Category Archives: From The Desk Of Don Kesterson

History Channel Series – Lost Gold of World War II

On Tuesday, March 19, at 10 p.m. EDT, The History Channel is starting a new series on the gold the Japanese stole during World War II and buried in the Philippines. The series, Lost Gold of World War II, is about a Filipino family who believes gold is buried on their property and wants answers.

In October 2018, a Filipino here in the U.S. working with the team in the Philippines contacted me to unlock some of the unknowns or correct some of the inaccuracies of the story behind the gold. The first thing I asked was how they found me—and why me? They had seen the documentary a London production team put together for Myth Hunter’s regarding “Yamashita’s gold,”, which focused on the plight of Rogelio Roxas and the Golden Buddha. I learned several of the other experts regarding this “Lost Gold” have since passed away. Which leaves me as one of the few experts of the overall story still alive and willing to participate in their series.

On December 3 of last year, the young Filipino and the History Channel film team showed up at my residence to get to the bottom of these stories. We spent most of the day in a question and answer session regarding from what countries the gold was stolen, who was in charge of burying and documenting the gold, and why it was brought to the Philippines. The next round of questions revolved around whether any of the gold had been recovered.

When the filming was completed, the production team informed me the series would likely start in March of this year. A couple of weeks ago, a friend called and asked if I knew anything about a series called Lost Gold of World War II. Naturally, I replied yes, I’m in it. The next morning, I sent an email to the producer, who confirmed the series was starting on March 19, and I would show up in episode 7 or 8. Here is a preview of the series:

I was surprised to learn no one in the production team or the Filipino knew anything about my novels, The President’s Gold ( or Gold of the Spirits ( They said they would read them to fill in more detail than I was able to give them in their one-day visit. I cautioned them the Filipino family to be very careful, as pursuit of this buried gold was very dangerous. They left wishing they had more time for questions and answers, as some of my answers led them toward questions they had not even pondered for their Gold series.

Be sure to watch this series and let me know what you think.

The President's Gold

How the University of South Carolina created their sports mascot name “Gamecocks”

I wanted to write a light blog, but one still steeped in history. The mascot for the University of South Carolina is a gamecock (fighting rooster) named “Cocky.”  When asked about the mascot, I myself have used the standard line, “An ass-kicking chicken.” Since 1903, the University has used the name “Gamecock” for all its sports teams. However, the name did not come from the chicken, the gamecock, but from Brigadier General Thomas Sumter.


Who was Thomas Sumter? He was an American Revolutionary war hero—perhaps the third greatest Revolutionary War leader, behind only George Washington and Nathaniel Greene. A British General fighting in the southern colonies is said to have told his troops that Sumter fought like a gamecock, thus he was ordained with the nickname “The Carolina Gamecock.”

Thomas Sumter was born in Hanover County, Virginia, in 1734. As legend goes, Sumter was “small” in stature but “big” in fight. He enlisted in the Virginia militia, rising to the rank of officer during the French-Indian War. After that war, Sumter was selected to go out among the Cherokee people to mend the relationship with the colonists. Later, Sumter was selected to travel to London, along with several Cherokee, including their leader Ostenaco, to meet British King George III.

Prior to the American Revolution, Sumter fell into financial trouble from his travel expenses to improve relations with the Cherokee. When Virginia would not forgive his debt, he was imprisoned. A friend came to Staunton, where Sumter was incarcerated, and gave him ten guineas and a tomahawk to buy his way out of debtors prison in 1766.

Sumter moved from Virginia to Stateburg, South Carolina, just to the west of the town which would later be given his namesake, Sumter. In 1767, he married Mary Jameson. They became planters, but soon Sumter went back to his roots and raised a local militia. By February 1776,  the divide between the Colonies and the British Empire had grown, and Sumter was elected lieutenant colonel of the Second Regiment of the South Carolina Line. Soon, he became a colonel. He subsequently was appointed brigadier general, a post he held until the end of the war. Some of his early Revolutionary War battle successes included preventing the invasion of Georgia.

Sumter was part of the defense of Charleston, South Carolina, at the Battle of Sullivan Island. However, when the British conquered Charleston in 1780, Sumter escaped to North Carolina.

