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Robert Townsend was born and raised on a farm in northern Wisconsin and writes of a life he has witnessed.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam protests, Townsend flew 135 combat missions in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In early 1972, he transferred to Berlin, Germany as a signals intelligence officer, then to the National Security Agency before returning as a war planner at HQ USAFE, Ramstein. From 1982-1989 he was deputy chief, Air Force Intelligence Agency, counter-deception directorate (housed at CIA). He is among some of the few men in America familiar with the war of ruse and stratagem between the US and the USSR.
Slavic on his mother’s side, deep-south redneck on the paternal side, his parents managed money poorly and told stories well. Spare, pithy, lasting the duration of a Pall Mall cigarette, the tales were meant first to entertain while teaching. No one is completely useless, he was told. They can always serve as a bad example. His stories and novels arise from family history, fables and stories told around the kitchen table as well as his own experiences in America’s late 20th century ambiguous wars, deceptions and counter-deceptions.
Townsend comes from a long line––father and grandfather, great-grandfather––of American soldiers. From his father the lesson was that his people were born fighting and women were mysterious creatures.
He learned this lesson––storytellers are to be treasured; liars are vexing and exhausting, best avoided. But when liars are armed, crazed and planning Armageddon, ambiguity in matters of war and peace, life and death, are the vexation of his century.
Fluent in Russian and German with a combat vocabulary in French, Townsend is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin (BA), studied at Freies Universitat Berlin (Certifikat), and received his MA from Georgetown University. After retirement he turned his attention back to writing, a passion waylaid by life and work. He has worked steadily since then on novels and essays.