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Standing Next to History

An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


Joseph Petro served for 23 years as a special agent in the United States Secret Service; eleven of them with presidents and vice presidents. For four of those years he stood by the side of Ronald Reagan.

Following his career as a Navy Lieutenant, during which he patrolled the rivers and canals along the Vietnamese-Cambodian border, he worked his way up through the Secret Service to become one of the key men in charge of protecting the President. That journey through the Secret Service provides an individual look inside the most discreet law enforcement agency in the world, and a uniquely intimate account of the Reagan presidency.

Engagingly, Joseph Petro tells "first hand" stories of: riding horses with the Reagans; eluding the press and sneaking the President and Mrs. Reagan out of the White House; rehearsing assassination attempts and working, then re-working every detail of the president's trips around the world; negotiating the president's protection with the KGB; diverting a 26 car presidential motorcade in downtown Tokyo; protecting Vice-President Dan Quayle at Rajiv Gandhi's funeral where he was surrounded by Yassir Arafat's heavily armed bodyguards; taking charge of the single largest protective effort in the history of the Secret Service-Pope John Paul II's 1987 visit to the United States; and being only one of three witnesses at the private meeting between President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev that ushered in the end of the Cold War.

Joseph Petro provides an original and fascinating perspective of the Secret Service, the inner workings of the White House and a little seen view of world leaders, as a man who stood next to history.

From Publishers Weekly

Nov 15, 2004 – A readable and frequently engaging memoir of the author's 23 years in the Secret Service focuses on his time in the personal protective detail, guarding President Reagan and his family. In detailing his four years in that capacity, Petro burnishes the image of the Reagans as personally agreeable, even admirable, and easy to deal with in a professional context. A particularly moving part of the book deals with the Geneva Summit at which Reagan and Gorbachev substantially thawed the Cold War, and the author's perspective on some of Reagan's mediagenic faux pas shed further light on a much-discussed aspect of the Great Communicator. The Reagans were not the only VIPs that fell into Petro's sphere the Quayles didn't like being protected and did like vigorous sports (such as whitewater rafting, during which Marilyn Quayle once fell out of the raft). The author provides hints of tactical and ethical principles of the protection detail, as well as the internal politics of the Secret Service. He finishes with one of his most demanding jobs, protecting Pope John Paul II through a 10-day, 114-stop tour of the United States. This is a thoroughly readable narrative of professionalism in action in a delicate sphere of activity; notably, while this is Petro's first book, it is his college roommate Robinson's 19th.

Customer Reviews

Good Read

This book provides great insight into the work of our secret service agents. If you are a fan of the Reagans, this book provides a good look inside this presidency and their personal lives. The book closes with a meeting between Joe Petro and the Reagans that implies the first symptoms of Alzheimer's that eventually took the President.

Standing Next to History
View in iTunes
  • $2.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Apr 01, 2007
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Seller: Macmillan
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings