JFK Library Virtual Event

From jfkibrary.org:

On Tuesday, February 9 at 6:00 p.m. EST,  join former Kennedy administration official Chuck Daly as he recalls his life with his son, Charlie Daly. Daly served with JFK in the Senate and the White House, and holds the special distinction of serving as both JFK Library and Foundation director. His new memoir tells the story of an Irish immigrant who came to America and would eventually lead a Marine Corps platoon in the Korean War. Daly would live President Kennedy’s call to service throughout his life. He would go on to serve as an advocate for peace in Ireland and report from the field on the AIDS crisis in Africa. MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle moderates the discussion.

RSVP here.

Chuck Daly and Charlie Daly do a podcast

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%. 

Frozen Chosin, the View from Quantico – “Make Peace or Die” Excerpt

An excerpt from my father’s memoir —Make Peace or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares —in which he asks to be sent to war.

In November, 1951, Charles U. Daly was at Quantico training to lead a Marine rifle platoon and thinking the Korean War would be over before he got a chance to fight in it. Then “Frozen Chosin” happened…

The Boat Leaves Wednesday

June 1950–February 1951

“In war, as in prostitution, amateurs are often better than professionals.”

—Napoleon Bonaparte


On June 25, 1950, we got our national emergency.

At dawn that morning, the (North) Korean People’s Army surged over the 38th parallel into the South. This action was immediately condemned by an emergency session of the UN Security Council, a vote from which the Soviets abstained.

The Korean peninsula had been divided since the end of World War II under an agreement between the US and USSR with no consideration of the will of the Korean people. Before that, from 1910–1945, Korea was a colony of the Japanese Empire and suffered unimaginable atrocities ranging from forced labor and sex slavery to medical experimentation on human subjects. After World War II, North Korea was run by Kim Il Sung, who had been a charismatic resistance fighter during Japanese occupation. He used Soviet and Chinese subsidies to model a state on Stalin’s Russia, labor camps and all. The South, no bastion of democracy, was run by a corrupt and brutal puppet government that took America’s backing as license to pillage and deprive its people and massacre political opponents. The United States had adopted an official noninterference policy that gave the North reason to believe their invasion would be uncontested by South Korea’s mightiest ally.[i]

On June 30, five days after the North’s invasion of the South began, Truman sent American troops to support the South Koreans. On July 7, the UN passed Resolution 84, requesting member nations to join a “police action” on the Korean peninsula. Sixteen nations joined in, including ones with modest armies like Ethiopia and Turkey. General MacArthur, who had been serving as de facto emperor of Japan since the war’s end, was given command of UN forces. Unfortunately for the South Koreans, MacArthur’s army of the occupation were not the same men who won the Second World War. Many were drunk and fat from half a decade of soft living as occupiers. In Korea, they were beaten back, almost off the peninsula, by Kim Il-Sung’s peasant fighters, making their last stand outside the port of Pusan. The outcome looked bleak.

On September 15, MacArthur ordered the Marines under his command to make an amphibious landing at the port of Incheon, near Seoul. The plan was to retake the capital and cut across the middle of the peninsula, thus trapping all North Korean troops in the south and taking the pressure off Pusan. It worked. The Communist invaders were killed, captured, or pushed back over the original border.

Roughly two weeks after the Incheon landing, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai had warned that China would intervene if American and other UN troops moved north of the 38th parallel. On October 7, MacArthur ordered his forces to do just that. China soon began secretly sending “volunteers” into North Korea and strengthening their own border defenses along the Yalu River. Around the same time, MacArthur met with President Truman and assured him that the Chinese would not intervene.

Mary and I knew little of Korea’s history. Neither of us knew or cared about America’s blundered diplomacy and intelligence failures that had left Korea in a national security blind spot. Our interest increased sharply when North Korea invaded the South. Mary’s attention skyrocketed when I reminded her of my standby orders and speculated that this skirmish qualified as a national emergency. My call to duty came shortly after Truman committed troops to the UN’s response to North Korea’s assault. I went to our local post office where a Navy corpsman was giving the Marine physicals. I’ve always had low blood pressure. When the doc double-checked it, he wanted to turn me away. I had already taken leave from work and had gotten excited about going to war. I told him I’d be right back, went and ran up and down a few flights of stairs, and returned somewhat breathless for a re-exam. The corpsman said something to the effect of, “Hey pal, if you’re dumb enough to go, I’m dumb enough to send you.”

