want to-- i'm also delighted to be introducing jeff from nomad land and told in an incredible way. jeff goes with-- goes out with the people who are really the untold story of the great esession. people who are underwater on mortgages and not going to make end meet. they give up family ties, social ties, off to go to travel the country and try to find work. they are new storm of

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