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Lost in the Cold War

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Exceptional book. At first I did a bit of an eye-roll when I saw it seemed to intersperse Jack's memoirs with Christensen's notes but I found it provided the perfect context as we delved deeper into Jack's story. The memoirs concluded, and Jack's story was then picked up by his son (the "other Jack"), who also provided background information from both of his parents, which served as an additional context source. Well worth picking up; you won't be sorry.
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The Honorable John T. Downey was inserted with a small C.I.A. team into China during the Korean War and was quickly shot down.  Mr. Downey would go on to spend twenty years and three months in a Chinese prison.  This is the story of how Downey was a forgotten man in the Cold War and the victim of the non-relationship that the United States had with The Peoples's Republic of China until 1973.  This is an excellent biography of a late American Hero of the Cold War.
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I have to confess that I didn't finish reading this. There were a couple of reasons. First off, is it a memoir or a history book? I admire the idea of combining the memoir with commentary in the form of a history, but it started to bog me down as I read and what I really wanted to do was just skip those chapters and read the memoir, which was fascinating.
However, I found the memoir fascinating in detail, but just too darn depressing for me. That's more of a reflection of myself than the book; when they were taken on their propaganda tours, I just found that too much to handle. It's such a strange way to treat prisoners and I still don't understand how that worked. 

I think that readers with a keen interest in the topic really will enjoy this book, but it wasn't for me. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.
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I had to push through this book. I thought it was going to be a memoir one of the longest POWs, CIA agent John Downey. I thought it would be gruesome and include some serious insight to war prisoners and how they are treated when a country does not follow code, along with how they move forward when they return to their home country. Downey included a good amount of his time in China, and those parts were great. You realize he was not tortured and was fed and treated fairly well all considering. I am not sure if Downey downplayed how awful it was, but if so, he should not have. That is why we wanted to read this book.
I found a lot of the information to be far-fetched (sorry) he learned Russian simply by look at pamphlets and books? I could have looked past most of that if it did not include long winded chapters about the war. I did wish to read about a history lesson and political justifications (at least not pages of it) when that was not in the book description. I also could not get behind the going back and forth with the time-hopping. I hope the editors take a look at that to make the book flow better. The other thing I hope they fix is the amount of times this man referred to "Yale." We get it, rich kid goes to Yale and still "kind of" ends up in the war. I would have loved Downey to include life after his release. Or maybe his son's final chapters to include what he did (other than go back to Yale and then hate Yale because they did not want him in their law program). How did he treat his family? Did he struggle? More insight would be nice if they are going to label this as a memoir.
I apologize if this was a harsh review, it just was not for me. If you like political, long-winded war backgrounds with the focus split on that and his time captured, this book is for you.
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You know about a camel, right -- a horse designed by a committee? This book  was designed by whatever committee runs the Bernkopf Tucker and Warren I.  Cohen Books on American-East Asian Relations at Columbia University Press.  What a mouthful, and what a shame! Its heart is a compelling memoir by a  22-year-old CIA operative who in November 1952 set out to retrieve an  "asset" in Manchuria, while dropping supplies to a guerrilla band, made up  of volunteers from the prison camps in Korea. The pickup was a "Jerk for Jesus" system that required the C-47 transport  to first drop the snatch kit, then fly off and return after 45 minutes,  approach the snatch line at 90 knots and an altitude of thirty feet.  Predictably, the Chinese volunteers had been turned or betrayed, and the  C-47 was shot down. The pilots died in the crash, but Jack Downey and  Robert Fecteau were captured, to begin an imprisonment that would last  almost 20 years. Jack's recollection of those years, with a brief  introduction, some footnotes, and an "afterword" would have made a great  book. Alas, the camel drivers at Columbia University Press spoiled it with  endless inter-chapters by Thomas Christensen, who is identified as Interim  Dean and James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations at  Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, and isn't there a  clue right there? There's also a final chapter by Downey's son, which is  okay but should have been cut by half.
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There is often a fine line between hero and victim.  People are put in extraordinary situations and respond accordingly, either succumbing to or overcoming their circumstances.  For Jack Downey, the circumstances were dire, but he overcame adversity, and we are fortunate to be able to read his account all these years later.  Lost in the Cold War is the story of a man who was out of his depth, enticed into working for the CIA who failed to properly train or supply their agents in those days.  Following his capture, he was left to rot by a U.S. government that was so inflamed by communism that it wouldn’t even acknowledge the Chinese government that held their citizens.  Secretary of State John Dulles comes across pretty badly in this book, as well he should.  The U.S. government failed Jack Downey in so many ways, it’s absurd.  The man spent 20 years in a 
Chinese prison as a political pawn for both countries, yet he persevered and maintained hope and honor despite everything.  Downey was, no doubt a victim but he became a hero despite the soul-crushing odds and circumstances which would have broken lesser men.  

