Colin Powell Remembers Tom Clancy

The former Secretary of State inspired one of the late author's books. Powell tells TIME about his pistol-shooting pal whose fiction became our reality

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Powell spoke with TIME reporter Eliza Gray.

Tom and I met in 1988 in Nashville when we both were inducted into an honor society called the American Academy of Achievement. He had just become world-famous. It was a couple of years after The Hunt for Red October came out. At the time, I was National Security Adviser to President Reagan. So I, being a soldier, and he, being deeply involved in military matters, hit it off right away. I was fascinated by how an insurance agent, on his first shot at writing a book, had come up with Hunt for Red October. We and our spouses spent the whole weekend talking. We became fast friends and stayed in touch over the next 25 years.

After that first meeting, we did a lot of things together. He had a firing range at this house, and some years ago, we went down to the firing range and had a shoot-off with my pistol and his pistol. I will not tell you who won.

(MORE: 10 Questions for Tom Clancy)

Tom, who was 66 when he died on Oct. 2, was quite an interesting guy. He didn’t suffer fools gladly. He spoke his mind clearly, and sometimes was quite outspoken. With Tom, you knew what you had. There was a degree of candor and honesty. And he was always learning.

His books were all great, but I have a slight preference for Clear and Present Danger because I helped give him the idea for it, at least that’s what he says in his acknowledgements. We were talking about drugs and the work the military was doing in South America to cut the flow of drugs, and he said that gave him the idea.

What made his books so popular throughout the world, especially among the military, was how he immersed himself in the things he wrote about. He studied and talked to so many people. He wasn’t sneaking into classified facilities. He was able to gain this extraordinary knowledge by reading, studying and talking to folks.

Tom’s books were incredibly accurate. He didn’t invent impossible schemes. He invented things that could happen. Some things that have actually happened over years bore some resemblance to scenarios that he put together. Tom could sense things and see things in a way that others couldn’t. Even though he wasn’t writing nonfiction, some of the things he wrote became reality.

He was a friend whom I treasured. He was somebody who really loved his country, and through his books, he demonstrated that love. I will miss him, and we all will miss him a great deal because there will be no more Jack Ryan.

MORE: Ten Years Since Colin Powell Presented Case for Iraq War


I was stunned to learn of the death of Tom Clancy, an extraordinary novelist whose fictional stories have captivated millions round the world. Ian Fleming created James Bond and Clancy created Jack Ryan.  Clancy wrote a string of best-selling spy and military thrillers. His 17th novel, Command Authority, is due out in December.Several of his books featuring CIA analyst Jack Ryan have been adapted into successful Hollywood films. Written in his spare time, The Hunt for Red October (1984) was Clancy's first published novel and sold more than five million copies. Clancy usually wrote a book a year, making him one of the wealthiest authors in the world. Clancy was known for his technically detailed espionage and military science storylines. One, written in 1994, told of a crazed Japan Airlines pilot who flies into the Capitol building in Washington. The novel was made into a film in 1990, starring Alec Baldwin as Ryan and Sir Sean Connery as Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius. Clancy wrote about commercial airliners being used as missiles several years before the attacks in the US by Islamic terrorists Atta & co., on 11 September 2001

As well as a successful writer, Clancy also became closely associated with the world of video gaming. My grandchildren are Clancy's  fans in video games. Clancy's  books and movie adaptations thrilled milllions arounfd the world and he will be immensely missed by his admirers. 


During the Vietnam war, 95% of all heroine came from there, now 95% of all heroine come from Afghanistan. The rule is wherever CIA is highly active, the major center of drugs are. The have their biggest station there in Afghanistan. It is because the CIA finance their black operations with drug money. Just like they did to finance the Contras attack on the Nicaraguan revolution. At one time a DEA-agent told George H.W Bush that CIA is running drugs down there. He just smiled and walked away.

The successful revolution against the US supported dictator Somoza consisted of a front with factions from the left to the right. It was a people's revolution. And the United States opposed it and slaughtered countless civilians in the process of it. This was under the Presidency of Ronald Reagan and former CIA-director George H.W. Bush, Vice President.

I sincerely hoped that Colin Powell told his friend Tom Clancy these facts. Sadly, in that case he never put them in any of his Captain America-style books.