The St. James City Civic Association held their first meeting Monday night. Their guest was Pine Island author DL Havlin.
After brief opening remarks by president Sharon Astle welcoming everyone to the first meeting of the season and mentioning the SJCCA is celebrating its 50th year "and still growing," Astle conducted a short business meeting.
Vice president Judy Green introduced DL Havlin.
Author DL?Havlin was the guest speaker at the first The St. James City Civic Association meeting of the season.
"DL Havlin's credo is 'Open Minds Open Books' for he believes readers are thinkers," she said. "DL lives here on Pine Island but was educated in Ohio and Florida public schools. He graduated from the University of Cincinnatti. He enjoyed a varied career as a business executive, fishing guide, football coach and world traveler. DL has been writing for the past 18 years, has had numerous novels published along with a short story collection and magazine articles. He has received a number of awards from a number of organizations including an Author of the Year Award in 2008. DL is here tonight to talk about his latest historical fiction novel 'Blue Water, Red Blood.'"
"Thank you all for inviting me," Havlin said. "One of the things my publisher did when she read the book was to ask if I was really going to publish this as a work of fiction because it's more fact than fiction. As a result she elected to call this book 'a near history novel.'"
The book, "Blue Water, Red Blood," was published Nov. 1. The story begins more than a decade before the start of World War II and shortly after the Okeechobee hurricane. It is a story about two Americans, Holland 'Howlin' Mad" Smith, a general in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Donald Roebling, the great-grandson of John Augustus Roebling (designer of the Brooklyn Bridge).
Their stories became intertwined when Smith realized the United States would probably be forced to enter World War II and fight the Japanese on dozens of Pacific islands. Smith knew the American military didn't have a vehicle capable of landing men on beaches.
In what could be call an "American accident," several years before the start of World War II, Donald Roebling had designed and built an amphibious tractor he called the "Alligator." The Alligator was built in response to the Lake Okeechobee hurricane of 1928 that caused the overflow of the lake killing at least 2,500 people. Following the disaster vehicles couldn't get to the injured for weeks and many died horrible deaths by starvation.
John Roebling II, Donald's father, had sent men to help victims of the hurricane. When he learned his men couldn't even get to the victims he challenged his inventive, but eccentric son Donald to develop a rescue vehicle capable of going "anywhere under any conditions." Donald accepted, and the amphibious tractor nicknamed the "Alligator" was born.
When LIFE Magazine ran pictures of Roebling's amphibious tractor entitled "Roebling's Allegator for Florida Rescues" in October 1937, it was reported to Gen. Smith and as they say the rest is history.
"The amphibious vehicle clearly won the war in the Pacific," Havlin said. "Although it wasn't perfect in most cases, it got the men to the shore saving many, many lives. General Smith became known as the 'Father of Amphibious Warfare.'"
"Blue Water, Red Blood" is published by Pennsylvania-based Double Edge Press. The book has already won the Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers' Association and is available for $21.95 where ever books are sold.