Front cover of book

Attack on Camp David


July 15

The Near Future

He didn’t see the intruders as they dashed across the open field toward the Tower because he had turned his eyes from the open field in front of the Tower to stare at Laura Davidson, the President’s daughter. She is so beautiful, he thought. Placing his hands on her hips, he pulled her close, a smile on his face. Her arms came up on his shoulders as she leaned into him. They were about to kiss, but sudden movement in his peripheral vision and a metallic clanking sound snapped him back to reality. Two grappling irons had hooked onto the Tower’s railing. Lieutenant Lambrow was stunned. It must be a test, he thought, a drill. Jeeze, why would they do this when the President is here? He shook his head at this stupidity. Since 9/11 there was an endless number of drills, but not when the President was around. Then he heard gunfire and explosions. Damn, this is no test. We’re under attack! Camp David is under attack!

30 minutes earlier

Alan Lambrow, a 23-year-old, newly-minted second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, placed his right foot on the helicopter shack’s windowsill and gave the highly polished shoe a last swipe with the brush removing any microscopic dust that had settled on it in the last five minutes. Then he repeated the same inane thing with his left shoe. His pants were sharp, perfectly level against his shoe tops, buckle perfectly in line with his shirt and tie, his cap perfectly aligned on his burr-cut head. The President and his family were expected momentarily. He was ready, had been ready for an hour in his dress uniform, ready to greet the Presidential party.

Then the phone by the helicopter shack rang. Captain of the Guard, Tom Spears, looked annoyed and motioned for Lambrow to answer. Spears was going over the guard checklist for the umpteenth time. Any time the President is at Camp David, the guards are augmented. Today was no exception.

Alan answered the phone. "Lieutenant Lambrow."

"Lieutenant, this is Sergeant Ridgeway at the Tower. I’m not feeling well, Sir. I threw up all over myself. My uniform is a mess. I need to change."

"What? The President is about to arrive. Do your clothes look that bad?"

"Yes, Sir. They’re bad. They smell and, well, I look like hell."

"Rats! Okay, I’ll get someone to take your place. He’ll be there in a few."

"Thank you, Sir."


"Yes, Sir?"

"Make sure the area is cleaned."

"Yes, Sir. Will do. Thank you, Sir."

Lambrow hung up, shook his head and turned to Captain Spears. "Sergeant Ridgeway is sick. He puked all over his uniform. Do we have a backup available who can sit in for him?"

Spears checked his list and shook his head. "Not right now. I have everyone placed. Maybe I can do some switching after the President lands."

Lambrow silently cursed Spears’ inability to handle minor problems like this without a conference or seminar scheduled three weeks in advance. "Captain," he said, "I’m going to relieve him so he can change clothes just in case the President wants to visit the Tower."

Spears frowned, shook his head, and said, "Damn. Okay. Get back as soon as you can."

"Will do." Lambrow turned and ran to the living quarters to change to fatigues. Amazing how one’s status changes so quickly, he thought. Now I’m a guard. On this assignment, after Spears, Lambrow was the next in command and responsible for security at Camp David. Right then, when it all happened, he technically became a guard. The luck of the draw.

He quickly changed into fatigues, neatly hung his dress uniform in the closet, then jogged to the hill "Tower." The Tower was built into a 40-foot high hill—sort of a lookout actually, discreetly off to the side, hardly noticeable from anywhere in the Camp. It blended in well, looking like a natural formation of trees and bushes. The Tower was about 15 feet in diameter with a 360-degree panoramic view. When first built, it was open to the sky with a three-foot cement railing like a medieval castle, hence the nickname "Tower." In fact, the Tower only shows on Camp topographic maps as a hill. Original plans called for its construction to be concealed. This was very important at the time, so it was designed to blend in and be surrounded by trees and shrubs.

Several Presidents liked to visit the Tower because of its isolation and beautiful overlook. One guard mans the Tower when the President is at the Camp. Of course, the guard is always in radio contact with the central command center, where Captain Spears is located.

Originally, the Tower was constructed round, like a can, the bottom half sunk into the hill. A circular stairway was used to enter or leave the Tower. In the center of the Tower was a fireman’s pole for emergency exit, but security thought that it would be unseemly for a President to use, so an emergency slide for a sled was built into the Tower. The addition extended past the top of the Tower and blocked about 45 degrees of view, but that part faced the housing area and still left 315 degrees of view. The entrance door to the Tower, which everyone used, was cleverly shielded by trees and shrubbery and required electronic keypad entry. Both Eisenhower and Johnson liked the Tower immensely, and every President had visited it. There even was a canvas folding chair kept handy for the President, just in case.

Lambrow entered the five digits on the electronic keypad, ran up the circular stairs and identified himself to Sergeant Ridgeway. Traces of the sweet, acidic vomit smell was still in the air. "Sergeant, you look terrible," said Lambrow, unnecessarily. Ridgeway’s pants and shirt were wet where he had tried to clean himself and the deck was wet where Ridgeway had washed it. "Get changed and back here as soon as possible."

"Thanks, L.T., I’ll be right back." He saluted and left.

Lambrow clicked his radio. "Captain Spears, this is Lieutenant Lambrow."

"This is Spears. Go ahead, Lieutenant."

"Sergeant Ridgeway looked a mess and went to change. I’ll be back as soon as he returns."

"How soon, Lieutenant?"

"I’ll probably be back within ten minutes."

"Make it five."

"Yes, Sir. Tower, out." Sure, I’ll just conjure up an unsick Ridgeway and make him magically reappear. God, he thought, sometimes Spears could be so dense.

Lambrow could hear the WHOOMP, WHOOMP, WHOOMP of the President’s helicopter in the distance as it announced its arrival. Several seconds later it appeared over the trees and landed at the helipad, kicking up a swirl of dust. Seconds later, the support helicopter landed.

The President, Mrs. Davidson, and their daughter, Laura, were visiting Camp David to check out progress of the new accommodations for the Peace Conference; that’s why the Marines were hyped, trying to look sharper than usual. Actually, the Marines were always hyped at the President’s arrival.

Lambrow could just make out the swirl of dust kicked up by the whirling blades of the President’s helicopter. He wished he were part of the welcoming committee because Laura was supposed to be with them, and he wanted to see her again.

While the President and First Lady prepared to inspect the site by walking among the various buildings and checking the planned layout of the temporary buildings at the Camp, Captain Spears sent Lambrow a quick message.

"Tower, this is Center One."

"This is Tower."

"Tower, the President’s daughter asked about you, and I told her where you are. Said she might wander over to say ‘Hi.’"

"Thank you, Center One. Tower out."

What a nice surprise. He smiled at the news.

Laura Davidson did, in fact, wander away from the inspection group and head for the Tower.

Of course, now Lambrow was happy he was on the Tower and hoped Sergeant Ridgeway would stay sick and take his time coming back. Lambrow watched her walking toward his post escorted by a Secret Service agent. He enjoyed seeing her. They’d met and spoken several times before and seemed to like each other. At least I like her, he thought. I hope it’s not too one-sided. Lambrow hadn’t been able to spend much time with her, but they did get to talk every now and then. He was relieved that Sergeant Ridgeway had cleared away the mess on the floor of the Tower with water from the five-gallon container kept in the stairwell landing. The deck looked clean, even if it was still a little damp.

Lambrow knew that Laura liked the clear mountain air, the ever-present cool breeze, and the isolation Camp David offered. Except in winter. During the winter months it was very cold, and the Camp was seldom used.

Alan smiled. Laura Davidson was nineteen years old, pretty, had a great personality, was very sharp and most importantly, was home on summer vacation from college out West. Lambrow knew he had a crush on her as did most Marines who met her. Well, most Marines would have a crush on a fence post, so I guess that doesn’t count, he thought. He looked over the Tower edge and watched as she approached.

A minute later, the door to the Tower observation post opened and a Secret Service agent walked onto the Tower platform. He eyed Alan then turned and nodded to Laura. The agent held the door open, and Laura walked through.

