Who’d have thought a bright, but fairly ordinary young man from middle class America who got just above average grades, dated the same girl throughout high school and went to church most Sundays, would grow up to eventually head a very secretive band of brave individuals--both men and women--who regularly put their lives on the line because they wanted to protect the rest of you. Yet that’s what we did, often sacrificing our personal lives (four marriages for me, all in the book) and our health (countless broken bones, major surgeries, even death) to do it.
Meanwhile you’re just going to have to call me “Papa” like everyone else around the globe has through most of those wildly unpredictable and dangerous years.
What did I think?
It always amazes me what events are taking place in so called peacetime to protect our various countries. In the UK, MI5 and MI6 are of course real organisations and although films like James Bond and TV shows like Spooks are fictional, I always wondered how much truth is actually in them. Code Name:Papa perhaps resembles the SAS in the UK, a team of special forces undertaking covert operations, so the author can't really go into a great deal of detail about his operations. We do, however, get to know about the man they call "Papa" and the sacrifices he made for his country.
John joined the Marines in 1965 and was shipped off to Vietnam to serve his country, whilst there he made life-long friends with Bill and Jake. Both men saved his life: directly in Bill's case as he tackled John to the ground in order to stop him triggering a trip wire, and indirectly in Jake's case after Jake's powerful father helped John get home and out of the Marines after being injured. There was more to Jake's dad than met the eye; he ran a covert organisation of trained personnel who protected their country without drawing attention to themselves. Jake's dad was known as "Papa" and he invited the 3 men to join his organisation, which all 3 of them did. When "Papa" was diagnosed with a terminal illness, he chose John to take over the organisation and John then became known as "Papa".
This isn't a book filled with grisly details of the operations carried out, but more a glimpse into the life of the brave men and women who keep their country, and the world, safe without us knowing. They put themselves in danger and remain anonymous to protect their loved ones but by doing this, they give up the chance of a happy normal life. They can't tell their family what they do or when they'll be home and they end up becoming strangers to their children. For me, Code Name: Papa wasn't just about John's life, but the life he lost. He wasn't there when his wife needed him and he wasn't there to keep his children on the straight and narrow. This is the same for the other recruits and there's a heartbreaking story about Jake and his son, Adam. Their family is their country and they really will do anything to keep it safe.
Sometimes I forgot that this was non-fiction as some of the stories really are quite horrifying, but the writing is fairly clinical so it reads like a debriefing on occasions (she said, he said etc). It must have been quite a journey to put all of this down on paper and I would have liked to have felt a bit more emotion coming through, especially in the more personal family stories. It does, however, prove the authenticity of the book as "Papa" must be detached and unemotional at all times. Certainly an eye-opening book, Code Name:Papa will give you a new dimension to stories you read in the news as sometimes we may only get half of the story.
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