Thomas Wictor


Ghosts and Ballyhoo

Color versions of images in the book and supplementary images related to each chapter.

Including the five color photos I wanted in the book would’ve doubled the retail price, I was told. So you get to see them here. You also get to see images I culled from the giant stack I wanted to put in. I’m used to writing illustrated military books with three or four hundred images.

The second and third volumes of the Ghosts Trilogy have no images. The books look…naked. So I made galleries for them too. To see them, click the link “Supplementary Material” for each title.


The French Historian

Thierry Ehret is an historian who’s helped me immeasurably in the first three books of my Military Tetrology. An author and researcher, he lives near enough to the German border that he can easily peruse the Bundesarchiv for records and images.

The German national archives were bombed in World War II. Surviving documents were gathered up from the streets and rubble, the emphasis being on preservation, not cataloging. To this day, boxes and boxes of documents have not been inventoried. Thierry has discovered gems for me. We met on a discussion forum; I spoke machine-translated German until Thierry figured out I’m American, and then he switched to English. We’ve been friends since about 2004.

Like so many of us, Thierry was affected by the global economic downturn. He saw this as an opportunity to start his own company, Aerostatic-68. I’ll let him explain.

I have been working for the Industry for about thirty years. At the beginning of 2013, I left the company because of shutdown of the production. After searching a while for a new job, without success, I came to the decision: Why not create my own company?

The idea was found in an exhibition showing all the possibilities of creating a company. Taking pictures as a hobby, I found a proposal for the purchasing of a specially equipped balloon which allows you to take pictures from the air. Photography at bird’s eye; not too bad, I think!

The purpose of the company Aerostatic-68, recently created, is to provide customized pictorial solutions for touristic purposes, for architectural projects, for building surveys, for any need that requires visual communication, mainly in terms of technique. The target is to bring added value in terms of images included in a project or in a follow up report, and also included in a Website.

Though created for business purposes, the photos are quite beautiful.


The Russian Colonel

While doing research for my book Flamethrower Troops of World War I: The Central and Allied Powers, I came across the Website of Colonel Mikhail Vasilyevich Supotnitskiy, Ph.D., Army of the Russian Federation.

A microbiologist and expert on defense against biological and chemical weapons, Colonel Supotnitskiy had posted an online version of the Russian book Chemical Weapons at the Front During the World War, 1914-1918, by Aleksandr Nikolaevich De-Lazari. Colonel Supotnitskiy had added his own commentary and supplementary material. He’s a prolific author of books and articles on bioweapons, plague, AIDS, and chemical warfare.

I found the colonel’s work by searching for the word “flamethrower” in Russian. I don’t speak or read Russian, but using online translation Websites, I composed a message to Colonel Supotnitskiy, asking if he could help me obtain information on Russian flamethrowers. He responded in Russian, telling me that he read English but preferred to write in Russian so that there would be no danger of him choosing the wrong words. His input was absolutely vital to the chapter on Russian flamethrowers, and when the project was finished, we continued to correspond.

Over the past five years, we’ve developed a close friendship, even though we’ve never met. As a patriotic Russian, he disagrees with me on geopolitics, and we also don’t see eye to eye on most social issues. Our workaround is that we try to discuss only our mutual love of music, art, photography, absurdity, “safe” political topics, and our families. We’ve had a few misunderstandings, including the one that resulted in him writing to me, “I’m glad I’m not there in person, because I think you’d shoot me with your carbine.”

With the Colonel’s permission, I’ve created these galleries of his photos. He agreed to let me post them because wants westerners to know that Russia isn’t only a nation of bears and vodka. Our friendship has survived Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the South Ossetia Conflict, and the Syrian Civil War. We’ve promised each other to never let our loyalties impact our relationship, and so far it’s worked.

I expect our friendship to endure. He’s taught me a lot, and he tells me that I’ve taught him a lot too. Maybe the two of us can in a small way teach others.

Tim Wictor