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on December 26, 2013
I have just purchased the book from Amazon so I can legititamly comment on it even though I read the hardcover addition some time ago from my local library. I haven’t read every comment but so far only have found 3 or 4 recognized as former Fly Boys. I am sure there are more. Please excuse me if this comment is so long but I want to correct some things in the book.

The authors brief description of “Glide Bombing” isn’t entirely accurate. He says you don’t dive but glide over the target and drop your ordnance. Actually you peal off into an almost vertical attitude from eight or ten thousand feet but prior to doing so you extend the landing gear and about half flap for dive brakes so you don’t exceed the maximum design speed of the aircraft. You also then open the bomb bay doors. The lift of the wings pulls you forward as you are in a near vertical attitude. Then there is another problem pulling out of the dive, excuse me, glide. The TBF/TBM was designed to basically drop torpedo’s so it was built to fly strait and level, drop their torpedo then take evasive action. The horizontal tail control surfaces were quite large and were raised and lowered when the pilot pulled or pushed on the control stick which was connected to the horizontal control surfaces with cables. The high speed dive or glide put so much pressure on the horizontal control surface that the pilot could not pull the stick back to pull out of the dive or glide. So, he would turn a wheel to the left of his seat that caused the horizontal trim tab on the elevator to go down which forced the horizontal elevator up, thus pulling out of the dive or glide. Most of the time you pulled out but not always. By rotating the wheel to activate the tab caused a hollow aluminum tube about the size of your middle finger that ran back to the trim tab to rotate to operate the tab. Sometime this tube sheared and when it failed you were SOL and went strait in at 300 knots.

As to the turret, the author mentions a stick to rotate the turret and a gun trigger to fire the gun. Actually in front of the gunner there was what appeared to be an automatic pistol with its muzzle stuck in a box. As you grabbed the pistol the back of the grip, in your palm, depressed and you put your trigger finger on the trigger and literally attempted to point the pistol in your hand at the target , the turret then rotated and elevated or depressed putting the gun on the target. You did not put the ring sight right on the target but you lagged, not lead as you might think, the enemy target on a line from him to your tail. You first lagged him several rings on your sight depending on your air speed and decreased the lag as he approached your tail. This because when your bullet left the muzzle of your gun it turned in the direction your plane was moving because of your plane’s forward speed. Oh yes, that back of the grip that depressed was the “Dead Man Switch”. You let go of the grip and the turret automatically stowed itself, rotating so the gun was pointing toward the tail and depressed so it was horizontal .

It was mentioned G H W Bush put the plane in a skid so the crew could more easily open the door from the bilge, i.e. the radio compartment, to bail out. You didn’t have to ”open” the door. There is a handle beside the door, you pull it and the door falls off. If it doesn’t go, you kick it and its gone.

How do I know all the above? I was a Fly Boy, more specifically a Combat Air Crewman in a Torpedo Bomber in a Night Torpedo Bombing Squadron. I sat in the bilge, that’s what we called the radio compartment, for over 300 hours in a TBF or later a TBM3E. The TBF was manufactured by Grumman Aircraft and the TBM by General Motors. I operated the radio, the radar, directed the pilot to the target by radar and told him when to drop or pickled the bomb away as it was night and dark outside. I also could operate either the turret with a 50 caliber machine gun or the 30 caliber stinger out of the back end of the bilge. I also had completed Navigation School and was the Navigator. When the war ended I was disappointed for a short time because I had not got into action in the war. I had just completed CAC training and had orders in hand to report to a VT(N), Night Torpedo Squadron, destined for action in the invasion of the main island of Japan scheduled for March of 1946. We did “invade” the island of Oahu in Hawaii and spent six months there at the Barbers Point Naval Air station. before going home for discharge.

I would like to comment on G H W Bush’s shoot down. He, of course bailed out but his two crew didn’t make it. Actually the two were not crew. The radioman was crew but the 3rd person was not the regular gunner. He was the squadron Ordinance Officer that asked to go on a mission to check out the weapons systems. I don’t recall we carried any weapons systems to check out. President Bush allowed him after getting an ok from the skipper of the squadron.. The pilot sits on his parachute and to bail out he disconnects his radio cords and seat belt and shoulder straps and goes out on the port side to avoid hitting the radioman and gunner going out the starboard side. The two crewmen do not wear parachutes. They wore a harness but the parachutes are stowed strapped to the port side of the radio position. The procedure is, the pilot calls the crew “BY NAME” to bail out. Not sure Bush did this according to another book, Flight Of The Avenger, that detailed the bail out. The radioman quickly stands up and retrieves his chute and attaches it on his chest to two snaps on his harness. He then, while the gunner is getting down out the turret, retrieves the gunners chute and presents it to the gunner who snaps it on his chest. The radioman then pulls the lever beside the door and the door falls off and he goes out headfirst and the gunner follows. The crews practice this periodically on the ground. The ordnance officer may have never done this even as the book just mentioned states he was indoctrinated in bail out procedure. Because this bailout probably took extra time perhaps because the officer had not practiced bail out, it may have caused the radioman and the officer to not make it. Beside his inexperience, he was six feet tall and would be curled up and cramped in the turret. Usually the gunner was shorter than that. You sit with your knees practically touching your shoulders. It was reported by the submarine that picked Bush up one chute was seen partly deployed. We, my pilot and I, never took anyone not qualified with us.

