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CNN to the contrary, Russians and Americans are working together to make a difference

(l to r) Retired US Colonel James Connel, author M.G. Crisci, and Ret. Russian Colonel Maxim Alekseyev

Why would a retired US military officer, a decorated Russian pilot, and a critically-acclaimed American author meet at the Russian Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.? Answer: the three moved onto second careers that intersected.

The two colonels were part of a joint US-Russia POW/MIA task force working to bring closure to World War II families who had lost loved ones. One of their searches was to identify the remains of the six Russian soldiers who took off in a giant warplane the middle of the night during a top-secret mission called Project Zebra. The plane was originally scheduled to reach the North Atlantic Theater by way of Iceland but crashed in the Pasquotank River near Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

As it turned out, Project Zebra had remained classified until early 2013, so the unusual mission that involved the production of 185 of the largest amphibious warplanes ever made and the training of elite Soviet airman in Elizabeth City, remained one of the last untold stories of World War Two — until critically-acclaimed author, M.G. Crisci, began his research. Crisci, who had previously written two other books about Russian culture and its heroes (Call Sign, White Lily and Seven Days in Russia), became aware of the mission through interviews with the last surviving member of Project Zebra, then-Lieutenant Gregory Gagarin.

“Those interviews, Greg’s pictures and documents, set me on a two-year investigative trail to gather lost documents, old pictures, and personal diaries. As fate would have it, my path collided with Jim and Maxim’s mission,” said Crisci. “We were simply amazed at the wonderful details and vintage documents Crisci’s work contained,” said Alekseyev and Connel. “His sharing with us has helped our project, and we wish him well with his important work.”

Project Zebra. Stalin and Roosevelt’s Top-Secret Mission to Train 300 Soviet Airmen in America. (Orca Publishing USA, $32.95, hardcover, 354 pp and 200+ photographs) is the first complete book about the mission, the town’s supportive relationship, and the lifetime friendships the Soviet and American Zebras would cultivate through the Cold War and beyond. The book has already received numerous endorsements from internationl cross-cultural organizations and historical societies and is available in online bookstores everywhere.

Manhattan-born M.G. Crisci ( is the author of ten books based on true stories or real events in the genres of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and romance. His most recent book, The Salad Oil King. An American Tale of Greed Gone Mad (Orca Publishing USA), has been hailed by critics as an
“American crime classic spun by a master story-teller.” Recently, Crisci, a 22-time selectee to Who’s Who in the World, received the Albert Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award for his business, literary, and cultural contributions (

DATE: Mar.23.2018 | CATEGORY: | COMMENTS: 0