Our friend and colleague John D. Gresham died July 2, 2016, after fighting serious health issues for the past several years.
An author, researcher, game designer, commentator and historian, John was well known for his interviews, commentary, research, screenwriting, and production assistance for various documentary series produced for TLC and the History, Military, New York Times, Discovery, and National Geographic channels.
He was the primary researcher and partner to Tom Clancy on his best-selling series of non-fiction “guided tour” books about military units. These included Submarine (1993), Armored Cav (1994), Fighter Wing (1995), Marine (1996), Airborne (1997), Carrier (1999), and Special Forces (2001), all published by Berkley Books. He also was the award-winning co-designer of Supermarina I and Supermarina II (Clash of Arms Games, 1996 and 1997), naval wargames based upon Larry Bond’s award-winning Command at Sea game system.
His book DEFCON-2 (with Norman Polmar) was a single-volume history of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Beyond Hell and Back (2007, with Dwight Jon Zimmerman), describes seven key U.S. special operations missions. His last book was Uncommon Valor, covering six Medal of Honor recipients and their deeds in Iraq and Afghanistan, also co-authored with Zimmerman.
He was the consulting editor of The Year in Special Operations for more than a decade, and was an integral part of its growth and success over the years. John had big ambitions for the publication from the beginning and achieved most of them. He also wrote many stories for other Faircount publications, and was a regular contributor to the Defense Media Network website.
John was a proud and passionate man, and wore his heart on his sleeve with respect to his avocations, his politics, his heroes, and his country. He was an expert on most things military or security-related, but read widely and well, and could discuss a wide range of subjects with authority. He felt privileged to be able to work with and write about the military, and held strong opinions about what shape it should take, as well as about various weapons, strategies, communities, programs, and people.
Most of his friends have a “John story” that demonstrates his personality or character. As one of his editors, over the years I collected a lot of John stories of a different sort, since I cannot recall him having ever made a deadline.
While this often caused enormous stress, I can look back on it now with a smile, because John’s excuses became increasingly creative as the years went by. Equipment failures became old hat, although the old “Didn’t you get my email? I sent that to you” remained a favorite. Hard drives died, laptops expired, email was hacked. My personal favorites were the acts of God and Mother Nature. At deadline time John’s home became the focus of strange and inexplicable phenomena, an uncanny vortex attracting the extremes of weather and chance, where pop-up tornadoes, mini-blizzards, neighborhood flash floods, sudden, violent downpours, and localized windstorms showering tree limbs from the skies could knock out power and communications for days at a time.
I won’t miss tearing my hair out over missing stories when the next deadline comes, but I’ll miss our long conversations about military history, technology, and publishing, our debates over strategy and tactics, and our arguments over politics. John was an outsized personality – fiercely proud, brimming with enthusiasm, a big kid at heart – the world will be a little less colorful without him.