She said in her friendly voice, "Hi, Alan, okay if I come out here?"

Who am I to say no? "What’s the password?" He was sure she didn’t know the password but he’d play along.

"Uh, Apple Pie?"

"Close enough. Are you friend or foe?"

"Oooo, a friend, I hope," she purred.

"You look friendly. Advance and be recognized."

She put on an exaggerated wiggle and came close. "How’s that for advancement?"

"Looks good to me."

The agent smiled, but his eyes constantly kept scanning the surrounding area.

"Am I recognized?"

Alan smiled. "You’re recognized, Laura. How are you?"

"I’m fine, Alan. How’re you?"

"Doing well. It’s nice to see you again."

She nodded. "I’m glad you’re here." She turned to the agent. "Umm, Agent Sandley, do you think it would be okay if you waited downstairs?"

Sandley frowned, the small smile on his face gone.

"We’re at Camp David," she said, "and there’s no one else here except Alan. Can’t we have a little privacy?"

Sandley hesitated for several seconds. "All right, Miss Davidson. I’ll be at the downstairs door."

After he left, Laura said, "I thought we’d never be alone."

"Just remember, I’m on guard duty." Soon as he said it, he cursed to himself. Why am I babbling like an idiot?

They talked as he kept watch. He appreciated that Laura was smart and carried her end of the conversation. Jeeze, I like her. Whenever he ran into her on past occasions, it always was when pulling military duty, so they never had an opportunity to spend a lot of time together, like now, especially when he expected Ridgeway to return any minute.

She was dressed in form-fitting jeans, a beige polo shirt and a blue windbreaker with the White House logo. Her curly, blonde, shoulder-length hair was pulled back and held by clips. Alan was impressed that she didn’t wear much makeup or jewelry, just a watch and a gold bracelet. She looked good.

Sometime during the conversation he said, "I’d like to ask you out, but I wasn’t sure about the protocol on asking out the President’s daughter."

"I think the protocol is the same as if my dad were a lawyer or a fireman. Just ask me."

"Laura, I’ve tried several times, but something always came up to keep us apart."

"Like what?"

"I remember I came up with emergency guard duty one time, then there was an extra assignment I received at the last minute, even one of the classes I signed up for changed dates, and then there was that state dinner you had to attend. Talk about frustrating."

They both smiled. She said, "Should I keep waiting or should I ask you out?"

"That’d be nice, since I don’t know your schedule."

His eyes kept scanning—reluctantly away from Laura and on the surrounding terrain, staying alert while they talked, hoping Sergeant Ridgeway couldn’t find his way back, or if he did, the Special Agent would shoot him. One thing about guard duty, ninety-nine percent of it is boring, but that other one percent can be a killer. All it takes is one incident. Marine officers took it seriously, and it was expected that the troops did likewise. Anything less was unacceptable.

Lambrow was still cautious about dating the President’s daughter. He’d really love to date her, even if she weren’t the President’s daughter, but in this instance, he felt he needed to be careful about involvement, especially because of his responsibility and her position. Several times, as they talked, she stood close, looked right at him, into his eyes. Whew! He had to walk away—reluctantly, of course, but he had to, although several times he caught himself staring at her.

"Hey, Alan, want to mess around?" she said jokingly, putting her hand on his arm.

"Sure, when I’m off-duty, Laura, but not now." Crap, I don’t know when that will happen, but whenever it is, it will have to wait. If she only knew the fantasies that ran through my mind…well, never mind.

"Should I start without you?"

He looked at her and laughed.

"Know any good stories about Camp David, Alan?"

"Sure, lots of history here. It’s a pretty neat place. Did you know that FDR called it Shangri-La?"

"Really? Shangri-La? Like paradise?"

"It’s true, he really did. It was Dwight Eisenhower who renamed it Camp David after his grandson, and the name stuck. Not only that, but Roosevelt called Aspen Lodge the ‘Bear’s Den.’"

"Interesting." She ran her hand along his upper arm.