Many of the comments were about terminology in the book. For example the term “Fly Boys” was criticized. I heard that term during the period of WWII. Also Combat Air Crewmen were called “airdales” and “zoomies”. Some gunners were Aviation Ordnacemen and were called “BB Stackers”. As to the names of aircraft, the author called B 25’s”billys”, The Curtiss SB2C was called “SBDUECEEE” . The TBF/TBM was called a “Torpecker”.

I thought the book very informative in describing the actions of the Fly Boys even with the history lesson at the beginning. I salute those who did participate in combat especially those who’s ready room seats became empty. While we did not experience combat, we lost two planes and crews in our squadron in training flights and lost eleven planes, that’s 33 crewmen, in the 12 weeks of basic operational training. Even we piled up one night landing in fog but walked away without injury. Our reward for that was a medicinal shot of brandy at the dispensary. On our way out to the Pacific we spent time at Key West and participated in the search for the missing squadron that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. There is a final Navy Report that you can find on the internet.

I would recommend this book to those interested in the history and actions of WWII. I have just learned one of my friends who was a Fly Boy, now deceased, was awarded The Navy Cross.
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on March 20, 2018
This tells the Secret History of part of the 2nd World War. It revolves around the Battle for Iwo Jima. This is the story including the shooting down of Pres. Bush 1. It is a gruesome tale of how the Japanese treated some Prisoners of War.
Anyone interested in the Secret History of our nation (USA) should also read the Imperial Cruise by the same author. This tells a not so nice History of our country. I sure was never taught in any of this in school.
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on May 24, 2013
Flyboys focuses on a slice of World War II that took place on Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima. It especially highlights the lives of eight American fliers who lost their lives in their effort to wrest these islands from the Japanese.

There were many points of conflict in this narrative. Bradley emphasizes how incredibly brutal the Japanese were and then equates it with “white supremacist” treatment of Native Americans, which seemed more than a little out of place considering the immense difference in the way the Allied and Axis nations treated their prisoners of war. His view of Chinese history was skewed, to say the least, when he described Mao Tse Dung as law-abiding and dismissed Chiang Kai Shek as ruthless. In addition, his prolonged and repetitious descriptions of cannibalism among the Japanese were unnecessary.

That said, this book had the most comprehensive explanation I have ever read on why the Japanese behaved as they did. In light of their training to despise any soldier “cowardly” enough to surrender, it is amazing that some of the Japanese befriended the pilots who were captured. Bradley does a good job of piecing together the stories of each of the eight flyboys many years after they lost their lives.

A very worthwhile read for WWII history buffs.
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on May 31, 2014
I am a Childress county resident and the current sheriff. I knew Ralph Sides, who was the cousin of Warren Vaughn. I wish I had the opportunity to have been able to talk to him about his cousin and the war times. There are plans to dedicate a memorial in Vaughn's honor on the Childress courthouse square. It was very brave of Mr. Bradley to write a book that tells the story from both sides as well as some of the atrocities we Americans have committed over our history as a country. There are many historical facts that are in this book in which I as astute history buff had no idea had occurred. Well worth what I paid for this book
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on July 24, 2013
I am familiar with Mr. Bradley and his book "Flags of our Fathers" and when I was looking for a good history book to listen to during my long commute I noticed this one (which at the time was a steal at under $6 new) so I ordered it. The book is narrated by the author and covers the ordeals that the pilots who had to bomb the island of Chichi Jima faced after being captured from primary documents, the testimony during war crimes trials, and from interviews with the author (particularly former President George HW Bush who was rescued before the Japanese could capture him following his raid on the island). It is interesting and shines the light on a little known aspect of the Iwo Jima story line that I for one hadn't heard about. The book further highlights what or soldiers had to put up with on our behalf as well as how any soldier's death is tragic (as the biographies of each airman are first introduced you really see that these were full-fledged human beings and not just names in a history book - people who loved, lived, and wanted a future that many never saw). I would recommend this book to WWII buffs and those who just enjoy hearing an interesting story.
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on July 6, 2012
No, I didn't enjoy reading "Flyboys", and I cannot really imagine who could.

Yes, I do think that it is more than just a recommended read, it should be part of every library containing history books.