After British Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s raiders burned his house, Sumter organized another local militia to fight the British. Sumter had victories over the British at Catawaba and Hanging Rock (in Lancaster County). Sumter confronted and defeated Tarleton at the Battle of Blackstock’s Farm. Tarleton commented to his superiors that Sumter “fought like a gamecock.” Perhaps his greatest military achievement is fighting Cornwallis to the point of the British abandoning the Carolinas and moving their army into Virginia. Cornwallis described him as his “greatest plague.”

After the Revolutionary War, Sumter went into politics, serving in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

If some of this story sounds familiar, part of Sumter’s history (along with that of several other South Carolinians) was used by Mel Gibson to define his persona in the movie, “The Patriot.

When the fort at Charleston, South Carolina, was constructed in 1829, it was named after Sumter. The city of Sumter is sometimes referred to as “The Gamecock City,” but it is the University of South Carolina that has made his namesake famous.

Sumter passed away at the age of 97 on June 1, 1832, and was buried near his home.

Martin Luther King

Let me start out by say I am an older white guy. I have never been turned away from an eating Silhouette fedoraestablishment. I have never been told, if I can even get on the bus that I have to sit in the back. I have never stood in a place of business and looked to see a men’s restroom, women’s restroom and colored restroom, for both sexes. I can’t speak to the prejudice of a job interview. Further, I have never had anyone in my family go through the above experiences. 

The point I am trying to make is for me as a white person it is difficult to even begin to comprehend the impact that Reverend Martin Luther King had on the African-American community. We as white people often make statements as though we know, we get it and we feel your pain. As for me, all I can say is I have never been through the experiences, directly or indirectly, so I really can’t make such a statement. I can see a wrong, but I could never experience this one. No one could make me get it because of the color of my skin, I was denied.

I grew up at the end of the beginning of the civil rights movement; my parents discussed this with me every time something would appear on the news. I was taught by my parents to judge people by their character and how they treated me, nothing else. I was young enough to be open-minded and old enough to understand the impact this movement was having on the American Society during the early 1960’s. However, from my experiences of observing that time period, I know many in the white community had a real problem with Reverend Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. Conversely, from my historical research, I have learned that some within the African-American community had a problem with him not being radical enough. Martin Luther King knew in his heart and from watching Gandhi, the only way to open this door to equality and to ultimately win over enough within the overall American population was to lead a peaceful movement. Dr. King knew it was the only way, while it took him a long time, certainly longer than he wanted, it was through these actions that the people began to respect the peacefulness of his action. Yes, it clearly was the correct way to accomplish his goal.

Is there still prejudges, of course. But Martin Luther King had a dream and a society – both blacks and whites – benefited from it.  

Inspired by Greatness: Keep Going!

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” –Nelson Mandela

South African President Nelson Mandela’s death a few weeks ago left his nation—and our world—without its beloved figurehead of ethics and morality. Despite twenty-seven years of imprisonment, Mandela always served as a beacon of encouragement in this sometimes dark world. His words, even after his death, inspire us to harbor a spirit of forgiveness, to remain steadfast, to work hard, to focus on our goals, and to always endure.

As writers, we can embody Mandela’s spirit in our own work by continuing to write and by keeping our goals of manuscript completion and publication in sight, even in the face of rejection.

I have days, like many writers, when I want to throw in the towel and quit. It would be easier to dig ditches, wouldn’t it? At least at the end of the day, you can see what you’ve accomplished. That’s not always the case with writing. Surely we may have more words on the page at the end of a long day of writing, but after a day of editing (which often involves deleting what we’ve written), we may feel like the time we spent prior has been wasted. Of course, this isn’t the case. If we stay the course, one day we can type, “The End.” If we keep honing our craft by writing and by studying good writing and craft, our work will indeed get better. If we keep submitting, one day we will be published.

What happens, then, when we’ve finished a manuscript, we’ve revised it, we’ve had it professionally edited, and we’ve finally had it published? Are we finished? Of course not! We are writers, after all, so we pull up a blank page on our screen, and we write.

Mandela knew that persistence was key to success. He knew that staying the course was the most important thing, even in the face of disappointment. He knew that a positive attitude in even the worst of times and places would see him through. He knew there is much work to be done, and that now is the best time to do it.

Keep writing!

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” –Nelson Mandela


December 7, 1941.

The date, to many, seems little more than a number etched in the past; the words Pearl Harbor Day nothing more than tiny font at the bottom of a square on the calendar. But to a dwindling number of American soldiers, it’s a day  marked with a heartrending mixture of joy and tears. Joy in their survival of a horrific attack on American soil, in the Pearl Harbor of Oahu, Hawaii. Tears shed in memory of their 2,403 brothers-in-arms who died during the explosive assault.

The Japanese shot torpedoes and dropped bombs from 353 war planes launched from six of their aircraft carriers surrounding our fleet. Four of our US Navy battleships were sank. All eight sustained severe damage.

This infamous attack on the United States Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was an effort by the Imperial Japanese Navy to keep the US Pacific Fleet from thwarting Japan’s plans to attack the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and, yes, the United States of America. During the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese carried out simultaneous attacks on other US-held territories; the British Empire in Malaya, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and in the Philippines.

Survivors of the bombing at Pearl Harbor are now in their early nineties. Once young men who entered the military in the late 30s and early 40s—some seeking adventure, but most seeking a means to support their families since few jobs were available following the Great Depression—these US Veterans now memorialize their service and honor their dead in small-town celebrations. Few are physically able or can afford to travel to Oahu, Hawaii, site of the Pearl Harbor Museum & Tours, where the largest celebrations are held.

It is our job, then, to remember these men and women. Our job to thank them for their duty in protecting our sovereign nation at the expense of life and limb. It is our job, at least, to remember. In his moving speech (listen to it here), President Franklin D. Roosevelt called December 7th, 1941 “A date that will live in infamy.” We haven’t forgotten, President Roosevelt. And on behalf of the US Veterans who served us that ill-fated day, let us never forget.

–Don C. Kesterson

War Between the States


In schools today, if students are even taught history, they are usually taught that Lincoln fought the war with the South to free the slaves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, Lincoln thought slavery was terrible for the Union, however, the War was fought to re-unite the Union. PERIOD.

A “Civil War” is anarchy among the people, for the most part, it is neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. The War Between the States was started over differing philosophies regarding taxation of goods and states rights. Only two States had philosophical conflict; North Carolina had a large pro-Union segment of their population, predominately in eastern North Carolina. Naturally, to state the obvious, Virginia had a large pro-Union segment of its population in western Virginia, which ultimately became West Virginia.

At the beginning of the War Between the States, Lincoln believed if he could re-unite the Union then he would resolve this volancic issue. Lincoln did not want to allow any new territories to enter the Union as slave States. This was the real problem with Lincoln’s election in the South, they were afraid the delicate balance of power in the Congress would be swayed against the South.Silhouette fedora

Most Southerns fought the War as they believed the US Constitution gave them the right to withdraw from the Union. Very few of them were slave owners. Did they believe in preserving Slavery, yes, many did but again most believed they had a right to withdrawal from a “Tyrannical Government” who was imposing unusually high tariffs on their cotton, which was becoming very popular with England and France, among other European countries.

In late 1862, as the Union was losing the War, Lincoln offered his famous Emancipation Proclamation. While it has long been reported to have been a turning point, philosophically in the War, it took the “wind” out of  many in the Union Army, as they did not believe that they were fighting for any other reason than to re-unite the Union. Neither Lincoln nor most of the northern population at that time, believed that the African-Americans were equals to the whites. Lincoln had in a lot of ways mis-interrupted the Slaves running to the Union seeking freedom. The irony of this Proclamation, Lincoln did not free the slaves in the Union States, only those in the Southern States.

Pet Peeves

Silhouette fedoraI will start lightly with how the history that we were taught in school was not based on history.

I have always been amazed with the history books crediting Christopher Columbus for  “discovering America”, at a time when Leifr Eiriksson’s heirs were hundreds of miles inland. Remember Columbus was not looking for America; he was looking for a short cut to the Far East to bring back goods. When he got to America, he did not know where he was! When he went back to Europe, he lied about where he had been. And this is the great explorer, who discovered America!

Blogging for beginners

My ongoing blog begins here.