In the Oval Office: Bermuda’s then Premier Sir John Swan met with former U.S. President Bill Clinton as part of Swan’s diplomatic efforts to overturn the Congressional decision to close NAS Bermuda.
In the Oval Office: Bermuda’s then Premier Sir John Swan met with former U.S. President Bill Clinton as part of Swan’s diplomatic efforts to overturn the Congressional decision to close NAS Bermuda.
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A book detailing the ­closure of the American bases in Bermuda goes on sale this morning.

USS Bermuda: The Rise and Fall of an American Base, was written by ­communications consultant Don Grearson.

A former news editor of The Royal Gazette, Mr. Grearson joined the then-UBP government team managing the takeover of the vacated military bases in 1994. He later spent four years working for the Bermuda Land Development Company, which oversaw the bases' transition to civilian control. As a result, he is able to tell the story from the position of an ­insider.

"This was one of the most intense periods of development in Bermuda's history, a real trial by fire for those who were involved, Mr. Grearson said. "Very few people in Bermuda have any idea of what went on behind the scenes, and of the great achievements that were accomplished by a small, but highly competent team. Being able to watch it, be a part of it, then write about it in this book, was a fascinating and rewarding experience."

Mr. Grearson was given extraordinary access to government files and sources of information for the purpose, building on earlier travels with Premier Sir John Swan to Washington DC as he first tried to prevent the closures.

This book brings to life Bermuda's desperate roundthe-clock race to take over the US Navy-run airport that was the country's economic lifeline and provides an historical backdrop to the base closure drama.

Using declassified records, secret documents and interviews with American and British military officers, USS Bermuda tracks the history of the U.S. military in Bermuda, from the opening days of World War Two to the last Cold War patrol of a Soviet submarine through the western Atlantic.

Readers will learn how the island's strategic value evolved over five decades in response to military threats, technological change and geopolitical realities.

Drawing from Bermuda and U.S. Government documents, interviews with major players and the author's first-hand observations, 'USS Bermuda' tells the remarkable story of sailor Randy Taylor, whose concerns about NAS Bermuda compelled him to go outside his chain of command to ABC's Sam Donaldson. In a career-destroying move, Taylor used U.S. national television to blow the whistle on taxpayer waste and abuse at the base, triggering its closure and changing the course of Bermuda history. (The morning after the television exposé, the story appeared on the front page of the Bermuda Sun - the paper having ­secured an exclusive interview with Mr. Donaldson about his explosive findings).

The book details Bermuda's ultimately fruitless struggle to negotiate claims against the U.S. Government for environmental damage at the base properties, and examines U.S policies to squelch such claims and their corrosive impact on US-Bermuda relations. It also traces the fraying of the UBP coalition, after 30 years in ­power, and the first-time election of the PLP "whose distrust of all things UBP derailed redevelopment of the former base properties," Mr. Grearson says.

Readers also get a peek inside the wartime diary of U.S. Admiral Jules James who commanded Bermuda's desperate struggle against Nazi U-boats and understand Bermuda's secret role in the development of undersea listening systems to track Soviet submarines.

The book reports the frontline tensions and pressures of Bermuda-based commanders during the height of U.S.-Soviet confrontation in the early 1980s, and Bermuda's most enduring military role as a "stationary aircraft ­carrier."

Mr. Grearson, who lives in Paget with his family and whose clients as a communications consultant include the UBP, said: "This tiny ­Island, with its limited resources, did at least as good a job integrating base services and lands into the ­infrastructure as any other affected country in the world, with talent and resources to spare.

"Bermudians have every reason to take enormous pride in their efforts and those of the men and women who helped them."