Known as Len to his friends, Leonard Francis Guttridge was born on August 27, 1918 in Bournemouth, England. He died June 7, 2009.
In his 90 years, Leonard packed many roles into an eventful life. During World War II, at the age of 19 he enlisted in the British Royal Air Force and performed the duties of aircraft mechanic, working on fighter and bomber fuselages. He was stationed in Tunisia and Morocco, often volunteering to make supply runs to U. S. military bases so he could borrow the latest Hollywood movies. He had a breadth of knowledge of classic films and would regale friends with his insights about Bogart, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astair, Gene Kelly, and Bette Davis. In addition, he loved jazz and big swing bands and shared V-discs with his American allies.
In 1946, he immigrated to Washington, D.C., where he was employed by the Indian embassy. He met some of the legendary jazz greats during this period of his life, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Jimmy McPartland, and trombonist-crooner Jack Teagarden. In 1960, Len started his 50-year career as an author when he co-authored a biography, Jack Teagarden: the Story of a Jazz Maverick, with Jay Smith.
Len developed an abiding interest in the history of his newly adopted country, writing numerous articles for adventure magazines and many highly-regarded books. These books include The Commodores with Jay Smith, 1969; The Great Coalfield War with George McGovern, 1972; Icebound: The Jeanette Expedition's Quest for the North Pole , 1986; Mutiny: a History of Naval Insurrection, 1992; Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition, 2000; Dark Union: the Secret Web of the Profiteers, Politicians, and Booth Conspirators That Led to Lincoln's Death with Ray Neff, 2003; Our Country, Right or Wrong: The Life Stephen Decatur, the Navy's Most Illustrious Commander. Shortly before his death, Guttridge completed a handwritten account of the evidence supporting the findings in Dark Union, a work he considered to be among the most important of his writings.