Boston Globe: Father-son duo team up in quarantine to write ‘Make Peace or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares’

From a Boston Globe feature, Jan. 7, 2021, on Make Peace or Die by Grace Griffen:

Chuck Daly sat in the White House Mess, eating lunch during his workday as a member of President John F. Kennedy’s West Wing staff. The year was 1963 and the White House seemed unusually quiet that week — the president had traveled to Texas with many of his assistants. As Daly ate and anticipated the weekend ahead, presidential assistant Jack McNally entered the mess with distressing news: Kennedy had been shot.

Following Kennedy’s assassination, Daly, now 93 years old, began documenting his experiences, anticipating their historical significance. Now, the story of that day and many others are told in Daly’s memoir, “Make Peace or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares,” coauthored with his son Charlie Daly.

“I tried to write down the truth, even though the truth was tough on me and on many other people,” Chuck Daly said.

“Even if this never became a book and it was just a series of fireside conversations, this would have been the most rewarding experience of my life,” Charlie Daly said.

Continue reading in the Boston Globe.

Make Peace or Die: A life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares is available through Amazon and Indiebound, or you can ask your local bookstore to order it. 

An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196

Gear Review: The Osprey Skarab 30, a Light Pack for Light Loads

I don’t like writing negative reviews. For one thing, I don’t like complaining (I actually have the words “never complain” tattooed on my arm). I don’t like nitpicking or sounding spoiled.  But most of all, I don’t like being wrong. A lot of homework goes into selecting gear, especially when it comes to essentials like boots and packs that need to last and have the potential to hurt my joints if they’re no good. So usually, by the time I make a purchase, I already know I’m likely to be happy with what I’m getting.

With the Osprey Skarab 30, I did my homework and ended up with a pack that fell way short of expectations. I ended up returning it and picking up a pack from good old REI.

Osprey skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30 packs down nicely. (Photo by Charles Daly)

The Good

When I write a negative review, I try to make it one of those “most helpful” negative reviews. The things I couldn’t stand about this pack might count as advantages to a different sort of backpacker. If you wear translucent windbreakers and eat from a spork that weighs like 2 grams, this is an excellent pack.

Sleek design

Even fully loaded, the Skarab has a streamlined profile with no unsightly bulges or dangling attachments. This would be a good choice for skiing, bikepacking, or any activity where having a low-profile matters. This also makes it an excellent carry-on. Not only does the Skarab comply with carry-on size restrictions for most carriers, but it doesn’t have the big bulky backpacker look that might get the attention of a gate agent. This is a slim, slick-looking pack that gives tacticool bags like the GoRuck GR1 a run for their money.

No swamp back

The back panel is reasonably breathable, at least when carrying a light load. The straps are light, breathable, and fit like a harness. I didn’t notice any hot spots or pressure points when carrying less than 20 pounds.

Intuitive pockets

Top-loading packs get no love in gear reviews, but I prefer them. Easy access means easy access to pickpockets too. There’s nothing more simple and reliable than a sack with a flap over the top.

Osprey skarab 30
The well-organized lid of the top-loading Osprey Skarab 30 (Photo by Charles Daly)

The Skarab 30 doesn’t have a ton of pockets, but the ones it has are well thought out. The lid contains an organizer pocket with a key ring, and there’s a soft pouch for sunglasses or ski goggles tucked into the lip of the main compartment. You’ll also find generous hip pockets and two roomy side pockets that stay nice and flat when they’re empty.  A shovel pocket in front, secured with compression straps, can easily hold a jacket or a pair of running shoes.  There’s a rain cover stashed in a dedicated pocket on the underside of the pack. It’s there when you need it and out of the way when you don’t.

The Bad

As with the Osprey Daylite, this is a fantastic backpack for light loads. But unlike the Daylite, this bag has the capacity to fit much more than its straps can comfortably distribute. According to Osprey, the Skarab 30 can comfortably carry 10 to 25 pounds*. Given the capacity of the optional 2.5-liter hydration sleeve,  you’d be creeping up on the lower end of that range with your water and pack weight alone.

When I read the weight limit, I scoffed. As someone who packs heavy and routinely rucks with 35-40 pounds at a jogging pace, I planned to overload this pack just like all my others and suck it up like a beast of burden.

