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John Birch

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Every time I look back on that night more
than 60 years ago – and I often do – I still feel a pang of shame about our
brief, violent act. And I see the startled, fearful eyes of the little girls,
huddled in their nightdresses, trying to hide behind their mo...
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A Christmas to Forget
I didn't know it that
night, but this was to be the last time I’d see my father. We sat - he, my mother, my brother
David and I - amid the over-the-top tinsel and decorations in a modest hotel
restaurant. My father wore a dark gray suit, stiff white collar ...
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Clip Joints
I read recently that an average man grows about ten
yards of hair during his life, so I guess I’d look like an Afghan goat-herd if
it weren’t for generations of barbers and hairdressers who’ve washed, cut and
dried my hair.  And what an
incredible cast of c...
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Okay, I’ll admit it. When we rode out
into the dark on those long ago nights, we felt more like cowboys than
infantrymen. But instead of horses, our mounts were two open-topped jeeps, with
steel pickets like ships’ prows welded to their fenders, ready to sl...
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Tough Assignment
Looking out over that calm lake at
dawn, with its fishing boats and flying cranes, it was hard to believe that
this beautiful place had been the scene of the worst industrial accident in
history. But months earlier, at about midnight
on a cold winter night ...
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Duck Shoot
            Tel el
Kebir, known to the British troops in Egypt in the 1950s as Tek, a sprawling
mass of sheds and tents shimmering in the heat, rose out of the desert as the
jeeps came over the crest of the hill. The sentry recognized Lieutenant Pete Robert...
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Banana Split
There was something almost
ritual and ceremonial about it all, and even though there were fewer than two
hundred of us, it seemed like some kind of re-enactment of the biblical Feeding
of the Five Thousand. But I'm getting ahead of myself,
so let's start at...
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Familiarity Breeds, well, Contentment
Patrick Shannon, a bespectacled, timid school-teacher, was convicted of the second-degree murder of his mother-in-law in 1969. He served twenty-eight years of a life sentence in a prison in upper New York State, and was released in March, 1997. By then he w...
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Duty Dog
It wasn’t a lot of fun being duty
officer. On call during weekday nights or whole weekends, we spent our evenings
sitting alone at a desk in the adjutant’s office, and sleeping near a phone,
fully-dressed, on a camp bed in a room that was often as cozy and ...
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Lazy Saint
1860 was a vintage year. Abraham
Lincoln was elected president, and Annie Oakley was born. In Europe the year
marked the birth of Chekhov and Mahler, and Britain’s launch of HMS Warrior,
the first iron battleship. A far less celebrated person was also born ...
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