When he was a baby, Dave’s Mom kept a day-to-day baby book with photographs that recorded that his first word was “pie.” That explains a lot.

Raised in a low-rent neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas, during the Great Depression, Dust Bowl and WWII, Dave, Sally Carney and (somebody else?) were high-school All-American, All-Catholic and Quill & Scroll recipients for journalism.  However, Dave paid his way through college by kicking footballs, rough necking in the oil patch, modifying airplanes at Boeing and painting airplanes at Beech Aircraft Company, and was a 17-year old bartender and bouncer in a honkey tonk roadhouse.  During the Korean War, Dave was a U.S. Marine Grunt, an MP (military cop), a recruit DI (drill Instructor) and a Marine pilot.  After he crashed, burned, and nearly drowned in a Florida swamp, Dave served a tour with Naval Air Intelligence in the Middle East in 1955, mapping potential helicopter landing zones without the blessing of the visited countries, and being shot at by both Israelis (at the Green Line in Jerusalem) and Arabs on the East Bank of the Jordan River.  

Actually, Dave enjoyed Marine Corps Boot Camp more often than not.  The Corps gave him three meals every single day, issued him his own M1 rifle, and even gave him free ammunition to shoot at fixed targets 500 yards downrange or less.  What more could he possibly want?

As an infantry grunt, then MP (Military Policeman), Dave was trained with the returned vets of the famous 5th Marine Brigade of the 1st Marine Division, who fought and won one of the greatest epic battles in military history.  These warriors turned the Chinese tide under Marine icon, Colonel (later Major General) Chesty Puller who, when told that his Marines were surrounded by three Chinese divisions said: “Now those bastards won’t get away. We can shoot in every direction.” Those Marines decimated three Chinese divisions in a series of battles that were the “frozen Chosin” Reservoir campaign. Dave felt honored to serve with those famous warriors.

Marine Trained Rat
US Marine Trained Rat

Drill Instructors’ School is “only” six weeks of absolute precision in all things Marine. It is considered the most difficult school in the Marines.  Only half of the original DI candidates graduate.  After that, Dave concentrated on training new recruits how to fight and win bare-handed, with rifles, pistols, machine guns, hand grenades and the Marines’ ultimate weapon, the bayonet. Dave heard that the Army uses their scrawny little bayonets for paperweights.  We should check on that.

Navy/Marine Flight School was a hoot.  Solo acrobatics are the most fun that you can have with your clothes on.  Dave really enjoyed air-to-air combat—dog fighting—a lot more after he had won a couple of bouts against WW Twice combat veterans.  He also enjoyed simulated low-level strafing at a wisp of smoke rising over the dense forest north of Mobile Bay in Alabama until Jimmy Buffett’s dad shook his rifle at Dave as he passed over the family’s popskull still at redlined airspeeds and treetop altitudes.  Jimmy Buffett was there as a child, and was still laughing about it at a French Quarter bar in New Orleans in 1991. Dave loved military flying a lot until he woke up while upside down with no wings or tail assembly or engine and on fire in a Florida swamp with his head under water.  Like they say: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.”

As the Air Intelligence pogue with an Atom Bomber Squadron in the Mediterranean theatre, Dave loved to visit many of the historic places that he had read about in high school and college history classes, and Dave’s Dad’s incredible personal library.  They say that duty on aircraft carriers (CVA-39, the USS Lake Champlain, then CVA-43, the USS Coral Sea) is basically long periods of boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror.  What they did not say was that his squadron had no periods of boredom.  That’s why Dave proudly wore the Navy/Marine “E” medal for excellence on his dress uniforms.

After college, Dave was ordained a high school English and science teacher, but Beech Aircraft offered him double his teaching salary to write flight manuals, and he never looked back as he hit his stride as a marketing and communications executive for Stanley Aviation, Chrysler Space, LTV Aerospace and Lockheed Martin Corporations.  When writing Erin Go Kill—the first book in a four-book series—Dave incorporated several of his own experiences as literary fodder, then did it again in Bad Moon Over Alpine. While reading all of the relevant reports and books that he could find, Dave toured the Irish Republic and Ulster in 1987/1988 to swap sea stories and bawdy songs with IRA guerillas, young but determined British soldiers, local strap hangers, and many of the usual suspects.


In 1954, Dave was the first Marine to fly the BeechCraft T-34 Mentor aircraft, and was honored to be the first cadet pilot to be inducted as a full colonel in the Confederate Air Corps, which was then composed of active duty Marine and Navy fighter pilots, some of whom fought in the WWII battle of Guadalcanal as the Cactus Air Corps. In 1953, he was honored for herding two tiny-towel-wrapped, extremely reluctant sailors out of a raging barracks fire at the point of his bare bayonet. Dave founded the Project Payback charity for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita, Kansas. His freshman year in college (1951), disgusted with the athlete accommodations in Junior College, Dave lived alone in a lean-to tent on the banks of the Walnut River for many weeks without missing a beat in the classroom or on the gridiron (read Dave’s book titled 1951).  Ten years after Dave sat down and talked with his long dead dad at age 44, he had no choice but to admit that something extraordinary had happened. He finally worked up the courage to tell his friends and family that he had met a ghost, so he wrote Ghosts That I Have Known as a civic duty.  The beat goes on and we enjoy it.

*WebPage by F.D. Harding