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April 1975 — A young Irish-American man — born in the U.S. to Irish parents, but schooled in Ireland — returns to the US on a mission. Within days of turning 18, he enlists in an elite unit of the United States Marine Corps. He joins not out of love for America, but out of love for Ireland. His goal: To get the most intensive military training possible, and then volunteer for the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The Irish "Troubles" were at a murderous fever pitch at the time. Bloody Sunday, when British troops shot dead 14 Irish civilian protestors, had happened. So had Bloody Friday, when 9 people were killed by IRA bombs. The British Houses of Parliament had been bombed, and so had the Old Baily Courthouse in central London. Despite a recent ceasefire, civilian casualties were common as British soldiers, and Republican militants (who wanted the UK out of Ireland) and Unionist militants (who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK), engaged in gun battles and car bombing throughout Northern Ireland. The death toll numbered over 1,000.
Fighting the British, Northern Irish police units, and multiple Unionist militant groups, the Republican were split on how to react between the old-line IRA, and the new Provisional IRA — the Provos, mostly impassioned young men who were not hesitant to resort to violence.
In a powerful, brutally honest, no-holds-barred recounting of his experience, John Crawley details, first, the grueling challenges of his Marine Corps training, then how he put his hard-earned munitions and demolitions skills to use back in Ireland in service of the Provos. It is a story that will see him running guns with notorious American mobster — and secret IRA fundraiser — Whitey Bulger; running, under cover of night, from safe house to safe house in the Irish countryside, one step ahead of British troops; being captured, imprisoned, and being part of a mass escape attempt; fending off a recruitment offer from the CIA; and being one of the masterminds behind a campaign to take out London's electrical system.
Along the way, Crawley is blisteringly candid about the memorable people he worked with, including behind-the-scenes portrayals of revered IRA leader Martin McGuinness, and of the psychopathic Whitey Bulger, as well as others in the Boston IRA support network. There are vivid portraits of colleagues and enemies, and Crawley is unflinching in his commentary on IRA leadership and their tactics, both military and political.
Through it all comes the steadfast voice of a man on a mission, providing an evocative, detailed, and passionate recounting of where that mission led him and why — as well as why, to this day, he remains ready to serve.
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