Accordion War

 Book Summary:

When the first wounded Marines arrived from Korea in the fall of 1950, Charles Hughes was a Navy hospital corpsman working on the wards at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California. He was gripped by the stories those young men told. Too young for World War II and having missed that opportunity, Hughes now discovered in himself a strong desire to escape routine ward duties and travel to the country whose existence he had just recently learned about and find out what combat is really like. He and his friend Ollie Langston decided to volunteer for the Fleet Marine Force. Just days after they submitted their request they found themselves undergoing combat training at Camp Pendleton, the Marine base at Oceanside, California. Their desire to see what combat was like was more than satisfied in the months that followed.


Accordion War: Korea 1951 - Life and Death in a Marine Rifle Company is a detailed personal account of combat in the Korean War during its most violent "blitzkrieg" phase, the first third of the three-year war. While the descriptions of battles are up close and graphic, the conflict is also viewed from the perspective of the 21st century, from a keen awareness of the wars since —Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror. Interwoven into the narrative is a meditation on life, death and war —on the question of why men spend so much treasure and blood fighting one another. The setting is the Republic of Korea, a beautiful country whose citizens fought for their freedom alongside United Nations forces, a people who have, since the war, emerged from the shadows of history to become cultural and technological leaders in the modern world. But Accordion War is first of all the story of a band of brothers and the battles they fought half-way round the world in the rugged mountains of the country known as "the Land of the Morning Calm".


Fifty years before all America and the world were horror-struck by images of exploding planes and falling towers, September 11 was seared into the memories of the men in How Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Regiment, First Marine Division. There is a connection between those two days exactly a half-century apart. That connection can be found not far from Ground Zero in the village of Stewart Manor on Long Island inscribed on a memorial plaque dedicated to victims of 9/11 — and in this book. 

A Fortuneteller's Blessing

 Summary: The Story of John Allen Adams
March 2010, by Charles Hughes 

In 1936 during the depths of the Great Depression a handsome and gifted seventeen-year-old high school athlete saw his promising future shattered when his neck was broken in a football game.  His injury was so severe few at the time thought the honor student, Eagle Scout, editor of his school paper, and president of his class every year since the seventh grade would survive.  But with the dedicated care of his iron-willed Aunt Bessie, the outpouring of support from his home town and his own determination John Allen Adams did survive and was able over time to adapt to his severe handicap and go on to lead a remarkably successful life. Though left a quadriplegic, he proved to be a man of extraordinary inner resources, one who found freedom while bound to a wheelchair and independence while almost totally dependent on those around him.  He made his way in the world as a businessman dealing in the products he loved most—books; and, while confined for forty-six years to two houses two blocks apart, he found success as a poet and purpose as a defender of the environment and an anti-war activist whose influence reached across the country and beyond.


John Allen’s story, woven from important strands of Arkansas and American history, reaches far beyond the community of Arkadelphia in which he lived.  It is a dramatic story replete with accomplished citizens and colorful characters.   His mother, a carnival fortune teller, was the misfit daughter of the Horton family whose history can be traced back to the Revolutionary War.  Her grandfather, W.S. Horton, the patriarch, was a Forty-Niner who returned from the gold fields of California to Dallas County Arkansas where he married Elizabeth Scott, daughter of Major J.D. Scott and niece of General Winfield Scott of Mexican War fame. There they began their family on the cotton plantation they named Fairview and prospered until Horton rode away with the Arkansas Volunteers during the Civil War where, according to family memories, he took part in the nearby battles of Poison Spring, Marks’ Mills and Jenkins Ferry.  John Allen could count among his relatives and forebears soldiers, teachers, professors, physicians, and college presidents, although there are dark shadows and mysteries in the family as well.


But while family history provides a fascinating backdrop for his story it cannot account for the remarkable character of John Allen Adams.  All who knew him recognized his singular nature—his compassion, his courage, his wisdom and wit.  The newspaper where his Aunt Bessie worked boasted on its masthead that Arkadelphia was “The Athens of Arkansas,” and considering the constellation of friends who surrounded him throughout his life, that boast seems not without merit.  He earned his place in the Greatest Generation even though he lay paralyzed while his classmates went off to fight in World War II.  After that conflict, in addition to establishing Adams Book Store which became a cultural oasis for his home town, he enjoyed life-long discourses with accomplished friends who provided him windows to exciting worlds, to Ivy League universities, the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, performances at the Metropolitan Opera, and to incisive Socratic dialogs with a philosopher friend who lived near Walden Pond. 


John Allen Adams, a skilled poet and a tireless worker for world peace, was a man who found within himself the resources to build a life that made a difference, a difference reflected in the testimonies and memories of those whose lives he touched.