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PBSuccess

PBSuccess Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review July 2016 Title PBSuccess
Author Mario Overall, Dan Hagedorn Publisher Helion
Published 2016 ISBN 9781910777893
Format 112 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $49.95

Review

In mid-1954, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) executed “Project PBSuccess” – covert paramilitary operations to overthrow Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz.

The effects reverberate today.

Now Mario Overall and Dan Hagedorn thoroughly, competently and – above all – authoritatively tell the tale in 112 pithy pages across 13 chunky chapters.

Largely referencing declassified CIA files, this inaugural edition of Helion’s exciting new “Latin America @ War” series begins by navigating the labyrinth of post-WWII Guatemala. It skillfully summarizes key social, political and military factors. It pinpoints principal personalities. And it deftly distills the overarching international forces at work.

Don’t skip these stage-setting sections.

Under the Arbenz régime, Communist influence metastasized in Guatemala. Arbenz, for instance, aimed to consolidate his so-called “October Revolution” by mobilizing workers and peasants into armed, extra-constitutional militias beyond Guatemalan military control.

Competent historians everywhere will recognize the blueprint.

After details of CIA planning to arrest the region’s Communist contagion, Helion’s study swiftly segues to an hour-by-hour chronicle of the conflict. Authors identify all key actors and actions. They note known equipment assets – both government and insurgent. And they chart crucial, behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts.

Most importantly, Overall and Hagedorn unearth utterly arresting archival nuggets in every chapter.

Did you know that, for instance, antique Guatemalan Boeing P-26s actually saw operational use during the conflict? And did you know that, had events evolved differently, Czech-built Avia S-199s – Messerschmitt Bf 109 variants – might have played parts in the fighting?

Photo surprises lurk everywhere, too. How about that Nicaraguan Douglas A-20G? Or that all-black Nicaraguan P-38L? Or that ubiquitous “Liberationist” Cessna 180 employed in attack roles?

Dozens of rare B&W shots season Helion’s absorbing account. Glossary, maps, selected bibliography and endnotes further spice the study. And Tom Cooper’s always-outstanding profiles survey participating warplane warpaint.

Quibbles? Some. I believe it’s “Maj Jaime Rosenberg” – not “Rossenberg”. What does “knocking down” a railway car mean? Derailing it?

Piffle. And pocket lint. Overlook nitpicks like these.

“The events taking place between May and July 1954 in the Central American republic of Guatemala,” authors note, “still to this day stir passions in all sides of the political spectrum in that country, and to some extent, in the rest of Latin America.”

Find out why. Helion’s first “Latin America @ War” installment certainly sets high standards for the publisher’s promising series. And I breathlessly await further forays.

Perhaps Overall and Hagedorn will return with, say, an equally authoritative “Caribbean Legion” account?

Rabidly recommended!

With thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy!

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