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Last to Die: A Defeated Empire, a Forgotten Mission, and the Last American Killed in World War II Hardcover – July 14, 2015
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"The story of Tony Marchione and his tragic, heroic death in the skies over Tokyo a full three days after Japan had supposedly surrendered is as well told as it is heart-wrenching. Marchione reflected America's Greatest Generation perfectly, in terms of his upbringing, patriotism, and sacrifice, and he is superbly memorialized in this moving yet also scholarly book. Anyone who enjoyed Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken will love this work of history that reads like a thriller."Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War
"This is a rarity: an entirely new World War II story. It reads like an adventure novel yet is a deeply researched work from the hand of a smart and seasoned historian. A tour de force of discovery and storytelling."Donald L. Miller, author of Masters of the Air
"In Last to Die Stephen Harding proves that even seventy years later, World War II history can still reveal 'The rest of the story.' The little-known events centering upon Sergeant Anthony James Marchione and his Philadelphia area family include an almost unknown bomber flying a largely forgotten mission following Emperor Hirohito's decision to surrender in August 1945. With exceptional attention to detail and appreciation for personal drama amid great events, Harding brings the bittersweet story of twenty-year-old Tony Marchione to lifeand vividly describes the death of the last American airman to die in the world's greatest war."Barrett Tillman, author of Whirlwind and Forgotten Fifteenth
"This poignant story reveals how important it is to track down the truth about World War II events that have become lost to history. In Last to Die Stephen Harding does his usual excellent aviation research and lively writing to tell Harding how 'last gasp' wartime effortsof airmen and their planeshad profound consequences."Walter Boyne, former director of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and current Chairman of the National Aeronautic Association
Harding, a military-affairs journalist, has woven together letters, interviews with family and friends, and both Japanese and American military records to provide an intense, quietly moving, and, of course, sad chronicle of a young life cut short Harding treats the youth with admiration and affection that elicits compassion without becoming cloying or melodramatic. This is a superb look at the life and death of one young man among millions of others who loved, were loved by others, and died too soon.”
Kirkus Reviews, 6/15/15
[Harding] seems to be making a specialty of the forgotten closing episodes of WWII In a neat blend of military and technological history, Harding links Marchione's story to the development of the aircraft he staffed, a lumbering target called the Consolidated Dominator A worthy sortie that explores a curtain-closing moment in history that might have gone very badly indeed.”
Publishers Weekly, 6/22/15
[A] meticulously researched account of the days following Japan’s surrender [Harding] relates his gripping account of the fight between Japanese and American forces in breathless detail, and the tale is impressive and inspiring, as is Harding’s determination to tell it.”
Wall Street Journal, 8/27/15
In Last to Die, Mr. Harding tells the story of the life and death of this ordinary soldier and shows how difficult the transition from war to peace was Mr. Harding’s background as a soldier, a former writer for the official U.S. Army magazine, and the current editor of Military History magazine makes him well suited to write about combat.”
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Tony Marchione was a gunner/photographer assistant aboard a B-32 Dominator in the 20th Reconnaissance Squadron. After introducing Tony, a great deal is devoted to the B-32. It almost didn’t make it to combat, and the few planes that made it to the Pacific continuously had problems. Much more was presented than I cared to know about a plane I had never heard of, with good reason.
An overview of the Pacific War beginning with Pearl Harbor and the types of aircraft available also find a place in Last to Die.
Much more interesting is the Japanese coup. The hawks believed the emperor was coerced by the doves, making the surrender invalid. They intended to fight on and inflict such losses on the Allied invaders that the Allies would agree to a negotiated settlement. Other believed the surrender was not a reality until the official signing.
On August 17, Dominators had been attacked, but no casualties resulted. The next day, the Dominators went back to photograph military bases, looking for compliance with the surrender and places for the occupation forces to land. Diehards not sanctioned by the government again attacked the Dominators. A cannon shot blasted through Marchione’s chest, and he bled to death in a half hour. Two other crewmen were wounded, one badly.
A 16-man Japanese delegation followed MacArthur’s orders to meet the next day. The mutineers had wanted to shoot down the “traitors.” Pearl Harbor “hero” Mitsuo Fuchida initially went along with them until the emperor’s brother Prince Takanatsu, his old classmate, told him the emperor sincerely wanted surrender. The mutiny unraveled.
Tony Marchione is called the last to die in combat, but others wounded earlier surely died of their wounds later. The tragedy of Tony’s death is there shouldn’t have been bullets flying that day.
The book provides interesting insight to the events leading to August 18 but begins and ends with Marchione’s story. One may ask of what the symbolic importance does this story possess versus what readers already know about the end of World War II within the Pacific theater, the signing of the document of surrender aboard the USS Missouri at Tokyo Bay and dignitaries within global and military proportions present to mark the end of one of the most tumultuous events in history.Read more ›
Marchione was part of a crew of airmen charged with photographing and mapping areas of Japan. The purpose of this mission was to identify potential airfields and ports for use by the American occupation forces. Flying the Consolidated B-32 Dominator heavy bomber, Marchione and his fellow crewmen were sent to Japan on August 18th. Upon entering Japanese airspace, the B-32 was intercepted by a group of Japanese fighter pilots who had disobeyed the surrender order. Refusing to accept surrender, these rogue pilots had taken to the skies in order to defend Japan from incoming American flights. Marchione's happened to be one of those.
During the confrontation, two of Tony's fellow crew members were injured by Japanese bullets. As he was helping of of these men, Tony was struck in the chest by a Japanese shell. He died shortly afterwards; the last American airman killed in the Pacific War.
I found "Last to Die" to be an informative and interesting book. Author Stephen Harding not only describes the action that took place on Marchione's fateful flight, he also describes in detail of several other interesting aspects.
Harding's narrative about the B-32 Dominator bomber is especially interesting. Known as the "second-string super bomber", the B-32 was built to compliment the much more successful B-29. But the B-32 was plagued with mechanical problems throughout its career and was never really useful.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Ok at best way too much detail and a bit heavy handed on the dramatics .Published 5 months ago by aj pantoni
There are two separate stories in this book: the failed coup by the anti-surrender cabals in Tokyo and the death of Sgt. Anthony Marchione in the August 18, l945 air combat. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Hung-Tak Lee
The activity in Japan leading up to and immediately after the surrender that included mutinies, an attempted coup and an armed attack on the Imperial Palace to to steal the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Mark S.
Great book.Story about the B-32 in combat. Told the sad story of Tony the last airman to die in combat of WW2. Puts the last days of WW2 into perspective. Read morePublished 7 months ago by craig hopkinson
The perception one gets is this book will be mostly about the last soldier who died.....it covers him slightly..... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Larry D