I was asked the other day about GMJ Book names. As you know they are explained in the books, it is part of the writing style the name is explained in a conversation between the characters. Every name is somehow linked to the main character, Angelique Dawson which means it is a code, for my late wife to chuckle about. That too is not really news, I explained it before but I will do so again because it stays interesting to me and my readers.
We discuss the use of military code names in some detail in the new GMJ Book, Code Name Casselberry (GMJ 18), which will be out somewhere in February 2016. It is a book which I am thoroughly enjoying and about a rescue mission, getting stranded diplomats out of a hostile country by using covert operators and Special Forces together with warships and civilian aircraft. You really do not need a carrier group for such duties but air cover is at times desired. We are also in this book looking at will happen if a Western Special Forces Team walks into a trap and opponents as good as they and with helicopter gunship support to boot. Of course, the standard Hollywood answer is they will fight their way out and arrive heroes on the other side. Yeah, dream on. Read the book and wake up since my books are as much warnings as they are good stories. In real life, a team trapped like that, will be destroyed, utterly. They are lightly armed, they have no air defence capabilities, cannot be resupplied or extracted and no matter how brave, they will not survive when trapped. I find a lot of “racist” attitudes against the GMJ Books with letters stating that “surely not, what can Africans do against us? We are the best etc.” and I am smiling about that typing here. Listen to me, you get Africans and you get South Africans and if you Google the word “Recce” or “South African Special Forces” you will be surprised at what you find and I know my theatre better than most. And I am glad for such responses from readers. I do not take offence, that is how we learn, by investigating that what we at first do not believe, but let us talk about military codes, the subject of the blog.
Military code words are not supposed to have a meaning from which you can deduct anything useful. It is rare that you have something like “Enduring Freedom” or “Desert Storm” where everyone knows exactly what you are up to. Sadly, it is only in a place like modern USA of today, that a code name to kill the most wanted terrorist of them all, Osama bin Laden, can become a controversy. Why? Because it was called “Geronimo” and that, according to the liberals and native Americans, was a disgrace of note. In fact, the official name was “Neptune Spear” and only bin Laden’s death or capture (as if that was ever going to happen) referred to as “Geronimo.” It is also explained that the name, “Operation Neptune Spear,” is a reference to the trident in the SEAL insignia, which it may have been and in itself is meaningless, everyone knows that SEALs are operating in that theatre, not what they are doing at any particular time. Yet, a controversy occurred.
Regarding “Geronimo,” well, I suppose if you are overly sensitive and looking for sympathy (and you won’t get it, hear my words, no one likes a whiner), you can complain. It is now a few years later and nothing has changed, your complaints are forgotten. It is in any case not the first time that “Geronimo” was used. During the Second World War, American Airborne soldiers shouted “Geronimo” as they jumped, why I would not know but it is historical fact and legend and as with the bin Laden raid, meant to be respectful, not condescending. You can take it either way I suppose, your choice.
Interestingly, in the military, once a code word is assigned, it is considered to be an active operation, ongoing if you wish and there is no more active an operation as a parachute jump, you are committed. If compromised, the old code word is cancelled and a new code word is assigned and to make it more confusing the moment a mission is completed or abandoned, so is the code name for it. That is unless you are playing a double bluff and it happens that the same code word or name is used for another operation. On the other hand, it should never betray your intentions, that is the crux.
I use the same ideas on the name of a GMJ Book, the name seldom to never explains what the book is about and yes, I get that it may cost me a few sales but you know, it is accurate and the right way to do it. And if you actually read the book, or the codes which less than ten people in the world gets with every new book, you will understand why I used that name. I am sure it makes for interesting reading and is fun for me to do it like this. And so you find Code Name Wrangler (GMJ 17) not as a cowboy book, but an in depth look at rescuing a hostage aircraft in another country. Code Name Blue Tang (GMJ 15) is about setting up a dogfight between Spanish Air Force F-18s and South African JAS39 Gripens specially to test the new V3E Agile Darter short range air-to-air missile. A great read and if you read the book, you will see Blue Tang, a tropical fish, refers to the US Navy’s Blue Angel display team. This is fun writing!
I had not written a blog in a while, festive season and so forth, so happy New Year to you and may you be blessed. But then again, I was not exactly idle. I wrote another GMJ Book, number 17 and called Code Name Wrangler. It is about a topic I fancy myself on, hostage rescues and it should be read by everyone interested in covert operations, Special Forces and military history. At 316 pages, it is also the longest GMJ Book in the Series (for now) but not uninteresting, no GMJ Book is boring. Every one of them has its moments and I love them all, for me, they are like kids.
I was asked the other day, by a reader, why do they always win, Angelique Dawson and her team, in the GMJ Books? Why not more desperation? Well, a couple of things. There are desperate moments in the books, I recall Foxtrot swimming after the Gripens sank the EBS Orlando and he making peace with death (Code Name Lise) and also where Angelique got herself shot down (denied by her to this day) in Code Name OST-M and many other instances. But what you will not find is the Hollywood crap of “OMG feel sorry for me as I am a flawed hero” since these people are not like that. And yes, in real life, good guys do win and do so often.
Code Name Wrangler is with the editor and won’t be ready for another week or so but we deal with the rescue of a hijacked aircraft. As with all GMJ Books we take a deep look, it is fascinating, on what happened before in history at Munich, Entebbe, Mogadishu (not the 1990s fiasco), Marseilles and many other air hijackings or rescues, even the infamous Operation Eagle Claw. And I mention that it is never hard for a sniper to pull the trigger or for the team commander to give the order to assault the aircraft. Really, I find Hollywood irritating with their “OMG I am going to kill someone” and usually there are dark flashbacks to some stupid event in the past. This may well sell books and movies and ask a great deal from the actor but it stays crap. In real life, the rescuers, the assaulters (those guys dress in black you see on television) have one purpose, to rescue to hostages. And if that means killing the hostage takers, then so be it. There are no qualms and “OMG” moments.
As with all things in life, they fail at times in the sense that hostages die. In the last 3 years, the US Navy SEALs and British Special Air Service failed spectacularly in Africa and the Middle-East to rescue anyone alive (not their fault, the reasons are discussed in Code Name Wrangler) and yet the French GIGN succeeded in Africa, mostly. Now I say again, for there seems to be a misunderstanding about the GMJ Books, that it is not about who is the toughest, or who is the best, but who is the best in what sphere of operations. And in all the “failures” above, one constant remained, the hostage takers died. And that is what I mean when I say the good guys win, they may lose a hostage or a member but they get the hostage takers and as such, seen in this light, they never lose. It is seldom that a hostage taker is spared and it is not murder, it is reality. When a man becomes a terrorist and willing to kill innocents, what do you expect the rescuers to do? These days many of the terrorists wears body armour and a suicide vest - so guess what, you now going to be shot in the head. Only a difficult target only for untrained people. And when shot in the head, guess what, you will die.
Seen in this light, when a rescue team is released to storm that aircraft, all hell is going to break loose and to be successful, the terrorists will die and that is how I write these books. We are not talking about normal people here, Angelique and mates are not normal people. We are talking Special Forces, covert operators and A-type personalities, they want to win and any cost and they will win. So there is no Hollywood crap of deep feelings and terrible anguish about the poor terrorist being shot in the head many times or feeling sad afterwards. What you read in GMJ Books is as real as it gets in that world.
George M James is a pseudo name for the author and used for security reasons. He is an expert on counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations in sub Saharan Africa, a military and war historian and published author of 43 books. His late wife was an American Patriot that served with the U.S. Navy. His books are widely read among military veterans of many nations.