Lost in the Cold War is an extremely interesting story, told in three different parts.  First, is Downey’s memoir, which was discovered by his wife following his death.  His story is both tragic and uplifting at the same time as, amazingly, he makes his ordeal sound almost fun in places.  Indeed, there are probably those who had far worse experiences as prisoners or POW’s, however, it’s clear that Downey took the high road in his memoir.  He dwells far more on the positive than on the horrible isolation he must have felt and the more terrible things he surely experienced.  He mentions these things, of course, but the overarching theme of this book is hope and resilience.  You will not find any daring escape attempts in these pages, nor will you find much in the way of action such as gunfights and the like.  This is not that kind of memoir.  This is a tale of a human doing the best he can to survive and be faithful to what he believes.  

The second of three parts of Lost in the Cold War consist of political history chapters interspersed among the chapters of Downey’s memoir.  These chapters explain why and how Downey was held for so long.  They, in great (and sometimes excruciating) detail what was going on “behind the scenes” with the governments of the U.S. and China.  If there is one criticism I can place on this book, it’s that these chapters are often overly detailed and sometimes get quite boring regarding the political happenings.  Of course, much of this information is necessary to understanding why Downey was a captive for so long and how he was eventually released.  Much of this gets tedious, though and probably could have been shortened somewhat to prevent losing the flow that Downey’s memoir has going.  The third part of the book is the afterward by Downey’s son, which is quite interesting as well and describes Downey’s life following his release until his death.  

Overall, Lost in the Cold War is a really great read and I would recommend to most anyone.  I greatly appreciate Netgalley and Columbia University Press for providing me with an advance e-copy of this book to read.  I enjoyed it immensely.
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A book about a CIA officer from the Cold War who spent twenty as prisoners of the Chinese it was a good read  but it was it's also a hard read.
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A truly amazing and inspirational novel about an individual who was kept imprisoned for over 20 years in China. What he endured and how he maintained his spirits is inspirational. How the US government failed to gain his release earlier, is disappointing. This is a great read.

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Lost in the Cold War; The Story of Jack Downey, America’s Longest-Held POW by John T. Downey, Thomas J. Christensen and Jack Lee Downey
This is the story of Jack Downey one of two CIA agents shot down over China on 29 November 1952 during the Korean War. Their goal, with the help of Chinese Nationals from Taiwan was to cause conflict in China behind the Korean War He and Richard Fecteau were held for over 20 years in Chinese prisons. Jack was released on 12 March 1973. Much of this time in solitary confinement. This is the story as told by Jack Downey with assistance from Professor Thomas Christensen as well as his son, Jack Lee Downey. Why were they held for so long without the US obtaining their release ? This is the main contribution of Prof. Christensen to this book because the reality is Mr. Downey was in isolation and did not know the gross incompetence of the US Government specifically presidents (Eisenhower) and State Dept. officials  (Dulles) who refused to recognize the Peoples Republic of China government and therefore no way to meet and negotiate with the Chinese. This was a very good book and it is amazing and almost impossible to appreciate the heroic discipline by both Downey and Fecteau to survive for 20 years in such difficult a situation. I had not known about this story until recently. Besides this book there is another book also coming out by John Delury on the same story. Delury’s book does not have nearly the human side of the book as this one which come directly from Jack Downey but it does provide far more of the historical context and the battle going on within the Congress, White House and State Dept. all around the fear of McCarthyism and who lost China. A last resource can be found on YouTube called Extraordinary Fidelity a CIA film on both Mr. Downey and Mr. Fecteau who were given the Director’s Medal by George Tenant the Director of the CIA. It was good to see this film and see that both gentlemen overcame their ordeal and led what seems to have been happy lives upon their return. A very good book but will leave you perhaps like myself angry with our government for their inaction for so long to do the right thing and admit and accept with humility failure and saved these two heroes from losing over twenty years of their lives.
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This was a phenomenal book. I spent half the night reading it. It's a subject I had heard of, but never really got much information about. I now feel I am well informed about the topic.
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