Warren Trest, author of the book about war hero Heinie Aderholt, brings this program Wednesday, Feb. 19 at noon, part of the library’s ongoing “The Way it Used To Be” series.
“There are so many tall tales about former Air Force Brig. Gen. Harry C. Aderholt, known to the covert world he operated in as ‘Air Commando One’ or by the less flamboyant nickname ‘Heinie,’ one would think this native son of Birmingham was “10 feet tall and bulletproof,” Trest tells.
But actually, in real life Heinie was just 160 pounds, but made of of grit and gumption wound up in a tough, athletic frame and five feet, six inches tall, but all the tall tales were true, Trest said.
William H. Sullivan, former ambassador to Laos, the Philippines and Iran, and a legend in his own right, described Aderholt as an authentic hero of the Cold War whose exploits were clandestine in nature and little known to the country at large until the Smithsonian Institution published his biography in 2000.
From dropping agents behind enemy lines in Korea to supporting Tibetan freedom fighters, nothing about Heinie Aderholt’s military career was ordinary, Trest said.
Things came to a head in the Vietnam War when Aderholt found himself having to fight the bureaucracy and his superiors, as well as the enemy, to carry out the unconventional mission he was sent there to do and to do it right.
One of those superiors acknowledged there was not a more “gung ho outfit” in the war than Aderholt’s air commandos and attributed this to his superior leadership.
Another one said “the guy, if left alone, might have saved Southeast Asia,” Trest said.
Trest, will center his attention on Vietnam as he takes us through the Cold War exploits of this “authentic American hero” and leads to some understanding of how we could win on the battlefield in Southeast Asia and still lose the war, said Dr. Shirley Spears, director for Comer Library.
“We have an avid following for programs on the wars that have been fought to keep our country free, and everyone loves a hero,” she said. “This program is a sure winner.”
Trest has been to the Comer Library many times to bring programs based on his books, but he has always allowed someone else to take the spotlight, Spears said.
“For example General Chick Cleveland, the subject of Trest’s book, “Once a Fighter Pilot,” took center stage to tell his own heroic story,” Spears said. “Then Governor John Patterson wowed the crowd with stories from Trest’s book, “Wings of Denial: The Alabama Air National Guard’s Covert Role at the Bay of Pigs.
“Warren Trest knows so much about military history and of course, he knows the Heinie Aderholt story better than anyone with all of the research that he has done on this colorful military man,” Spears said. “Trest is a great favorite here-a gentleman and a scholar who is committed to helping get history stories out to the public. He is a librarian’s dream when it comes to programming. He will probably have some books to sell if anyone wants to purchase them, but the Comer Library does have the Aderholt book in the collection.”
Trest, a former Air Force senior historian, author and co-author of more than 50 military histories and studies, was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals as a U.S. Army combat reporter in the Korean War, and the Medal for Civilian Service while serving as an Air Force historian in Vietnam.
In 2000, his book “Air Commando One: Heinie Aderholt and America’s Secret Air Wars,” was nominated for the Bancroft Prize for distinguished works in American history. Other notable works by Trest cover a myriad of interesting military topics, as well as the authorized biography of John Patterson, “Nobody But the People: The Life and Times of Alabama’s Youngest Governor.”
The “The Way It Used To Be” brown bag lunch series is sponsored by SouthFirst Bank. The refreshment room opens at 11 a.m. and participants are invited to bring a sandwich and enjoy drinks and desserts provided by the library.
Working people are invited to come by on their lunch break to enjoy the programs which will begin promptly at noon in the Harry I. Brown Auditorium.
Seating is limited, so groups must have approved reservations for accommodations. You may call 256-249-0961 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to check on availability of space.