James Bradley has done some terrific research, interviewing the few surviving men that fought that terrible war in the Pacific, both Americans and Japanese. Actually, the main virtue of the book (besides the obvious, that is making the fate of the Flyboys shot over Chichi Jima public) probably lies in his constant effort of objectivity, showing both side's actions and justifications, as well as the moral/social/historical explanation for such behavior. In particular he should be commended for having been able to bring at least a form of closure for those families who were never told what happened to their beloved ones.

You may agree or disagree with his interpretations, but that will not change the fact that war, and in particular WWII in the Pacific, brings out the worst in mankind.

The first half of the 20th century saw what probably the worst line-up of mass-murderers is in human history, and irrespectively of the real numbers, the Japanese Empire under Hirohito is amongst them. Many decisions had to be made during those dark times, and it is just too easy for us 70 years later to question them.

And we should never forget that history is always written by the winners, never by the losers.

The US needed to face the communist charge all over the world soon after WWII ended, and thus was forced to look for allies, even formerly hated enemies as Germany and Japan, both who were located right at the edge of the advancing communist expansion. Accordingly, some sort of transition had to me made and the former enemies turned into allies, in which many issues were dealt with in a manner just too hard to understand by today's standard.

"Flyboys" should be read by adults with some knowledge of history that can put events into context, and can handle the brutality of the descriptions included.
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on April 2, 2015
This book was very informative regarding the incredible difference air power meant in winning WW2, and particularly in the Pacific. Without superior air power, the USA would have lost hundreds of thousands of more Marines and soldiers. Plus the book makes very clear that as horrible as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, without Truman having made the decision to use those bombs, probably millions more Japanese, and possibly another million allied forces, would have lost their lives thru 1945 and 1946, if not beyond. Recommend this book highly for more insight into the War in the Pacific, not to mention the story of how close we were to not having any Bushes to greatly serve as US presidents.
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on June 27, 2012
I think I learned more from this book about the history and undercurrents between the U.S. and Japan leading up to World War II, than I have learned (or at least retained) throughout my life to this point. More than anything, I was struck by the psyche of the Japanese leadership and forces leading up to and during WWII and how easy it was for them to justify their behavior throughout the war. This was an excellent portrayal of how sometimes wonderfully and often poorly nations communicate with each other and the horrible results of ill conceived conclusions. But more than anything, the book addresses the frustration of two cultures trying to size each other up based on their own cultural context. Almost always, that leads to disastrous outcomes.

Although this book wasn't just about Billy Mitchell, as a result of reading the book, I have new appreciation for Billy Mitchell and how much of a forward thinker he was, despite facing opposition at all levels.

This book also helps me better understand how the wars fought by the U.S from the roots of our becoming a nation and up through the "modern" era could be perceived by other nations to be racial wars and how we could easily be viewed as the bully on the block.

This is certainly not an anti-war book, but it does give a very clear picture of the depravation associated with war as well as the importance of having the military might and will to conduct war effectively when necessary.
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on November 29, 2010
I read Flags of our Fathers first and really liked it so I was looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, it does not compare well. It's not a bad book but just not in the same class as the first one. In this one Bradley seems to take a very simple story and drag it out. In the end I really have a couple of issues with the book. First, it doesn't really give you much detail about the air strategy for the war. It focuses more on a couple of guys who got shot down and captured. Second, it spends far too much time on the cannibalism theme. Okay, the Japanese were cannibals - we get it. Third, he seems to make the case that bad things happen in all wars so we are no better than anyone else. After reading this book if you feel that way there may be something wrong with you. The Japanese attacked us. What they did in China has no equivilance. The shear magnitude of the senseless killing, raping, and pillaging. These people were 'godless'. They were willing to allow millions of their own poeple to die for the sake of some strange 'concept' - not because they had to. The US would have stopped the bombing at anytime but the Japanese leaders were willing to make the sacrifice of millions of their people. Even the Germans weren't like this.

It's a good read and I would recommend it but I have to question Bradley on this one. It can't hold a candle to the first book.
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on July 22, 2013
My dad was a flyboy in the pacific and I heard a few stories from him but nothing like this! I have been reading a few books about this subject and era recently. James Bradley did an excellent job of covering the history that lead up to the horror that was the second world war. I feel I gained some really significant insight into what it must have been like for my dad to be flying missions into hostile enemy territory. I think I also gained insight on some level as to what it was like for our enemies in Japan. The end result of reading this book for me was to reinforce my belief that all war is evil. I was left deeply disturbed by what all sides did in the name of righteousness and nationality. No group comes out of this in a good light except for the individual heros on both sides who were desperately trying to do the right thing.

I am deeply greatful to James Bradley for the way he wrote this and for the greater understanding he gave me of who my dad was and the influences that molded him. My dad as I knew him was always deeply committed to non-violence and resolving differences through discourse, not physical action. He taught me the same values and beliefs throughout my life in a way that was gentle and honorable, I am sure in no small part due to his experience in WWII.

I highly reccomend this book but be prepared, as you will experience the worst and the best of humankind.
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