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by James Bradley
Little Brown & Company  2004
Softcover Version
Hardcover Version
Audio CD Version [Abridged]
300 pages
Index, photos
ISBN 0316105848
Cover Price: $25.95
Language: English

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A True Story of Courage

Over the years I have read many books related to WWII, but this book certainly ranks as one of the best. The primary focus of this writing is a comprehensive recount of the fate of the aviators who were captured and perished at the hands of the enemy on the Japanese held island of Chichi Jima. The stories were compiled through extensive research of governmental records combined with personal accounts of those who were there, those who flew the missions (including former President George Bush) and family members of those who never returned.

In recounting the story Bradley provides a history of the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, significant missions throughout the War and the accountability for atrocities subsequent to its end.

Though I would recommend most of the books I have read, I consider very few of them to be a must read. This book, however, IS one that falls into that very narrow category. Bradley's thorough, fair minded and objective presentation makes it so. I look forward to future books from this author.

Review by Michael W. Fuller, Esq.

The second book from James Bradley, co-author of Flags of Our Fathers, this new book deals with aviators of the Pacific War. The main focus of the book revolves around three topics: the backdrop of why the Pacific war was so brutal and cruel, the emergence of the 'Flyboys' as the most important force in the war, and the history of a small, largely unknown island called Chichi Jima.

Backdrop of Brutality
The first part of the book constructs the backdrop of the Pacific war, from its isolation of Japan and its opening by Commodore Perry. Bradley begins be exploring the points of history that lead to the militarism of modern Japan - annexation of Korea, Russo-Japanese war, and hospitalities in China. Also, he annalists the racism, ignorance and policies that guided the parallel United States history, until both countries collided with December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. From the start of the war, it was a war fought by two very different nations, and would be like no other theater of war in terms of the cruelty, brutality each side showed for the other.

Just as other authors have coined new terms for the WWII generation, Bradley's contribution is 'flyboys'. He explores the history, lives and personalities of what became the most important weapon of the Pacific - the 'flyboys', focusing on Navy aviators who participated in the later battles of the Pacific War. The reader learns with interviews and detailed research how these flyboys were often just ordinary men. and boys, attracted to the glamour of flying, or heroes like Charles Lindbergh, or selected for their sharp intelligence for service in fighters and bombers. Bradley explores their training, social lives and mind set as they deployed to Pacific battlefields of vast size and beauty.

Their missions were dangerous, from the hazards of carrier flying, not to mention the enemy. America flyboys became the front line that arguably the entire war revolved around, from early strikes like the Dolittle Raid, to the eventual delivery of the Atomic bombs, were accomplished with aviators, not battleships or foot soldiers. For the Japanese, flyboys were hated, and when captured brutality and violence against them were assured.

Bradley interviews and researches a multitude of pilots, from some of the most famous, like Jimmy Dollittle, Lt(jg) George H. W. Bush, as well as numerous ordinary pilot, gunners and crewmen. Each of their stories will be linked to one location, a small island named Chi Chi Jima.

Chi Chi Jima
Although the this small 5 x 3 mile island was not the most famous location of the Pacific War, its had a pivotal role in Japanese and American relations. Originally uninhabited, and considered 'no mans land' it became a key piece of real estate as far back as the 1800's when it when Americans saw its potential as a coal refilling station for American ships plying from the west coast to China. During the end of WWII, it was the site of important radio facilities, that claimed many aircraft lost in the vicinity. The book tells the brutal stories of eight American crew men of these aircraft that were captured and suffered some of the worst brutality in life, and even after death from their fanatical captors. Until Bradley's book, these incidents were never shared with the family members, and kept as classified proceedings of War Crimes Trial in Guam 1946.

For readers, this story is a reminder of the horrible truths of war, and the power of a good historian to make the past come alive. As Bradley concludes, the reader is left to ponder, if George Bush, (also shot down off Chi Chi Jima, but rescued) went on to become US president, what could these other eight men who perished as POWs have become?
Review by  Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019

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