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Thomas E. Simmons

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Captain Thomas E. Simmons, USA attended Marion Military Institute (ROTC) and graduated in 1954.  He began at the Naval Academy (Midshipman) class of 58 but did not finish, transferring  to the University of Alabama where he graduated class of 1958 and received commission as a Second Lieutenant. After attending Fort Sill for artillery school he was deployed to Korea for 13 months.  His service includes active duty at Fort Rucker and three years of service in the active reserve.  Thomas E. Simmons “hasbeen a pilot since the age of sixteen, (3000 plus hours in the air), has flown professionally and participated in air shows flying aerobatics in open-cockpit bi-planes.”  Captain Thomas E. Simmons is the author of The Brown Condor: The True Adventures of John C. Robinson, Escape from Archangel: An American Merchant Seaman at War, Forgotten Heroes of World War II: Personal Accounts of Ordinary Soldiers and The Man Called Brown Condor: The Forgotten History of an African American Fighter Pilot. 

The Library Journal said of The Brown Condor: The True Adventures of John C. Robinson, “More than a biography about a black pilot who became an U.S. hero, this book is a social history of racial conditions in the first half of the 20th century. A graduate of Tuskegee Institute who struggled to be respected, Robinson gained international fame as a pilot during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia at the outset of World War II. The book provides a good overview of that conflict and some insight into Emperor Haile Selassie's reign. Robinson struggled to show that blacks had a place in aviation, and his pioneering efforts are well-documented in this easy-to-read, affordable book that should appeal to adults and young people interested in aviation and black history.”


According to the book description of Escape from Archangel: An American Merchant Seaman at War, During World War II, merchant marine tankers in convoys plied the frozen North Atlantic through the flaming wreckage of torpedoed ships. Working to keep sea lanes open, valiant merchant seamen supplied food, fuel, and goods to the Allies in the last pockets of European resistance to the Nazis.


This exciting book acknowledges that the merchant marines, all volunteers, are among the unsung heroes of the war. One of these was Jac Smith, an ordinary seamen on the Cedar Creek, a new civilian tanker lend-leased to the U.S.S.R. and in the merchantman convoy running from Scotland to Murmansk. Smith's riveting adventures at sea and in the frozen taigas and tundra are a story of valor that underlines the essential role of merchant marines in the war against the Axis powers.


This gripping narrative tells of a cruel blow that fate dealt Smith when, after volunteering to serve on the tanker headed for Murmansk, he was arrested and interned in a Soviet work camp near Arkhangelsk.


Escape from Archangel recounts how this American happened to be imprisoned in an Allied country and how he planned and managed his escape. In his arduous 900-mile trek to freedom, he encountered the remarkable Laplanders of the far north and brave Norwegian resistance fighters. While telling this astonishing story of Jac Smith and of the awesome dangers merchant seamen endured while keeping commerce alive on the seascape of war, Escape from Archangel brings long-deserved attention to the role of the merchant marine and their sacrifices during wartime.


According to the book description of Forgotten Heroes of World War II: Personal Accounts of Ordinary Soldiers, World War II was the defining event of the twentieth century. For everyone it was a time of confusion and fear, destruction and death on a scale never before seen. Much has been written of the generals, campaigns, and battles of the war, but it was young, ordinary American kids who held our freedom in their hands as they fought for liberty across the globe. Forgotten Heroes of World War II offers a personal understanding of what was demanded of these young heroes through the stories of rank-and-file individuals who served in the navy, marines, army, air corps, and merchant marine in all theaters of the war. Their tales are told without pretense or apology. At the time, each thought himself no different from those around him, for they were all young, scared, and miserable. They were the ordinary, the extraordinary, the forgotten. Multiply their stories by hundreds of thousands, and you begin to understand the words of war correspondent Martha Gellhorn: "There are! those who received brief, poor, or no recognition, all those history leaves unmentioned, not because they are lesser but because they are too many."


Recorded more than fifty years after the war, the stories in Forgotten Heroes of World War II were shared quietly, shyly, honestly, and often painfully by these extraordinary ordinary Americans. All of them begin with similar statements—"There’s really not much to tell. I was just there like everyone else. All I wanted to do was get home…" Each was uncomfortable for being singled out to speak of experiences he felt were common to so many others. None of these heroes see themselves as heroes. Indeed, the word seems to embarrass them. Yet they and thousands like them stood their watch and did their duty in spite of fear and danger. One by one they are leaving us. It will soon be too late to thank them. It will never be too late to remember what they did.”


According to the book description of The Man Called Brown Condor: The Forgotten History of an African American Fighter Pilot, “How did a black child, growing up in segregationist Mississippi during the early 1900s, become the commander of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Corps during the brutal Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935? In this gripping, never-before-told tale, biographer Thomas E. Simmons brings to life Robinson’s outstanding success in becoming a pilot, his expertise in building and assembling his own working aircraft, his influence on the establishment of a school of aviation at Tuskegee Institute (there would have been no Tuskegee Airmen without him), and his courageous wartime service in Ethiopia during the Italian invasion in 1935—for which he won international fame. It was during Robinson’s service to Ethiopia that he took to the air to combat the first Fascist invasion of what would become World War II. This remarkable hero may have been the first American to oppose Fascism in combat. When Ethiopia was freed by British troops during World War II, Haile Selassie asked Robinson to return to Ethiopia to help reestablish the Ethiopian Air Force. For Robinson and the five men he picked to go with him, just getting to Ethiopia in wartime 1944 was an adventure in itself. 


Over the last twenty-three years, the author has performed original research on John C. Robinson when very little information on this remarkable American hero was available. The Man Called Brown Condor encompasses a vast amount of information based on obscure, forgotten, and heretofore undiscovered facts. 


This work is more than the definitive biography of a black pilot who became a US hero, only to be unfairly forgotten. It provides insight on racial conditions in the first half of the twentieth century and illustrates the political intrigue within a League of Nations afraid to face the rise of Fascism. The Man Called Brown Condor is a new, exciting, heroic adventure in history, and provides the reader with an unforgettable story of an incredible American hero.”

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