While I checked into Quantico, Mary found a cabin with a wood-burning stove in the pines near Lake Jackson, an elongated puddle at the western edge of the vast Marine base. By day and night, our new nest was often rocked by explosions from the artillery range. The sounds of freedom disturbed Mary, but we enjoyed the seclusion. On chilly autumn nights, when training didn’t have me fumbling around land navigation courses in the dark woods, I would sit by the fire or lie in bed with Mary and talk dreams about the arrival of our baby. Unspoken was the consolation that she was pregnant and would at least have our child in the event that my absence became permanent.

Up until that point, my military training had consisted of PLC, that summer camp at Quantico in 1948. Before deploying to Korea, I would receive additional training in the first-ever class of the Special Basic School. Those eleven weeks were consumed by seasoned Marines vainly trying to teach Second Lieutenant Daly to read maps and lead riflemen. Not that I was going to need any of the skills I was learning; it looked as though the war would be over before we got our platoons.

In early November 1950, MacArthur ordered a drive all the way up to the Chinese border. He made the infamous promise that his victorious troops would be home for Christmas. All the Dalys were happy to hear this news. At this point, I was still at Quantico, and it looked as though the war would end before my classmates and I deployed. Then, on November 26, the Chinese launched an immense surprise attack, routing all UN forces from coast to coast and trapping the US Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, outnumbering them by upwards of four-to-one. The action that followed became known as “Frozen Chosin.” The Marines held their positions with little support, totally cut off from the unprotected supply lines that MacArthur had stretched thin behind them. They fought in near-arctic conditions. Their canned rations froze. Their weapons froze. Their limbs froze. Men froze to death. In some instances, frozen enemy dead were stacked in front of Marine fighting positions and used as sandbags.

Needless to say, any Marine who survived Chosin became legend. It borders on absurd to think that I, a twenty-three-year-old lieutenant, would soon be giving orders to men who had fought their way out of that cold hell. One such man I would go on to command was Gunther Dohse, a German immigrant who was one of just sixteen men in a rifle company of 200-plus to walk out of Chosin, already a recipient of the Silver Star and Purple Heart when I met him.


After training, each Marine is assigned an MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty. The MOS for an infantry officer is 0301. After Chosin, we at the Basic School took to calling it 03-oh-shit! By year’s end, 1950, the situation in Korea was so grim that Truman was seriously considering removing all US forces from the peninsula. By New Year’s 1951, the second wave of the Chinese offensive had pushed the UN coalition south of the 38th parallel, forcing them to surrender Seoul for the second time. My Special Basic Class graduated around the time the Division broke out from their encirclement at Chosin. It was one of the Corps’ finest hours. But for us, it meant the war was just getting started. We had to fill out requests for next duty assignments. Most of us would be given orders to Korea, but most made their first choice something other than infantry. Only five lieutenants in my training company requested to lead a rifle platoon, and I was one of them. My orders were to report to Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, California, before shipping out across the Pacific.

I said goodbye to my parents in Bethesda. Dad gave me a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, saying that a personal weapon had been of comfort in the trenches.

He kissed me goodbye and hugged me. I can’t recall him doing either before. The family’s war history must have been on his mind as it was on mine. All through my deployment, my mother would garden nervously and dig holes in the yard.

Mary and I planned to drive west in our 1949 Ford, but Mary was having trouble riding with the pregnancy, so she followed by train.

Rents were high in California, but a Basic School classmate, Angus Deming, and I found a house near the beach in Carlsbad. After moving into what would have been a dream home in other circumstances, Angus and I drove north to Camp Pendleton. Checking in, I explained to the weathered sergeant on duty that we had just arrived and gave the young wives’ bit and asked for an added week’s leave.

“The boat leaves Diego on Wednesday.”

[i] David Douglas Duncan, This is War! A Photo-Narrative of the Korean War.

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

Make Peace or Die Featured in the Cape Cod Chronicle

By: Debra Lawless

“One rainy Sunday a couple of years ago, Christine Daly of Chatham was sorting through a century-old box of photos of her husband’s family in Ireland when she made an astonishing discovery.

Beneath the “piles and piles” of photos, she found a “big old tattered Manilla folder” marked “WH.” In it were 200 or 300 typed four-by-six index cards. She immediately knew what they were — a kind of journal her husband, Charles U. “Chuck” Daly, had typed each evening during the dark months he worked in Lyndon Johnson’s White House after John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Chuck well remembered typing the cards over the course of a year or so, but he had assumed he had thrown them out or that they had been lost during a half century of moves. When Christine found the cards, the couple’s son, Charlie, a freelance writer, was already back living at home and interviewing Chuck for his riveting memoir, “Make Peace Or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares” (Houndstooth Press, 2020). The cards proved to be a “an absolute treasure trove,” Charlie says.”

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. This week, the Kindle eBook is on sale for $0.99. 

An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196