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Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan

1 rating: 5.0
2011 non-fiction book by Del Quentin Wilber

For the first time, a minute-by-minute account of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan On March 30, 1981, President Reagan walked out of a hotel in Washington, D.C., and was shot by a would-be assassin. For years, few people knew the truth … see full wiki

Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Date Published: March 15, 2011
1 review about Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of...

Recalling the horrific events of March 30, 1981

  • Feb 2, 2011
He had been President of the United States for a mere 70 days. Most historians agree that the Reagan administration had gotten off to a rather lackluster start and was struggling to gain traction. But all of that changed on the afternoon of March 30, 1981 when a crazed gunman named John W. Hinckley Jr. opened fire outside the Hilton Hotel in downtown Washington D.C.  When the smoke had cleared four men had been shot including President Ronald Reagan. Now much to my surprise the comprehensive story of what actually happened on that fateful afternoon had never been written….until now.  Author Del Quentin Wilber has corrected this glaring oversight with his terrific new book "Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan"Mr. Wilber is a superb reporter who has painstakingly unearthed a mountain of previously unknown facts about what just happened that day and has carefully crafted it into a compelling narrative that grabbed my attention from the outset and simply never let go. This is history that will excite and enlighten you.

Now just in case you are wondering about the title of the book the term "Rawhide" was the Secret Service's code name for President Reagan. Given Mr. Reagan's background as an actor (he starred in a number of western movies in the 1940's and 1950's) the Secret Service deemed this to be an appropriate nickname.  In the opening chapters of "Rawhide Down" Del Quentin Wilber introduces us to quite a few of the major players in the drama that would unfold on that historic March afternoon.  You will be introduced to a number of the President's most trusted advisors including Secretary of State Alexander Haig, his Chief of Staff James A. Baker III, Counselor Edwin Meese III, Deputy Chief of Staff Michael K. Deaver, Mr. Reagan's National Security Advisor Richard V. Allen as well as Vice President George H.W. Bush. All would have a role to play in the Administration's reaction to the assassination attempt.  You will also meet a few of the Secret Service agents assigned to protect the President that day including Jerry Parr who was the agent-in-charge.  Finally, you will discover quite a bit about the man who perpetrated the crime-- John W. Hinckley Jr.  Hinckley was an aspiring songwriter with a very troubled past.  Because so little has been written about the attempted assassination of President Reagan many of the sordid details surrounding Mr. Hinckley had completely slipped from my memory. For example, I had almost totally forgotten about his obsession with the actress Jodie Foster. Hinckley was willing to do just about anything to get her attention and win her affection and many believe that the attempted assassination of President Reagan was motivated by his desire to impress her.  Obviously this guy was delusional and not playing with a full deck!

The second half of "Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan" presents in unprecedented detail the complete story of what went down during those critical hours from the time the shootings took place at 2:27 P.M. until the President was deemed out of danger later that evening. Author Del Quentin Wilber makes it abundantly clear that had it not been for the decisive action of the Secret Service and the medical team at the George Washington University Medical Center this story might not have had such a happy ending.  Now in spite of the fact that he had been seriously wounded and had lost nearly half of his blood President Reagan managed to joke around with the doctors and nurses who were attending to him.  His good humor helped to diffuse an extremely tense situation in both the ER and in the operating room as well. The President would earn high marks from the public for the graceful way he responded to the shooting. On another front, Wilber also spends considerable time focused on the actions and reactions of those administration officials who were put to the test during this time of extreme crisis. For several excruciating hours the nation wondered if the shooting was part of a much larger plot initiated by our enemies abroad and worried if another shoe was about to drop. While the reaction of some in the administration left a lot to be desired calmer heads ultimately prevailed and any thought of escalating the situation with the Soviet Union without justifiable cause were put to rest. Thank goodness!  Wilber also discusses the catastrophic injuries suffered by White House Press Secretary James Brady who was shot in the head by Hinckley.  Brady was a robust and popular member of the new administration and official Washington was devastated by the news of his extremely serious condition and long-term prognosis. Sadly, Jim Brady would never walk again.

As I mentioned earlier Del Quentin Wilber has done an extraordinary job of assembling all of the pertinent acts and telling this dramatic story.  It would appear that Wilber left no stone unturned in his relentless search for the truth about just went down that day. Much of the information revealed in the book has never been seen or heard before. "Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan" is a thoroughly engaging, fast-moving and highly informative read.  I simply could not put this one down.  In my opinion "Rawhide Down" is an extremely important addition to the literature on political assassinations in this country.  As such, I would consider this to be a "must read" for history buffs and a great choice for general readers as well.  Very highly recommended!
Recalling the horrific events of March 30, 1981 Recalling the horrific events of March 30, 1981

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February 10, 2011
Excellent review!
February 08, 2011
I've heard about this, but not in such great detail! I love history, so I'll have to put this on my list of books to read. Thanks for sharing, Paul!
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