Biographical Information and Unique Qualifications
Cresson H. Kearny's background and life uniquely qualified him to write Jungle Snafus.. and Remedies. It is the only book that gives a comprehensive account of personal equipment and basic weapons used in combat primarily by foot soldiers, especially by generations of American infantrymen.
A high plateau of Kearny's life was his 4 years of service as the first and only Jungle Experiments Officer in the Panama Mobile Force or in any other organization. That service began 8 months before Pearl Harbor, shortly after he demonstrated his assemblage of jungle equipment to Major General Walter E. Prosser, commanding general of the Panama Mobile Force. Prosser had him ordered from Texas, where he was an Army Reserve first lieutenant of infantry in the Army's 2nd Division, to become Jungle Experiments Officer of the Panama Mobile Force.
Lieutenant Kearny's ability to attract the interest of high-ranking generals and gain their support was a result of a concept he developed in Venezuelan jungles when working as an exploration geologist for Standard Oil. He conceived whole regiments of American jungle soldiers receiving excellent jungle boots, clothing, lightweight, ready-to-eat rations, jungle hammocks, insect repellents, medicines to prevent tropical infections, and waterproof bags to keep their gear dry - all better than those bought by or issued to Standard Oil's best equipped jungle exploration geologists. Plus breath-inflated individual flotation gear and many very lightweight breath-inflated boats, prototypes of which he had made in Texas before demonstrating his specialized jungle equipment and explaining his tactical concepts to Major General Prosser.
The greatest blessing in Cresson H. Kearny's life, falling in love for life with beautiful May Willacy Eskridge, mother of their 5 children, was an immediate result of the demonstration he gave to Major General Prosser of the prototype of his breath-inflated boat. This unexpected stroke of good fortune is recounted in the second chapter of his wide-ranging book.
Machetes and other fighting knives, archaic weapons that are fascinating to Kearny and many others, are described in one bloody chapter. That chapter features his friend Command Sergeant Major George C. Ferguson, more experienced in machete and other knife fights than any other American soldier. Ferguson was decorated with 12 purple hearts.
Kearny succeeded in equipping every soldier in the first Jungle Platoons with an 18 inch machete. He bought those machetes with funds that Lieutenant General Frank Andrews, C.G. of the Caribbean Defense Command, made available to him. That issue of machetes led to the Army buying tens of thousands of machetes. Machetes replaced the Army's few heavy, less useful bolos, copies of the fighting knives of fierce Moro tribesmen in the Philippines.
Kearny conceived, made, and reported in his book on the first device proved in a field test to be effective for reducing the deadliness of fuel-air explosion (FAE) weapons. Stingers, shoulder-fired, heat-seeking anti-aircraft rockets, are described, as are Javelins, the remarkable new shoulder-fired tank destroyers.
Kearny's official work on jungle equipment ended in 1944 when he volunteered to become a demolition and sabotage officer with the Office for Strategic Services (O.S.S.). He served in war-torn China for several months before our atom bombs ended World War II.
Major General Stephen Watts Kearny, who commanded the First United States Dragoons in 1834 - 1846, greatly improved the basic equipment, uniforms, transport, and tactics of U. S. Cavalry. Learning about those successes of young Cresson H. Kearny's most illustrious military ancestor helped him believe he had a fair chance of improving the equipment and tactics of American jungle infantrymen in World War II. This book recounts Lieutenant Kearny's successes and failures.
The author's privileged boyhood contributed significantly to his ability to write this book. Born on January 7, 1914 in San Antonio, Texas, he was an experienced hunter of small game before he killed his first buck when seven years old. At Texas Military Institute, the best secondary school in Texas in the 1930s, he became the commanding officer of the cadet corps, a champion runner and rifle shot, and valedictorian of his class. His jungle experiences began when he was a 13 year old visiting his Uncle Charles C. Cresson, then a major serving in the Philippines.
Kearny's higher education included taking a civil engineering degree at Princeton University, where he graduated with highest honors in 1937. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where he received two degrees in geology. Those and subsequent distinctions - including early promotion to major, and being awarded the Legion of Merit for his accomplishments during World War II and the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service received after the Vietnam War - have enabled him to have a wide choice of work opportunities. This despite being unable to hold a job during several incapacitating recurrences of a polio-like viral infection, as yet undiagnosed, which he contracted in China late in World War II.
Nuclear War Survival Skills, a detailed book on self-help civil defense, was initially published and distributed in 1979 by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It is Kearny's most influential book. It gives detailed information primarily on what typical Americans can do for themselves to improve their chances of surviving a nuclear attack or accident. That book has instructions with dimensioned patterns, including ones for building homemakeable shelter ventilating pumps and the only accurate homemakeable fallout radiation meter. Those life preserving devices use only materials found in practically all American towns. Both were invented and developed by Kearny.