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Flyboys: A True Story of Courage Paperback – September 14, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 742 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316159433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316159432
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (742 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jana A. Metheny on May 6, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am old enough to have lived through the war and remember it well. I never knew why Japan declared war on the U.S., even though I have taken every history class offered throughout my school career. "Flyboys" is probably the most brutal book I have ever read, almost too difficult in places. I am grateful to James Bradley for having written this book, I now understand why America dropped the Atomic Bombs and put an end to that war. "Flyboys" is a must read.
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Format: Hardcover
What an odd book. Flyboys is the story of several air raids flown against the island of Chichi Jima, north of Iwo Jima, during 1944-45, by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and more specifically it's the story of what happened to those airmen who were shot down over the island. The author, to write this story, uses extensive interviews he conducted with participants from both sides, survivors in their late 70s and 80s. This is all well and good, and if the book stopped at that, I suspect I'd be giving it a higher rating than I am.
What cripples the book is the author's belief that he has to give you a history lesson. As a result, he starts his account of the raids on the island by describing Japan prior to Admiral Perry's arrival in 1852. He takes a sort of anecdotal approach to things, recounting various events in American and Japanese history. His reason for doing this, apparently, is to give the events of the subject of the book context.
And that brings us to the main difficulty with the book. The author has a rather skewed view of American history, one that's decidedly more critical of it than is warranted, at least in my view. Further, his recounting of fact is at times inaccurate and incomplete. There is one good thing he doesn't do: he doesn't attempt to minimize Japanese atrocities in WW2. What he does instead is insist that the Americans committed crimes just as terrible, the implication being that the Japanese were punished because they lost the war.
Let me go over these accusations in some detail, so I'm not misunderstood and we're all clear.
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Format: Paperback
A well researched and well told story of navy flyers and more than the specific stories of men the rise of naval aviation's and its new found role in war.

Please be aware this book contains some horrific details of the murder and muliation of US service men by Japanese forces in the Pacific which may be well beyond the comfort level of some readers.

There was much about this book I found compelling:

The Flyboys themselves were wonderful, admirable characters which demonstrate once again the debt owed to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and those who fought along side them.

Flyboys is one of a number of books which at long last are addressing openly the horrifying facts of Japanese behavior in the Pacific theater. Unfortunately, this is coming generations too late to avoid the near universal denial of such things in Japan over the last 60 years.

The US knew far more of the details of prisoner treatment and execution than if shared with the public or with families.

However, there was one huge negative I never could quite overcome and that was the author's continual effort to compare US actions such as the use of fire bombing Tokyo to the actions of Japanese officers in the field which are not moral equals. To question whether the use of napalm was an effective war measure is fair. to use it to justify sadistic murder and canibalism strains jouranlistic, even novelistic credulity to the breaking point.

As the son of a WWII vet Bradley of all people should understand that war, any war no matter how unavoidable, is an obsenity requiring good men to place the great deal of their humanity aside so that they may restain an even greater evil.
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Format: Audio CD
I have viewed all the previous posted reviews of this book, and what I find surprising (and a little disturbing) is that no one has taken Mr. Bradley and his publisher to task for an untruth trumpeted both on the dustjacket and in Mr. Bradley's introductory text (also see the blurb above). There it is asserted that the events on Chichi Jima were a closely guarded government secret until the intrepid Mr. Bradley uncovered them. This is not just a distortion, it is a flat-out falsehood. For example, Bradley's own bibliography cites Robert Sherrod's history of Marine Corps aviation during World War II. Sherrod's book - published 45 years ago - features several pages on the appalling events on Chichi Jima, including footnotes indicating exactly where the information came from (in particular, the war crimes trial transcripts). As an archivist who works with World War II era military records every day, and a published scholar, I find the mendacious assertion that the book uncovered previously "hidden" material to be a breach of faith with the public it supposed to inform. Bradley may have done more work on the topic than those who came before him (and here he deserves credit), but he certainly did not dig up any "secrets." For shame.
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