It turns out I was totally unprepared for how poorly the Skarab performs. If you go an ounce over the suggested weight range, you’re in for a world of hurt. I learned this the hard way, not on a through hike or a climb but walking from the curbside check-in to my departure gate on a recent flight. Loaded with 25 pounds, the Skarab 30 is barely up to the task of serving as carry-on luggage. It was no more comfortable than a travel pack and a lot less spacious.

30-ish liters

Osprey claims this is a 30-liter daypack. From what I was able to find online, it looks as though 30L includes the side pockets, which add a few liters of capacity each, provided you’re not using them as water bottle holders (more on that in a second.)

I bought this bag for OneBag travel and the occasional overnight on the trail, but it hasn’t got enough room for either of those tasks. Its capacity makes the Skarab an obnoxious stopgap between a day bag for short hikes, like the Daylite, and something bigger.

The Meh…

Some of the features were neither good nor bad, just pointless and gimmicky…

Water bottle access

Osprey clearly intended this to be a hydration pack, which I get, but water bottle holders would have been nice. That said, the side pockets have enough room for a Nalgene and manage to keep it from falling out, which is more than you can say for many packs. Unfortunately, carrying a water bottle means sacrificing one of the side pouches and with it your 30L capacity.

osprey skarab 30 water bottle pocket
The side pocket of the Skarab 30 holds and Nalgene bottle and, most importantly, doesn’t drop it (Photo by Charles Daly)

Sternum strap magnet

For this latest generation of the Skarab line, Osprey has done away with the whistle and added a magnetic clip to the sternum strap. It seems to hold okay. But why?! This seems like over-engineering and a case of “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” To say nothing of the havoc, it may wreak with compasses.

Osprey Skarab 30 sternum strap with a magnetic clip
Osprey Skarab 30 sternum strap with a magnetic clip (Photo by Charles Daly)

The Field Test

When I arrived at my destination, I decided to put the pack through its paces. Maybe I had misjudged it. Maybe it would carry better on a ruck run than it had in the terminal. I tried to keep an open mind. With 35 pounds on my back, pacing a 13:00 mile, I set out for five miles of suck. It was impossible to get the straps right. The hip belt did nothing to lighten the load. The Skarab can’t handle a real load on a real hike.

Rucking in Chatham MA testing out the Osprey Skarab 30
Taking the Skarab on a Ruck (Photo by Charles Daly)

The Bottom Line

Unless you’re carrying a light load, this bag is a bad time.

The Osprey Skarab 30 isn’t a bad bag. It’s just a bad bag for me. Like everything Osprey makes, the build quality is outstanding, the features are well thought out, and the design is gorgeous. If I were sticking with Osprey, I would go for one of their more robust models. But if their weight guidelines are to be believed, Osprey doesn’t offer a pack that can handle more than 25 pounds until you get into the 60-70 Liter range, at which point, you’re no longer dealing with a daypack or a potential carry on.

I ended up replacing mine with the REI Traverse 35, which I’ll review soon.

*Expedition standards suggest a max pack weight of 30% of body weight (source: Come back Alive by Robert Young Pelton). REI suggests 20%. 

An Evening With Chris Matthews & Chuck Daly

chris matthews charles u daly

Join us for a special conversation between Chris Matthews and Charles U. “Chuck” Daly about Chuck’s memoir Make Peace or Die, a Life of Service, and Nightmares, on Monday, December 21 at 5:00 p.m EST. I’ll be joining them to discuss the father/son collaboration that produced the book.

Chris Matthews & Chuck Daly – “Make Peace or Die”

A special conversation between Chris Matthews and Charles U. “Chuck” Daly about Chuck’s memoir Make Peace or Die a Life of Service, and Nightmares. They are …

Charles U. Daly is the last living member of John F. Kennedy’s West Wing congressional liaison staff. Before that, he led a Marine rifle platoon through some of the most intense combat of the Korean war and was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. He has helped run several American institutions including, the University of Chicago, Harvard, and the JFK Presidential Library. Chuck’s life is a true story of living up to Kennedy’s challenge to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Make Peace or Die: A life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares is available through Amazon and Indiebound, or you can ask your local bookstore to order it. An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196

Southern Review of Books Interview – Make Peace or Die

Dad and I sat down with Rachael Greene for an interview with the Southern Review of Books.

