When most oarsmen talked about their perfect moments in a boat, they referred not so much to winning a race, as to the feel of the boat, all eight oars in the water together, the synchronization almost perfect. In moments like these, the boat seemed to lift right out of the water. Oarsmen called that the moment of swing.

—David Halberstam, journalist and author, writing in The Amateurs


“You said you wanted to help the war effort, right?” the general asked.

“That’s right, General,” Sheldon Coleman replied.

Sheldon Coleman was the elder son of W. C. Coleman, founder of the Coleman Corporation, an outdoor equipment manufacturer. He had gone to Washington seeking the general in charge of procurement for World War II.

“We need ...

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