"Camp David is really Naval Support Facility Thurmont. Bet you didn’t know that. During World War II," he continued, sounding like an encyclopedia of knowledge, "we had a security force of a hundred and thirty Marines. When the war ended, the Marines were replaced by two sailors."


"Yeah, kind of funny. Not only that, but somehow they got into mishaps with their loaded .45s, so their bullets were taken away. They probably were practicing quick draws and screwed up."

"So there were two unarmed sailors guarding the Camp? I’ll bet you have a hard time living that down." She had a sly smile on her face.


"All it took was two unarmed sailors to replace a hundred and thirty armed Marines." She burst out laughing.

Alan had a smirk on his face, yet had to admit, it was funny. Trying to get a little bit serious, he said, "If you can stop rolling around laughing, I’ll tell you another funny story. About a hundred and forty years ago," he said, exaggerating, "when Nikita Khrushchev was invited to visit the Camp, he couldn’t figure out what ‘Camp’ David was. He supposedly asked his advisors in the Kremlin, but no one could come up with an answer."

"He didn’t know what Camp David was?"

"Well, I think our use of certain words conjures up different images to the Russians. ‘Camp’ David probably was thought of as a work camp where dissidents were sent, so they couldn’t figure out why in the world the President would want to go there, let alone invite another country’s leader there."

"I’ll bet he was surprised when he saw it."

"You bet. This place is kind of nice, Khrushchev ended up calling it a ‘dacha.’"

"I think it’s a nice dacha because you’re here, Alan."

Whew, where did that come from? He looked at her and smiled. "I know I’m supposed to say something equally romantic, Laura, but for the life of me…."

He put his arms up and shrugged helplessly. She stepped close to him, her arms going around his waist as his arms went around her. They stood that way for several seconds, then separated.

"Laura,"he said, his face wincing, "I’m on duty, besides, someone may come up here. Maybe the Secret Service agent or Sergeant Ridgeway."

"Kill-joy. But you have a nice sense of humor, Alan," said Laura. She again stepped into his arms and this time they stood closely, arms around each other staring at each other. He slowly moved closer and kissed her.

It happened pretty fast. He heard noise from hooks thrown over the cement railings, stunning him. He lost several seconds just looking at them, couldn’t imagine this was a drill, not with the President and his family at the Camp. It had to be the real thing—Camp David was under attack! Oh, God, that’s ridiculous! At least that’s what ran through his mind. Tension on the lines attached to the hooks indicated that there were climbers. Lambrow peeked over and saw them, grabbed his radio and sent an emergency call to Central.

"Central, this is Tower! Climbers on the wall! This is Tower! Climbers on the wall! Is this a test? I repeat, is this a test? Central, come in!" Not waiting for an answer, he drew his 9mm Beretta and looked over the edge again. He glimpsed several men in fatigues and civilian clothes running around the base of the Tower. Several shots fired at him missed, but sent splattered cement chips into his face. Shots zinged by his head.

"My God! Laura, get down!" He motioned with his hand. She was slow to react, so he pulled her down, roughly, then ran to the hatch and grabbed the bolt cutter from the toolbox, holstering his Beretta. To assist in an emergency, a toolbox, including a bolt cutter, was kept near the door. He crouched and ran to the railing. Cautiously reaching up, he cut the rope attached to the holding-prongs of the first hook, then did the same to the second one. The climbers shouted and fell to the bottom as weight on the hooks suddenly released. Bullets zinged by, some slamming into the cement railing, sending shards of cement chips flying. Damn! They were still shooting. Alan cut the third hook free, and heard the man drop as a fourth climber made it to the top.

The man reached over the rail, swung his leg over, and began to level his weapon. Alan looked into his eyes, saw the scowl on his face, stepped forward and swung the bolt cutter. He watched it make the arc and connect with the man’s head, then heard the crunch as it slammed into him and watched as the man fell off the Tower to the ground. In the distance he heard explosions and a firefight by the living quarters. More shots rang out and zinged by him.

Camp David was under attack!

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