First of all, it is an honor to have you on the Southern Review of Books, thank you both for speaking with me. Chuck (Sr.) and Charlie (Jr.), you collaborated on this book, drafting it from a collection of Chuck’s notes and recounted memories. When did you start the writing collaboration process? How long did it take to complete the first draft? Did you work in person or remotely?

Chuck: Thank you, Rachael. The book started as a collection of notes typed on 4 x 6 index cards which I started writing the day after President Kennedy was killed. I thought I had lost those cards. My wife Christine found them when we were about half-way through this project. Some of them made it into the book verbatim.

My eldest, Michael suggested Charlie and I write father/son stories of Korea, where he spent some time teaching. That didn’t sound interesting to either of us, but it sparked the idea of a collaboration on my book which I had returned to at that point. I had put together a binder full of notes, but they were just notes, roughly organized into the chapters of my life. I brought them to Charlie and asked him to help me turn them into a book.

Charlie: We started working on the book when I was home for a brief visit while living overseas. When I left, I took a suitcase full of his notes and relevant books on the times he lived in — not the greatest thing to schlep around when you’re backpacking. I expanded those notes with interviews, talking to family, coworkers, and the last living members of his platoon. Eventually I moved home to devote more time to the project and have the long conversations with my father that became the pages you have today.

Chuck, had you ever talked with Charlie, or any of your sons, about your time in the war and public service before this? Was it hard for you to start talking about these things? How frequently would you and Charlie sit down to work on the book?

Chuck: I had been trying not to think about it. I didn’t want to talk to my boys about killing and the reality of war. They knew not to touch my wounded arm. I made comments sometimes. I would weigh-in on current events — I talked about Vietnam and Iraq. But there was no depth to these conversations. I didn’t discuss the memories or the things that were in my heart. I think the war stories in this book will be news to most people who know me, including my own family.

Charlie: He talked about the things that were easy enough to talk about. He had always told my brothers and I that while he was proud of his medals, the things he did to earn them weren’t as simple as legends and war movies make it look.

Our writing schedule depended on the subject and whether or not he was having a good day. He would go on long walks alone to decompress. Sometimes he’d ambush me with stories when we weren’t working, and I had to keep a pen and notebook handy at all times. One of these comments, after dinner one evening, became his description of “the forgotten war.”

You have been at the heart of some truly momentous events in our history. For all that you covered in the memoir, you still had to cut out some things that sound like they could have been entire books on their own, like the Chicago riots and your time in leadership at Harvard. How did you and Charlie determine what made the cut?

Chuck: I don’t have nightmares about Chicago or the White House. Nobody died in the Harvard because of my decisions. As Charlie and I talked about the events of my life, it became clear to both of us that war and coming home from war is what this book is about. That long journey home has led me many incredible places, and we focused on the stories that might be helpful for someone on the same path.

I found myself doing field work in South Africa writing about the AIDS epidemic in my late 70s and early 80s. That story belonged in the book because it was a variation on that theme: making peace in a deeply messed up world.

Charlie: As storytelling goes, it doesn’t get much better than leaving home and finding the return journey more fraught and perilous than expected. It’s an archetypal theme. Odysseus was a traumatized vet, self-medicating with temptresses and lotus petals.


Continue reading… 


Make Peace or Die: A life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares is available through Amazon and Indiebound, or you can ask your local bookstore to order it. 

An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196

Sandboxx: Letters in the Forgotten War – Memories of Mail on the Front Line in Korea

From an interview with my father for Sandboxx News 

What are your memories of mail while you were deployed?

I remember the lack of mail hurt some of my Marines. That’s a tough thing when everyone else is receiving mail, and there’s none for you. The guys who didn’t get any were stoic, and they didn’t show that it bothered them. They just turned around and hoped to get some another day, I guess. It was my job to lead them and look after them; I could make sure they had almost anything else they needed. But there was nothing I could do for a guy who hadn’t gotten a letter from home. I’d give those men anything, but I couldn’t give them that. 

I was trying to concentrate on my responsibility for Marines in combat. When I had time to think, I thought a lot about my wife and my hopes for our family. But I knew that if I didn’t concentrate on the job, I would never get to fulfill those hopes. 

Continue reading at Sandboxx.