I drove to Fulda and back today. For those of you that can do little more than spell geography, it's a small city about 100 kilometers east northeast of Frankfurt, Germany. (Sorry, 100 kilometers equals 60 American miles)
Anyone that has been exposed to military history should recognize the name Fulda Gap. Napoleon and his gang walked through here on their way to getting frostbite in Moscow. Citizens in the town of Gelnhausen point proudly to scratches on the city gate to prove the point; skeptics might suggest that any vehicle--even tanks stationed here until a few years ago--could have done this. Doesn't matter: accepted lore is accepted lore.
But that's not the point: the Fulda Gap is significant. Besides having seen a whole bunch of history, it is the location of The Greatest Battle Never Fought. This is where Russians and Americans would have gone head-to-head, mano a mono (that's hand to hand, not man to man, as most people think), and miscellaneous body part to miscellaneous body part, if the "balloon" had ever gone up (another weird euphemism). As far as I know, the balloon was never even inflated. In fact, I never saw a balloon, although I did spend a lot of time flying back and forth between an airfield near Frankfurt (name withheld, not because it's secret, but because it's insignificant) and Fulda. My job entailed ferrying dignitaries from the United States to stand on a tower and look through binoculars at the "enemy" on the other side of the Iron Curtain (actually a wire fence) who looked back at them through binoculars. That was the Cold War: malicious ogling through binoculars. Afterward the dignitaries tired from staring and mumbling about the seriousness of the threat facing humankind, some junior officer would point at a map mounted on a tripod in a field and reveal confidential plans to thwart the Russian invasion through the Fulda Gap and prevent the downfall of Europe and civilization as a whole. Although I spent a lot of time in and over this particular piece of real estate, I still don't know how a 20th century invading army would make it through. The North German Plain is great tank country; this is wooded, hilly, and rugged.
And, if the Russians had tried in winter, they would have succeeded. Our war games were always canceled because of bad weather. You can't win a war if you don't even show up!
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.