By Ed Vilade
Max Horlick’s final months were as productive and creative as the rest of his long life. Max, who died April 28 at age 100, had just sent the copy for his third book off to the publisher. The book, publised in May, is called “SNAFU,” an acronym familiar to all who have served in the military.
In addition, Max and his photographer wife, Ruth, collaborated on a story called “The Team,” which appears in the latest issue of Tales from Riderwood. That publication, Riderwood’s literary magazine, also appeared in May.
SNAFU, in military parlance, stands for “Situation Normal All Fouled Up.” The book was inspired by Max’s experiences in Army Intelligence during World War II. Veterans of past, present and future wars know that in wartime, normal is not normal. Fouled up is normal.
The book covers military disasters starting with the first great naval battle in history around 422 BCE, through World War II. In the ten chapters, Max covers such fiascos as Custer’s Last Stand, Napoleon’s catastrophic retreat from Moscow in 1812, and Britain’s failed attempt to isolate New England during the Revolutionary War. He also discusses in detail his own experiences at the Battle of the Bulge, when headquarters ignored intelligence reports and placed thousands of soldiers in a dire situation.
Max’s century-long journey took him from a farm in New Jersey through linguistic studies at Rutgers University, eventually resulting in a PhD that was delayed by World War II and the demands of family life. Long and distinguished government service and the authorship of two books preceded his, and Ruth’s, arrival at Riderwood in 2003. His third book makes a worthy final chapter.