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Flyboys: A True Story of Courage Hardcover – September 30, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
The author of Flags of Our Fathers achieves considerable but not equal success in this new Pacific War-themed history. Again he approaches the conflict focused on a small group of men: nine American Navy and Marine aviators who were shot down off the Japanese-held island of Chichi Jima in February 1945. All of them were eventually executed by the Japanese; several of the guilty parties were tried and condemned as war criminals. When the book keeps its eye on the aviators-growing up under a variety of conditions before the war, entering service, serving as the U. S. Navy's spearhead aboard the fast carriers, or facing captivity and death-it is as compelling as its predecessor. However, a chapter on prewar aviation is an uncritical panegyric to WWI aerial bombing advocate Billy Mitchell, who was eventually court-martialed for criticizing armed forces brass. More problematic is that Bradley tries to encompass not only the whole history of the Pacific War, but the whole history of the cultures of the two opposing countries that led to the racial attitudes which both sides brought to the war. Those attitudes, Bradley argues, played a large role in the brutal training of the Japanese army, which led to atrocities that in turn sharpened already keen American hostility. Some readers' hackles will rise at the discussion of the guilt of both sides, but, despite some missteps, Bradley attempts to strike an informed balance with the perspective of more than half a century.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Bradley's phenomenal best-seller, Flags of Our Fathers (2000), was rejected by about 20 publishing houses before Bantam took a chance. His new publisher is not leaving the popularity of the encore to chance, launching it with an intense promotional campaign. Structured similarly to Flags, which concerned the flag-raisers of Iwo Jima, this work reconstructs the lives of several young men at war. Eight pilots and airmen were shot down by the Japanese military at Chichi Jima in 1944-45, George H. W. Bush among them. A well-known part of his political biography, Bush's story of escape is recounted somberly (Bush's crewmates died). The fates of the others shot down, who were captured, Bradley gathered in part from a source that was secret until a few years ago: records of a war-crimes trial of Japanese officers in command at Chichi Jima. Bradley sensitively builds the trial's unpleasant evidence (concealed, presumably, to spare pain to the airmen's relatives) into the narrative, which he frames with a portrayal of the Japanese military mind-set, which condoned the commission of atrocities. There are many brutally graphic passages about the torture and slaying of the American prisoners, which may prove too daunting for some readers, but Bradley succeeds in restoring dignity to the American airmen. Sure to command a large audience. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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I highly recommend this book. Once you get through the first 50 or so pages, you will enjoy reading about the Pacific Air war in Japan during WWII.
While I feel for the families of these tortured and slain pilots, I wonder if people would change opinions on the end of the war if they had read what had happened to our pilots at the hands of our Japanese enemy?
More than that, the terrible cost to Japanese civilians, who were being trained to die to the last living person to take out Americans when the inevitable invasion occurred, not to mention the terrible loss of life from the regular bombing (ask the English), made a point clear. The Atom bombs actually save more Japanese lives than American lives.
The other surprising factor (which comes from the transcripts of testimony from Japanese soldiers, as I understood it) was how well some of their officers lived, like royalty (food, saki etc in excess) and how cruel they were to the men they commanded as well as our pilots.
I would recommend this to anyone, especially students.
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.
James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers, which became an Oscar-nominated 2008 movie, wrote this book after researching the story of eight airmen shot down over the island of Chichi Jima in February, 1945. You might think that it's one of those "Greatest Generation" World War II histories, boasting of how American air power won the war and detailing the Japanese atrocities that were the reason we fought.
You'd only be half-right. In Flyboys, Bradley writes with genuine love and respect for his country and for the sacrifices U.S. servicemen made in World War II -- but before writing in gut-wrenching detail about the atrocities of Japanese imperialism, he spends some time talking about America's track record.
When Bradley then delves into what Japan did to the rest of Asia - and it was monstrous - it's a lot harder to be smug about what a noble country America was.