Stephen R. Chapin Jr. was fresh out of active duty with the Navy when the Persian Gulf crisis began last August. Friends and neighbors around Westminster besieged him with questions about the risks to their sons and daughters deployed to the war that would come soon.
"My son is in such and such unit, what does that mean?" they would ask, Chapin recalled. "What's Saddam Hussein going to do next? Is he mad? When are we going into a ground war? Will it be bloody? Is the president doing a good job?"
Chapin never represented himself as a military expert. But, as a 1985 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with five years of active duty behind him -- part of it as a lieutenant in the gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, Chapin did know something. And, with a co-author, Lt. Stephen deVore, he decided to write it down.
The result: "Understanding the Persian Gulf Crisis," a 111-page manuscript intended as a handbook for families who want to know what their loved ones are up against and how they might be deployed in battle, with what weapons and protections. Chapin calls it "a user's guide to what's going on over there."
The text offers thumbnail sketches of the countries in the gulf and the other powers with interests at stake there. It explains the technology of guided missiles and how air, sea and ground forces collaborate in defense and in attack.
rTC Chapin and deVore banged out their text over four days last December, exchanging drafts and comments by fax machine. From the Pensacola Naval Air Station, where he is still a Navy pilot, deVore faxed pages in longhand to Chapin's home in Westminster and to his office at Alex. Brown & Sons in
Baltimore. Chapin typed and edited what he had received and faxed it back.
As they have tried to get the work published, their literary agent has explained that publishers prefer established authors for the high-risk venture of an "instant book" that hits the bookstores within weeks instead of months. But the authors are still pressing the book on publishers and thinking about adding a chapter explaining, in their brief, handbook fashion, how the war ended.